On the Road

I spend a lot of time on the road for “the real job” (Engineering), so I often take my technology tools and diversions on the road with me. These are the things that allow me to get things done and to maintain my preferred, wired lifestyle when I’m sent to the hinterlands to attend some meeting/seminar or to work in the field. I went to seminary half time while working full time, so every class day was like a business trip!

Some general tips for business travel with devices:

  • Take the right device. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Tablets have MS Office now, but that does not mean you can do big data analyses.
  • Don’t assume you will have wifi connectivity.
  • Don’t assume you will be able to camp out at a power outlet.
  • Keep work and personal stuff separate, if possible. AKA, do not give an employer a reason to invoke their computer use policy in an awkward-to-explain way.
  • Go small. Take only what is useful and necessary. I don’t take everything I list below every time. 

As far as devices go, I have an almost 20-year relationship with Apple Macs and a 6-year relationship with iOS devices. So, my choices come from the house of the fruit. Just translate to your favorite non-fruit world view if you wish. No judging. It’s all good.

I do not use a company-issued laptop for personal or ministry tasks, and I recommend that your work and personal stuff be separated, too. It is not worth the risk of someone, sometime, saying that the company does not like what I or you do on my own time. For example, I do youth ministry, and both religion and the topic mix that youth care about don’t mix with corporate computer use policies. So, I travel with separate phones and (usually) separate computing devices.

Sometimes, I leave the company-issued laptop at work. So — where I blur the lines is that I will use a personal device through our company-approved virtualization methods (Citrix Receiver and/or MobileIron MDM) in order to travel lighter. In those cases, it is understood that the device is personal and does company work only sometimes. The tradeoff for the iPad is that the company knows what apps are installed and can trigger a remote wipe if it was ever needed/wanted.

Mobile lifestyle device choice 1: iPad Mini 2, wifi-only, 64 gig. Apple smart cover, ColcaSac hemp sleeve, and a Microsoft folding bluetooth keyboard. Tablets are great for getting work done, but they don’t work that well for jumping back and forth between documents, doing complex document tasks, software development, or tasks where you need a lot of your data on the road with you (Android folks have less heartburn with that last item due to SD card expandability). This is my more frequent gear for business trips, and especially when I fly.

An iPad will last a long time on battery-only, but sooner or later you have to charge it. If you’re in all day meetings or classes or air travel or on flight delay at BWI (again) or hiding in a cabin in the woods like a hermit, something other than camping out at a power outlet is needed.

I use a Hyperjuice Plug extended battery when necessary. It has about 15,000 mAh of capacity, enough to charge my iPad and phones for a few days to a week. Fits easily in whatever day pack or bag I’ll have. I also carry 2-meter long charging cables, a small micro SD cable, a car power plug, and one or more AC power cubes. If I don’t carry the Hyperjuice, I’ll take a small battery to give the phone a charge when needed (a freebie from work is pictured).

Mobile lifestyle device choice 2: Macbook Air (“MBA”, mid-2012), i7, 8 gig RAM, 960 gig Transcend JetDrive SSD. If I need to be able to do anything life throws at me, this is the device to bring. I won’t upgrade to a newer one, because this is the last year that such a big aftermarket SSD was available. [Update: In the name of even lighter gear, longer battery life, and a retina screen (so nice), I bought a 2015 Macbook 12” for myself and gave my MBA to a friend in college. I’ll put my iTunes library back on an external drive like I did before I had the big honking SSD, and I’ll sell the 960G SSD. So, never say never.]

Add a travel mouse. If you’re like me, touchpads are a necessary evil, but not suitable for all day work.

Powering the MBA off-the-grid requires a little more specialized gear and a willingness to modify some cables beyone what Apple’s warranty folks support. I got the DC-DC car adapter, Hyperjuice adapter patch cord, and the modified Apple 45W AC power pack from “Mikegyver” computing (Google him). The battery is a Hyperjuice 100 Wh (about 27,000 mAh) unit. With it, I can go 12 hours or so on the MBA without resorting to extreme power saving choices.

I usually only take this level of gear on a driving trip, but I have flown with it before.

Then there is the stuff that I take with me regardless of the device. I carry a Verizon “MiFi” mobile hotspot. Ever used airport or hotel wifi when everyone else who is flight delayed at BWI (again) is on or your hotel is hosting a convention of people, all streaming video? You sometimes need your own internet. Don’t forget a backup set of files on a flash drive (encrypt if desired). I also take a small Griffin arrowhead stand to use with the iPad or a Kindle.

I also take what would seem, at first, to be a redundent item: a Kindle Paperwhite. Trust me. For reading, a Kindle is the best single-purpose device you can own. Easier on the eyes and readable in more conditions than your phone or tablet or laptop or wood-pulp-based reading material.

With some planning and a little gear, you can hit the road and stay connected and get work done under any conditions. Let me know if you have any great ideas or if you have any questions.