I Carry Your Heart With Me
I feel the distinct need to up my game with home movies now…
I feel the distinct need to up my game with home movies now…
I’m an IT consultant and I travel all the time, did anyone really not expect this post?
I’ve refined what I carry with me over the years and have it down to only the things that are needed. Below is a picture of the technology I carry with me, minus my iPhone 5, which I used to take the picture. The plastic sandwich baggies are to organize devices inside my bag; I cannot recommend enough that you find some method to organize. Just keeping the correct charging cables with the correct miniature devices is sometimes a chore and the baggies keep everything together in one place. I’m going to be experimenting with empty toilet paper rolls as a method of keeping cables from tangling; if successful I will follow up with a blog post.
Note that for some reason I didn’t get my Kindle in the picture and there is a car power adapter and audio line out cable for my iPhone. I use the audio line out cable with rental cars that have Aux inputs, which is most of them lately.
I read a large quantity of books while traveling – and even when not traveling come to think of it – so it should be no surprise that my Kindle Touch 3G is first in my list of Travel Tech Essentials. I can’t recommend Kindles enough due to their ease of use and the large library available via Amazon, 3rd party publishers such as Baen and even our local library system, which supports borrowing e-books with your Kindle.
The 3G version is highly recommended; it’s a one time fee and allows global 3G access to Amazon’s store, which is much nicer than trying to hunt down open WiFi or turning on your MiFi. I also can’t say enough about Amazon’s customer service – they’ve replaced two Kindles already, with both of them broken by me. Even after telling them “I broke it” they still replaced them under warranty with a simple $40 charge. Unfortunately the Kindle Touch 3G that I love is not available anymore but the Paperwhite 3G is out, and it has the benefit of a backlit screen – negating the need for the $60 lighted cover I use on mine.
Here are a couple pictures of my Kindle, both with the power off and with the flip up light. You can see why I might prefer a backlight, but this will work just fine for me until it dies.
Since the inevitable question is “Why two?” :
The not-so-simple answer is that Verizon 4G, while fast and ubiquitous, is expensive. I pay $80/mo for 10GB of data. I also get most of my TV shows in HD from iTunes, where they average 1.25GB each. I don’t mind paying for network access to perform billable work, and I want quality and consistency when I’m working, so I use my Verizon MiFi for that.
However, I’m sure as hell not going to pay the $10/GB overage to download iTunes movies, hotel internet access is generally sub-par and guest WiFi is fairly rare at customer sites, so I picked up the Clear Spot Voyager. It’s WiMax and doesn’t work everywhere – Clear’s coverage is fairly spotty – but when it does work it’s generally fairly quick at 2-3Mbps and it is completely unlimited.
At times, my engagements are ridiculously stressful and I quite simply don’t want to open my laptop when I get back to the hotel. Tablet to the rescue! I carry an Apple iPad mini with me and can’t say enough good things about it. I know that some people don’t appreciate the lack of a retina display but I’m coming from an iPad 2 – which ended up as the living room tablet at home after acquiring a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for it – so I really don’t notice any difference.
For other options, I’ve heard good things about the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE, which could possibly combine your Kindle with your tablet, thus reducing the number of devices you’re carrying. However, I’d be concerned about the battery life of the Kindle Fire vs Kindle Paperwhite as that is one of the big reasons I love my Kindle Touch; the battery life is phenomenal. I’ve also heard good things about the Google Nexus 7 as well, but I’ve never used one. The problem for me with both the Kindle Fire & Google Nexus is that I’ve pretty much locked myself into the iTunes ecosystem – willingly, mind you – and those are both Android devices. At this point I have no need to move to another platform even though I have DRM-free backup copies of everything I’ve purchased through iTunes.
Where’s Microsoft in all this? Well, I tried to love them and carried a Surface RT for a few weeks but can’t recommend it in the end.
The part that people frequently overlook is power for all this technology. While more and more airports are installing power stations in boarding areas, they are still rather rare and it’s not easy to find an open spot to sit and charge your devices. To that end I carry a Mophie Juice Pack, which is a very thick device that is essentially a large battery with three USB ports – two full size for plugging in your devices and one micro USB for charging the Mophie itself – that allows you to charge your devices wherever you may be. I’ve used other battery packs and been somewht disappointed with all of them. Not so with the Mophie – I’ve never drained the battery, even when charging my Kindle, my iPhone and my iPad in quick succession, and it also has a nice LED indicator of how much juice is left. The downside? It is really thick and quite heavy for how small it is. The photo below is side by side with a normal sized key fob for a 2012 Nissan Sentra. I still recommend it though.
