Although I forward my business calls and refuse to do my email, the moment it appears on my Blackberry, whilst I am on holiday, there are times when a small problem at the office dealt with now stops it being a big problem when I get back. So I do need some computing device with me.
Now my wife brings both of her laptops with her and a bag full of paperwork she plans to catch up on. Meanwhile I like something a bit more portable – my Dell X51v PDA, with six gigs of storage in it and six gigs in the PDAs belt pouch, and a portable bluetooth folding keyboard,
Dell X51v PDA
So what can I do on the PDA
- I synchronised it to my Vista laptop before leaving so I have the most up to date copies of my Contacts, Calendar and Notes from my Outlook, and the last two weeks email including the attachments. I also synchronise a folder of my most important work and personal documents (including a list of thing we want to do on holiday). This gives me access to both personal and business information I may need whilst away – in my pocket.
- I have used ereader.com for many since I was first introduced to it when I had a Palm handheld – and I use my PDA to read book all the time. I purchased half a dozen books for the holiday – and I have about twenty other books stored on the SD card. I have used eReaderPro for many years as my book reader of choice. For large text files I need to read (help files for programs etc) I use ELFView.
- I have some software that converts DVDs to a format that I can use on my PDA – so I loaded Series 5 of Star Trek “The Next Generation”, three movies and a documentary about the “Coast to Coast” Walk onto one of the compact flash cards.
- I have several hours of Big Finish Dr Who stories and other various audio books and podcasts.
- Lots of music stored on CF card.
- I use TCPMP for watching and listening to things on my PDA – I have a very good set of in ear headphones in my PDA pouch.
- Whilst away I have gone online, at various hotspots, and have downloaded a number of new podcasts to listen to – I use BeyondPod for this and as my RSS reader.
- I have SoftMaker Office loaded for Word and Excel – and have been putting the final touches to my “Coast to Coast Experience” document.
- I have XnView Pocket installed this allows me to review my digital photos on a larger screen.
- Memory-Map is one of my essential applications add to that a bluetooth GPS receiver and a waterproof bag and it is a great navigation tool. The Memory-Map database contains walks I want to do, places we want to go t and notes about places we have been to in past – our favourite cafes, campsites and attractions.
Bluetooth GPS Unit and AquaPac
- I have not got an FTP program loaded on my Asus EEE Linux laptop – so I used Total Commander on the PDA to ftp the photos for my blog up to the internet.
- For fun I have a Star Trek web site (don’t look for it on the web it is stored on my PC at home) and I keep a synchronised copy of it on my PDA CF Card – I use PocketHTML to add to it and tweak it.
- My son uses it to play Space Trader and I have Vexed installed.
- The PDA has wifi so I can get online with it, browse the web and check my email, use Skype, RSS, get weather reports etc.
- As this is such an important tool both for business and personal use the night before we left I used Sprite Backup to make two copies of the device which I put on two different SD cards just in case. In the past I have had my PDA crash when away and the Sprite Backup has allowed me to rebuild the PDA.
Life Venture PDA Case with accessories - headphones with pouch, spare PDA battery and cover, PDA charge plug and adaptor leads, spare stylus, memory cards, Swiss Card and a Victorinox pencil
I have a password set on the unit and it locks itself after a very short period of inactivity. The backups are password protected and no sensitive information is stored on the CF or SD cards. If the PDA is lost and then hard reset to clear the password protection then all the sensitive data is lost. If the unit is synchronised to a new computer the password is again required.
A Real Job
I had a call from one of our major clients – and unfortunately I could not get anyone in Lincoln to cover it as they were all committed. So we found a McDonalds – free internet for 24 minutes for the price of a coffee and a bap. I used the Remote Desktop application that came pre-installed on the PDA to access their server. A call to the staff member with the problem, I changed some passwords and provided the help needed.
Now one small disadvantage is the size of the Dell X51v screen – it is a bit small so server screens are displayed with very small fonts (of course let’s remember the size is also its strength, I always have the device with me). I have a folding magnifying glass in my work kit so I can use that to see the server screens, as they are displayed on the PDA, better.
This is a small media case given away free in Amateur Photographer a few years back. I use it to carry some essential accessories for work - but they are equally useful when away.
I have two spare batteries for the PDA, a standard and a high capacity (I have a high capacity battery in the Dell all the time). I carry the spare standard battery in the belt pouch.
High Capacity Battery - Dell X51v
To charge the Dell as I travel I have a mains charger and two battery back-up chargers. For the camping part of the trip I also have an in car charger – I use a USB plug and a Dell synchronisation cable for this.
AA Cell Emergency Charger
More About Charging
I have a bluetooth GPS receiver, an iPod Nano and a Blackberry all of which I charge using the same mains unit with a USB socket – I just need the right lead – and in the car I use a plug with a USB socket and the same leads.
Accessories, cables and chargers
The flat rectangle in the bottom right hand corner is a 2Ah rechargeable battery I got from Maplins – which I can use to recharge my devices.
The Life Venture pouch I use is great for carrying the essentials (including, money, bank cards, business cards and a pencil) and protects the PDA. It has a very secure belt clip and a shoulder strap can be added if required. It is not waterproof so when I am walking I put it in a zip lock plastic bag to protect it.
The downside of the bluetooth keyboard is it uses batteries reasonably quickly so I carry several sets of AAA cells. The usefulness of having a full sized keyboard when I need to write or input a lot of data out weighs the battery use.
I have an eight gig memory stick with me which has copies of the installation CDs of company and personal software. I have my Outlook PST file stored on a CF card (it is password protected) and my collection of 50k Memory-Maps is backed up onto a DVD.
I also have my PortableApps memory stick on my key ring – I can use it on my wife’s laptop if needed.
Since the beginning of the year I have been been using one of these laptops for support work – it is a lightweight and capable machine. I have the 4 gig model with an eight gig HCSD card for extra storage. I wasn’t planning to bring it with me but at the last minute I packed it – and now we have wifi in the timeshare house I am glad I brought it. I have uploaded photographs to Flickr and watched several things on iPlayer – things that I cannot do on my PDA.
If there is one problem with the small laptop is the small keyboard, for long documents it is hard work – but that’s why I have the full size keyboard for my PDA.