All of last week I was out of office on a clutch of personal errands. I had family members to connect with, an ancestral village to visit, a church feast, a temple festival to attend and a couple of work-related meetings to nod my way through.
But then you know how excessive commitment to work can be a problem, right? For me it is a curse. Ahem.
So I had to file a few stories on the road and collect enough material for a few blogposts, including photos, audio and some juddery mobile phone videos.
Suffice to say that a good percentage of my luggage was gadgets, chargers, data cables and USB sticks. I had my phone, my iPod, an audio recorder, a small video recorder, a camera, my laptop, all kinds of data cables and other connectors, and several thousand chargers in all sizes and shapes.
I was the ray of sunshine in the life of an otherwise thoroughly bored CRPF inspector at the X-ray machine at Delhi airport. It took three passes through the X-ray machine before everyone present realized that there was no further point. I simply had too many gadgets at stake here to be a terror threat.
And now when I look back at the week past, I realize I was an idiot. There was no need for me to haul so many things up and down the country. At least half of my devices and 75% of those cables I carried with me didn’t have to be.
All of those could have been supplanted by just one device. And, I slap my forehead while I say this, I was carrying it with me all the time.
The humble multi-card reader.
I have a little black plastic multi-card reader, built by some nameless brand in China. It is the size of one of those little Medimix soap bars you get in no-star hotels, but with considerably less reliability. The plastic bar has several slots all over it into which you can insert all kinds of memory cards.
Travel light: Ditch the extra cables and gadgets.
Then plug the device’s USB jack into one of the ports on your laptop and you can access any of those memory cards as you would a USB pen drive or an external hard drive.
It is all quite simple and straightforward.
I always carry it around in my bag and never really realized how useful it could be till I began travelling.
I use a BlackBerry 8520 handset for a lot of my blog photography and basic audio recording and note-taking. Being one of the newer models, it uses a slightly different data cable from most older BlackBerrys. But my digital camera uses the old-fashioned cable. So I carried both cables.
All I had to do was use my phone or camera, then use the card reader to transfer everything to my laptop for filing and blogging. Two cables saved (both devices have their own chargers, though).
Later, when I had to email some work to office, I used the reader again. I plugged in the card from my phone into the reader, hooked it up to the laptop and copied the document on to the card. Then the card went back into the phone, from where I emailed the document to the office.
The same for my audio notes and audio recordings. I transferred them to my laptop through the reader. I converted them into MP3 and then transferred them back to my iPod for leisurely listening later.
(Alas, iPhones or iPod touches don’t come with card slots. Steve Jobs has a very good reason, I am sure.)
If you have a lot of devices that use memory cards, and most do these days, then don’t lug around all those data cables. All you need is a good, reliable multi-card reader. And even if you have no idea whether your card is an SD card or a MemoryStick or a Micro SD, don’t worry. Good card readers will accommodate them all.
In addition to helping you transfer data without wires, remember that memory cards can work like USB sticks. You can use them to carry portable apps such as browsers and for data backup. The upside being that memory cards are smaller, thinner and you can carry several gigs worth of data in your wallet (which anyway has more room now that you aren’t buying all those data cables).
So if you travel a lot and your bag is always a mess of wires, maybe a good memory card reader is what you need to invest in.
Have other travel tips for the techie on the road? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org