Laptop-free travel is a dream of a lot of us who want to lighten our loads. One of the things that a lot of columnists and writers point to as alternatives are the multimedia storage storage devices like the Epson P6000/P7000.
These are phenomenal little units, and I carry one along even when I have a laptop as a backup. But carrying one of these units in lieu of a laptop isn’t really going to help you as redundant backup unless you do one of three things:
- Don’t re-use your cards during the trip, so you’ve got a copy of your “take” on the Epson and a copy on the cards.
- Buy two Epsons (!) so you have your redundant backup. It’s an elegant, if somewhat expensive, solution.
For the third, most reasonable, and totally undercovered solution in almost every review and Epson marketing piece of these multimedia storage units, hit the next page.One of the deepest secrets of the later Epson units is that they allow you to backup onto other USB storage devices…in other words, those little USB 2.5″ bus driven portable hard drives we all carry to back up onto from our laptops. But there’s a rub. The little Epson doesn’t have enough oomph to actually power the auxiliary drive like your laptop does. So in order to use your USB drive, you’ve got to get an AC adapter (5volt, 2amp) for your hard drive.
Because the near-universal usage of these drives is backing up laptops, most of which have plenty of juice to “bus” power the drives, many manufacturers have totally eliminated the auxiliary power input on the drive, and stopped making the little AC adapters too (they only weigh an ounce or so).
So you want to make sure you get your auxiliary USB drives from a manufacturer that still offers the AC adapter option. Here are a few that that still do: the G-Drive Mini , the Weibetech Toughtech Mini , and the LaCie Rugged . There are probably a lot more out there, but I’ve used these three successfully.
If you’re a Mac person (like me) and you’ve bought your auxiliary drives formatted to the Mac, you need to reformat them to FAT 32 (the PC standard drive format) for the Epson to “see” them (don’t worry, your Macbook will still be able to see and work with the drives…it’s just that kind of system…so versatile, so inclusive!).
Of course, make sure you backup any data on the drive before you reformat it. Here’s a step by step guide on reformatting a drive to FAT 32 using Mac’s Disk Utility: Caveat: I take no responsiblity for your data. Do this at your own risk! Make sure you select the portable drive and not your main drive. Oh boy, will you regret that! Please be careful.
- In Disk Utility, select the appropriate disk (please don’t reformat your main drive and then blame me!!!)
- Click the “Partition” tab
- Under Volume Information, expand the Format field and choose “Free Space”
- Click “Erase” (you’ve got everything on this drive backed up someplace else, now, right? Tell me that you do before you hit that button!)
- Expand the Volume Format field, and choose “MS-DOS File System”
Click Erase again and wait for it to do the job. When it’s finished the drive will be readable by the Epson, and your Mac (and of course, a PC too).
Now here’s another great use for these little Epsons and their beautiful screens—they can be used as kind of a post-film era Polaroid. I had an assignment in a village in Transylvania where NOBODY outside my hotel spoke English. And yet I had to get a lot of people shots for the story, and I had only a part time fixer/ translator.
So whenever I got shots, I’d download them onto the Epson and bring ’em back to show the subjects. And they loved it and brought more people into the pub, or their farm, or wherever, to see the shots, and then I had more willing subjects (like Etelka the baker, below, caught in a sepia moment). For a more in-depth info on that gig, check out this story on the Professional Photographer Magazine website.