I Love Living in the Future

Right now I am in California (getting ready to visit the Googleplex–feel free to be jealous). Yesterday, for the first time, I flew on a flight that had in-flight Wi-Fi. The cost was reasonable ($5) and the flight was longer than I liked, so I decided to try the Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi worked fine and I had no problems using it. I love the fact that I was able to keep up with my email on the flight, so that when I landed, I didn’t have to spend the first hour after arrival playing email catch up.

While working through my email, I was able to experience the benefits first hand of going paperless and using a virtual fax service rather than an actual fax machine.

While somewhere over the great plains, I received an email from a client that I had represented two years ago. She told me that she needed me to fax something to someone related to what I had assisted her with two years ago.

Fortunately, I ran a paperless office that integrates with the cloud. This means that, from the airplane, I was able to retrive the document from Spider Oak. If I had my laptop, I would have been able to retrive it directly from my hard drive. However, I am traveling only with my iPad, therefore, I had to retrive the document from the cloud.

Finding the document was easy. Once I had the document, I had to fax it to the recipient. Because I use a virtual fax service, send this email was no different from sending an email.

Despite the fact that I was 38,000 feet in the air, in about a total of 10 minutes time, I had received the email, retrieved the requested document from a case that had been closed for two years, and had faxed it to the person my client wanted to have it.

Without technology, obviously none of this would have been possible. Because of the technology, however, I was able to handle this task quickly and efficiently, regardless of my location.

What’s in My Travel Bag?

I recently received an email from someone asking what they should include in their travel bag. Without knowing their specific situation, that is difficult for me to answer. However, I can tell you what I travel with and explain why I have what I have.

  • Computer power adapter: This is something you want to make sure you do not forget. You don’t want to get somewhere and realize that you used the last of your computer’s battery during your flight.
  • Power Strip. I have been in way too many hotel rooms that have only one or two outlets. This makes it difficult to plug in everything that you need to power or charge. Some hotels have started including power strips in their rooms. However, I still take one with me.
  • Wireless Travel Router. I actually use one made by Linksys that is no longer available. I got a great deal on it when CompUSA was closing. Many hotels offer wired only internet access. I don’t like having to be tied to the desk to access the internet. A travel router makes it easy to create your own secure wireless cloud so you are not chained to the hotel desk.
  • Network Cable. I have a short piece of cat 5 networking cable (about 6 feet) just in case the hotel does not have a cable or in case the hotel cable is not long enough.
  • USB Connector Kit. One of this pretty much guarantees that you are able to connect your computer to just about any USB device. This is just very handy to carry around. Cables to Go makes a very nice kit.
  • Keypad. I hate trying to enter numbers on a laptop keypad. Therefore I always keeps a keypad in my bag. They also make wireless versions. I just wish someone would make a bluetooth version.
  • Headphones. If you are flying, you probably want a set of noise canceling headphones. Otherwise, I always keep a set of headphones in my computer bag in case I want to listen to or watch something on my computer.
  • MP3 player. It’s always good to have some tunes available to you when you are traveling.
  • Camera. To take pictures.
  • Kindle. I love mine and wouldn’t travel without it.
  • Chargers for the rest of your devices. Make sure you take what you need to charge all of the other devices you are carrying (phone, camera, mp3 player, etc.). Fortunately, most devices can be charged via USB, if you have the right connectors. Make sure you get those and lessen the number of power cords you have to carry.

Assembling a travel bag is not something that happens overnight. It takes time (and sometimes a trip where you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I forgot to bring X.”) As I mentioned above, I picked up my travel router at a store closing sale, my wife grabbed my keypad for me at an after Thanksgiving sale for less than $5, I picked up my USB kit at a Tiger Direct sale.

The trick is to know what you want and just keep your eye open for good deals to stock your travel bag.

I am curious as to what I missed. What do you carry that I don’t. Alternatively, does anyone think I am crazy for carrying what I do?


On a positive note, I have made my first post in Sean Carter’s attempt to get people blogging regularly.

Laptop Bags

According to statistics released earlier this year, travelers lose more than 600,000 laptops a year at the largest and medium sized airports in the country. At the 36 largest airports, more than 10,000 laptops are last a per week.

This means that you need to pay close attention to your laptop when traveling through the airport and especially when going through security. One of the (many) things I hate about going through airport security is the fact that they make you take your laptop out of its case. I think that this just makes it easier for someone else to snatach your laptop.

