Re-Examining My Mobile Scenario

MeThis has been an absolutely insane last 5 months for me with a lot happening at the Wayside Theatre where I work. When I say insane, I’m not too far from the literal truth there. In addition thing are, as always, hot and heavy here at GBM as well. Somewhere in there I find time for a few moments of life away from work and the occasional moments for relaxation. A lot of things are changing for me at the theatre as we head into this next season and that will also change my workflow quite a bit.

As I always do, when I’m running through life at 120 miles per hour, I’m constantly re-examining what is working and what is not working for me on a variety of levels. So, I’ve been thinking about how I work and the tools I use when I’m mobile. I’ve been tossing around various scenarios that will keep me productive, and also happy, as I move into yet another season (this will be my 10th) at Wayside Theatre. For what it is worth, here is a sketch of my thinking as I’m re-evaluating.

Changing Work-Flow

If you’ve followed any of my writings during this last year you may recall that it has been a year in transition at the theatre. We’ve been doing major construction and renovation at the theatre. In the interim we’ve been performing in temporary locations, one of which we built just for the this transitional season. This necessitated me being quite a bit more mobile than past years as I was constantly on the road between the various venues and my office. If there is such a thing as a normal year in a small not-for-profit theatre that was previously characterized as me being in the office or in rehearsal most of the time, except for during audition season when I travel quite a bit.

Now that construction is nearing completion and we’re headed back into our historic home theatre, I’m predicting that things will settle in and be similar to previous years. That means my work-flow will change quite a bit as I won’t have to rely on mobile devices quite as much as I have during this most recent year.

Tools

Does that mean I’m giving up on some of the mobile gadgets I’ve been using this year? Yes and no. I’ll be changing some of the tools I need as I adjust to a different flow.  Here’s what I’ve been using this past year: (Note some links are affiliate.)

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Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC. The work horse. It goes everywhere with me and I do the lion share of my work on it, wherever I am. I love Inking notes on a Tablet PC.

Sprint (HTC) Mogul. Another work horse. As long as I was able to get a signal this provided me with email access, a telephone, and a broadband modem when I needed one for tethering.

iPod Touch. While I thought this would end up being mostly an entertainment gadget, it actually became a part of my work flow as I was able to use it for email retrieval and feed reading. Of course I needed WiFi to make that happen. It increasingly became a part of my work flow (checking email and feed reading) simply because of the enjoyment of using the interface. Although not perfect, it is a pleasure to use. That’s a key point.

Inching Towards the Cloud

I got to try out a few new things, especially this spring, that will change things for me going forward. One of these is the new EverNote. In both my work for the theatre and for GBM, I’m forever using the web as a giant research library. Being able to store away information and have it available on any device I’m using is a real treasure for me. I’ve used a lot of different bookmarking solutions (mostly del.ico.us) in the past, but EverNote is quickly replacing that. 

I’m doing a similar thing with Microsoft’s Live Mesh Beta with files that I need access to at any time. I’ve moved away from my previous tool of choice, Folder Share, for this chore, primarily because of the promise that Live Mesh offers for the future. At the moment it is fundamentally not really that different than Folder Share or any other syncing option. In fact, because there isn’t a cross platform solution for Windows Mobile or Apple’s OS X at the moment, I need to rely on the web interface, which in most cases is just fine.

Am I completely in the cloud yet? No. Simply put, there are still too many bad connectivity zones in the very rural area where I live to make me feel comfortable without my key documents stored locally on the devices I’m using.

Relaxation vs Work

Given the incredibly debilitating rise in gas prices, I’m glad I won’t be doing as much driving on a daily basis. But I found myself being both very productive and enjoying some relaxation time in my car during this past year. The Mogul, using an Aliph Jawbone BlueTooth Headset strapped onto my head, served me well for taking advantage of the time I had in the car to make and receive calls. The iPod Touch has made my car’s radio obsolete as I use it with an iTrip tuner to listen to music, audiobooks, and podcasts while I’m driving to and fro. I’ll be doing less of that in my car, and consequently less of that in general.

UMPCs Dumped by the Wayside  

No pun intended in the sub-head there. Going into this past year, I had hoped that a UMPC would be an excellent solution for me in both work and play modes. I frequently switched back and forth between the Asus R2H and the Samsung Q1P early on. The Asus R2H was a great note taking device. I loved it for that. But it had too many performance issues, especially relating to stand by and resume that took away from the utility of the device for me. Of course my stubborn desire to run Vista on it had something to do with that. The Q1P was not a useful note taking tool for me as I could never master Inking on that device. Others seem comfortable with it, but it just isn’t for me. I sold both devices off around Christmas last year. Intriguingly enough, I used the proceeds from those sales to purchase an Apple iMac for my desktop.

On the Desktop

As I mentioned earlier I purchased an iMac back in December, and I have to say this rates up there with one of my favorite purchases of all time. I’m actually looking very much forward to spending more time at my desk using the iMac, whether I’m running OS X natively, or I’m using VM Ware to run Vista in a virtual machine. With EverNote’s Mac client moving along to eventually include ink, and in the meantime using the web interface, I can pretty effortlessly move between my Tablet PC and the iMac without too much trouble. The same is true to a different extent with the web interface with Live Mesh.

So, What’s Changing?

A Tablet PC will always be at the center of my mobile arsenal. That won’t change. I can’t imagine running a rehearsal without one anymore. I’d be lost. Which one? I’m not sure. I’m evaluating several possible scenarios regarding my next Tablet PC.

I’ve already said goodbye to UMPCs as a platform, and quite frankly I don’t see anything on the horizon that would make me change that decision. I’d love to see the MID platform come in and offer a solution there, but I’m not holding my breath.

But there is a MID-like solution that I’m eyeing and that is the iPhone. I’ve enjoyed using the iPod Touch more than I can say, and let me stress the word ““enjoyed.” If the next generation iPhone comes with 3G connectivity, I will most likely go down that path. Although I have some hedges.

An iPhone would bring on some other changes and I haven’t worked that out quite yet. There would be no point in hanging onto the Sprint Mogul if I made the switch to the iPhone. That would mean I would lose the tethering option I currently have with my Tablet PC. I most likely would opt for a 3G modem solution that will allow me to work with my primary device and also allow me to work with any of the evaluation units I work with here at GBM.

But here’s the catch. Since I won’t be on the road as much, I can only foresee needing that 3G modem solution from December 08 through April of next year. I would hate to invest in a solution that requires a contract that I don’t need the full benefit of for a full year, so I’ll have to do some more investigating on this, and it could scotch any plans I have to change up here.

Enjoyment

I’ve mentioned several times in this post how much I enjoy using the iPod Touch and its excellent UI. I’ve mentioned countless times in countless posts how much I enjoy using a Tablet PC. While I do use both of these devices for some relaxation, being able to enjoy the devices that I use for work makes the work feel less like work and more like play. To me, that makes a huge difference in work, and consequently in my life. I have developed a tactile and sensory connection to the devices that allows me to derive pleasure from something as mundane as answering an email or scribbling a note.

When I couple that connection with an increase in productivity I feel like I’ve hit a home run. The question coming up is what bats I will take to the plate over the next year.

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