Professional Grade Access with Gmail

I’ve become quite a fan of Gmail this year and here’s why. With relatively little effort and with reasonably inexpensive equipment, anyone can have access to their email from just about anywhere, get world class spam filtering, and enjoy better search capabilities than most corporate email systems.

I’m still tethered to a work email system (Lotus Notes of all things), but for the rest of my life I find Gmail an amazing addition to the kit. Polling multiple POP3 accounts, filtering mountains of e-mail into manageable piles, and giving me access to my messages anywhere I go means I get out of my office more and more.

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Smart Technology

Since this blog is presumably about a digital lifestyle, it’s probably worth a few paragraphs to describe what I’ll call my ‘flight kit.’ I’m not a true road warrior, just an average Joe that flies for business and pleasure a few times a year. I drafted this post on my Windows Mobile phone on a flight back from Los Angeles last week, transferred it to my laptop and fleshed it out a bit. Today I found a nice article at talking about the adoption of this type of technology.

  • Notebook Computer – I’m currently running a middle of the road Thinkpad that serves as a good general computing platform and also does a nice job with DVDs.
  • Microsoft Wireless USB mouse – While I’m comfortable with the Trackpoint on the Thinkpad, for any prolonged work, I need a free standing mouse. I like the wireless kind if for no other reason than it eliminates another cable from my bag.
  • Kensington Universal Car/Air Power Adapter – I don’t often have the need to use this in an auto, but you’ll be kicking yourself if your batteries low and you’re making final changes to a presentation while your colleague drives to the customer presentation. On some international flights, this also gives me half a chance at productivity on those long flights. Without it, I’d have to carry more batteries or just stare at the in-flight movie.
  • 512MB flash drive – I know, it’s kind of small for these days, but it handles most business related file swaps.
  • Laptop security cable like this one here!! – I can’t say enough about this item and I recommend anyone that travels with a laptop get one. They aren’t fool-proof as a determined thief can break your case and make off with your laptop, but it will stop a less determined ‘thief of opportunity’ from walking off with your notebook out of your hotel room when the maid’s not looking. For $10-15, it’s cheap insurance and makes me feel better.
  • Ethernet cable – This is becoming less necessary these days depending on where you travel, but I still run into customer/vendor conference rooms with no wireless access or just a few Ethernet ports. I sometimes throw a 6 or 8 port hub in my bag as well if I know the facility and expect multiple laptop users to be working at the same time.
  • Aiwa HP-CN6 Noise canceling headphones (for laptop and mp3 player) – I picked these up a few years ago before a trip to London and never regretted the purchase. While other manufacturers make sets that sell for 3-4 times as much, this Aiwa set went for $30 at the local big box retailer and while canceling cabin noise (and gate noise while waiting to board), they also allow you listen to mp3, laptops, in-flight music without having to blast the volume.
  • Zen Nano Plus MP3 player w/ Sony sports headset (yes that’s #2)
  • 1-2 AA and 1-2 AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Sprint PPC6700 – Windows Mobile 5.0 phone with capability of serving as wireless modem (car charger and room charger)
  • Motorola Bluetooth headset (#3 for the headset counters / wired headset for phone (yes! #4)
  • Various power, charging, and USB cables for connecting items – most bound together with little velco ties I buy HERE (link) – recently discovered my cell phone will recharge using the USB port on my laptop – great!!!!!

The rest of my kit isn’t particularly digital or unexpected (magazines, paper, pens, snacks), but the list above allows me to work just about anywhere I can get power and wireless access.

Portable DVD from Polaroid

I’m just a little bit amazed when a company with a very recognizable brand does something I don’t expect. Polaroid did that today. I recall the b-school cases on Polaroid and the auto-developing film technologies. Honestly, they were locked in my memory as ‘that’ company. However, I’ve been in the market for a portable DVD for some time now and my wife found what seemed to be a decent deal at Sam’s Club, the Polaroid PDM-0743 for $120 USD. I know Sam’s isn’t where you go to get the ‘best’ technology, but they do find deals and put them in front of cost conscious consumers.

So after roaming the primary players like CC and BB, I found myself at Sams looking at these little gems. For the money, you get a portable DVD player, case, and all the power adapters you’ll need to run at home and in a car. I’m planning a long driving vacation so I picked up a couple for the kids.

With a 7″ screen it’s not the largest viewing area available, but when I think of what it costs to put DVD permanently into a vehicle, this is a cheap way out. More experimenting to come, but so far it seems to handle commercial DVDs, home video put on DVD, JPG photo collections, as well as MPEG files just dumped onto a DVD from my PC (read anything I capture on my ATI All-In-Wonder card). I think having MP3 support would be nice, but I have a few spare Zen Nano’s around for that if the kids really need to listen to Kidz Bop #523.

HP Pavilion is HOT!!

Wow, the HP Pavilion laptop I bought my wife is HOT! NO really I mean it. It’s a great laptop from all public perspectives, but it runs like lava is pumping across the motherboard. I’ve long noticed the fan noise but thought little of it. The public response from HP was that it was a “desktop replacement” machine and they have fans too, right?

I shared one of the Google Video links and she watched it on her PC (zd7260us). It ran fine but when she walked away and let the site feed videos at the laptop it got hotter and hotter (not in the way you might be thinking). Eventually the laptop shut itself down. Attempting to restart it resulted in a shutdown part of the way into the Windows boot cycle. It did boot after about 5 minutes of cool down. I spent 15 minutes in an online chat with technical support and found I should upgrade the BIOS to “cool things down.” That seemed plausible, perhaps the BIOS upgrade would improve “fan/cooling” management. So I hit the special (secret) ftp site, downloaded the updated BIOS and applied it. After rebooting I found no effect.

I put a digital cooking thermometer in the direct path of air expelled by the fan and found that if this laptop sits on a flat surface doing anything graphics intensive (watching MPEGs!?!?!), the temperature RACES up to and passed 135 F.

However, if I prop the laptop up on a stack of 3M notes and allow airflow, it stays at an even 105 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s something wrong with a computer that can’t run Windows Media Player without a stack of sticky notes, but I think that’s a conversation to be had with the Geek Squad at the local Best Buy.

Wow, that laptop is hot.

Inevitable Hello World

PPC Hello WorldIt’s required. Really, I had to do it.

With a few minutes of idle time, a PPC-6700, and a copy of Visual Studio .NET, here’s what you get.

Anyone that has taken even a passing interest in programming will recognize it for what it is and what it isn’t (useful, interesting, exciting).

But as I said, it’s required and at least it was a quick way to get used to the build and install process for PocketPC applications. I’d like to think it’s the start of a grand development project, but grand development projects take ideas and a little more familiarity with the platform. I have a few ideas, but will need to take a few weeks to learn what I can and can’t do with a PocketPC and VS.