James Britt

Maximum R&D

Road Work

July 2011

Been kinda sorta doing some work while on a kinda sorta vacation. And I’m discovering all sorts of issues, big and small, that did or could come up to make getting stuff done a real problem. For example, I took the smaller, lighter notebook but then realized it did not have all of my helper scripts and tools so my usual work routine was somewhat disrupted.

For people who make a habit of working on the road, what tips or lessons-learned can you share? How would you handle a hard drive crash? Lack of a ‘Net connection? Lack of available A/C power outlets?

I’ve been trying to keep assorted config files (vi, bash) in a git repo; I might also have them synced in Dropbox. Next trip I’ll bring my usual dev laptop, but I might also get a spare battery to bring along as well. I also need to get a stand-alone phone battery charger so I can be sure to carry a charged spare battery if I’m out all day.

3 Responses to “Road Work”

  1. keith levene Says:

    Get a back pack with a solar panel. I got one dude..its wicked. The eco store (Brighton and online) It saves my HTC power sucking dhd and can run a macbook or pc laptop or in fact any device… 50 bucks to 100 should cover it. I’ll send you a couple of photos.. It really sucks sometimes. To simply charge a device when you’re out isn’t that easy. You can’t just walk into a store and politely ask cos you’ll get an answer outlining all the possible ways you could… kill yourself or it could endanger someone else etc. Nobody has the initiative to simply say “hey mate – plug it in here so u can keep your eye on it.. Everyone’s covering their arse. JKL

  2. Justin Says:

    There are lots of little things you do if you’re on the road a lot. I like to keep my dev setup in a VM, so I can toss it on a thumb drive if I switch machines. The thumb drive is also an emergency backup in case my laptop dies unrecoverably while I’m on the road. Code, of course, gets pushed to my remote git repos.

    You mentioned lack of Internet connectivity. I suppose that can happen, but it’s rare these days. I had a work emergency while I was on a 6-hour road trip a few weeks ago, and I found wifi at a truck stop! It was something like $2 per hour.

    I don’t have to worry much about phone battery, as my laptop gives me 8+ hours on a single charge and I can charge the phone via USB. For backup, it’s wise to carry a 2.5” drive in an external enclosure for extended trips and back up during the night every couple of days. As long as you can run to a local store and buy the things you need to replace a bad drive, you can recover from a system failure using the backup.

    I’ve been known to bring more than one laptop on trips, especially if my wife is along. I get the added security of having a secondary machine in the event of some failure, and she gets to use the Internet without interrupting my work.

    Beyond the above, I have found that it’s always handy to have a wireless USB mouse, a little power strip and universal converter, an Ethernet cable, a pair of headphones, an AUX cable (for connecting a smartphone to a car stereo or hotel speaker system), and a few lens/screen wipes. and a few miscellaneous non-technology things like hand sanitizer, a toothbrush, etc.

    It all comes down to a heavy bag, but I can go anywhere with it and still be productive.

  3. Hassan Schroeder Says:

    James, I work from the road (literally) a lot—my wife’s a jewelry artist and we do shows throughout the country (many in the Western US where she drives, I work from the shotgun seat).

    So, equipment: 15” MBP, Verizon WiFi, inverter for power in the car, HyperMac external battery, small travel power strip (Monster “Outlets to Go”) which has a USB port - handy for charging a phone. (For shows without supplied electricity we have a small Honda gas generator.) Oh, and I carry a mouse along to use in motels/hotels. Carry a mouse pad in case you get a room with a glass desk :)

    Other than that, yes, keep your essential data in the cloud: projects on GitHub, other stuff on your own server or some cloud-based backup service (or two!).

    I usually carry the latest OS X DVD for emergency maintenance on the MBP; it doesn’t add much to the load.

    Oh, and last but not least: I have a Logitech “portable lapdesk” to keep the MBP from incinerating my thighs :-) It’s thin but effective, and everything I carry fits easily in a backpack.

    HTH, and happy travels.

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