The only other thing I can recommend as far as power accessories go is for when you do manage to find a spare outlet. Pickup a travel power strip and not only will you only be able to charge more than one device at a time, there is also a good chance you’ll make a new single-serving-friend when you can share the last remaining outlet.
Trust me, you don’t want to spend weeks on end with the touch pad on your laptop. To that end, an external mouse is a necessity as far as I’m concerned.
Currently, I’m a big fan of the Arc Touch, which has the coolest power button in the world. To turn it on, click the lower half into place to use as a mouse and to turn it off you just have to click the lower half flat. Simple, stylish and the battery life is crazy; I’ve only changed them once in six months with 8-10 hours/day of use.
Prior to the Arc Touch, I was sold on the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook mouse and I still in have two of them as a matter of fact. They’re rock solid, bluetooth (instead of the mini USB dongle the Arc Touch uses) and have the normal quality level of Microsoft keyboards and mice. That said, they went through batteries quicker than I would have liked, to the point I carried a four pack of AA batteries in my bag.
When I was using a MacBook Pro, I had an Apple Magic Mouse, which worked, well, magically. Had no issues with it besides the fact that it ate batteries just as quickly as the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook mouse.
Lions, Tigers & Cables
Sometimes I feel like Oprah when I open my bag. “You get a cable! You get a cable! Everyone gets a cable!”
Cables are the bane of my existence when traveling. I leave them all over the place – hotels, airports, rental cars, you name it. You will too. It’s like a sacrifice to the travel gods. At least it doesn’t involve blood; I’m pretty sure the hotel would charge extra to clean that up.
The only advice I can give you is to carry at least one of every cable you need – which is obvious – and if you want to win friends and influence people (as well as not be left short when you lose a cable), carry an extra of each. Buy generic when possible as they’re much cheaper to lose.
Personally I carry two micro USB, two mini USB and two lightning to USB cables for my iPhone and iPad. If you have an older iPhone or iPad, pick up generic sync & charge cables in bulk. They won’t last as long but you’re likely to lose it before it breaks anyways and you can buy a dozen or so before you get to the cost of an official Apple branded cable.
You’re going to want extra storage, for two reasons: First, you will inevitably have to share files with a customer or colleague and the easiest way to do that while traveling is with a USB key. Buy a quality one and try not to lose it. Corsair makes really nice ones for example and I would recommend a 64GB key.
Second, and what will save your bacon at least once in your life as a road warrior, is a backup drive. I carry a 1.5TB Seagate but I’d recommend at least a 1TB drive. If you’re using Windows, your backups will exceed the size of your internal hard drive due to versioning and system images. For an example, my backups currently clock in at 566GB while I only have a 512GB drive.
I own both the Bose QuietComfort 3 noise canceling headphones and Bose MIE2i earbuds/headset but only carry the MIE2i earbuds with me on a regular basis; they also function spectacularly as a headset for my iPhone and the softphone on my laptop.
The QC3 headphones work superbly but they are also quite bulky in my bag and I always forget to charge them so they hang out at home right now. Regardless of what headphones you choose to carry, for your own sake carry a pair with you. Blocking out screaming children and snoring passengers (I’m guilty of this myself) or simply being able to watch a movie on your tablet will make your travel experience immensely less stressful. You can also use them to listen to Travel Commons, which is one of my favorite podcasts.
Enjoy your travels.
The other day I was listening to the radio on the drive back to the hotel and an AT&T commercial came on that talked about a businessman traveling the country. Thanks to “the power of AT&T’s 4G network” he was able to always be there, virtually, for all the events in his children’s lives; baseball games, recitals and such. While I’m a happy Sprint customer that wouldn’t touch AT&T with a ten foot pole, the commercial still resonated with me as maintaining a long distance relationship with my three children – currently 14, 11 & 10 – has been made much easier due to recent advances in technology.
No, technology is not the ultimate solution. However it has allowed me to nicely supplement the time we have on the weekends and weeks while I’m not traveling; enabling me to help my children with their homework, kiss them goodnight and generally just be there more. Not all the way there, but half-way there is better than not there at all in my opinion.
