Interim Update: Upgrade, not replace

Three-year old computer, meet new technology. Isn’t that grand?

[Editor’s Note: I promise to you, the home reader, that there will be a very substantial update next week surrounding quite a few new projects that are happening in this New Year 2014. In the meantime, here’s a quick dispatch.]

In the final days of December, I wrote an essay on the greenest computer, noting that the greenest computer is the one that can have its parts be easily replaced or upgraded. I replaced the original hard disk with a solid-state disk (the machine can go from being completely off to completely running in about 10 seconds…eeeeEEEEE!) and that I was about to replace the battery on the machine. With the new disk and the new battery, I am getting about 7-8 hours per charge with wireless on.

IMG_1112As the machine is three years old, it isn’t graced with the low-power Bluetooth 4.0 chip that all new computers, smartphones, and tablets have. Until last night! I purchased a $12 USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle that enables low-power Bluetooth connections. The OS recognizes the chip; now, I’m trying to find a way to use the Bluetooth menu bar icon to control the USB adapter instead of the internal card.

The practical side of this is that my MacBook Pro and my iPhone can communicate using the Authy app. What is Authy, you ask? Authy is a second-factor authentication device that is compatible with the Google Authenticator system of two-factor authentication. (I hate passwords, remember? See number 6.) Authy, using Bluetooth 4.0, has a companion app for the Mac that securely transfers that six-digit code to your Mac’s clipboard. It only works on pre-approved and pre-paired computers and that authorization can be rescinded at any time.

I’m sure that I’ll discover more things for which having a Bluetooth 4.0 chip will be useful.

Balancing Computing and Commuting

Planning ahead is a key part of commuting and one’s computing needs are something that should be considered in your travel planning.

"Amsterdam Commute" by stephenrwalli/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)It’s no secret that I do a lot of traveling in Phoenix by non-automobile means. I’m one of those crazy Phoenicians who doesn’t have a car. I live within a stone’s throw of one of Phoenix’s METRO stations and I choose places to go and meet that are likewise near a station. It’s called a 20-minute city, which is defined as places to live, work, eat, shop, and have fun that are a 20-minute walk, bike ride, or public transportation trip from each other. (In central Phoenix, it’s sort-of here.)

I also do a lot of bicycle commuting. But unlike a lot of other Phoenicians, my bicycle commuting is done in conjunction with another method of transport, e.g. bicycling to a final destination after taking the train for the first part of the journey. (I’ll write more on that in a later post!)

The point that I’m trying to make here is that when I travel by my usual means, I’m cognizant of what technology I bring with me. My computing/commuting theory is this: Bring only as much technology as you need to do while you’re running errands and nothing more!

My main computer is my MacBook Pro. In addition to being a significant investment that I made, it’s got my entire digital life on it (photos, music, personal & professional documents, and some irreplaceable/invaluable information). Consequently, it rarely leaves the house. If my travels include bicycling, it will never travel with me. If I get into an accident while commuting, what would happen to that machine? Would it be ruined? I never want to find out so that’s why it rarely leaves my house.

To bring some element of computing power with me when I meet with community partners or clients, I have an iPad and wireless keyboard that I bring with me. It can do about 95% of the tasks that I require of a computer when I’m on the road: scribe notes or a document, send emails, preview pictures, and check my finances as well as my firm’s balance sheet. It’s small in form so it fits easily in my backpack or in my bicycle panniers. Also, because it’s designed as more of a mobile device, it’s more robust in its design. That being said, it has a form-fitting case as well as its own bag for additional protection.

There are times when I know that I’ll need to bring a computer with me which is why I recently purchased a refurbished Dell Latitude XT2. While I listed my reasons to purchase it on that post, I purchased it because it is a lightweight computer that I can throw in my backpack or bicycle panniers and not be overly devastated if it gets damaged or destroyed should the worst happen. If I am going to do some longer typing sessions, this is the device that I’ll bring with me. Or if there’s a time when I need a full computer with me, it comes with.

That’s how I commute. What tips do you have for commuting and to successfully balance your computing and commuting balance? Share them in the comments.