Inspired by Mitchell Oke at Gear Diary (a great source of mobile technology news), here is the contents of my own Gear Bag. My “daily” compact mobile kit packs into a 25cm-wide mens grooming kit and weighs just 1.5 kilos, fully loaded. The waterproof compartments help protect my gear from weather and spills, and the hanging hook (usually used to hang the bag from a shower stall or shower head) allow me to hang the bag next to me wherever I’m working, with easy access to everything inside.
This “compact kit” can be extended by popping it in the front pocket of my laptop bag for when I need more power and screen real estate for graphics, design, or development applications; but otherwise, this kit can do the majority of the specialised tasks I need each day – document authoring and editing, web server administration, and correspondence – as well as a full range of peripheral tasks – GPS navigation, internet access and research, stereo music playback, and audio, video and photographic capture.
1. Nokia 6110 Navigator SmartPhone/GPS (works with Bluetooth Folding Keyboard)
I can use my 3.5G (HSDPA) phone to remotely log in to the (Linux) servers I
administrate without any additional hardware or wireless connectivity.
Combined with my Bluetooth Wireless keyboard, I can do with my mobile
phone almost everything I can do with the desktop version of Putty, and
almost as fast. Actually, it’s probably the best phone I’ve owned for years… and I’ve been through 11 premium models over the last 11 years of continuous mobile phone ownership. The phone has built-in GPS navigation, so I can use it to geotag (add location information to) any photo I take with it. It has the fastest processor of any current Nokia phone (even faster than the N95′s) and a terrific screen.
2. Spare Phone Battery, and SD-Card Family Memory Cards and Adapters
I have an extra battery for my phone, as well as a 2GB memory card inside. On the right of the phone are the range of memory cards and adapters I use – from top to bottom ,these are: microSD-SD adapter, MiniSD-SD adapter, MiniSD card, MicroSD-MiniSD adapter, and MicroSD card.
3. HP RW6828 PDA/Smartphone (works with Bluetooth Folding Keyboard)
For additional capability, I’m using a Hewlett-Packard RW6828 smartphone running Windows Mobile 5. It has Wi-Fi access so I can tap into any wireless hotspots, Bluetooth to connect to my phone, laptop, or any PC I plug my Bluetooth dongle into, and can also be used with my phone’s SIM card for telephony and/or data connectivity.
I can use this device to edit Microsoft Office documents, provide basic
editing to images, input data into custom databases, and log into
servers using shell or GUI access. Using the same wireless Bluetooth
keyboard I use for my phone, data entry is fast and easy.
4. Bluetooth Stereo Headset and Charger, Wired Stereo Headset, and Tape
The largest item in my mobile kit is my pair of wireless Bluetooth
headphones and their charger (top right). These headphones connect with
all of my mobile devices – phone, PDA and laptop – to allow me to
listen to audio discreetly, and have built-in controls so I can control
my music (volume, play/pause and next/last track) using the headset
itself. Unfortunately, unlike my phone and PDA (which can be charged using standard USB cables), my headphones need their own charger… one day I’ll probably upgrade these to a version that’s more flexible, but
they’re doing a good job for the time being.
The in-ear headset in the bottom right of this image can connect with
either my phone or my PDA/Smartphone to allow me to use either device
as a hands-free phone, or to listen to audio with stereo sound.
The small roll of tape is invaluable. I use tape to temporarily bind
cables when I’m out of elastic bands; to stick tiny memory cards to
other larger things so they don’t get lost; to do minor repairs… it’s
a lifesaver. Probably comes from my many years in theatre, where Gaffer
Tape is used for just about everything… but on a rather smaller
5. Bluetooth 2.0 Dongle and USB Memory Key
I carry a USB 2.0 Bluetooth dongle to enable me to connect wirelessly
to any desktop PC I might use. My laptop, PDA and mobile phoneare all
Bluetooth-capable, so ensuring my desktop environment is able to
connect to these is worth carrying this tiny device.
I also carry a memory stick for quickly saving files or data for later
use, and for carrying work in progress. I’d rather not have to plug in
my PDA or Bluetooth a file to my mobile phone when I could just plug
and save. Sadly, this memory stick is getting a little old (only 256MB!) and is next on my list of equipment to upgrade. It’s been a faithful and reliable work tool for quite a few years, but I have my eye on a new 8GB model…
6. USB Cables and USB Car Power Adapter
I carry two USB cables with me; these allow me to connect two peripherals to my laptop or desktop PC (choose between phone, PDA, and
digital notepad) and can also be plugged into the car adapter (in the
middle) to charge my PDA battery. Not pictured here is my the car
charger for my phone which is, as I type, plugged in in the car. It’s
necessary to power the phone when I’m using it as a GPS, as having the
screen continuously illuminated chews through the phone’s battery.
7. CD of Essential Software and Drivers
This may not look very glamourous, but digital mobility often means being able to take advantage of whatever computing devices are at hand. This includes other computers I might happen to use around my various work locations, or computers at Internet Kiosks, for example. I carry up-to-date versions of all of the software I need to work efficiently from any PC (assuming a Windows-based operating system is installed, and nothing else), as well as any drivers I need to connect a new PC with my various mobile devices.
Here’s a comparison of my laptop bag and my mobile kit. Most mobile
professionals would take something the size and weight of the bag on
the left around with them on a daily basis. I am able to do just about
everything I need to using the kit on the right, which is small enough
to fit into the spare space in the front pocket of the laptop bag (next
to the mouse and power cord for the laptop, and all my pens and paraphenalia that are also in there) and weighs just just 1.5kg, total. Each square on the mat in the image on the right is 2cm wide.
So… what’s in the Laptop Bag?
Just a couple of extra devices: but both are too big to go in the compact case.
My laptop is terrific. It’s probably average size and weight, but
it features a built-in SD Card slot so I can copy files to and from
memory cards (for my phone, camera, PDA, and digital notepad) without
the need for an external reader. It also has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. I can have it going for about 2.5 hours with the screen on full brightness and wireless and Bluetooth going before it conks out.
The digital notepad on the right allows me to take handwritten notes, and makes a digital copy of everything I write and draw. When connected to a PC, I can instantly email a digital copy of my notes to others, and convert
my notes to typed text using the handwriting recognition software. It’s
cheap and light, so I don’t have to haul a tablet PC around to do this
simple task. Files are saved to SD Card – compatible with my laptop’s
internal reader. This tablet also doubles as a basic digitizing tablet. At home and at work I have dedicated Wacom graphics tablets, but this is a nice convenience when out and about…
Also in the laptop bag are pens, business cards, tissues, a mouse for the laptop, the laptop’s power cable, and a webcam (maybe I’ll have one built into my next laptop). Sometimes I carry a sketching kit in the bag for when I have a spare moment (I tend to prefer to listen to music, draw or compose poetry rather than playing computer games, although I have some extra games on my PDA and mobile phone too).
There you have it! The contents of my road warrior’s mobility kit…
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