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On The Road (What's In My Bag)

I've got out of town relatives visiting. Their teenage daughter does instant messaging for hours every night, so I set up a Linspire computer for her to use. After a few hours, she told me she likes Linspire because our IM software has advanced features like tabs and she's got a LOT of buddies. Her parents asked me where they could get an affordable IM computer for her and I told them to buy a Koobox. For less than $500, purchasers get a desktop with a flat panel monitor, and it includes ALL the standard software they might use. Best of all, it's powered by Linspire, so they are less likely to have viruses and popups issues. It's a great buy that even eMachines can't beat.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit much with my extended family, since I'm heading out for some business travel. I thought I'd share with you some of my travel tips which help me keep my sanity.

I travel light. I've got a two bag policy: one roller bag and one computer/reading bag. I keep them small to avoid checking them which speeds the check-in and check-out process. There's nothing worse than spending a long day traveling, only to wait forever for your bag to tumble out last on the conveyor belt. With only carry-on bags, you'll be off the plane and headed for the bus, car or taxi in a snap.

Stay organized with IMAP email on Linspire
One of the hardest parts of traveling is keeping in touch with the business, and for me that means email. Email is my lifeline so I carry a Treo and use Versamail software. This permits me to check my email from virtually anywhere in the modern world. The keyboard is a bit tiny, but still usable. Best of all, I can view all of my mail folders, move messages and delete messages. Then, when I am back in front of my computer, all the messages are nicely organized. There's no duplication of effort. This is made possible because Linspire email software and Versamail both support IMAP, a type of email system that keeps all of your email and folders on the server. I can use a web terminal at a conference, my Trio, or my computer to interact with all my email, nicely categorizing it all, and it's remarkably fast. I never have the situation where my email is downloaded to just one device (and I can't remember which one). Everything is auto-synchronized. IMAP is the future of email because multiple devices can all access the same mail.

Put Linspire on your laptop computer
I travel with an IBM x30 laptop running Linspire 4.5 with Laptop Features, which supports sleep. This durable 3 lb. computer slips into my bag and allows me to do business computing on planes, in hotel rooms or take notes in meetings. Battery life is critical and since I don't want to carry an extra battery, there are a few tricks that I use to extend battery life for almost an entire cross-country trip. First, I dim the screen since that sucks the most energy. Usually there are some buttons on the keyboard that will do this. Second, I turn off WiFi so it's not expending energy, unnecessarily seeking a WiFi point. The Linspire suite (based on Mozilla) has a terrific feature which makes it possible to work on all my email even from 30,000 feet in the air with no net connectivity. Before leaving, I select "offline" from the file menu, which then initiates a download and stores all my messages or open web pages locally. I can then view the messages and pages with no net connectivity. Any replies or new messages I create are queued up, and the next time I'm on the 'Net, all the messages are auto-sent.

Listen to all of your music from your PC with Lsongs
Normally while I'm doing email, I'm playing music with headphones plugged into the laptop. I've got a few gigabytes of music in Lsongs, with playlists matching whatever mood I'm in. One click and I've got 2 hours of uninterrupted music. Music always makes me feel closer to home, even when I'm stuck in a middle seat on an extended trip. The headphones are the nifty Sony MDR-NC5. They fold up nicely when not in use and have good sound and built-in noise cancellation, which blocks out much of the jet noise, so I can almost forget I'm traveling.

When I'm tired of working and need to unwind, I choose a movie or TV show to play on my laptop. Before I leave on my trip I use my home network and run DVarchive software. This software lets me move video programs from my ReplayTV (a Tivo-like PVR connected to my TV) to my laptop. The shows play well in the DVD Player and the arrow keys skip 1 minute commercial chunks if necessary which is a nice touch. Half hour shows in mpeg 1 format use about 400MBs at the low quality level. I usually have about 20 hours, which takes about 16 GB of my 40 GB hard drive.

Send and receive free calls with PhoneGaim
I avoid hotel phones since they're outrageously expensive. Instead, I turn to my laptop running PhoneGaim and make calls over WiFi which most hotels now support. (I also carry an extra long Ethernet cable, in case the room only has wired connectivity.) Linspire employees are standardizing on PhoneGaim so I can speak with anyone in the company (even in our Mexico office) absolutely free with a single mouse click, from within the Instant Messenger program. The quality is phenomenal. Sometimes I carry a handset which plugs into the laptop and creates a very phone-like experience. PhoneGaim can also call regular phone numbers, so I can dial anywhere in the world for just pennies a minute. If I'm on the go, then I use my Treo to make calls. I'm fond of the Jabra wireless headset. This unit sits discretely on my ear and connects to the phone wirelessly using Bluetooth technology, so I can make calls with no wires getting in the way.

Those are some of the travel tips I use to keep my sanity when I travel. I hope you find them helpful. If you've got tips, let me hear them.

-- Michael
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