The idea behind the ultra mobile reporting kit is to provide capability for every possible reporting event at CeBIT. From twitter to lengthy editorial. From flickr to fully edited video. From sound byte to audio interview. Standing. Sitting. Table-top. Floor. A live one-man band of mobile reporting equipment that is as as light as possible and that uses standard off-the-shelf components and services.
Last year at CeBIT I used V1.0 of the reporting kit, a system weighing 4.5kg and it served me well. 21 reports which included 2 live events a handful of videos and hundreds of images. This year I’m aiming for better quality, faster reporting, better connectivity and, something i didn’t have last year, fall-back options. Welcome to V3.0
The core of the V3.0 system is, as with V1.0, an AMD Geode powered device. Rather than the all-in-one Kohjinsha SA1 I’ve opted to used a Raon Digital Everun S6S. Its smaller, lighter, more powerful, has longer battery life, has HSDPA built-in and is completely flash memory based. It also has a car mounting kit, part of which I’ve mounted on my tripod giving me a nice eye-level screen when sitting in conferences. As a keyboard I’m using what I regard to be one of the best portable keyboards there is. The Samsung Q1 portable keyboard. Its almost full-size, is extremely thin and light (half the weight of a Sierra Bluetooth foldaway model) and incorporates a mouse pointer. With a short USB extension cable it works very well on the lap and never gets hot like a laptop! Its USB-only but I’m happy with that as dead batteries on a Bluetooth keyboard would be catastrophic. For additional connectivity I’ve got an excellent Nokia N82 which I can tether via Bluetooth if needed. In fact both the Everun and N82 and have wifi, hsdpa and Bluetooth for flexibility and fall-back options.
The N82 also forms part of the optical kit. The Canon S2IS will perform high-quality image, zooming and video duties. It also has a fantastic built-in stereo mic, good long-zoom stabiliser, takes AA batteries and has a powerful flash. The N82 also has a 5mp cam with Xenon flash and VGA video capability but the quality is nowhere near that of the Canon. The advantage of the N82 is that it will record direct to Mpeg-4 which makes it easy, with the built-in HSDPA, to post to online services. It will be interesting to see which I use the most!
[article continues with details and kit-list]
The big disadvantage of this years setup over last years will be the screen size. Last year (see right) I had a 7″ screen to play with. This year it’s 4.8″ which means having to pump up the font size in Firefox thus reducing the effective screen real-estate. However, because of the mounting position, it works very well indeed. You can even use the tripod as shown, on a table or while sitting on the floor. I won’t deny that it will be harder to organise my on-screen work using this setup but I’m not using a big suite of applications that I need to switch between. I’m confident the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages. The other problem, and one I was really hoping to improve on, is video processing power. The AMD Geode is quite possibly the worst processor to choose for video processing. The trick will be to edit as much as possible in-camera and to record things twice. Once with in a low-quality mode and once in a high quality mode. The M-JPEG recording format of the S2 is great when at home but a pain in the processing cycles when you’re away and need something done quickly.
So on to the details. I’ve listed all the equipment below along with the weights as measured at home.
Show floor kit list (shown in image)
- Canon S2IS 5mp super zoom. (10x) with M-JPEG VGA recording to SD card. (530g)
- Raon Digital Everun S6S with 8GB CF flash as drive D. HSDPA module built-in. Windows XP, 512MB RAM. (470gm)
- Samsung Q1 keyboard. (260g)
- Nokia N82 (HSDPA, GPS, 5mp auto-focus, 30fps VGA MPEG-4 video.) (115gm)
- Small, lightweight tripod + Everun mounting bracket. (1060gm)
- USB extension cable. (30gm)
Additional Show Floor items not in picture
- Spare battery for the N82. (22gm)
- Small USB-SD adaptor and SD adaptors for mini-sd and micro-sd cards (total 6.5gb SD cards) (15gm)
- Mini USB 4-port hub (32gm)
- Canon USB cable (37gm)
- 4xAA battery spares. (112gm)
- Spare Everun battery. (90gm)
- Bag (700gm)
- Interview Mic (200gm)
- Lens cloth, money, business cards, pass, site map, etc! (200gm)
Total 3.9kg (Total weight 2007: 4.5kg)
- Windows XP SP2. Fresh build. Updated + Powerpack image resizer.
- Firefox 2 + Scribefire, Full Fullscreen, Nosquint plugins.
- Gallery2 remote java application.
- Canon remote shooting software.
- Mobilink Lite (HSDPA software)
- Koss ‘The Plug’ earphones
- Nokia mini charger
- Mains charging adaptors
- AA battery charger
- Podcasting headphones
- Everun suction holder (part of car kit.)
- Spare 3G mobile phone. I’ll take my old Nokia 6280 as a back-up.
Comparing the kit to last years – here are the differences.
- Connectivity. Two additional built-in HSDPA modems. Additional WiFi capability.
- Size of PC. Reduced by 400gm to a handheld, jacket-pocketable device.
- Optics. Additional 5mp cam and MPEG-4 Internet-quality video cam.
- Processing power: Increased by 20%
- Battery life: PC life increased by 100% to 8 hours (in-use) due to spare battery.
- Weight: Reduced by over 500gm
- Applications suit: Vastly reduced increasing efficiency and speed of OS.
- Screen size. 4.8″ compared to 7″ (a negative change)
- Storage: Flash only. No hard drives. Storage reduced from 40Gb to 20Gb. Online storage available.
- Connectivity redundancy increased. (Wifi hotspots and 2 separate 3G carriers.)
- Additional capability: GPS, navigation system and tracking. Additional web browser on phone. Direct to Flickr and YouTube posting.
If you’ve read this far you might have had some thoughts about the kit. Me too!
- Leave the tripod at the hotel saving over 1KG? To be honest, the tripod is worth 1KG. It helps with stand photography in the, usually bad, lighting and is an absolute necessity in conferences.
- Drop the Everun and take an Eee PC? This is a possibility i’ve seriously considered but there are some issues that prevented me from taking that route. 1 – It would have to be an XP version 2 – It would need built-in HSDPA 3 – I would need to buy more SD cards. 4 – The keyboard isn’t as good as the Samsung Q1 keyboard. 5 – It is slightly heavier (not significant though) 6 – I would need 2 extra batteries to reach 8 hours in-use life. 7 – I don’t own an Eee PC. I own an Everun though. 8 – The Everun will slip into a jacket pocket.
- Drop the Canon S2IS. No – I need the zoom. I need the fine control over white-balance and I like the remote shooting software. The video quality is far far superior to the N82 too, as are the superb built-in mic’s. Battery life on the N82 would be a major problem.
- Use a higher-powered UMPC. If the Q1 Ultra had been available, with HSDPA built in I might have chosen it. But it’s not!
- Use an HTC Advantage. This would save about 200 gm but would seriously affect the flexibility of the core PC component.
My biggest worry: That the Everun will be uncomfortable to use on a table. Having done a lot of testing, I know that extended use of a low screen can give neck-ache.
The final challenge: To be honest with myself if it doesnt work. Don’t be blind to other small and light solutions.Learn from the problems and make V4.0 even better.