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This Week at Mobile Tech Manor #39- Getting Smaller

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Mobile Tech Manor Large 2My favorite time of the week is here once again, the time I get to share the highlights of my week with you, dear reader. I spent a major part of the week with gadgets smaller than most and finding the best way to incorporate them into my work. The tools seem to be getting smaller but not less capable, which has been eye-opening. Step into Mobile Tech Manor and spend a few moments looking back at how I spent my time.

This week there were three devices that grabbed most of my time. Here they are in order of smallest to largest:

The 13-inch MacBook is not on the list, but it’s my main work machine. It’s my desktop system in my home office coupled with the 24-inch Cinema Display. This is a fully capable desktop system with a highly portable notebook at the hub of it all. In the past, I would simply unplug the display from the MacBook and throw it in my backpack when I needed to go out for a heavy work session somewhere, but not this week.

The HP Mini 1000 netbook has been my mobile go-to device this week. This is due to finally getting the time to put Windows 7 RC on it, which is running very well. The special version of Ubuntu that HP shipped on the Mini is good but I found it wanting in some areas, especially the version of Firefox that was part of the distribution.

In my work the online environment is of the utmost importance, and the special version of Firefox that shipped on the Ubuntu-equipped Mini didn’t handle add-ons that I’ve come to depend on to get my work done easily. Windows 7 permitted me to install the full Firefox browser and get my add-ons in place, however, turning the Mini 1000 into a good workhorse for me.

The Mini 1000 has a keyboard that’s almost full-sized; it’s one of the best netbook keyboards I’ve tried. My work is writing so the typing experience is important to me, and the Mini is wonderful. It doesn’t hurt that it’s as small and light as it is, either, because I can throw it into a small messenger bag and hit the road easily. The 6-cell battery is giving me a full six hours of work time on a charge, so I can head out in the morning with the Mini and get through a full day without worrying about finding an outlet.

This super mobile kit has not required any compromises on my part and it’s worked so well that the MacBook hasn’t left the desk once. It’s getting lonely, I think.

The Viliv S5 UMPC is coming into its own for me as I’ve settled into a good routine with the little PC. I use the S5 mostly in portrait orientation for everything from working on the web to reading e-books. It feels so good in the hand and the wide-angle screen looks really good in portrait. It’s a full Windows PC, so there is nothing I can’t do when I’m using it.

The small size means I can throw the S5 into the bag when I head out with the Mini 1000; it takes up virtually no room and adds almost no weight (less than a pound). It’s thus always there when I need it, such as in the event that the Mini is overkill for the time I have available, or if the venue doesn’t allow for a notebook to be pulled out. I often pull the S5 out while I’m eating lunch and read the book of the day with no effort. It’s like a window into the world with little overhead.

Those times that I have to run out of the office to do errands and such I grab the S5 in its little case and head out with just that. It’s no trouble to bring, yet I have a full Windows XP PC with me should I need one. That’s just so liberating to experience and why the UMPC is worth the price of admission for me. It’s like carrying a bigger notebook everywhere I go without the bulk and weight. It’s just darn useful.

When I head out for short trips and I think I might end up with more free time than planned, such as when I get stuck waiting for an appointment to materialize, I throw the S5 into the messenger bag along with the portable keyboard and mouse. This has come in handy a few times this week and while I certainly wouldn’t want to work on a 5-inch screen all day, it’s more than adequate for a pretty good while. The little keyboard and mouse (both Bluetooth) coupled with the S5 make for a fully functional notebook equivalent and I give up nothing in capability. The hardware components and display resolution are the same as the HP Mini 1000, if you can believe it, so there is nothing lost by using the S5 other than the easier-to-read screen of the Mini.

The one gadget that has become a constant companion no matter what other gear I’m using is the Verizon MiFi. I know I have written about it ad nauseum this week but it’s rare that I see a device that not only breaks new ground but does so in a way that is a game-changer as does the MiFi. It is barely bigger than a credit card but it has provided a high-speed “bubble” everywhere I have worked this week.

In this day and age, it’s a real obstacle to settle somewhere only to find the lack of that critical Wi-Fi. The MiFi has ended that for me and has subsequently changed the way I approach where I work. I don’t even consider the availability of connectivity when I head out as I can settle down anywhere I want because I have that crucial Wi-Fi in my pocket — literally. There is nothing easier than hitting a single button and getting my gear online with very little loss in speed. I can’t even begin to describe how impactful that has been on my work.

The ability to get my main work system online anywhere is good enough but the MiFi doesn’t stop there. It can get multiple devices, up to five, online at the same time with no discernible penalty. Just yesterday I had the Mini connected via the MiFi and I needed to refer to something online for an article I was writing. I fired up the Viliv S5, which auto-connected to the MiFi, and surfed to the reference site. I was able to refer to the information I needed on the S5 and write on the Mini at the same time. This made my work easier to do and with no effort on my part.

The MiFi has been useful for getting the iPhone online when the AT&T network failed me, something I doubt Apple (s aapl) and AT&T (s t) would be happy to hear. The iPhone sees the MiFi for the Wi-Fi router that it is and uses it like any other hotspot. This would work wonderfully with the 3G-crippled Sling Player that has many up in arms. You could easily use this setup for VoIP on the iPhone, too.

I’m falling into a great rhythm using this gear and finding I’m now as productive as possible, no matter where I am or how circumstances may change. I give up little or nothing by working with the gear and that is absolutely uplifting for me. My mental attitude stays positive and I am focused no matter what. I can’t put a price on that.

I’m not suggesting to anyone that this will be an effective method for them. I’m certainly not recommending that anyone spend the money to duplicate my system, nor am I claiming it’s cost-effective. I’m in a unique situation doing the things that I do and I am fortunate to be in a position to try these things. I understand that not everyone can do this and I’m not suggesting anyone should, but I am sharing my experiences in case someone might find them useful.

E-books of the week

I was able to spend a lot of delightful time reading this week and found I was dividing my time between the iPhone and the S5 using eReader. “Human by Choice” by Darrell Bain and Travis Taylor is a very good read and an interesting concept for a sci-fi novel. An alien space ship had trouble and had to send lifepods to the Earth to save some of the passengers. The premise of how the aliens would adjust to human life on Earth was entertaining and well-told.

I’m also in the middle of “Bad Things” by Michael Marshall. It’s a total change from the earlier book and I still cannot tell what’s going to happen. It’s well-written and keeping me turning the pages, so I’m enjoying it. We’ll see if that holds up as I get farther into the story, which is getting stranger and stranger as it unfolds.

That’s All Folks

Another week has come and gone and I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me. My gear is getting smaller but my production is getting better so that’s as good as it can be. Thanks for sharing this time with me and until next week…

3 Responses to “This Week at Mobile Tech Manor #39- Getting Smaller”

  1. Steve Brandon

    The mifi sound like a game changer. I saw an announcement that Sprint is going to carry the mifi and connect it to it’s Everything Plan, allowing much higher usage; but, I’m a Verizon customer. I’m concerned about the 5g cap. How much of it are you using with the mifi on a daily basis?

    Thanks for the info.