Rick Hurst Web Developer in Bristol, UK


Category: wifi

on the road

mobile office

I’m not sure where I read it, but I remember someone remarking that the term “Road Warrior”, was dreamed up by marketing bods to make sales reps feel that there is something glamorous about a lifestyle involving being holed up in a travel lodge in a different place each night, working on a spreadsheet on their laptop. I don’t quite fall into that category, but I am working in a few different places (albeit mostly a skateboard/bike/car journey away from home). I’m doing all of this on a laptop (lovely black macbook) – and even when working at home, I don’t have a desktop machine anymore, preferring just to plug my macbook into a mouse/keyboard/monitor, rather than consider having a dedicated desktop machine.

I’m trying to avoid gushing about the macbook, but it has so far proved to be a massive step up from my 12″ powerbook. The powerbook was great too, but I quickly went out and replaced it when I struggled to use it on a day to day basis in a freelance situation – where I would turn up at a clients site and be expected to get straight down to working all day, without the luxury of plugging it into external peripherals (other than a mouse), and often not being able to get access to other machines for testing in IE etc. My hands would “fall off” the sides of the keyboard, the screen resolution was too low, it was slow, and it was just useless trying to use virtual PC to do testing in multiple versions of IE. So the powerbook will now hopefully see a few more years service as a more than adequate general home living room email, web, word processor, print server and music/ video jukebox machine.

The macbook, with 2gb of ram and a copy of windows XP running in a VM using parallels in coherence mode, has (touch wood) improved the situation massively. The screen resolution is adequate, speed is significantly better, the keyboard is lovely (I actually prefer it to an external keyboard – the “spaced out keys” seem to suit my clumsy typing style) and it has a solid, sleek feel to it. I know some people see them as expensive, but even with the highest spec model it is still under a grand, which makes it cost effective in my eyes, as I hope/expect to get a few years out of it. Parallels is excellent – although I struggled with it before I upgraded my RAM from 1gb to 2gb, it now runs really well and I have it open most of the time, with multiple versions of IE and other windows apps just a click away and opening almost seamlessly, but otherwise working within OSX.

I’m also chuffed to find out that the macbook has wifi reception in the apparent wifi “deadspot” in my garden, where my powerbook wouldn’t find my network. I’d been out and bought a wifi range extender to resolve this, but haven’t yet set it up, and probably won’t need to now. I’d heard before that the aluminium case on powerbooks inhibits the wifi reception, which might explain this.

i’ve also inherited a PDA phone – a T-mobile Vario II (pocket PC with 3G, wifi and slide out QWERTY keyboard). These have a reputation for being flaky, but it has been reliable for me so far, and incredibly useful – terminal services has come in handy for restarting services on one of my windows servers when I can’t access any other way, and I have pocket putty on there in case I need to ssh into a server (haven’t needed to yet other than to try it out). The pop email client works well with gmail, although i’ve disabled it for the time being due to the high volume of email I get. I installed the missing sync software on the mac and syncing works fine, and it is working as a bluetooth modem for the mac after installing a 3rd party modem script.

rick hurst and his geek phone

My main gripes with the Vario would be battery life (less than a day if you are using a lot of the features like wifi), and a bit of fiddliness – I often have to get the stylus out to find a contact and make a phone call. It’s also a bit bulky and no iPhone in the looks department. Also I haven’t fully figured out the wifi – it seems to randomly try to connect to any available network when switched on, not what I want. Other times (seemingly random) it gives me a list of options via a notification, but not necessarily the options I want). When connected seems to work fine (other than the aforementioned battery guzzling) – good with skype etc.

archived comments

Interestign writeup. I’ve just ordered the 12″ to replace my powerbook. Just had a worrying thought that I hadn’t specified the glossy screen.. but I see it’s not listed as an option so am assuming (hoping) it’s standard spec.

Looking forward to be able to test on one machine too! 😉

Nik 2007-09-03 20:06:44

He He i’m guessing yopu meant 13 3/4 ” – good choice though 🙂

Rick 2007-09-03 20:15:50

Listen to you lot, you buy a mac only to run a virtual XP install. You should have saved yourself the bother and bought an XPS M1330 😉

Steve 2007-10-19 15:25:03

traffic jam on the street net and goodbye adsense

This morning I had a fantastic coffee but frustratingly slow wifi experience in Boston Tea Party, connected via street net – it went from fast to slow to standstill, although the signal was fine. Someone downloading a series of 24 across the road in starbucks maybe?