So if technology alone doesn’t quite cut it, what else is left? Well, it’s an important piece of the puzzle and based on my experience, here are a few things to be considered when you’re parenting from afar:
Technology Is Amazing | Take modern technology and wring every drop of usability you can get out of it. With email, IM, video conferencing and cell phones there is no excuse not to be in daily contact with your children. I try for multiple daily contacts myself, which is made easier when I can text them when they’re waking up for school as I’m 2 to 3 hours ahead of them. I’m told it puts a smile on their face and brightens their mood but I do it in the hopes of solidifying a bond that could all too easily be weakened without them knowing I think about them every day.
I get odd looks when people find out all of my children have iPhones but we’ve standardized on iOS devices for two very important reasons; FaceTime & Messages. These two technologies together allow me to almost always be available to my children, even when I’m on a plane (as long as it has WiFi at least).
FaceTime is Apple’s video chat service, built into all newer iOS devices, that we use on a daily basis to talk about our days, help with homework and just be able to see each other. I do believe that actually seeing each other is enough of a difference from a phone call to justify the added cost of iPhones for the whole family. An alternative and nearly ubiquitous technology is Skype but I’ve found the quality to be sub-par at times – especially over 3G connections – and the usability and integration just isn’t there compared to FaceTime.
Messages is essentially an SMS replacement service, with the exception that it functions over data instead of voice, which allows me to turn on my phone on WiFi equipped planes (you can turn on WiFi and leave airplane mode on), connect to GoGo and text with my children, learning about their day while I’m flying home to see them. It also lets me know when a message has been delivered and (optionally) when it has been read, which I’ve discovered is particularly handy with teens and tweens. ;)
Time On The Weekends | When you’re home, be there for your children. It’s as simple as that.
When you skip back and forth across time zones it is really, really easy to lose track of time and fall asleep at inappropriate times. When I’m traveling I just go to sleep when I’m tired and wake up whenever I have to. At home though, especially since I live on the west coast and most of my engagements are in the central and eastern time zones, I’m usually pretty tired as my body is convinced it’s hours later than it is. This is a common phenomenon and can easily be solved by going to bed earlier than your family. This is a trap in my opinion.
If you’re looking to maintain a relationship with your children, you’re not going to get there by going to bed before they do. You can sleep in your hotel as much as you want; when you’re home and have time to be with your children, be with your children. Sacrifice a little sleep and you’ll be able to hang out with them, play board games, shoot hoops, hold their hands on walks in the evening – whatever it is that you do with your children. You can’t do any of those things I just mentioned when you’re unconscious.
Your Spouse | I don’t see how my life could function as it is while being a single parent without bringing my children with me everywhere I go and enrolling them in Washington Virtual Academy. While I could always make this work it is about as far from ideal as one could possibly dream of.
Luckily, I have an amazing wife. She takes care of the children solo during the weeks I’m gone, makes sure they have birthday dinners and pats them on the back when they do a job well done. I could keep going but the list of things that can’t be done from thousands of miles away is endless. All she asks in return is some alone time on the weekends. Since I always look forward to activities involving my children, this might even be more of a treat for me than it is for her.
The downside of this is that it is easy for non-traveling spouses to feel unappreciated; they have all the responsibilities of being a single parent but none of the benefits. Let them know you care and make sure to thank them for the sacrifices they make during the time you’re gone.
Quit When You Need To | This is a last resort but I’ve done it twice so far.
Here’s the deal: Traveling takes a lot out of you, but it takes even more out of your family. If you can’t find the balance and make it work, then take the easy way out and get a local job that doesn’t require travel. You’re likely highly skilled and reasonably intelligent while working in an understaffed field. When you feel you’ve done enough for awhile – however long that is – start looking for a position local to your family.
You can always go back to being a road warrior later in your life, but there are some things that you can’t go back to once they’re gone.
I travel for work often and, mainly to maintain my sanity in hotel rooms, have decided to write more. Since the best advice I’ve ever gotten around writing was “Write what you know”, I’ve decided to start writing a series of posts on Business Travel.
