I am an independent consultant in the oil industry and I spend most of my days on the run, flitting from office to office, working on 4 or 5 projects in a typical day. I have built what I feel is a tight mobile tech arsenal that makes it easy for me to keep organized, in the right place at the right time, and above all else look professional while doing it. I’m frequently asked what tech stuff I use and why so I thought the easiest way to cover it is to walk you through a day of jkOnTheRun.
Alarm goes off at 6 am. Roll out of bed, get coffee (it’s on a timer and prepared the night before) that’s just finished dripping into the carafe. Turn on the local news and pick up my Toshiba e800 from the charging cradle. While listening to the news on the TV I use the PPC to check my 4 main email accounts for stuff that came in overnight. There’s a few topic reply notification emails from several web sites I post on and I can just click the link in the email. This fires up Netfront 3.1 which I’ve configured as my default web browser on the PPC. It’s just so much faster than Pocket Internet Explorer and with the VGA screen on the e800 I can view web pages almost just like on the desktop. I respond to a few emails, post replies to the web site forums, and then finish getting ready for work. I should point out that I use Seymour for the PPC to split the VGA screen for the above email routine. I put the Inbox program in the top half of the screen and Netfront in the bottom half and I can just jump from email to web very easily. Highly recommended utility for VGA users.All ready to leave my home office for the day so I pack up my Wenger. That’s a Wenger rolling carryon computer bag that has made my life much easier. It fits my Compaq X1015 15.4″ widescreen laptop, files for all the projects I’ll be working on today, cables and accessories for the laptop and the e800. In the back compartment of the bag goes my mobile jewel- the Canon i70 portable ink-jet printer. I’ve outfitted the Canon with the clip on battery pack and it’ll print about 200 pages on a charge. It’s not wireless but USB but I don’t mind that at all. I bought a Body Glove laptop sleeve that fits the printer and cable very well and it all slips right into the back compartment of the Wenger bag. Zip it all up, pull up the long handle, and my rolling office is in business.I stow the bag in my trunk, get in my car, and start that baby up. I check the day’s schedule on the Toshiba which is on my belt clip all the time for easy access. I keep it in a EB Cases Copilot holster which I’ve used for a couple of years and really like it. I’ll be doing all my driving in town today so I set the suspension for my car to Luxury from the Sport setting it’s currently on. A little cushier ride is called for today- no winding curvy roads in the near future.My first appointment is with a new client I’ve never worked with and while I know approximately where their office is located I’m not familiar with exactly where on the street the building is nor what side of the major street it’s located on. So I enter the address into the NAV system built into my car and let it plot a route for me. This way when I’m nearing their office I will not only know which is their building but also the NAV system will tell me which side of the street to prepare to get to. If I didn’t have a NAV system in my car I would definitely get a Bluetooth GPS for the PPC. Once you’ve experienced a good NAV system you never want to do without.This first appointment is a startup meeting for this new project and will probably last an hour or hour and a half. I don’t want to distract anyone so for this meeting I leave the laptop in the trunk and just go in with a notepad and my Toshiba. I have previously copied the agenda I was emailed into the Note tab of the appointment when I entered it into Pocket Informant. I’ve also added comments I want to make under each agenda item and I refer to it the entire meeting. The meeting goes well and only lasts and hour so I head to my “office away from home”- Starbuck’s. I think I know where every Starbuck’s in Houston is located.:-)I have signed up for the T-Mobile unlimited WiFi access for $30/ month and I use them almost every day to get broadband access for email and web work. Coffee in hand I set up my laptop at the desk in Starbuck’s and get to work. First checking and responding to email, and then some web work. As it turns out there’s some news to post on the Tools web site so I do that and post on some web sites. Sometimes if I don’t bring the laptop I do the same thing with the PPC and Stowaway IR keyboard. It works almost as well and there are now many days I leave the laptop at home.Time to check the next appointment- it’s about 30 minutes from my current location and I set the destination in the NAV system. While I know where this appointment is located I always enter them in because Houston traffic is famous (and rightly so) for its ability to snarl at the least provocation. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened and I am forced to try to find a shortcut around a problem. The NAV system auto-routes when you leave the programmed route and it is uncanny at plotting the best way through residential areas, side streets, etc. This trip is uneventful so I’m now at my next meeting place. This time I take the laptop in with me as I’ll likely be here for at least 2 hours and there’s no WiFi available here. Most client offices do not have open WiFi access and frankly I usually don’t want my stuff going through their networks anyway. That’s why I have a Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 that is used with Verizon’s Express Network.I can’t say enough how important the EN is to me. I can get email virtually anywhere in the US with this setup and it’s worth the $80/ month. So I set up my laptop in the workroom they have provided me and I start looking at about 150 electrostatic paper plots of seismic images. I have to look at each