Travelog: How Does it Work?

Our world travellers are equipped with a little technology to make the Travelog site work. Perhaps a little too much technology, but...

Nick uses a Sony VAIO notebook running Windows XP (because he has no choice) to write the Travelog entries and store all the digital photos that Keiko shoots with her digital cameras. We transfer images from the camera to the laptop with a USB card reader. Nick also uses a tiny Garmin eTrex 12-channel GPS receiver to acquire the exact latitude and longitude of each Travelog location.

Whenever our travellers find an Internet Cafe with a decent enough connection (usually every 3-4 weeks), Nick updates the Travelog site by connecting the laptop directly into the Internet Cafe's LAN and accessing a private Travelog Administration User Interface. Batches of new waypoints are uploaded from diary entries and photos prepared earlier on the laptop. Depending on the speed of the internet connection, updating the site can be a slow and laborious process, especially when there are many images to upload (even with a fast connection it can take over one minute to upload a single image). Waypoints may also be edited and images captioned via the AUI. At the end of an updating session, Nick updates the world maps with the latest route information just added.

The Travelog site is hosted - very generously - by Nick's friend Thomas Han on a server hidden in a top secret location somewhere in Silicon Valley and connected to the internet via a high speed T1 line. Our sincere thanks go to Thomas for providing such a nice home for our software and world trip memories.

Nick designed and wrote the Travelog system software himself in a few all-night coding sessions prior to leaving for the journey. The program is a single CGI script written in Perl. The current version of the system uses a static world basemap which was carefully created using the Charles Sturt University's "Map Maker" system. The powerful scientific graphing package "Grace" is then used to create plots of the actual and planned routes using the geo-coordinates of each waypoint in the system. Finally, ImageMagick is used to composite the route plots over the top of the world basemap to give the final result as an NPG image. When a user clicks on the image, the Travelog program figures out where on the surface of the earth the mouse was clicked. All the waypoints that lie within some radius of the click are then retrieved and presented to the user in a list for them to choose from. At that point the user has joined the journey and can literally follow in Nick and Keiko's footsteps.

Technology Credits:

Notebook computer Sony VAIO PCG-SRX87 / PCG-461L
Lame OS Windoze XP Home Edition
Positioning device Garmin eTrex
Digital cameras FujiFilm FinePix 4500, Olympus C-750 UZ
External mass storage adapter PQI USB model FPT-A multi-card drive
Editor GNU Emacs
Travelog software Perl + mod CGI
World map datasets CIA World DataBank II
Scientific mapping software Grace
World basemap generation CSU's Map Maker interface to GMT 3.x
Image manipulation software ImageMagick
Web site hosting Thomas Han
Sanity Apple iPod 20Gb

Nick would be very happy to answer any questions anyone might have about the program - just drop him a line here.