Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Essential Travel Tools: Sony PSP

PSPGo has been discontinued. A new PSP, code-named NGP, is slated for release in 2011
PSPgo - Pearl White
Traveling today has become more time consuming. Having to arrive early to get through security checks often means having to spend time ... a lot of time ... waiting. Waiting to board a flight. Waiting to check in. Waiting means you need a distraction. Are you a movie lover? Music lover? Gamer? If so, then the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) is an ideal travel companion.
The most current versions (PSP Go* and PSP 3000) as well as the PSP 2000 systems not only let you game, listen to music or watch movies on a large, bright screen but also allow you to read comics, surf the Internet and make phone calls via Skype. Both the 2000 and 3000 series require Memory Stick Duo cards (up to 32GB available) if you want to store music or movies but the PSP Go has 16GB of built in storage and a slot for a Memory Stick Duo giving you a maximum storage of 48GB. That’s a lot of space for plenty of music, movies and games! The PSP Go doesn’t accept the UMD game cartridges of the older systems so you must purchase and download games from the Playstation Store. Some might find that inconvenient but I think it has a huge advantage over having to carry multiple UMD cartridges. Good news is that the PSP 2000/3000 series can download games to the Memory Stick Duo ... so get as big a card as you can afford.
PSP 3000 is, as of this writing, still in production
PSP 3000 Core Pack - Black
Both the PSP Go and the PSP 3000 have a built-in microphone and speakers allowing you to make Skype calls without any additional hardware. PSP 2000 series, though they have speakers, requires a headset/microphone combination if you’re interested in being able to make Skype calls via wireless from wherever your travels take you. Being able to make free phone calls from anywhere in the world via Skype through a PSP makes it an incredible tool for the price.Both the PSP Go and the PSP 3000 have a built-in microphone and speakers allowing you to make Skype calls without any additional hardware. PSP 2000 series, though they have speakers, requires a headset/microphone combination if you’re interested in being able to make Skype calls via wireless from wherever your travels take you. Being able to make free phone calls from anywhere in the world via Skype through a PSP makes it an incredible tool for the price.
The built-in on-screen keyboard works well enough for basic web surfing or sending simple e-mail messages through GMail or other web-based e-mail solutions. Even without a touch screen, which I feel is a flaw on the PSP Go considering its competition, the combination of features are noteworthy. With a larger screen and actual gaming controls most gamers would be hard pressed to choose and iPhone or iPod Touch over a Sony PSP system. Maybe the next generation PSP** will add a touchscreen and 64GB of built-in storage thus thrusting itself into the forefront of travel essentials. Until then, either a PSP 2000, 3000 or Go is a welcome travel companion.
*20Apr11 - Sony announced that they will no longer continue production of the PSPGo. As of this writing the PSP 3000 is still in production and the new PSP, code-named NGP, is expected to go on sale in late 2011.

**The new PSP, code-named NGP, does have touchscreen, GPS and a motion sensor.
**UPDATE: 1 Dec 11 - The next-generation PSP is called the PSP Vita
Originally published in The Beacon Newsmagazine October 2010

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Experience Italian culture and history for free during Culture Week

Italian Cultural Week offers free entrance to state-run musuems, monuments and archaelogical sites

When planning a trip one of the biggest budget killers tends to be entry fees into attractions. For the frugal traveler this sometimes means missing out on sites you've been dreaming of seeing since you were a child. Italian Cultural Week is here to change that!

XIII Settimana della Cultura, or the 13th Annual Cultural Week, in Italy runs from April 9 – 17, 2011. Italy has an immense cultural and artistic history to share with the world and during Cultural Week state-run museums, monuments and archaeological sites open their doors and share that history with the public for free!

Outside of Italy it doesn't appear that this is a well-advertised event. I found it completely by accident when I was in Italy in 2004. When I returned to Italy in 2007 I got lucky and happened to be there again at just the right time. Unfortunately, the week fluctuates from year to year so planning your trip around it requires a little research through the Ministry of Heritage and Culture

At the Ministry of Heritage and Culture site you will find information on the near 2500 events, concerts, guided tours and such going on during Settimana della Cultura. Some of the sites include the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum in Rome, the Uffizi Gallery, Medici Chapels and Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence as well as the Gallerie dell'Accademia and Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Venice. No matter where your adventures in Italy take you you'll be sure to find attractions you've been longing to see are free to visit during Cultural Week. A list of sites, by region, can be searched at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture site.