A Geek Goes Caravanning in Spain

This is the story of how I ‘survived’, what devices I used and which apps I downloaded on my tour of Spain in my caravan

Advertisements

Image

This geek and his wife decided that as they were now retired, footloose and fancy free they should take up caravanning again. When we last went caravanning the internet wasn’t invented ;-0

Now for someone who is permanently connected to his devices and the internet how was he going to cope with a 5 week holiday in Spain?  Well this is a story of how I ‘survived’, what devices I used and which apps I downloaded.

Devices

First of all which devices (hardware) did I take with me:

  • Smartphone – Google Nexus 4 on Vodafone Eurotraveller tariff
  • Tablet – Google Nexus 7
  • Laptop – Samsung Q45
  • Radio – Pure One Classic (DAB & FM) Radio. Of course the DAB didn’t work in Spain but the aux input was great for playing music and internet radio from my smartphone.
  • Satellite TV – Took TV and satellite dish but didn’t use as Astra satellite footprint no longer covers Spain
  • Travel Router – Took Zoom travelling router but not needed as Vodafone ES was good enough
  • Activity Tracker – Fitbit Flex

Weather

One of the main areas of concern when camping or caravanning is what’s the weather going to be like. I found two services that helped enormously.

First was the Spanish weather service El Tempo Eltiempo.es This has superb temperature & precipitation maps and an Android app

Second was a seven day weather forecast for each campsite with a max and min temp graph on Eurocampings.co.uk . They have a mobile app (see below) which I did use but it doesn’t show the weather.

Money Management

How best to pay site fees? Besides cash and credit card I used the following:

  1.  Alan Rogers card to hold my electronic camping cheques (prepaid site fees)
  2. Moneycorp card a Visa Debit prepaid card with multiple wallets for different currencies. This was great especially for drawing cash in euros as there were no charges for drawing cash in local currency. The exchange rate is fixed at the rate when you load the card. You continually load card whilst away.
  3. My bank has an Android app so I could check my account balance frequently.
  4. Andromoney on my phone to keep track of & categorise my cash expenditure and used Microsoft Money on the laptop for card transactions.
  5. Vodafone has an android app which allowed me to see how much I was spending on mobile internet.

Site Finder/ Reviewer

Before going I checked out Caravan Club European Tours for possible sites enroute here is an example for 2014

The app I used the most was Archie’s Campings. It is a great list of Points Of Interest throughout Europe. It indicates if a site is an ACSI and/or Camping Cheque site, and you can filter by ACSI/Camping Cheque only sites. It also links to Google search for each site to find reviews of the site. You can add directions to the campsite using Google Maps or as in my case straight into my satnav Copilot.

Other directories of sites (with Android apps) I used are:

Google earth was great for viewing the local area and site and Street view for close up of area.

Journal, Record of Trip

For my own benefit I kept a daily log of our activities using Diaro on my phone/ tablet/ PC. This was wonderfully clean and simple to use.

I frequently check(ed)in at places we visited using Foursquare and of course all my photos taken with my Nexus 4 were geolocated.

I was also running Moves on my Nexus. This ran silently in the background keeping a tally of everywhere I had been and whether I was walking, in the car or other transport.

For security my family were able to track my every move, whether I was connected to the internet or not, using an app on my phone called GPS Tracking Pro. This provided real time location updates using GPS Technology.

Mobile Data & WiFi

I used a mixture of Vodafone mobile data and wifi. Mostly mobile data was switched off on my phone unless I needed it to check in somwhere (couldn’t resist most of the time).

Vodafone eurotraveller which cost £3 a day when I used mobile data up to my UK plan limits. In fact I soon used up my UK mobile data limit of 500Mb but was offered another 1Gbyte for £6 which I took. My Vodafone app kept me informed of how much I was spending

All the sites we stayed at had wifi. I used this a lot especially if it was free. However the speed could sometimes be lamentable and mostly they were not secure. I therefore use Virtual Private Network (VPN) app called Hotspot Shield . This I used successfully on my laptop, tablet and smartphone.

Maps, guides,

Getting from one campsite to the next was a doddle using a combination of Archies POI (see Site Finder section above) and my satnav CoPilot. I used Archies to find the campsite which then sent the location to CoPilot for me it to work out a route.

Of course Google maps was very helpful on PC, tablet and phone for planning but I found we were use the ViaMichelin maps a lot as they had a route planning option for caravans, good terrestial maps and tourist info on their maps.

I didn’t download any specific tourist guides for Spain although subsequently I found a number of apps that would have been very helpful. I stuck with TripAdvisor, Foursquare and Yelp which all had Android apps for local recommendations

A travellers wine guide to Spain

Language Learning

Travelling in Spain for 5 weeks was a good opportunity to learn Spanish. There are many, many language learning apps. What I wanted was a basic Spanish vocabulary, a phrase book particlularly if it spoke the spanish phrase, a dictionary and grammer guide. This is what I found most useful

Fitness & Health

Holidays are a good opportunity to improve ones fitness :-0 I am permanently attached to my Fitbit Flex which measures the distance and number of steps I travel and calories I burn in doing so.  It was quite easy on the the tourist trail to regularly do more than 10,000 steps per day without even thinking about it

I use my Fitbit in conjunction with MyFitnessPal which I use to record calories consumed and thus the balance of calories consumed less the calories burned.

For more details about my fitness devices and apps see my blog post ‘Quantifying Myself

Radio TV Podcasts Media News

Our main concern was getting the daily news and the weather (see above).