I was trying to get rid of the google ads on this site – i’m getting over a thousand page hits a month but have only earned myself $8 since I added them months ago – I can’t even cash that in until i’ve earned $100 so it’s just not worth selling my soul for…

The wonders of long battery life

I always go on (and on…) about how I chose a 12″ powerbook because it was really portable and had decent battery life. Thinking about it, it isn’t that much more portable than a bigger powerbook or macbook, but it has better battery life than those with bigger screens. Now that I have a new battery in here I have to gush about how nice it is to have really useable battery life. Last night I watched a film (well a long TV episode) on battery power, listened to about an hour of radio paradise over wifi, and then here I am this morning, blogging, surfing and doing some web development and still have a third of my battery left. All this time i’ve had wifi on, screen at full brightness and about 10 applications open.

archived comments

Battery life for every piece of mobile equipment I have is awful. I should get myself a decent piece of kit.

Jim Toe 2008-06-17 14:26:40

Set your own life time more easy get the business loans and all you want.

KathrynJuarez28 2011-08-07 23:57:35

security on public wifi

web bug

After attending the excellent recent Skillswap on security by Oliver Humpage at the Watershed in Bristol, I am feeling more paranoid than ever about security on public wifi. We are all being encouraged to use wifi and work from wherever you want, but little advice is given about how to avoid transmitting your unencrypted usernames and passwords over the network.

By default the average user will not be using any encryption – virtually everyone using ordinary email (i.e. using a desktop mail client) transmits their username and password when they check their mail. During the presentation Oliver demonstrated how applications such as dsniff can be used to sit and gather unencrypted data on a wifi network – this is not difficult to do.

Being already paranoid, I tend to use a web proxy over ssh to surf on public wifi, but I have a whole load of other applications running -IM, skype etc that I suspect also transmit unencrypted data that needs securing, which may or may not be tricky to do over ssh. Apparently a VPN is the way to go.

plone conference 2006 seattle

space needle

i’m two days into plone conference 2006 and it has all been a bit of a whirlwind so far. I’m eight hours behind UK time and travelled 26 hours to get here after missing our connecting flight in houston, thanks to some helpful individual at passport control who wouldn’t let us jump the queue.

so far we haven’t ventured much further than three or four blocks away from the venue, but luckily there are ample bars and restaurants close by. The hotel has good wifi, the conference venue wifi has been intermittent but seems to be improving. I’ve been too busy to blog much, but I have uploaded one or two photos to flicker.

The conference itself has been interesting and the keynote this morning has given me a clearer understanding of where plone is at the moment and where it is going. I was also pleased to note that I am not alone in having trouble with migrations between version and at least it is a recognised issue and much thought and effort is going into a solution, and that solution involves being able to dump a sites content into an intermediate format that can be used to populate a new site, thus giving me a way to get my content where I can see it, rather than hidden in zodb/zexp voodoo.

Caffe Nero (the one directly next to Caffe Gusto)

Today I find myself in Caffe Nero on the triangle. I’d always discounted it before because I didn’t realise it had an upstairs bit and I didn’t like the idea of using my laptop downstairs with people queing for coffee looking over my shoulder. I’m presented with three possible wifi connections – StreetNet, SurfandSip and Caffe Gusto next door. I couldn’t get connected to surfandsip (and I think it’s a paid service anyway?), Streetnet seems a reasonable signal, and Caffe Gusto is weak but useable (a bit cheeky too considering, but it’s nice not to have to fill out the survey that you do with StreetNet)

Park street wifi breakfast tour – revisiting Boston Tea Party

I went back to Boston Tea Party today, mainly because i wanted to try Goldbrick House, but it wasn’t open at 8.30am (I checked back later, it opens at 9 – a bit late for pre-work coffee. The girl in there said she thought they had wifi for customer use – not sure whether it was streetnet or their own).

Anyway, I decided to see how reliable StreetNet is if I threw caution to the wind and didn’t tunnel everything through ssh. Seems it’s fine – maybe I confused it before by validating normally, then reverting back to ssh tunnelling..

It’s back on my list – nice latte, nice Ikea Poang chair to sit in upstairs by the window 🙂

Things to do in Seattle

As I mentioned before a few of us from netsight are going to Plone Conference 2006 in Seattle. Besides actually attending the conference i’ve been reading up on other things to check out while i’m there. I plan to visit a few of these coffee shops with wifi and i’ve also just read that the blog business summit is also on at the same time – maybe there could be a bit of cross-fertilisation there as many of the plone bloggers will be at Plone conf?

9 minutes

I now get just 9 minutes per charge on my powerbook battery, and today i’ve forgotten to bring my power adaptor out with me. I’m blogging this in caffe gusto with the screen very dim! Just enough time to check me email I hope, before it goes to sleep and I have to stare out of the window for a while (I should have agreed to take a copy of the metro off the insistent vendor today for once).

coconut battery app dialogue showing just 8% capacity