Packing the Laptop

I’m about to take a little trip. Packing for me is usually pretty easy. If I can get by on a trip with one pair of shoes, it makes my entire day. I can, however, get hung up when it comes to technology. My current nerd crisis is the decision of whether or not to bring the laptop.

For this trip I’ve really been struggling with this question. There’s a part of me that would love to leave it at home. I do a lot of computing from the iPad and I can often go days without needing a Mac. However, some days I really need a Mac. If I can leave the laptop at home, it means significantly less gear and weight. 

There is also the intangible part of this equation. I just enjoy working on the iPad. I like the relative simplicity of it. I like being able to use the Apple Pencil when the mood strikes me and I particularly like the way using (essentially) a piece of glass as my computer makes me feel like I’m living in the future.

Finally, there’s a certain degree of geek thrill from putting yourself out on the ledge like that. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and leaving the iPad at home may lead to some interesting discoveries.

Against this inclination to leave the laptop at home I always have to stop and think about what work I intend to get done and whether the iPad is up to the task. On this particular trip I’m worried because I’m still in the process of finalizing a large client transaction which means I may need to spend time with a significant number of files and some complex Microsoft Word documents. Microsoft Word is great on the iPad except when it comes to making changes to style formatting, which it can’t do. When I work on big transactions, there is lots of style formatting.

I do have the ability to remotely access my iMac at home so, in a pinch, I could perform any Mac-specific work from the road so long as I have an Internet connection.

The real problem is that we all have this list of things that are either impossible or a lot more difficult on the iPad than they are on the Mac. When deciding whether you are going to use a iPad for 10 minutes or a five day trip, we still have to go through the same calculus. Until the iPad can get closer parity to the Mac where we don’t have to go through this mental journey every time we take a trip, the iPad will never reach its full potential.

As for me, because the friction points relate to client work, I’ll end up bringing the laptop along. What kills me is how close I am to not needing to bring it. If only the iPad filing system were just a little bit more robust and if only Microsoft Word were just a little bit more powerful. I hope people at Apple and Microsoft are getting the message.


Trip Mode Protects Your Data Caps

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and, as a result, spending a lot of time tethering my Mac to my iPad and iPhone. Trip Mode is a Mac App that can turn off selected applications’ access to the Internet. For example, I share multiple Dropbox folders with multiple people. If one of those people starts dropping some large files in Dropbox while I’m tethered, the Dropbox app will chew through my mobile data cap pretty quickly. Trip Mode lets me turn off Dropbox and any other applications I don’t want accessing the Internet while tethered. The idea is simple, the execution is outstanding. When I return to WiFi, Trip Mode turns itself off and I can go back getting all my applications on the Internet. 

The Tripmate

I’ve written and talked about travel gear several times over the years. There is a new gadget on the market that is worthy of consideration for road warriors. It is the HooToo TripMate Elite (Amazon). This device is about the size of an older AirPort Express (the kind that would plug directly into the wall) but made of black plastic instead of white. Moreover, it is a combination of several devices useful on the road.

There is a 6000mAh Battery Charger with two USB sockets so you can charge two things at once. When you get to your hotel (or find a spare socket at the airport) you can plug it in for charging later. 

The HooToo also has a built in Wireless N Travel Router. If you show up to a hotel room that just has ethernet Internet, you can plug this in and create your own little wireless network in your room. You can also plug a USB flash drive into the device and broadcast the data on it to your iOS devices using a proprietary application. While all these functions are available on devices already on the market, I have not seen someone put all of them and one device before. This is pretty nice being able to carry a travel router, battery charger, and media streamer all with one device. I haven’t ordered one yet but I probably will before my next big trip.