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Postcards from Treoville: Moblogging the World

Mon Jul 16, 2007 - 10:25 AM EDT - By Jay Gross

Anyone seen a post office around here?

Note: Click on any picture to open full view.

Remember those rotating racks of picture postcards in newsstands and souvenir shops around well beaten tourist traps? �Hello from Key West. Don�t forget to feed the cats.� Or my favorite, �Having a wonderful time, glad you are not here.�

The time for traveling is once again upon us, and so is the time for postcards sent from exotic places. Or from boring places with exotic postcards. Your Treo � you did remember to pack your Treo? - gives you instant access to postcards without the hassle of finding a post office in a strange city. I speak from experience.

A while back � okay electricity had been invented, but cell phones hadn�t � a long while back I hiked around parts of Mexico with a friend, snapping pictures with my tiny Minolta 16 MGS subminiature camera and mailing the film back to myself with post cards and other treasures that I collected along the way. In Reynosa, Mexico, on the Texas border, I needed to send some film out, but misunderstood the directions people gave.

In a busy storefront with a bank-teller-like structure inside, I waited patiently in the line and finally asked at the window in broken turistico Espa�olfor some postales, waving my postcards like planes to indicate airmail. The whole place broke into laughter. It was a betting parlor, not a post office.

After I found a real postage establishment I stocked up. With the years that have gone by since then, I wouldn�t need to. I�m not up to much hiking any more, but now I can whip out my Treo and keep those picture postcards zinging through the airwaves. Minus the stamps. Only a little bigger than the Minolta 16mm, my Treo 700p can email images on the spot to any recipients who deserve such consideration. Besides, I can send them to myself for later reference and never mind the processing costs into the bargain.

All of my Mexican post cards and other trinkets made it to me safely, but several rolls of film never showed up. I remain convinced they�re still sitting in a CIA office somewhere waiting for some committee to release them.

The Treo advantage

Cell phone pictures have other advantages for sending postcards from exotic (or not) places. This is a case where the low resolution of Treo images � compared to my fancy (and heavy!) digital SLR � pays off. The Treo cameras� resolution isn�t so large that emailed pictures would choke people�s inbox limits. Besides, they�re as good as the snapshots I got with my little Minolta.

Another advantage is the email itself. You could just send the pic as a multimedia SMS, but watch out that your intended recipient can accept such files and doesn�t mind paying whatever his or her cell carrier charges for the privilege. If you also send them as attachments to emails, the cell carrier charge is probably on you.

In either case, you can append some text that gives a clue (or not) about what the picture is about. �This is me texting from the top of the Key West light house,� or �Me and Julio down in the school yard.� Sing that last one for best effect.

The cell phone had been invented when I shot the accompanying picture of the Key West lighthouse, but that was the year 5 BT (Before Treo).

Automating the process

These days, these modern days, there�s not only a Treo to shoot postcards with and an internet to handle them, but a freshly minted buzzword to describe the process. Moblog. That�s �mobile� and �blog� stapled together to convey �blogging on mobile devices.� Meaning, pipe your pictures to the blogosphere from wherever you are, using your Treo.

TreoCentral�s Annie Latham inspired this article with a Talkin Treo column, in which she mentioned moblogging and an article in the New York Times that explored its intricacies. I�ll leave you to peruse that article, as it tells the story quite well, offering suggestions on places to host your moblog and how to do it.

The plan is simple. Before you leave for parts beyond, set up an account with one of the blogging/moblogging website hosts. Many of these are free, but with more or less complexity to set up. This link gets down to the nitty-gritty, a FAQ on moblogging with Blogger, a popular host. Don�t look for me there, or anywhere else in the blogoshpere as yet. You�re reading my moblog now.

Once you�ve selected a host and set up the account, you just send images, with or without accompanying text, as you travel. The host�s software makes the stuff available instantly to the entire world. Instant gratification! So, if you�re visiting the Parthenon � the one in Nashville, Tennessee, or that other one across the great pond � you can moblog your ponderings on columns or Treo snaps of the huge doors to your host for everyone on the planet to enjoy.

Reality check

So, forget stamps altogether. Pack your Treo or (gack!) other web-capable smartphone, sign up for a data plan, and set up a blog host if you want. If you�re traveling internationally, you�ll need a camera equipped smartphone that works in the place(s) you visit. An unlocked GSM Treo, like my (crimson!) 680 or my trusty old 650, might be adaptable internationally using a SIM card from a local host. Otherwise, just rent what you need, as the Times suggests.

Don�t forget the data charges for uploading/sending, so let�s hope you have an �unlimited� data plan or, if you�re traveling abroad, don�t mind shelling out some Euros, Rubles, Yen, Pounds, or whatever. Data plans in Europe, for example, are costly.

Concierge on Duty

Do I hear cries for help? Here�s a quick refresher on sending a picture as an email from your Treo. First, PalmOS models (650, 680. 700p, 755p) and VersaMail.

  • Here�s the fun part. Take a picture. Apps > Camera > Center Button. Smile! Depending on how you have the app set up, you might have to tap the icon that looks like a floppy disk to store it.

  • Tap the Albums icon (looks like a stack of papers) at the bottom left of the Camera app�s screen to bring up the list of available albums. (Tap the Pictures and Videos icon on the Home screen to get to the same place without shooting a new picture.)
  • Pick an album � i.e., tap one.

  • Pick (tap) a picture from among the little thumbnails.
  • Admire the picture. You can scroll it left/right � touch it anywhere and HOLD the stylus to the screen; then move the stylus left or right, and the picture scrolls with your touch. The 680 announces this feature when you view a picture.

  • Press the Menu button. Near the bottom of the menu that appears, tap the �Send� option.

  • Address the email in the normal way. When you tap Send, the message goes out with the picture attached.

Okay, now for Windows Mobile Treos.

  • Start Menu > Programs > Camera And take a picture.
  • On the Camera program, tap the Menu button in the bottom right border of the screen and then tap Send. (As with PalmOS, you can get here without taking a new picture. Open the Pictures & Videos program instead of Camera.)

  • Choose an account � Outlook E-mail for example.

  • Supply an email address, subject, and body in the normal way.
  • Tap Send in the bottom bar.

Windows Mobile and newer Treos like my 680 make it easy to send a picture as an MMS message by following the same steps and choosing MMS on the Send menu.

None of this works if you don�t have your email set up. If you need help with that, check the support section of Palm�s website. Here is a good place to start.

E-mail made easy

To post to a moblog account, if you decided to do one, you�ll need the email address the hosts give you to access the account. As the Times reported, these can be painful to remember, or even type, but your Treo will help you with this. Simply create a Contact (Apps > Contacts > New Contact) for the moblog email.

When sending an email, you�ll only have to type the first few characters of the moblog�s complicated email address and the Treo supplies available addresses from its Contacts database. For predictable results, check this out in advance before you depend on it. Awesomely easy to mistype, y�know.


If you�re not doing anything else this summer, take a spin around Edinburgh � Indiana � or check out Denmark and Hollywood � South Carolina � or maybe drop in on my friends in Paris. France, not Tennessee. Wherever you go, take lots of pictures, blog lots of blogs, and don�t send me any postcards. I have to stay home this year.

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