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I’ve been pretty mobile lately



On%20the%20road%20againSeptember has been really, really busy month for me.

Two weeks ago, life in our family took a big turn. For reasons I won’t get in to, I suddenly found myself on the road to Mississippi to pick up my two nieces to come live with us permanently. 24 hours of driving there, and 24 hours of driving back. I think was in town a total of an hour to pick them up before I turned around and headed back home with them and my mother with me.

This past week ( with six kids now instead of four ), we have been at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis for my daughters one year check up since her two week stay from brain surgery last year.

I’ve learned quite a few lessons the past several weeks, some of them actually having to do with living life while being highly mobile.

  • EVDO doesn’t do you any good while stuck on I-70 in Kansas or Highway 45 in Mississippi, and it isn’t doing me much good while in St. Louis. St. Louis has EVDO coverage, but I’m getting 0 – 1 bars in my hotel room. My hotel is located in the heart of St. Louis, too. I’m losing a lot of cell calls and have frequently had to resort to using the hotel phone.
  • It is surprising how many hotels still don’t offer wireless internet. The hotel we are staying at in St. Louis only has wireless on the first floor. Internet access in the room is through a LAN cable. I’m glad I brought my portable LinkSys Wi-Fi router. I hooked it up to the LAN cable in my room and now I can roam our two rooms freely. I will give them this, though. Internet access is free, and I’ve been able to take care of my critical work issues with no extra cost.
  • Hotels frequently block VPN ports and that is not a good thing for the mobile professional.  I frequently have to VPN in to client servers, and were it not for my Verizon EVDO card, I would have had a big problem on my hand, as the hotel I’m staying at blocks outgoing VPN ports. At a critical moment of needing to VPN in to a server, I found a spot in my hotel room that could maintain a connection to EVDO for about 10 minutes – just long enough to connect and do what I needed to get done. Come on hotels, open up your outgoing ports.
  • The Sony UX180P is a great device to take with you for checking email and taking pictures while roaming about the city. We’ve freqented the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Magic House, etc. The power save mode button the UX180P is a great feature that let me realistically use it at the St. Louis Zoo for about 4 – 5 hours.  I caught the eye of several college-age students who thought it was a very cool device. While driving from Colorado Springs to St. Louis, I left my Tablet PC in the trunk and kept the UX180P with the driving directions up front with me. You really need two hands to adequately use it for typing. Thus, for checking email while on the road, I relied more on my Treo 700W than I did on the UX180P. It was quicker and easier to use with one hand. However, the size of the UX180P made it a perfect auto device. I much prefered it over my 12” convertible Tablet PC. The size of the UX180P and other Ultra Mobile PCs make it very appealing as a companion type of device when stuck in a car for hours on end. I’m glad it had a built-in keyboard, though. I wouldn’t have been able to use it much at all without the keyboard.
  • There are plenty of fans of out there. My wife, Kathi, was meeting with Maggie’s new neurologist on Friday. He stumbled upon my name while doing some Tablet PC research for his department at Children’s Hospital a couple of months ago. He then put my name together with Maggie’s and the light went off. As soon as Kathi walked in to his office on Friday, he said “You did bring your husband, didn’t you? I’ve got a lot of questions to ask him about Tablet PCs.’ I met with him on Friday evening and he’ll be placing a pretty sizeable Tablet PC order this fall. Mickey Segal, one of our long time readers and one of the primary people who helped raise the attention meter on my daughter last year with the neurology doctors in St. Louis, works in the neurology field and is helping spreading the good word of and Tablet PCs to all of his neurology colleagues. If any Tablet PC OEMs are getting inquiries about  from Neurological doctors, you know who to thank – Mickey Segal is his name.
  • There are a lot of medical schools in St. Louis, especially around Barnes Jewish Hospital and Childrens Hospital: St. Louis University Medical School, School of Pharmacy, etc. We’ve been eating breakfast and dinner at the St. Louis Bread Company ( Panera ) and we see alot of students in there studying and eating. On several occassions, I’ve seen students using Tablet PCs. The most common Tablet PC I’ve seen is the Gateway M280. Any time I’ve seen a Tablet PC, it has always been in laptop mode.
  • When driving to Mississippi, I had my Tablet PC plugged in to my Portable Power Station (while periodically hooked up to my Verizon PC card) and had my Treo 700W plugged to the auto adapter. I traveled all day one day with my Tablet PC turned on, and it ran on full power the whole time. The auto adapter for the Palm 700W really stinks. It doesn’t take much pull for the adatper to come unplugged.
  • Here is a good lesson learned: several weeks ago, I left my Portable Power Station at home and needed to charge my Tablet PC while I went in for a two hour meeting at a client. I plugged my power inverter into the cigarette adapter ( the always on adapter), and accidentally left my tablet pc turned on. When I came back to the car, my battery was dead. Charging my Tablet PC for those two hours had sucked my car battery dry. Use your power inverter with care!
  • Friends of ours from Tupelo came up to St. Louis to spend time with us. He has a TomTom GPS unit and we put it to good use this week. Man, those things are nice. It was the first time I’ve actually benefited from a GPS device. If I keep on traveling as much as I have the past month, I could see myself getting one. What I would really prefer, though, is a UMPC with built-in GPS. 
  • Hotel rooms are very, very stingy with their power outlets. There are only two readily available in my room and they both have lamps plugged in to them. I always bring a power strip with me for just a time as this.
  • Thank you , thank you, thank you to the folks who made in-car DVD players and wireless headsets a possibility. With six kids now, I was really dreading the 14 hour drive to St. Louis. However, with wireless headsets and a DVD player, my wife and I were finally able to catch up and talk with some peace and quiet!

So, those are a few thoughts from somone who is sick of living out of suit cases the past several weeks. Any readers out there who travel a great deal that wish to pass along a few mobile traveling tips?

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