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How to travel blog safely from internet cafés?

How I did it. It might help you too!

(click on a topic heading to skip to that section)

» Introduction

» Choosing an internet café

» Dealing with Photos

» Accessing your favorite stuff

» Security in a internet café

» Dealing with banned sites

» Mobile-Blogging

» Blog ahead of time

» Offline Travel Blogging

» The laptop, and the internet café


Introduction


I sold my laptop in Turkey before heading into Iran. It was an old 4KG machine that stood by me well. But, the weight, and the fact I knew there would not be many WIFI spots around for a while meant letting it go. And, what a learning curve it was ... when it came to writing and publishing online.

I had no choice but to use public computers, some located in pretty dodgy internet cafés. Others located in shut up tight ultra modern machines that don’t let you do anything but surf.

Here are a few tips and tricks I used when travel blogging from internet cafés. They might be able to help you out too!


Choosing a safe internet café to travel blog from (link to top)


I look at these places like danger zones. Sometimes run by ticket machines with no support, sometimes over crowded with dodgy people staring blatantly at every key you press.

  • Choose as carefully as possible. If it’s an automated café make sure you can access things like USB ports and your preferred websites. There’s usually something posted on the walls about that. Or simply take a wander around and become that dodgy person looking at what everyone else is up to. If you see usb drives sticking out of PC’s, then they probably work.

  • If the Internet café is run by a human, then ask questions. Can I use a usb drive? Can I use gmail/yahoo, my blog site? etc,. And, do you have Anti virus protection? With that settled, are there other travelers in there doing the same thing you want to do? Or is the place full of dodgy people typing from lists, and or girls modeling in front of old men on web cams. If either is the case, I would advise finding another place to blog from.

  • Lastly when it comes to finding the best café to write your travel blog from timing can be important. In some parts of the world electricity is rationed. Or there are black outs. Ask if they have a generator and or perhaps more importantly if they have fuel. Also if it works and will they switch it on!
  • Bandwidth (internet speed) is often dominated by the amount of people in the café, if you are uploading photos choose a time when there are less travelers in the café. Early morning is usually good.

Some tips once inside an internet cafe

  • If you have a bag, put it between your legs. It’s easy to become distracted and lost in blogging, that someone can pick through it or remove it.
  • Pick a computer with a partition on both sides to prevent the pervert next to you peeking at your screen.
  • If someone is staring at your screen, stare right back at them between the eyes until they look away. If they do it again, loudly (not shouting) tell them to stop looking at your screen (this usually works). If they do it again. Shut up shop, ask to me moved, or leave.
  • If there are two annoying tourists on either side of you talking away, tell them to please be quiet and that you are trying to concentrate. If they continue, move and make a point in saying why. That usually shuts them up too.
  • Avoid sitting next to people on Skype or cafés filled with them. It’s noisy, distracting and they are using a lot of bandwidth.

Dealing with Travel Photos from an internet cafe (link to top)


Working with photos is a must for me. Without a laptop this can be a big problem. Here's how I work it out.

  • Firstly I back up my photos on a portable hard drive and then DVD.
    Then I copy the photos that I want to upload onto my usb drive.
  • Here’s the important bit – resize. If you look at this website 95% of all my photos are under 45kb. Yet my camera takes an average photo of 6MB or 20+ if you make it a RAW file.
  • Uploading a full photo to your blog will not only take you too long, but it will also take the people looking at your blog too long to download.

I use a batch resizer and renamer called Faststone. It can convert and rename 100’s of photos in a matter of a minute. What’s more, you can install it onto your usb disk. Uploading them to your blog will now take no time at all. I also get as many photos up onto blog storage as possible for future posting. There are also others like Picasa and online ones like sumyo paint with various capabilities between them.


Dealing with Travel Photos part 2


I also use on-line storage for my original photos. There are plenty of them out there like zenfolio, flicker, mozy, a-drive etc.

  • Personally I prefer something like Zenfolio as you can batch upload from most internet cafés and don’t need to install software.
  • I find sites like Flicker too restricting in terms of storage, and a prime place to have all your photos snatched away and copied. But then it will suit those who just want to upload holiday snaps etc.
  • Lastly don’t leave your photo’s on a internet cafés desktop. It won’t be long before some else copies them, or uses them for ill will. I’ve seen tourist photos appear on several on-line forums by someone else pretending it was them for the purposes of a scam.

