Traveling Without A Computer

Heh heh. OK, that was a teaser title. Of course, I would never go anywhere without a computer; my days of being ABEND are long over. My normal routine is to take my MacBook Pro and associated equipment with me in a backpack. The MacBook essentially mirrors my main iMac machine so I can do anything on the road that I can do at home. Still, flying with the laptop is a hassle. I use the excellent SwissGear ScanSmart Backpack so at least I don't have to take the computer out of the backpack but it's still one more thing to deal with at the TSA checkpoints.

Last week, I was in New York visiting family. I decided to try leaving the MacBook at home and depending on my iPad instead. Naturally that precluded any development or serious writing but this was a family visit so, realistically, I wouldn't be doing much of either. I could have tried depending on my iPhone and avoiding large computers altogether but I wanted to keep up with blogs and news and it's just too painful to read that sort of thing on the iPhone's small screen.

Traveling with the iPad is definitely easier. I have a small case for it and the only support equipment it requires is the charging cable. I always travel with the wonderful Scottevest Travel Vest which, with its 22 pockets, has plenty of room for the cable, my iPhone, keys, and all the other stuff I would normally throw in the backpack. When I got to the checkpoint, my shoes and iPad went into a bin and I put the travel vest on top. Just one bin and the iPad is effectively hidden from anyone tempted to get a free computer as they come out of the X-ray machine.

As I've mentioned before, I keep up with my feeds with Reeder, which has a very nice and easy to use iPad implementation so it was easy staying current with blogs and news. The iPad has a nice email client that I use for my main email inbox. Mail from mailing lists and things like that go to a gmail account and gmail on the iPad is so good that I prefer to read gmail on the iPad even when I'm home.

The only other thing I needed to do was to manage my blog. I queued up a couple of posts so I didn't have to worry about writing any entries while I was on the road (I do all that in Emacs anyway so the iPad is not a place to write posts). I was able to moderate forum spam and respond to legitimate comments easily.

Touch typing just isn't going to happen on the iPad, but I can do a bit better than hunt and peck on the virtual keyboard so responding to emails and blog comments was relatively painless. I suppose I could get a portable keyboard to use with the iPad but, honestly, I don't feel the need. For the little amount of typing I do on it, the virtual keyboard is fine.

All in all the experiment was a success. Traveling with the iPad was easier than bringing along the MacBook. The few chores I needed to perform were easily handled on the iPad so I didn't miss having the MacBook. And as a bonus, I didn't have to carry a book to read on the plane—I just fired up iBooks and enjoyed an ebook.

Update: Over at IT World Brian Proffitt has a post on using (only) an iPad for 7 days.

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