A solution to this problem is to fly with with a checkpoint friendly laptop bag. If you travel a lot, you might want to look at this list of checkpoint friendly laptop bags. Anything you can do to make your trip through the airport faster and more secure is something you might want to consider.

Is the iPhone/iPod Touch the New Laptop?

Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed an interesting series of posts from both Dennis Kennedy and Ernie the Attorney. Dennis has posted a three part series in which he explains the process that he went through in deciding to purchase an iPod Touch as his new laptop computer.

At the same time, Ernie the Attorney was posting a series of entries about his trip to Panama during which he left his laptop at home and took only his iPhone. After his experience, he concluded:

As you recall, last week when I went to Panama I didn’t bring a computer. I mentioned that I relied heavily on my iPhone, and that I was able to do a lot of work with just that device. But, I pointed out, that the trip was for pleasure so I didn’t really need a computer. If I had been away longer, or if I had been required to do more work on the trip, I would most certainly have brought my laptop. But, for a short trip that doesn’t involve a lot of work, I can say that an iPhone works just fine. In fact, I would venture to say that the iPod Touch would work fine. My daughter had one and was able to check email and do most of the things that I did on my iPhone.

Although his phone service did not work in Panama, he was still able to make calls using his iPhone.

I thought my iPhone would be able to work on the local phone network here in Panama. It did last time I was here, but not this time. AT&T assured me it would when I checked right before I left on my trip. “”Yes sir, you’re signed up for the Intenational option at $3.99 a month,” the representative told me.

That turned out not to be true. But doesn’t matter because I have the TruPhone app for my iPhone which lets me make low cost calls using the free Wi-Fi at my brother’s beach paradise.

I found both of these series of posts quite intriguing. It certainly sounds attractive to be able to travel without a laptop and still be able to get some work done. However, I doubt that I will be traveling down either Dennis or Ernie’s path in the near future. First, as I have mentioned before, I hate iTunes, and I would be tied to it to use either product effectively. Second, with respect to the iPhone, I hate AT&T’s service (which is your only real option with an iPhone). My wife and I both have Treos. She has AT&T service, I have Verizon. Often I will have better reception than her. Also, when traveling to the less populated areas of the country (where we have family), she often has no reception, while my phone works just fine.

Nevertheless, if you are considering trying to lighten your load while traveling, check out these posts from Ernie and Dennis and consider leaving the laptop at home.

Eating While Traveling in Oregon

Recently I spent some time the Pacific Northwest. We spent time in Portland and Astoria Oregon as well as Ocean Shores, Washington. I love this area and always enjoy visiting. While in Portland, I found the best doughnuts that I have ever eaten at  VooDoo Doughnut. The doughnut shop is a little hole in the wall shop next to an adult theater. However, the doughnuts are absolutely to die for.

Triple Chocolate PenetrationI had a Triple Chocolate Penetration, which was a chocolate cake doughnut (picture the taste and texture of a cake, not a typical cake doughnut). The doughnut was topped with a delicous chocolate frosting and then covered in Cocoa Puffs. I also had a dirt doughnut, which was a raised doughnut covered in vanilla glaze and covered in Oreo cookies.Multnomah Falls

If you ever visit Portland, I cannot suggest highly enough that you stop at VooDoo Doughnut to pick up some doughnuts. We were there at about 9 am on a Sunday morning and the line was out the door.

The best meal that we had in Portland was at the Multnomah Falls Lodge. I particularly enjoyed the French Onion Soup (topped with swiss cheese). My wife loved the Salmon Salad Croissant. The bonus is that this restaurant not only has great food, but that it also has beautiful views. The falls here is absolutely beautiful. Plus, there are great views of the Columbia River. Further, if you are so inclined, you can hike to the top of the falls for a view from 600 feet up.

Also in Portland, we tried the Brazil Grill. I wasn’t crazy about the Brazilian steakhouse mehtod of serving. I think I prefer choosing my meat and how it is cooked. However, they had the best roasted cinnamon  pineapple. It had just the right amount of cinnamon and was roasted perfectly. I will definately have to try this dish at home.

Another great dining experience that we had was in Astoria, at the Bridgewater Bistro. My wife had the dungeness crab savory cheesecake, which she swore was delicous. I had a fantastic prime rib. If you ever happen to find yourself in Astoria (a Goonies convention, perhaps), I recommend that you try the Bridgewater Bistro. I recommend that you make reservation, however. We were there on a Monday night, and were lucky to get a table.

