Thursday, November 3, 2011

Michael's Overseas Adventures - Long-Term Trips and Going Mobile

I have not been on a long-term trip since I visited England as a kid.  Well, I guess those couple of years at Fessenden boarding school count too.  Even my field exercises in the Army were no more than a few weeks, and you were generally kept busy during that time.  So, suffice to say, the logistics of long-term travel were invisible to me.

So, when I first heard that I might be living in another country for 3-12 months, it dawned on me that I might want to ponder those realities.  For example, I use my desktop for a lot of things:
  • Banking
  • Bills
  • Gaming
  • Taxes
  • E-mail
  • Web development (99% of which is OwlCon)
  • Pictures
  • Music (45 gigs!)
My desktop is a custom built tower, so travel is not a good idea for that, especially since it would need a monitor, keyboard, etc.  So, I started moving everything to my gaming laptop and the interwebs, aka the "cloud".  Here's what I learned...

Laptops Are Not as Roomy Nor Powerful as Desktops

Yeah, I know, it's these fantastic gems of wisdom that keep you reading my posts.  But I am only half-facetious here.  You see, my laptop's capabilities were excessive for the way I used it - for gaming and short trips.  When you start moving your electronic life over, things get complicated.  Having 45 gigabytes of music certainly does not help, but computer games nowadays consume a lot of space, so having a dozen games installed is problematic on a laptop.

So, I picked up a Western Digital My Passport drive.  I chose it for a few reasons:
  • I know Western Digital
  • It provides a place to which I can backup my laptop data
  • The drive is very small and portable, about the size of three passports stacked together
  • With a 500 gigabyte capacity it holds more than enough data to account for my music and pictures
  • Powered via the USB cable so I don't have to carry another power supply
This last one was a "must have" requirement for me. Here is a picture of my snazzy drive.  Note my passport underneath...and my Alienware laptop under that.

So, that solves the raw storage issue.  For the most part.  I need to back off on the number of games installed at any given time, but that is manageable.  I just need to dabble less and wrap up more. :-D

Goodbye Office, Hello Gmail and OpenOffice

Outlook is a great program.  It is very useful at work.  However, when you start living a multi-device life at home, buying expensive licenses left and right gets old.  It is also a bit "heavy" as an application because I buy it as part of Office.   That's a lot of apps and resources.

So, I made the final leap and adopted my Gmail account as my full on private e-mail.  Of course, that's just part of the Office suite, so I installed OpenOffice; if nothing else, it will be a chance to seriously test out OpenOffice.

Books Are Heavy!  eBooks Are Not

After months of wringing my hands over whether or not to stick with paper books or go electronic, the very idea of long-term travel rapidly resolved that conflict.  So, I picked up an iPad, installed Kindle on it, and starting snagging ebooks.  I also put all of my music on my iPad.  I will post more on my eBook adventures someday...

Setting Up Full Synching With Gmail

So, with these changes and my new plethora of devices, I decided I wanted to fully synchronize with Gmail - mail, contacts, and calendar.  If you pick he seemingly obvious Google e-mail account choice on your iPad or iPhone, it won't set up all of that.  In fact, to get the most, you need to set up both a Gmail account and an Exchange account.  The exchange account sync's mail, contacts, and calendar, but the Gmail one does mail, contacts, and notes.  Toggle them however you like.

This page explains how to set up a Gmail account via the Exchange option on iOS devices.

Getting More Friendly With Evernote

I had dabbled with Evernote for taking notes, but with my new high mobility plan, I set it up on every device and it is awesome and convenient.

Closing Thoughts

So, all of my contacts, mail, notes, and calendars are in the cloud now, my laptop has been set up as my main computer, and I have made the switch to eBooks.  I am a high mobility machine, bring on the travel!


  1. While not up for international travel, you should check out the HP TouchSmart 610xt series because it is just plain COOL!

  2. I am not sure where a TouchSmart would fit in my technology menagerie. Currently, I have:

    Powerful gaming rig: I custom build desktops for this

    Powerful personal laptop: right now, that is an Alienware gaming laptop

    Tablet: iPad 2

    Smartphone: iPhone 4S

    For me, the TouchSmart would likely end up being a curious paperweight or perhaps an austere objet d'art. :-D