Techy Tuesday: Working on the Go? Plan accordingly

Image courtesy of adamr/

Image courtesy of adamr/

I predict that the office cubicle will be as extinct as the mimeograph machine in a decade.  If you don’t know what a mimeograph machine is, um, well, let’s just call it a manual copier with a distinctive smell that went the way of the 8-track tape.  And if you don’t know what an 8-track tape is, let’s just drop the subject.

Anyway, back to my prognostication regarding the current office setup.  Offices went from four walls and a desk to two or three half-walls and a table top about 20 years ago, and are now moving toward virtual offices, which means you can plugin and work just about anywhere.  Generally, that’s pretty nifty, but there are a few scenarios which you should consider if this is your goal.  We’ll review just a few:

  1. You’re only as mobile as your Internet connection.  A virtual office requires a connection to the outside world, the Internet, namely.  Yes, you can work “offline”, and upload on occasion, but an Internet connection is key to mobility.  Most hotels have WiFi (wireless) connections, as well as coffee shops, doctor offices, and even service stations.  It’s not hard to plug in somewhere.  If you are truly a road warrior, consider getting a mobile service.  The wireless providers, such as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon offer ones with their phone packages.  All are functional, and all are subject to reception limitations.  So, don’t think you can move to a mountain-top retreat and stay connected as if you were in downtown USAville.  Give each a test drive to find the one with the best reception and price for your needs.
  2. You’re only as productive as your electrical source.  Laptops and tablets and cell phones all have two things in common.  Mobility and batteries.  Funny thing about batteries.  They need to be recharged.  Typically, an electrical connection is required, however there are solar chargers if you’re the hardcore, off-grid type…as long as you don’t live in Alaska during their 6-month night season.  No sunlight equals no solar charging.  If you’re going to take that sabbatical and hike Europe, remember that North America and Europe do not share electrical standards.  Adapters are cheap and easy to use, just don’t forget them or leave them at the hotel…not that I know what I’m talking about.
  3. The walls have ears and eyes.  When using a free WiFi connection at the friendly corner coffee-shop, remember that nothing is sacred.  An open, or unsecured, connection allows all users to see each other’s privates with the right x-ray vision application.  So, no logging on to a bank account or other sensitive site.  That innocent-faced kid in the corner could be a savy hacker waiting to scoop your passwords.  Change your passwords if you use free WiFi often.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Mobile devices get banged around a lot. Laptops and tablets are thankfully lighter than they used to be, but they are still going to get dropped, stepped on, crammed in a backpack or briefcase, and shoved under someone’s oversize suitcase. Which means they’re going to get cracked, overheated, and outright broken. Be prepared to find the nearest PC repair place. Just saying.
  5. Turn it on; turn it off. TSTA recently announced that electronic devices may be subjected to extra scrutiny, which means you will have to power them up during check-in. I can attest that this may sometimes be a problem. Many years ago I had a client in another city, and I often brought their broken equipment back with me for repair to save the shipping cost. I was not a favorite at the security checkpoint and was often asked to power up these odd-looking pieces of equipment. I made the tragic mistake of joking that if I could build a bomb out of a laptop I could probably figure out how to turn it on without detonating it. TSTA does not hire people for their sense of humor. I narrowly escaped being strip-searched, and I missed my plane. I now have the good sense to keep my mouth shut at all times, no matter how aggravated I get. Of course, once you have turned on all those devices, you immediately have to turn them all off and repack them to get on the plane. Plan an extra hour for this inconvenience.

Got any mobile travel tips? Share them in the comments.


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