I’ve been on a holiday of sorts for the last few days. And as any self-respecting travelling tech geek knows, this means allocating at least 50% of your total available baggage allowance on an assortments of devices, cables, chargers, adaptors and other such thingamajigs.
Not that we will ever use even a fraction of them. But who knows when we might have to connect a device made for Switzerland into a socket based in Uruguay? The travelling geek simply cannot afford to take a chance.
Three’s company: It makes sense to carry your phone, laptop and tablet.
There is also the fact that most techie types build in tremendous redundancy into their travelling menagerie of devices. So your primary communication device is a phone, your primary computing device a laptop and your primary reading device a Kindle. And because one never wants to clutter one’s iPhone with distractions, the primary music storage and listening device is an iPod of some kind.
But what if you’re stranded somewhere without a power socket? (The skin crawls at the thought of no Wi-Fi. But the merest hint of socket-lessness makes the heart fail.)
So you carry a book as a backup for the Kindle. And what if the laptop fails? Discreetly secreted away into a compartment in your wallet is a USB drive containing your essential archive: scans of all important documents, the manuscript for your forthcoming best-seller, a copy of The Matrix, and an extensive collection of Olivia Wilde pictures. Preferably from that Tron movie where her costumes are...snug.
Carrying a backup mobile phone might seem too obsessive, even for Apple owners. But I admit I have seen some people do it (OK, fine, I’ve done it once or twice).
Over the years, I’ve developed a rather sophisticated equation, if you will, for packing gadgets. First of all, you need your base device—the thing that you will plug into the wall socket to charge. Which will then power up everything else. In my case, this is usually a laptop, and hopefully one with plenty of vacant USB ports. And then you need at least two wires: an iPod/iPhone cable and a micro-USB cable. This set-up should suffice to charge most devices. If I am travelling on work and need to carry audio recorders and cameras as well, then I carry one of those multi-USB ports-cum-card readers that I can plug into my laptop.
But of late this well-established system has been shaken somewhat by the arrival of an iPad into the household.
What do I with this device then?
Now, most people will tell you that the geek on the move only needs two “screens”, a small one, your phone, and a large one, your laptop. There is no obvious reason why you might want to carry a third one—your tablet (a Kindle doesn’t really count).
In fact, there are probably a couple of sound reasons why you shouldn’t. A tablet is just one more device to charge. And what can you possibly achieve on a tablet that you can’t between a phone and a decent laptop? And even when it comes to ease of transport, many new laptops like the Macbook Air or one of those slim Asus beauties hardly take up more space than a tablet.
However, I’ve been travelling this last weekend with all “three screens” and I am beginning to see why it might make sense.
One of the things I’ve been trying to squeeze into my holiday is a quick review of a rather long manuscript. On a whim, just before leaving, I uploaded a PDF on to my iPad and then bought a Griffin iPad stylus. The idea was to see how useful an iPad would be for proofreading. Something that, even in the 21st century, is best done with a thick printout of dead trees in your hands. There is nothing as satisfying as pillaging a printed manuscript with a pen in hand, patience and a six-pack of Red Bull.
Would an iPad satisfy? I can tell you that I am really impressed. I’ve been using two apps for annotating PDFs and both impress in slightly different ways.
GoodReader, I am told, is popular with corporate users, who use it for messaging, document management and collaboration. I found it a nice, clean app for annotating PDFs, with a minimal, non-intrusive interface. You can use a finger or a stylus to write on to the screen.
iAnnotate is slightly better for longer documents, even if the interface is less polished. This is because it allows you to rest your wrist on the screen without reading that as input.
My proofreading productivity is quite exceptional with the iPad, and I have a feeling that over time I will find even more reasons to make this the third screen in my luggage when I travel.
Also, have you seen Olivia Wilde on an iPad 2? Magical.
Write to Sidin at email@example.com