  • Radio: We could keep up to date with the BBC UK and World News via their android app and by using another app TuneIn Radio which I find easier than the BBC iPlayer for Radio.
  • Podcasts : Used BeyondPod to download my favourite podcasts when connected to WiFi and then play offline.
  • Music : used Amazon MP3 player for my music
  • Books : used Kindle App for books to read
  • News Feed : Used Feedly (an RSS reader) for mainly the latest tech/gadget news
  • TV : TV was always going to be difficult unless you wanted to watch local TV. However if the wifi signal was strong enough and you were running HotspotShield to disguise your location it was possible to use BBC iPlayer to stream or even download a programme. However there were very few sites that had good enough wifi or unchoked wifi to achieve this.

Finally 

I hope that has given you an idea of how to survive as a social media and gadget geek when caravanning.

If you want to see a log of the route we took, which campsites we stayed at and the places we visited then go to my log on Tripline

Flickr on my photo frame Part 3

The long running saga of getting my Flickr photos on my photo frame finally leads to a result.

As I predicted in ‘Flickr on my photo frame Part 2’ the Google Nexus 7 tablet has proved to be a stunner and all for £159.

So I didn’t need to buy another photo frame or subscribe to another service to replace the defunct framechannel.com I now have a superb screen on which to display my photos – when it’s not in use as my news reader and video player.

I also predicted there would be an Android photo app that I could use to to slideshow a selection of my Flickr photos. Well there is. I am now using FlickFolio. It allows me to select by collection, set, tag, gallery, favourites, groups, contacts and bingo its sits there pretending to be a photo frame.

G-HUB PropUp

 

All I need now is a upright stand that also acts as my Nexus 7 protective cover when moving it around. There is an ideal one available from Amazon the G-HUB PropUp case

 

 

In addition to all this convenient functionality it turns out that the authors of FlickFolio, Snapwood Apps, also have apps for Facebook photos, Picasa, Photobucket, SkyDrive and others – bargain.

DLNA

Furthermore with the correct app loaded the Nexus 7 will be DLNA compatible.  I will then be able to show photos off my network and/ or ‘throw’ photos at my TV for big screen viewing.  I have been using Bubble UPnP on my Android mobile so will experiment with it on my Nexus 7 for a while.

Note: There always seem to be some issues with DLNA so it’s a case of trying several apps to see which one best suits the devices on your LAN and the formats of the media you want to share (throw around).

Related items

Flickr on my photo frame 2

My Flickr photos on my WiFi photo frame

My multi-room media shifting set-up

One Quiet Media Server

I have always hankered after one store for all my media accessible to all my devices. I first of all tried this with a PC dedicated to media. It worked fine except I needed to leave it on all the time which was not very energy efficient and quite noisy. So I looked around for a Network Addressable Store with a media server.

LaCie LaCinema HD

I finally settled on the LaCie LaCinema HD 1 TByte. It’s small, quiet (no fan),  connects directly to my TV via HDMI and sits on my LAN.  So I can leave it on without disturbing anybody, yet it’s accessible to anyone in whatever room they are in.

Media Shifting

The other feature I wanted in my network media server was for it to be UPnP DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compatible. The main reason for this was most if not all media players can recognise a UPnP/ DLNA server on the network.  Thus any media player device on my network should be able to fetch media from the server whether it be music, video or photos.

Including DLNA in the specification brought a surprise benefit – media shifting. This means that one device can take media from another device and play it on a third device. My mobile phone can take media off my laptop and play it on my TV (via the LaCinema). This feature depends on the software so for instance Windows Media Player 11 cannot send the media to another device but Twonky software can.

Internet Streaming

Being able to store all my media on my home network and shift it around to any player is wonderful, but today everybody wants to be able to stream their media from the Internet as well.  Thus we have services like Spotify to stream music, YouTube for videos and Flickr or Picassa for Photos (plus many other services).

The PCs and my smartphone on my home network all have access to the internet and can stream whatever service I like.  The beauty of DLNA is that I can use a PC or my smartphone to stream from the internet but send it to any other DLNA device for playing. This feature depends on the software so for instance Windows Media Player 11 cannot pass the stream onto another device but Twonky software can.

So here is my media shifting setup:

Device Media Software Feature
LG TV via LaCie LaCinema HD Twonky Server D, i
Revo Blick Radio Station WiFi Radio Revo – Audio only P, i
O2 Joggler O2 P, I
Windows XP PC Twonky Manager D, I
Windows Vista Laptop Windows Media Player 11 D, i
HTC Desire Android smart phone Twonky Mobile D, I
WD MyBookWorld (blue ring) NAS none
Kodak WiFi Picture Frame Framechannel i
Humax Freesat BBC iPlayer – ITVPlayer soon i

Feature Legend:

D = DLNA compatible so can play from any server and send to any DLNA player

d = DLNA compatible can play from any server and receive via a third device but cannot send to another DLNA player

P = although not DLNA compatible will nevertheless play from any UPnP server.

I = internet streaming to another device

i = internet streaming only to itself

My possible next steps

Now that I have experimented with DLNA I am ready to upgrade my media players. I should be able to upgrade to a decent stereo music player that is DLNA compliant

There were some DLNA Photo Frames but they don’t seem to be available anymore.

Some of the new smartphones come DLNA enable such as HTC Desire HD

Difficulties encountered

Windows Vista (Home edn)

  • Windows Media Player will only recognise the LaCie if I first use the LaCie Network Assistant to mount the drive it will then appear as PVConnect on LaCinima_HD
  • Windows Explorer recognises the the LaCie as a network media device but not as a Network Addressable Storage.  I can only access the folders on the LaCie through the LaCie Network Assistant.

Windows XP

  • Windows Media Player doesn’t recognise the LaCie even if the LaCie Network Assistant has mounted the drive
  • Windows Explorer recognises the LaCie as a network media device

Twonky Mobile

At present I am having a problem playing music from the LaCinema on my mobile. Play stops abruptly part the way through the track. I’m still working this one through with LaCie and Twonky.