Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Computer Support Travel Kit

I do travel a lot... and like to get as much work done as possible, whether it be in the airport, hotel, or just about anywhere. After all these years of traveling - over 2 million miles and 1500 flights... let me share with you what I've finally coalesced on the near perfect travel kit for computers.

All of this fits in the front pocket of my backpack - is easy to use, easy to pack up, and makes for a consistently successful work environment for me.

Of course I have other stuff for in-flight entertainment, like my Amazon Kindle2 for reading, my iPhone 3GS for music and watching movies, and my wonderful Dr. Dre Noise Canceling Headphones. Those all go in the larger section of my backpack with my MacBookPro 13" Unibody laptop.

The below travel kit is the 'supporting stuff' that makes working away from home and office 'work'.
After many attempts at finding the 'just right' bag for hauling stuff around I finally have ended up with a neoprene bag made for carrying charger bricks... I use it as a place to house most of this kit in one place. Easy to pickup - use - and put back. Enclosed in that kit are the following items - tucked into one of the six soft pockets of the bag.

AT&T USB Connect 881
- this 3G device lets me get Internet connection even when there is no WiFi available. As long as there is Digital Cell service - I can get on the 'net'.
Syncharger Dual cable - allows for me to charge USB powered devices, my iPhone and also sync my iPhone when needed. Spare Cat5 Cable to connect either wired Ethernet, or the Apple Extreme to be able to share wired Internet wirelessly. DisplayPort to VGA adapter so I can project my Mac to a TV or LCD projector when needed.APC 4-port USB port - so I can have multiple USB devices all sharing a single USB port - Small and compact. Two Zio Shorty USB cables - one to 'mini' port and one extension. Apple 45w Power supply for MacBookPro - with 'stub' power so I don't need another power cord. Apple AirPort Extreme N - supports 802.11n and allows me to 'share' wirelessly wired connection. Great for running Skype or a SIP phone on the iPhone when overseas - and have multiple computers share a single hotel Internet connection. Invaluable! Kindle2 Power Charger - Not just for the Kindle2, but I use the USB power base to charge other USB items with differnet cables. Monster Power2Go - a 4-port power strip - small and the power cable folds back on itself for compact storage.In the bottom of the front backpack pocket I aslo put the following items:

  • Two Western Digital 'Passport' 500GB drives - one that contains a full backup of my MacBookPro, and the other with 'working' documents, all my MP3 files, and hundreds of movies - both with Zio Shorty USB cables placed in a Case Logic portable hard drive case.
  • A Stanley 12' extension cord - very useful in hotel rooms without power by the desk, or to get power while waiting in an airport.
  • My latest addition is the amazing Kbex portable speaker systems from a previous post. This thing really works!
So that's what I carry with me. It helps a lot to the the right items with you when working on the road.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Computer Hardware Chart

Sometimes, you just need to look up a connector... here's a great resource. Go ahead and double-click on it to see the full size version.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Truly Amazing Portable Speaker

A while back I saw a little 'bit' on the Internet about this speaker that worked on any surface. I'm a 'gadget' kind of guy - so I purchased one.

This thing is AWESOME! - I've had lots of little speakers I take with me on the road to listen to music from my iPhone or laptop, or even sometimes watch a movie in the hotel room. I've reverted to using my 'Beats' noise-canceling headphones to get sound I liked to listen to.

Then came along the K-Box from - this thing is amazing.
It has over a 20-hour internal rechargeable battery - that charges off a USB port (like all my other portable devices) - and turns on/off by simply plugging in a headphone cable into the device. (simple elegant solution) And it is smaller than a blackboard eraser.

When you hold the little speaker thing in your hand it sounds very 'tinny' and weak. But place it on a flat surface and the internal 'guts' work with a gel pad on the bottom to produce astonishing bass. So much I had to change my iPhone equalizer settings because it was too 'bassy'.

This thing can rumble a room! I was watching the last couple of episodes of 'Winds of War' - and the Pearl Harbor scene made me turn down the volume. That *never* happens with other small portable speakers - they just don't have anything at the bottom end. This little guy, however, ROCKS!

