The virtual road warrior software checklist
Staying connnected whilst on the road - part 2 - travelling light
In part 1 of this article I shared with you Dan Gillmor's personal checklist of the key items he takes with him on his travels to stay connected.Dan seems happy to lug a lot of hardware with him so it got me thinking "what if you want to stay connected just using the public internet and only remembering one URL and password?"
Can you stay connected whilst travelling really light i.e leaving your laptop at home?
I believe you can and I share here my own proven software checklist based on my experience over 3 weeks when I was in holiday in Canada.
It has been a classic road trip covering 2200 km and the challenge was to try to stay connected to my email as well as keeping my webblog alive whilst I roamed from hotel to campsite.
Heres the on-the-road scenario:
- Your only access to the internet is via the public internet PCS in hotels, cafes and campsites
- You cannot download any software applications to these PCs
- You should not assume these PCs have broadband
- You only get a single daily connection session of 15-30 mins
- You only want to remember a single URL which should take you to a page of links to all your key applications
Here’s how to do it - my checklist:
1. Get a Web-based email account
Make sure you have the URL and password to allow you to directly access you email via the web.
If you are using outlook or outlook express you can find this by looking at your mail accounts under the tools menu.
You may also have to upload your email contact list from your PC to the server.
You can use your existing email server account or you can create a new one with a rule to copy all incoming email to it.
In my experience its better to use an existing email account as one with a copy rule can be prone to seeing your incoming email as spam or getting mailbox full problems.
2. Identify your other key web-links
For example your team workspace, blog and the other web-sites you need to visit on a daily basis.
The key point is that they must be totally web-based with no download being required as this will not be allowed (or practical) on the road.
As far as I can see this currently rules out VoiP, which would raise a few eyebrows in a hotel café anyway.
You have a number options for totally web-based instant messenger ( for example see list).
However remember the on-the-road daily usage scenario may not make IM practical as an application - we are not talking about being continuously connected here!
3. Acquire a "web-based desktop" site
What you need is a single URL which provides you password protected access to a web-page/web-site where you can store all your key links from steps 1 and 2.
Also you need a virtual disk facility (I suggest at least 100 MB) if you wish to access some key documents from your home PC whilst on the road.
Over the last 3 weeks I have used backpackit.com which fully provides this functionality with 100MB of disk and a lot of other nice features such SSL encryption, the ability to have reminders sent to your email or mobile phone and nominating specific pages for sharing with others (who don't need to pay) for $9 per month.
Most of these products offer a 30 day free trial which should be long enough for most road trips.
If the URL is a challenge to your memory then you can use tinyURL to convert it to a 6-character abbreviation which you can write on the back of your hand.
It would be nice, but not essential, if you could automatically transfer your internet favourites list to the web-based desktop while you were still at home getting ready for your trip.
(I found a nice piece of shareware which does this but unfortunately the product has been discontinued and I have been asked not to publicise it.)
4. Prepare the "web-based desktop" site
Load up your key links with their usernames and passwords if they are not obvious.
Also you need to batch upload any key documents you wish to access on the road.
If you plan to some basic word-processing on the road you should load up your work-in-progress documents in text format.
This is because you cannot count on having applications such as MS-Office in a hotel internet PC or internet café.
Also many internet cafes will not allow you to save to their local disks.
So make sure you have a basic web-based text editor available within your web-based desktop or in your list of web-links.
With web-based text editors you always run the risk of losing data if the internet connection goes down so be prepared to save every page or so to disk using CTRL/A CTRL/C before any disk save operation.
5. Do a Trial Run
Find a public internet PC and check that it all works before you get on the road.
One of the things to watch for is web-based applications which require cookies which may not be enabled on public PCs.
With a bit of luck if you plan well and carefully follow this checklist nobody will even notice you are on holiday!
Bioteams Books Reviews
Steven Poole, writing for the Guardian on Saturday March 15, reviews "Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration", by Keith Sawyer and concludes that the book's big idea is that there is no such thing as the lone genius: everything turns out to be collaborative.