Gadgets and Technology You Can’t Live Overseas Without
Americans are definitely spoiled with the technology and tech toys we consider necessary. Personally, although I was an early adopter of computers, I resisted a lot of the other gadget toys I saw around me for a long time. However, in light of an eventual international move, I’ve been re-thinking that, and would love to hear from others about it.
There are two gadgets I’ve decided are absolutely necessary to take with me when I relocate overseas: an Amazon Kindle and my iPod. Now, here’s why I consider them a necessity for myself, and for any other expat.
First, let me say I am an avid reader. I read every day, and can easily read a book a day if I have some extra free time. A couple of years ago, I started looking at the way books were over-running my small living space, and wondered whether I could tolerate reading digitally. Although e-books for the computer were easy to find, that wasn’t an option for me. I needed something I could curl up with in bed.and toss into my bag for downtime at the dentist’s office or if I was eating a solitary lunch. Something small and portable. At the same time, I love the act of reading books — turning the pages, holding it in my hands — you booklovers understand.
To see whether I could tolerate reading a book that wasn’t a physical book, I bought an inexpensive used Palm Pilot to use just for reading. I found an old favorite for free from Mobipocket, and managed to get it loaded into my Palm. The process was a bit cumbersome to set up, but once I had done it a few times, it was ok. I took the Palm to bed with me for my nighttime read, and found it tolerable. In fact, once I figured out how to turn on the backlighting, it was just fine, although my thumb got tired from hitting the next page button every few seconds, and the batteries needed recharging too often. (Not much text fits on the screen of a Palm Pilot, at least not at a size that my older eyes can read.) I took the Palm with me on a trip to visit my aging father in the hospital, and it worked out very well. I had reading material for the airport, the hospital, and bedtime, all in one small gadget. So far, so good.
I started researching actual book readers, and ran into some stumbling blocks. Obviously, I wanted a device I could use to read pretty much any book, but there are way too many available digital book formats. Some work on this device but not that one, some are completely proprietary and work on only one device, some new books are released in format A but not format B.
The Sony Bookreader came out, and I seriously considered it. But it seemed too limited in the book formats it would display, and the prices they wanted to charge for new e-books were the same are almost the same as what Borders was charging for the physical book!
I waited and watched for a while. Meanwhile, I couldn’t download any new books into my old Palm because I upgraded my computer to Windows Vista, and there was no software upgrade for the Palm. . . Frustration. . .
Then Amazon came out with the Kindle. I watched and waited some more. Finally, last spring, I got one for my birthday. I have to say it is all I thought it would be and more. I am no longer buying any print books. If they aren’t available (yet!) in Kindle format, I just don’t buy them. Besides its own proprietary format, you can read unprotected Mobipocket, Word and Adobe PDF files in your Kindle. New bestsellers in Kindle versions are only $9.99 from the Amazon.com website. Older books are a lot less. I’ve gotten some older bestsellers for just $3 or $4. And there are plenty of freebies as well. You can also subscribe to magazines, newspapers and blogs for your Kindle.
Click here to find out what I love most about my Kindle.
iPod or MP3 Player
I saw the kids with their iPods, and didn’t think much of them. OK, so they could hold a gazillion songs, but that didn’t mean much to me. Then we threw a Swing Dance Birthday Party for my youngest daughter (the one who’s graduating high school this year), and the DJ ran the entire four hours off of his iPod. All of a sudden, something clicked in my little pea brain. I looked around at all my CDs and thought, “I don’t need to move all of these when I go to another country!” Yes, I know I could have loaded them all onto my hard drive and not moved them, but I didn’t want to be so limited in how I listened to my music in my new foreign home. Since the iPod can plug into a stereo system and play through the stereo speakers, it’s the perfect solution.
Since then, I’ve found another good reason to have an iPod. Language Learning. There are several language courses that make their software iPod friendly. Transparent Language allows you to download its flash cards to your iPod and Pimsleur lessons are also mp3 friendly. I’m sure others are as well, but those are the two I have personal experience with.
There are also some telephone technologies that make sense to have when you move overseas, like the Magic Jack which has been heavily advertised recently. If you have experience with it, or with any gadgets that you think are must-haves for international living, please let us know! Click here for a little more information about no-cost and low-cost communications.