For some background on me and why I think I’m qualified, read on: I fly quite a bit for both business and pleasure; at the moment I’m averaging roughly 20,000 air miles a month commuting between Seattle, Washington (where I live) and Louisville, Kentucky (where the customer is located). I’ve been traveling for business since 2005 and, while the above link doesn’t reflect it, I’ve spent well over half a million miles in the air. This is far from uncommon for those who choose consulting as their profession. Our skills are very niche so we have to go where the work is to make a living.
To get started, I’ve decided to post this quick list of business travel tips. Going forward, I’ll write posts on things that my team thinks I should have told them prior to me putting them on the road as well as things that I find interesting.
Without Further Ado…
Booking Airfare | Before you became a frequent flyer you likely used Orbitz, Kayak, Expedia or a similar site to find cost effective flights. Don’t do that anymore. In addition to the inevitable hassles when you need to change a flight or rebook after missing a connection, time is valuable when traveling for business and neither your employer or your client truly expects you to take red-eye flights with 5 hour layovers to save $100 on the airfare.
The only site you’ll need to use is Matrix. Go there, get familiar with it and use that exclusively. It will save a tremendous amount of time and frustration, especially if you don’t book your own flights. One very nice feature is the ability to email yourself a text based itinerary which you can forward to your travel department. Your travel department will like you for this, which is important.
One thing to note is that Matrix only covers larger airlines and doesn’t include JetBlue, Southwest or Virgin America for domestic flights inside the US. I’d recommend staying away from any of those airlines anyways, mainly due to the less than spectacular frequent flyer programs they have and/or due to the limited route network.
Managing Reservations | For this, you need nothing more than TripIt Pro, otherwise known as “The Best $49 a Year You Can Spend”. There are two main features that really make it worthwhile in my opinion:
Brand Loyalty | This one is pretty simple. Pick an airline, pick two hotel chains (I’ll get to why in a minute), pick a rental car company and then give them all your business. What do you get in return? They’ll be really, really nice to you to start with. And points. Thanks to points, I have only paid for two personal nights in a hotel in the past 7 years and I’ve never paid for a personal rental car. Air miles I generally use for upgrades or to gift to friends and family.
How to pick what brand you’re going to use is where it gets more sticky. Look, most airlines, hotels and rental car companies in the US – averaged out over enough time – are going to give you roughly the same level of performance and make the same number of mistakes. Anyone who tells you otherwise either isn’t paying attention or is delusional.
So, simple rules for picking a brand follow:
Airline | All major airlines will either be part of an alliance or have partnerships with other major airlines. You’ll inevitably get some combination of free first class upgrades, preferred seating, priority boarding, premium security line access at the airport and free checked bags – not to mention the bonus miles as you move up the tiers. The difficult part for a lot of people is choosing which airline to fly with. In my opinion, the choice comes down to picking an airline that a) has your local airport as a hub and b) is not currently in bankruptcy. If your closest airport is a ‘fortress hub’ such as Dallas (American Airlines), Atlanta (Delta), Dulles (United) or Charlotte (US Airways), you’re pretty much stuck with the incumbent unless you don’t mind making connections on regional jets every week.
Personally, I have my status with Alaska Airlines as they’re both a really, really nice airline to fly with (they still have hot meals in coach for example) and they are the only airline that uses SEA as a hub. Their route network is heaviest on the west coast but they’ve made significant inroads to the midwest and east coast in recent years, topped off by a large list of partners that can get me anywhere else I need to go while still earning miles and enjoying at least some of the perks of the status I have so painfully earned.
Hotels | The primary benefit of hotel elite status is that they will occasionally give you room upgrades and otherwise be very polite and accommodating. I would advise picking two hotel chains; one for major metropolitan and suburban areas and one for more rural locations. Marriott, Intercontinental, Starwood and Hilton are the major chains for urban/suburban areas and Choice Hotels is my pick for rural areas.
Personally, I’m a Hilton HHonors Diamond and Choice Hotels Platinum. I rarely have to stay in Choice Hotels – the last time was in Festus, Missouri – but it’s nice to have some status and get some points for something you have to do anyways. I was once an Intercontinental Platinum but moved back to Hilton as their properties tend to be maintained better. I tried Marriott a few times as well but wasn’t impressed at all. On the flip side, I know quite a few Marriott Platinums who won’t stay in a Hilton. *shrug*
Rental Cars | The main advantages of rental car brand loyalty are upgraded cars – I get anywhere from 1-3 class upgrades with every rental now – and the points you can rack up for free rental days. Avis, Hertz & National are the major chains. I’ve heard good things about National and their Executive Selection/Aisle Service where you reserve a mid-size and then take your pick from an aisle of cars. That said, I’m a Hertz fan and have been using them without issue for years now as a Five Star Gold Club member. Hertz has also recently started instituting Gold Choice, which is similar to what National offers.
