On the road, w/ three bears and a cloud


At the risk of causing uncontrollable laughter, this is the pile of personal technology I dragged along to the Miami Boat Show last month. Not just one computer, not even two, but a Three Bears family of processing and connectivity. And while it was intended as a (perhaps extreme) reporting and traveling kit, it makes pretty good sense on a boat too…

The “Little, Small, Wee Bear” in my metaphor is the Droid Incredible, though it’s not really a child. Email, Web, quickie camera, tons or reading, iPod/streaming audio, and all sorts of navigation apps are always in my pocket. Of course the “Middle-sized Bear” iPad is much better for many functions — like tending email, writing notes, and reading — and is still portable enough to carry around a boat show all day (and great on a plane, or in a berth). Then there’s that “Great, Huge Bear” of an HP 16-inch laptop which became the hotel base for some more heavy duty work I had to do.
   The Rogue Wave WiFi system might seem overkill but it fit in my check-in bag fine (there are three bags involved in this kit), and beat hotel Internet larceny nicely. Baby bear could also serve cellular 3G Internet to Mom and Pop via WiFi (or to Pop via USB cable if I hadn’t had the extra cost, and metered, mobile hotspot plan turned on). While all this computing flexibility is slick, the key element that makes it fairly easy to use is the fact that so much of my data is the cloud these days.
   My Google email, contacts, calendars, documents, RSS feeds (Reader), photos (Picassa), bookmarks (Chrome), and even my health records all live in Google’s server farms but are easily available on any of the bears, in some cases at least partially cached for those times when I’m beyond cell or WiFi coverage. Google Voice now handles voice messages on the Incredible and delivers email transcripts and audio files to all devices. And Google is certainly not the only cloud hero. DropBox, for instance, let’s me back up and access any file from any Bear. And Instapaper not only let’s me do the same thing with online articles I want to read later, but it also cleans them up considerably.
   I could go on and on about the beauties of the cloud, and I’m sure many of you are finding the same thing. But the truth is that I’m on the road again, and keen to look around Palma, Majorca. I’ve got almost the full kit seen above, except I brought the EEE netbook — cloudy screen shot below — instead of the HP lunker. Why am I in Spain? Well, Simrad is putting on one heck of a product intro and demo.  Big news tomorrow!


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

8 Responses

  1. Doug Campbell says:

    Thanks for sharing your setup Ben. I have much of the same, minus the Rogue. I’ll be checking into that.
    Really looking forward to your report from Simrad!
    Safe journeys,

  2. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I’ve found that a firm objection to paying for wifi in a hotel will net me a free pass at most hotels outside NYC. Perhaps some non-refuseable offers exist there….

  3. Paul Clarke says:

    Is your iPad in a waterproof case of some sort? Did you keep it in the case while wandering the boat show, for example?

  4. Ben Cashen says:

    Safe Travels Ben– be sure to check out The Corner Bar!

  5. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Dropbox is a really fine product even between laptop and desktop computers as well. I can work on powerpoint presentations and proposals anytime I want between home desktop, work desktop, and laptop. Without thinking about placing them on USB or in email, I can take an idea that hits me at anytime, go to a computer, and update a proposal or powerpoint.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    This will no doubt be remembered as the April Fool nor’easter, and fitting cap to an amazing winter along the Maine coast. We’ve got at least half a foot of wet snow so far, and sometimes when a gust comes thru, it’s like a thousand squirrels were dropping snowballs from the trees around my house.
    And now the electricity is out. But the EEE netbook was all charged up and now it’s USB tethered to my Verizon Droid Incredible, which is also streaming radio to my hearing aids. I’m using the mobile kit, and the cloud, at my desk!
    Also I meant to mention Toodledo, a great cloud-based to-do list and note-managing system I’ve gotten into. Has native or third party apps for all platforms and lots of goodies like the ability to turn an email into a task just by forwarding it.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Man, I wish I hadn’t bragged about the three bears (or four, when the netbook is added in). Apparently the desktop demons took offense! The big office HP with all the software I use and an almost-full terabyte of disk space never came back to life after the violent power blackout on Friday.
    I spent a day trying every trick in the book to get Vista to boot again, but without success. And a 2004 Dell desktop that I kept around for backup wouldn’t boot either. Demons!
    Now I’m working on the big laptop seen above while a new desktop overnights itself this way. Just hoping I can mount the old hard drives successfully, rather than dipping into an incomplete set of backup DVDs. And thank goodness that so much of what I do is on multiple machines or on someone else’s servers. Oh, and it’s snowing again…

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    One of the things I love about technology is that it almost always gets better and better, which I can’t say for many other aspects of the world.
    For example: Got a new desktop shipped overnight from Amazon fairly cheap ($650 for 3.2 GHZ Intel i3, 6 GB ram, & 1.5 TB disk) and Windows 7 adjusted to my dual monitors, home network, wireless keyboard/mouse, and various other peripherals without any effort on my part. I also got a $25 gadget called a Thermaltake Sata HDD USB Docking Station ( http://goo.gl/4xQd2 ) which let’s you mount hard drives like floppy disks, and it’s giving me much joy this evening.
    Both hard drives from the broken desktop are working fine now, which means I didn’t lose any data. I did have to do Windows repair on the old C: drive, which may very well mean that if I stick it back in the old machine it will boot again. I’m not sure I’ll bother, but I do like having the two old 500g hard drives as a backup of all my data as of 4/1/2011 (a not funny April’s Fool?).
    What happened with me here is not the proper way to back up your data and/or get a new desktop, but technology (and several days of hard labor) saved me from some serious pain. (With much more data copying, software installation, and other fiddly stuff to go.)
    Some have asked if I had a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) protecting the old desktop. The answer is “Yes, but it broke a while back and I neither fixed nor replaced it.” I’m thinking of getting a new one and, zounds, they’re better than ever… http://goo.gl/lYhqj

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