How to put your travels on the net

In order to create a web site like the RV Adventure home page, you'll need a couple of things. A portable computer is a must. I use an IBM Thinkpad 710. I bought it because it was light (4.5)lbs, had a great screen and everything built in including a modem. The built in modem is important because it meant I could plug in a phone line directly into the computer instead of hassling with a PCMCIA connection. To power the computer, I got a 250 watt DC to AC converter. For a laptop, you can get the 130 watt versions. If you're in an RV, you can charge your computer when you plug into the outside AC. I rarely used the converter to charge the laptop. To get pictures, I used a Snappy frame grabber to get a 640x480 picture, then I used Photostyler to reduce the size to 200x150. The Snappy really doesn't produce a good picture at the 640x480 resolution, but the reduced sized pictures look great. I saved the pictures in JPEG format with a "40" compresssion setting. Each picture takes up only 5K this way. The pages load in faster with smaller pictures.

Once you have the hardware, you need a way to connect to the internet. I use Compuserve to create my web site because it is very simple. If you can use a word processor, you can make a web site. Call 1-800-336-6823 to get a free sign up kit. You can play around for free to start. Once you get on to CompuServe, you can get their web publishing program from their Internet section. Their web publisher limits what you can do, but it is more than enough for a travel web page. It's a simple push of a button to have your web page transmitted to the net.

After you get the hardware & software, the big question is - how do you connect to the internet on the road? The only way to connect to the internet is to plug into a phone jack. I normally would ask to borrow the campground's office phone line. Most people will let you use their office phone if you tell them that you're going to call an 800 number and will only be on for a few minutes. I carry a phone line with a dual plug adapter. This way, I can plug in and keep the office phone plugged in too. I would normally only spend 3 minutes updating my web site. Compuserve provides an 800 number you can call anywhere for $8.00/hr - sounds expensive but it's only 13c/minute - much cheaper than a 25c/minute phone card. Plus, you don't have to dig around for the local phone number. Another place to look for phone connections is big truck stops with restaurants. Most of the restaurants have phones that you can take off the wall to use the phone jacks. Look for Union 76 truck stops. If you're visiting cities or airports, look for AT&T Phone 2000 in fancy hotels. They have a phone jack you can plug into. You can stop at a hotel and see if they'll let you use the phone jack in the room. I tried using an acoustic coupler ( telecoupler II), but it just won't work on a pay phone.

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