one and QC it for errors. At this stage of this particular project the data is still in the early stage and each sail line is like a sub-project. To track the status of each line that I look at I use an Excel spreadsheet in tabular form that lets me indicate each stage I’ve looked at and approved for a given sail line. I use PlanMaker on the PPC that lets me bring in the Excel spreadsheet in it’s native form. Since I’m working at a big conference table and unrolling these paper plots (~10 feet each) it’s not convenient to keep moving back and forth to the laptop so I use the spreadsheet on the PPC. As I finish a step for a sail line I mark the appropriate cell for that step on the PPC as completed or if it has a problem a note about it. There’s one paper plot I want to discuss with my client and rather than take the plot with me I pull out my Canon S50 digital camera and take a quick snapshot of it. I’ll email it to the client later with a note about it. With this setup I finish QCing these 150 lines in about 2 hours, and when I finish the status sheet is up to date. Throughout these two hours I’ve been able to check incoming emails by using a Socket CF Bluetooth card in the PPC and connecting to the laptop via ActiveSync which lets the PPC share the internet connection that is established with the Express Network on the laptop. This way I don’t miss important emails from clients and I also can copy the finished spreadsheet back to the laptop. This project is finished for the day. I use OneNote on the laptop to keep daily notes on each project so I not only have a record I also can incorporate that into each project’s final report. Now that OneNote SP1 will sync notes from the PPC back to OneNote on the laptop I enter a brief note on the PPC when I finish the daily work on a project and when I sync up it appears in OneNote under a special “Notes from the PocketPC” tab. I then move the page to the appropriate project tab in OneNote and my records are maintained with a minimum of effort.After a quick lunch I head back to- where else? Starbuck’s. I do some more web work and email. This time I just bring in the PPC and the Stowaway keyboard as the laptop is charging in the car. I make a post to this blog using Pocket SharpMT, a great free program for working remotely with Movable Type based blogs. The keyboard makes it a sweet arrangement, too. Next it’s off to a meeting at a seismic processing contractor’s office where we’re meeting with my client who is in town just for this meeting. My agenda notes are in the PI appointment as before and I’ve also copied some screen images the contractor captured at my request on their Linux workstation and emailed to me the day before. There’s some problems that I want to bring up with the client and make sure he understands them (he won’t) and is comfortable with the solutions I’m going to suggest to overcome them. I frequently have contractors make me screen images of not just problems but also examples of good things we’re accomplishing on the clients project. I copy all of them to the PPC for meetings like this. Since they can be big I use a CF 1gb MicroDrive for storage.In the meeting I follow the notes in PI and am able to bring up assorted images on the PPC where appropriate. This impresses clients to no end that this technology exists and I create a strong technical image with them for using it. In this particular meeting the client asks a question about some sonic well curves that he sent the contractor and while they are fumbling around looking for them I pull them up on the PPC and keep the meeting on track. For images I use Spb Imageer as it’s not only good at displaying the images on the VGA screen but it has an ActiveSync filter that gives you complete control over how to scale the image upon copying from the desktop to the PPC. Excellent program. I also use Pocket Plan on the PPC which allows me to view and edit MS Project Gantt charts. Part of the discussion in this meeting covers why the contractor is falling behind the baseline schedule and I’m able to make suggestions to the client on how they can make up the lost time down the road. Pocket Plan is gold to me.Meeting ends well and it’s off the the last meeting of the day- a QC work session similar to the one before and I handle it basically the same way, toggling between the laptop and PPC. I should point out that I track my billable time throughout each day with TimeTTracker MX, an excellent time billing package that comes with both a desktop and PPC version. They stay synced every time I ActiveSync and the program lets me track all billable hours and reimbursable expenses to make sure I don’t forget to invoice a client for time spent. I really hate doing that. TimeTTracker has a running timer that I start when I commence work on a project and when I stop the timer it calculates how much time I spent, rounds it to the nearest 15 minute interval, and calculates an entry for an invoice to be cut later.I should point out that I write a lot during the course of each day- some for the PocketPC Tools website, some for this blog, and some for articles I’m working on. The blog entries are easy as I’ve mentioned but for the others I use TextMaker on the PPC. It is so good to work with and I find I never have wasted time no matter where I am. I can always get some writing done with the PPC and the IR keyboard.Well, I head back to my home office and chill for a little and then get back on the web and answer some emails. This time I do it from my easy chair in the living room using the Toshiba e800 in glorious VGA mode. Most of my days go pretty much like this one and many of those days I now leave the laptop at home and go totally PPC. I couldn’t do that before Toshiba gave us true VGA and it’s been a real blessing to me. I hope this helps demonstrate real world use for technology and the tools it gives us. I’m interested in hearing how any readers are using technology in your work so post away. I’m listening.