I can wholeheartedly recommend this speaker for anyone who travels (it comes with it's own little travel case) it doesn't weigh much, is easy to use and recharge and best of all - sounds great!
Specs below:

Plug it into your laptop, phone, mp3 or portable gaming device and experience it turn surfaces into sound!
Using patented 'gel-audio' technology when placed upon any solid flat surface, a wall, table or even windows, the K-box turns the surface into sound with a truly incredible bass response!
  • High Quality Audio
  • Full Bass response 40-20KHz
  • Compact and Portable
  • Up to 20 hours battery life
    (recharge via USB)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Travel Tips

Having spent two weeks in Europe on a little family vacation - it made me think a bit about some travel tips for those of you who might need to travel for work or holiday.

I've logged nearly 2 million miles in the last 15 years - and have gleaned some experience from all that travel.

In no particular order:

Camera Strap - Black Rapid's RS-4
This strap is a new way to carry your D-SLR camera. Instead of a strap going around your neck, making the camera bounce along in front of your stomach - this strap is designed to mount to the tripod mounting hole in the bottom of your camera - and then go over one shoulder/neck, thus the camera rides easily off your back/hip and yet is still very easy to bring your camera up to eye level for a picture.This was a fantastic upgrade to my old Nikon camera strap. Much easier to carry a large camera all day - yet still very user friendly and easy to learn. Highly Highly Recommended!

Travel Clothing
When teaching - I just wear dockers and a long-sleeve button-down shirt. But then again, those days are spent all inside teaching. But when traveling, or doing sightseeing I like to wear specially made travel clothing. A shirt with two front pockets (passport/tickets/iPhone/glasses) for flying and sight-seeing. Pants with more zipper pockets to help deter pick-pockets and are very lightweight.I've found it to be very difficult for pick-pockets to access shirt pockets that are buttoned - a person is much more protective of the front chest area - especially in a crowded area like the subway. Even with extra zippered pants pockets, I've found pick-pockets now how to work the zippers. So the wallet and cash go in the right front shirt pocket! (and the camera strap also covers right over that area for even extra security)

It might cost a bit more, but it is made for easy care, functional, and nearly wrinkle-free.

Apple iPhones are Everywhere!
I thought our family was a bit on the edge with most of us having iPhones. But more and more I've been seeing iPhones everywhere. They do have a distinct look, so they are fairly easy to spot. More people on planes, hotel lobbies, and now even all over Europe the iPhones have really taken hold. I really enjoy mine, and find it to be not only a great phone, but a game platform, contact lists, calendars, to do list, Internet access, alarm clock, GPS, iPod for music and portable movie player.
No wonder they are everywhere!

This is also very highly recommended.

Big Zoom Lens
I've got an older body Nikon D40 as the base... but put the extra money into a very nice lens. The Nikkor 18-200 VR lens is a great single lens to take on a trip. Not only can it let you capture wide-angle panoramic scenes, but lets you zoom way in. As a single lens it does just about all you'd want. And with the Vibration Reduction elements, you can shoot in much lower light conditions, even taking hand-held shots.Some of the shots inside the Cathedrals of Europe where made with just this lens in a hand-held position. A great addition to your camera bag. I'd opt for this upgraded lens and save money on the camera body - oh yeah, I already did that.All the pictures on my personal blog as well as my son Ryan's facebook were taken with this lens.

England, UK, Britain Confusion
Check out an earlier blog that answers these questions.

- the ONLY way to call
I pre-loaded Skype on the iPhones before heading off to Europe. On previous trips, I've used a variety of methods to call home. Small WiFi phones, Skype specific phones, headsets and Skype on my laptop. But Skype on the iPhone was very easy to use. My wife Jill and daughter Alysha both have iPhones, and it was a simple transition to just use the Skype App rather than the normal Phone App.This saved us $$$ - especially with the daughter calling home to her boyfriend (they liked to talk...) At only $.02 per minute (an hour-long call only cost $1.20) it was great.In order to make the Skype phone work - you need to have Wireless Network Access. See following note.

