Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

Mobile working – have I cracked it?

I’m frequently out and about and on trains (usually between Guildford and London), and always try to make good use of the time. The ability to work anywhere is important to me, and I think I might have finally cracked it!

Up until recently I had been using a massive Dell Inspiron 9100, which is a great laptop as long as you don’t actually put it on your lap or try to lug it around on the tube. I have also been a faithful Palm user for many years, but trying to do anything useful on a PDA, even with a bluetooth keyboard, is painful thanks to slow & limited applications, terrible reliability issues and poor battery life.

So, I recently splashed out on a gorgeous little Sony Vaio VGN-TX2HP (see right). Not only is it perhaps the ultimate geek-girl fashion accessory (and great for starting conversations on the train!), but it is so small that it fits in my handbag, so light that it is a breeze to carry, and has a battery life that puts the energizer bunny to shame (4-7 hours!)! It comes in-and-out of standby mode really fast too, making it so convenient to use that I will often put it to sleep while changing lines on the underground and just wake it back up for another 10 mins work tube-hop.

My other problem was mobile connectivity. I was using 3G on my hopelessly slow, chunky and unreliably Nokia 6680, which not only had major issues handing over between cells causing the connection to bounce irritatingly when on the move, but was also limited to 112Kbps thanks to the bluetooth connection. Therefore I recently gave in to temptation and bought one of Vodafone’s new high speed mobile data cards. I went with their more expensive £25/mo, 250MB/mo one rather than the popular £17/mo, 2,000MB/mo T-mobile for three reasons: i) I trust Vodafone’s network more ii) Vodafone don’t filter the traffic – T-mobile block things like VOIP and even MSN apparently, & iii) Vodafone’s can do up to 1.8Mbps when the new HSDPA system is fully rolled out. I have been seriously impressed so far; I get a persistent link almost all the way from Guildford to Waterloo, and the connection speeds are truly broadband-like. Even the latency is better – I can happily use PuTTY/SSH without a painful lag.

This sort of true anywhere-connectivity gives a whole raft of new options as well. Already, all my email is stored centrally on a remote IMAP server, along with most of my critical documents, diary and so forth. I am only a few steps away from having everything important centrally stored with my laptop acting as little more then a client application terminal, and when I have managed that the days of fretting about backups will be gone. I am not alone either; we are seeing an ever increasing demand for online business applications from IMAP email to CRM solutions and centrally hosted groupware.

Anyway, you may be saying “that’s all very well, but those are not cheap toys!”, and you’d be right. However I am quite sure that they have already paid for themselves in terms of my increased productivity. Money well spent I say (and come on, they’re so cool! :P).