What is the best way to live-blog a cross-country road trip??
June 13, 2007 7:40 PM   Subscribe

What is the best method & location for live-blogging a cross country trip using a MacBook, DSLR camera, DV camera, t-mobile EDGE and intermittent wifi?

I'm about to drive/move back to Southern California from Central Florida with my boyfriend and we want to document the trip with photos/video 'live' as we progress across the United States. Our travels will bring us up through New Jersey, Chicago, Denver with a stop at the Grand Canyon.

I have a t-mobile phone capable of EDGE (slow but useable) data transfer for the Mac and plan on stopping at wifi equipped locations to upload video/photos. A GPS type hookup would be sweet but I'm not familiar with doing that with a Mac.

It would be nice to have some type of map showing progress (GPS preferred but manually updated OK), the ability to post photos, gas prices, mood and other utterly useless information.

Has anyone had any experience with this type of blogging? I'm trying to determine if it would be best to use my limited skills to build some type of moveable type/wordpress with google + flickr or use something like Vox.

posted by tarthur to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(I work with the MT and Vox teams, fwiw.) I've done a lot of blogging from on the road, with similar setups. I've mostly been using PCs, but I can't see any reason why an EDGE hookup with a Mac wouldn't work great.

I think Vox's ability to easily pull in your Flickr pix and the like would make it the best option -- you probably don't want to be messing with server software while you're on your trip, because FTPing into a server to fix an errant plugin over a slow EDGE connection is a path to madness. And you might want to look into blogging client software (like Ecto or Marsedit or whatever) so you can write when you're offline and then just sync up when you're in a spot with connectivity.

There are some apps that let you make GPSed maps that will post to your blog; I've seen them used on Vox and TypePad but don't know the names of them offhand. Can't wait to see your trip -- this sounds cool!
posted by anildash at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2007

90% of podunk hotels in the middle of nowhere have wifi now. It won't be a problem at all. I never even used the modem and phone cord I brought along.

Worst case scenario is that you have to wardrive a few blocks in the off-chance that your hotel doesn't have wifi.
posted by letitrain at 10:07 PM on June 13, 2007

Using GPRS/EDGE via bluetooth on your mac (I do it with my blackberry pearl), you should have no problem blogging text entries anytime you want from almost anywhere in the US. You might want to wait for hotel bandwidth each night to upload images, but in a pinch you could even do that on the road.

I don't find GPRS/EDGE that limiting. It's most definitely not broadband, but having a 19.2-56.6kbps connection is plenty for making blog posts.
posted by mathowie at 11:05 PM on June 13, 2007

Does your phone have a camera? I think uploading straight from your phone to a site like Flickr will allow for much more spontanaity and immediacy than transferring, organizing, and editing on a computer first. Sure, cameraphone images aren't the best, but you've got the DSLR camera for the "important shots." I think you'll find the moblog images more playful and candid.

A site like Vox can also take your images straight from your phone, and videos, too, depending on the format. In fact, depending on the phone, you can download a client for Vox that mixes and matches the text, photo, and video elements in a slick client.

The map element is trickier. You could continuously update a MyMaps in Google Maps, linking to it (or embedding it?) at your liveblog. There are also a few other specialized websites and Google Maps mashups specifically designed to track your progress on a trip.

If you're interested in a map option that does all the work for you, I followed through on my curiosity in this Ask MeFi thread. With a $40 pay-as-you-go phone from Boost Mobile and the Mologogo Java app installed (finding the data cable was the biggest hurdle), I have my current location plotted on a map on my lifecasting site every couple of minutes, automatically.

Overkill, probably for your needs, but once it's set up, I don't even have to think about it (except for the periodic phone recharge... data access is 30 cents a day).

Whatever you do, sounds like fun!
posted by pzarquon at 12:45 AM on June 14, 2007

Re: GPS, there was a guy here not too long ago who asked about things to do on a cross-country roadtrip and got a really informative answer about GPS + Google Earth. OK, found it: wile e says: "If I was driving cross country like this, this would on top of the list of things to do."

I'm planning on trying this when I drive cross-country next month, only I'll be using my ancient Garmin StreetPilot III and downloading the track log to my powerbook several times a day rather than leaving the laptop running constantly. If you're buying a GPS specifically for this purpose, I'd get something with a tracklog capability (any of the Garmins with displays, really, and I'm sure the other guys' too). The headless Bluetooth thing recommended in that link looks cool but it means you need to have your laptop running all day, which may be inconvenient. Just remember that the memory dedicated to the tracklog isn't necessarily huge -- my Garmin has about 3 hours or 200 miles or something in that range (never measured exactly, but when driving south to Washington DC from upstate NY, I noticed my track only went back as far as Scranton when I arrived in DC). If you're uptight about having the complete journey, plan on someone dumping the log 3 or 4 times per day. Newer unit may store longer tracks, I don't know.

I'm not sure what the best way to get a KML tracklog into something embedded in a website, but surely there is a way considering Google Earth and Google Maps are.. well.. both Google tools? I have now been inspired to look.
posted by Alterscape at 1:13 AM on June 14, 2007

Yes, definitely sounds like fun. Don't know if this will help, but Ian Wood over at Astonished Head did a cross-country by bicycle road trip last year, and blogged a lot of it. He's got a good account of what he did to set up his gear technically - something involving a laptop, phone, solar panels and some such madness. Might be worth checking out.

Will definitely check out your travel blog when you have it - maybe post it over in Projects?
posted by rmm at 10:06 AM on June 14, 2007

« Older Can I embed special characters in my Director text...   |   80s emo ballad mix Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.