Accessing your favorites from the internet cafe (link to top)

Bookmarks, social networking and favorite sites for travel blogging research etc.,

  • It's easy with portable firefox. I use the foxmarks extension to save all my favorite bookmarks to access wherever I travel.
  • There are also some extensions that allow you quick access to Twitter and all your favorite social sites.
  • Lastly there are also extensions that allow you to post directly to your blog.

Security in a internet café (link to top)


this one is important when it comes to travel blogging from internet cafés as they are simply put; not secure.

Key logging: the process of recording whatever you type: is a very common practice on public computers. A simple on-line search will show you how easy it is. internet cafés are also fairly prone to viruses. And, unfortunately there’s little you can do about it.

But here are a few tips:

  • Keep everything on your flash drive. (bar private files, info etc)
  • Use Portable ClamWin, a free anti virus. Keep to scanning your own files, and never the pubic computer.
  • Change your passwords frequently. If you have access to a mobile phone with internet this is a good way to change a password after leaving a dodgy café. Though still not 100% secure in its own right.

Dealing with banned internet sites (link to top)


In some countries it’s not possible to visit certain sites. China for example is well known for blocking BBC sites. Use an on-line proxy web proxy service to bypass all this. It might make a page look weird, and a lot of the proxies are banned, but persevere and you’ll find one eventually.


Mobile-Blogging

(link to top)


If you are stuck in a café that is blocking your access, or refuses to allow you to upload. And you have enabled mobile-blogging on your blog. You can email in an entry, complete with photos.

Tip: For security you can set up a special secondary email address just for this that utilizes pop3 to access your primary email account. Here, if there are key loggers around they’ll only get access to your secondary email account which you can disable if need be and your primary email will be safe.


Blog ahead of time (link to top)


Travel blogging is hard work. You are after all on the road and meant to be out seeing things and meeting people. Utilize all your time in a internet café. If you’re with others and waiting, don’t stumbleupon, start work on your next entry! Setting up scheduled posts is also a great way not to spend every week looking for a café.


Offline Travel Blogging (link to top)


Windows Live Writer, Blog Desk & Wblogger are all applications that will allow you to write blog posts on your laptop or even usb drive without being connected to the internet.

Once you find online access, you can then upload them directly. The advantage over simply writing in a word processor is that they will be formatted, even with photos if you want, and ready to go immediately or scheduled.


The laptop, and the internet café (link to top)


Lastly if you have a laptop, and have to use a internet café for a connection you need to be careful as well. WiFi is not all that secure. Make sure you have a good firewall, and anti virus and update everything once you are on-line. If there is no WiFi and only LAN cable access make sure you know how to change any settings on your laptop before you plug in. Don’t let the café manager near your laptop.


A quick round up of tips for blogging from a internet café

  1. Don’t hop into the first internet cafe you see. Take a walk around and pick one that meets all your needs.
  2. Use portable applications; they save time, they work and provide a little security.
  3. Resize and upload small photos for all your blog posts.
  4. Change passwords frequently
  5. If your hostel has an old computer, ask to use it. Then using portable openoffice write up your blog entries ahead of time. Thereby minimizing your time on-line.
  6. Try mo-blogging, it feels strange at first, but it works.
  7. Practice before you leave. Try out your new portable apps, resizing photos, and uploading before you start traveling. Try at home, then try some test posts from a local internet café rather than leaving it until you are traveling.

Conclusion: Nothing will replace the convenience and security of a laptop when traveling. But it’s not always practical, nor feasible as I learned on my own travels.

Travel blogging from a internet café is not always the easiest of things to do. These are some of the tips I picked up along the way as I travel blogged in internet cafés, hopefully they can help you out too!

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Top 10 list of countries for internet cafés

(10) Pakistan
very slow internet, old computers, viruses
Streets of Peshawar, Pakistan
 
(9) Nepal
long hours of no electricity, slow internet, viruses, costly
Read of Dubar Square Kathmandu Nepal
 
(8) Morocco
slow, and way too many viruses, key loggers, etc
High blue street in Chefchaoen Morocco
 
(7) Spain
too many automated places, usb access problems, expensive
Boats in Spain
 
(6) Iran
blocked sites, medium speed internet
Renovating a mosque in Iran
 
(5) India
good speed internet, easy to find, some bad places though
Sunset on the Ganges India
 
(4) Turkey
easy to find, good speed
Sofia and the blue mosque, istanbul, turkey
 
(3) China
blazingly fast, everywhere, blocks sites, you are watched
Chinese police woman in Bejing
 
(2) Philippines
cafe on every corner and mall, good speed, cheapish
Palm tree in the Philippines
 
(1) Germany
Fast internet, easy to find, cheap
Old house in rural Germany
 
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