Bring your own Access Point
I travel with an Apple Airport Express - little guy - but packs a pretty good punch. I have it programmed with WPA for security, and it is easily 110v-220v capable. And it is 802.11n to boot!This just plugs into the hotel's Internet - then you do everything via WiFi. This lets us all share WiFi in the hotel. 4 iPhones and three laptops all using one Internet connection.

I've tried 5 other 'travel routers' but this is the smallest, simplest, and easiest to use. At only $99 - don't leave home without it!

Pack only what you need
You can usually get just about anything you might need locally - if you need it. If you don't need it, why schlep it all over the world?

I use a very nice bag from RedOxx out of Montana. A single bag is a great way to travel. Easy, you can (if you have to) use it as carry-on. (see additional item below on carry-on luggage) - but it can easily hold a week's worth of stuff.Minimize the 'extra' stuff you 'think' you might need. Just learn to live with what you have and be glad for it. If you *really* need anything else - buy it locally.

Know you own bags!
Another little pet peeve of mine with regards to luggage. At the baggage pickup, when people pick up and check bag after bag, trying to find their own. You just put in on the plane a couple of hours ago, you've already forgotten what it looks like?

If you need to easily identify your bags, just tie a piece of colored yarn or ribbon to the handle (or buy those ridiculous large luggage tags in bright green)

Airline Carry On
Just because you *can* take a bag on carry on doesn't mean you *should*! Be a bit considerate of others on the plane. The overhead compartments need to be shared by everyone. And me, for one, ALWAYS put my backpack in the overhead compartment. I'm not going to travel uncomfortably with my feet wrapped around a piece of luggage. Don't ask to put your second carry on under my feet - just don't bring it on the plane. They have an entire baggage system to get your bag to where you are going!

Out of 2million miles of travel - I've have the airlines loose my bags on 9 times, and 5 of those were on my way home. So out of hundreds and hundreds of flights I've had to do without my bags 4 times. This is not the risk you are making it out to be. Pack an extra set of underwear in your carry on and be done with it.

Always have pen and paper with you
I was taught by my father - and hopefully I'll pass it on to all my children - to always carry a pen with you! It is a sign of maturity and preparedness!

Also, within the last couple of years I've also started to carry 3x5 cards in my pocket. These have also been invaluable at times. Someplace to write little notes, take informaiton down, jot down a phone number or address.

Even in the age of iPhones - an index card in your pocket can be a great thing.

Always have a Pen and Paper with you!

Get money locally
When you travel to different countries - it is so much easier (and way cheaper) to just get money locally from an ATM. They are everywhere. Don't waste your money, nor your time at the money changer places.

You use an ATM for cash at home, use one abroad as well!

Don't Stink
This is to all the folks in Europe (and a couple in the States) - It is possible to have personal hygiene and not STINK! - Alysha would cover her nose with her hand when on the subways in Europe because all the body odor, and smell of unwashed clothes.

It's not that hard to clean yourself and your clothes! Just do it!

I think I blame the women in Europe. If they wouldn't have anything to do with these stinky men, the men would soon learn to change and worry about personal hygiene. The European women must like that smell of old sweat and wool... yeck!

If you haven't washed up your person or your clothes - don't travel! Sitting next to one of these on flights is nearly unbearable. They don't even seem to notice.

Have stuff with you
If you need medicines, take them with you in your carry on. If you like to read, have a book with you, watch movies? take along an iPhone of iPod Touch. Just be prepared. Worried they won't have food for you, bring your own.

Kindle & iPhone
Between these two little devices I can keep myself occupied for hours, even days.

My Kindle has hundreds of books just waiting to be read - waiting for me to have some 'down time' to read them.My iPhone is full of great games, audiobooks, Internet, and videos. If I've got time, I've got a way to spend it.

There is usually nothing you can do to change travel fiascos around you - so just be prepared with media of some type and just enjoy the extra time. You can't change anything - so don't let the stress get to you.