In the end, the best advice I can possibly give anyone starting to travel for business is to take your time through the airport, try to eat as healthy as possible, get out of the hotel as much as possible and pick yourself up a copy of Skygods to read on the plane.
Oh, and enjoy your new single-serving-friends of course.
I had very high hopes for the Surface RT and completed my pre-order of a 64GB unit with black touch cover 13 minutes before pre-orders were supposed to go live. Upon receipt of the unit, I was amazed by the hardware and am still mostly happy with the design though ultimately I should have known that I would not fall in love with it when I set it down after playing with it for 20 minutes on launch day.
See that picture at the beginning of this post? That is what my Surface looks like 99% of the time; the screen is dark because I haven’t had a need to even touch it in the last four hours.
I’ve tried really, really hard to make this relationship work. I’ve schlepped it ~5,000 miles a week, back and forth from Seattle to Louisville, and set it up on my desk every day. I’ve gone out of my way to show it to largely uninterested customers, colleagues, family and single-serving-friends. Unfortunately, I just don’t have a use for the Surface in my life.
The only two times I’ve found a use for it so far were when I needed to take notes with OneNote. I might have been happy with an $800 note taking device if this had worked as hoped, but the first time I needed it OneNote wouldn’t pull up a recent copy of my notes from SkyDrive and the second time the touch cover had a worse than normal accuracy rate, rendering my notes useless.
I can’t even find a use for what I originally purchased it for: Showing it to customers and explaining how Exchange and Lync work with it. That could be because the Exchange integration is embarrassing but I’m getting ahead of myself there.
All that said, the Surface does have some redeeming values:
Unfortunately there are many more downsides to it. I’m only listing the big ones here as they’re the ones that are pushing me to sell this absolutely gorgeous device.
Before I go into the downsides I feel the need to point out a few things. First, these are my opinions and mine alone. I know a few people who seem to really love their Surface. Second, I make my living from Microsoft technologies and I really, really wanted them to knock this out of the park. Third, I did not even bother trying the type cover because I don’t see how it can improve upon the experiences I’ve had.
In the end, I really can’t recommend it for most people. This isn’t even a device I would gift to my parents when I consider that I would be doing tech support for it. Kids? Yeah, maybe. The games on it are quite cool. An Xbox and PS3 combined are cheaper and less likely to be dropped though. I might give it to my wife as she is reasonably tech savvy but I think the learning curve moving from Windows 7 and and iPhone to Windows RT would be huge, and I’d still be doing tech support for it, just not as much.
The ultimate verdict? I’ll likely sell this Surface RT. I’ve purchased an iPad Mini to replace it, which has already gotten a large amount of usage in the few days of I’ve had it. I’m willing to give the Surface Pro a shot whenever it comes out but I’m fearful they’ll price it close to a laptop, in which case I might pass.
TL; DR – Pass on the Surface RT. Surface Pro? Maybe but likely not. Tablet for business use? I think for Windows 8 tablets the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 might be the best option and I am really looking forward to trying it out.
For the past six months or so I’d been posting pictures to my Tumblr. While I didn’t want to change that, I did want a place where I could write more. So… here we are. My tumblr has a new URL and this site is back up and running.
Current Location: Louisville, KY
If you’re installing Exchange 2007 SP1 on Windows 2008 R2 you may run across the error: “The system cannot find the file specified”
If you examine the setup log located at C:\ExchangeSetupLogs\ExchangeSetup.log and find that the file referenced is ldifde.exe you’ll need to install Active Directory Domain Services from Server Manager. This is accomplished by loading Server Manager from Start -> Administrative Tools -> Server Manager, selecting Add Roles and then checking the box for Active Directory Domain Services.
Once the Active Directory Domain Services installation is completed, re-run the Exchange 2007 SP1 Setup Wizard.
The script shown in the first and last screenshot is available here.