Using TripIt

I have written before about TripIt. TripIt is a travel organization website that allows you to forward your reservation confirmations to the website and it automatically builds a travel itinerary for you. When I wrote about TripIt before, I had not yet tried it.

I am currently traveling in the Pacific Northwest right now and have used TripIt to organize my trips. After trying it out, I admit that I love it.

Adding reservations is a piece of cake. You simply forward them to plans@tripit.com. You assign them to a trip on the website and your trip is automatically populated with the reservation information as well as information such as weather, maps, and directions.

Also, they have great customer service. I made reservations with a regional hotel chain as well as a single hotel. TripIt could not automatically interpret the reservation information. This means that I had to enter the information manually (not really an onerous task). Given that I might stay with either hotel in the future, however, I submitted a request to TripIt for them to add these reservations to their programming.

I received a personal response from someone at TripIt who asked me to resubmit the reservation email and copy her on it. After doing so, I received a second email from her telling me that TripIt has parsed the information from my emails and added them to my trip.

Additionally, I can easily access TripIt via the web browser on my telephone. Plus, I can send an email to TripIt and the service will email my trip to me. This is very convienant while traveling.

In sum, this is a great service, that is easy to use, and is staffed by friendly, helpful people. What is not to like? I will be using TripIt for any future trips.

Crossing Borders with your Laptop

The fact that agents can search your computer when you cross international borders presents special problems for attorneys, given that our computers likely contain information we are ethically bound to keep confidential. If you are considering international travel with your laptop, I recommend that you check out Bruce Schneier’s column on crossing boarders with your laptop.

Bruce’s advice for your best defense:

So your best defence is to clean up your laptop. A customs agent can’t read what you don’t have. You don’t need five years’ worth of email and client data. You don’t need your old love letters and those photos (you know the ones I’m talking about). Delete everything you don’t absolutely need. And use a secure file erasure program to do it. While you’re at it, delete your browser’s cookies, cache and browsing history. It’s nobody’s business what websites you’ve visited. And turn your computer off – don’t just put it to sleep – before you go through customs; that deletes other things. Think of all this as the last thing to do before you stow your electronic devices for landing. Some companies now give their employees forensically clean laptops for travel, and have them download any sensitive data over a virtual private network once they’ve entered the country. They send any work back the same way, and delete everything again before crossing the border to go home. This is a good idea if you can do it.

I urge you to check out his entire post. Also remember that they can search your phone/PDA in the same way that they can search your laptop.

Travel: St. Louis Westin

I recently traveled to St. Louis and stayed in the Westin that is across the street from Busch Stadium. Apart from Seattle’s Hotel 1000, which I loved, this has to be one of my favorite hotels. It is conveniently located across from the stadium and has easy access to the highway. Plus, the amenities are great.

View from St. Louis WestinThe shower was beautifully appointed and contained two showerheads. The bed was very comfortable and I had a great view (as you can see in from the picture).

Additionally, this a fine hotel to be able to work from. The desk was more spacious than most and provided easy access to electrical outlets. Further, although the hotel provides wired internet access for a fee, the rooms also had wireless internet access. The WiFi had very good signal strength and worked just fine without having to pay for wired access.

Self parking is available in an open lot next to the hotel. Valet service is also available. I saw on a travel site where people were complaining about the cost of self parking. The cost is $17 and is added to your hotel bill. I don’t find that amount unreasonable. It is certainly less than what I pay in Chicago and is in line with what I have paid in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Seattle.

All in all, if you are visiting St. Louis, I would recommend the Westin as a very nice place to stay.

Kickin’ it in Tennessee

Kickback KottageI agree with the Greatest American Lawyer about the Power of a Good Vacation. Taking GAL’s words to heart, the family and I are spending the week in Tennessee at the Kickback Kottage. The cabin is very nice and has several amenities, including a hot tub and, most importantly, high speed internet access. The high speed access means that I can spend 30 minutes or so in the morning while the others are rising or in the evening after they go to bed to check my email.

Being able to check my email as I go along means that I can assign tasks to my assistant to handle while I am gone, or create a task list for items to deal with when I return. One of the hallmarks of leveraging technology is being able to work where ever I am. This does not mean that I want to work all of the time. Instead, it means that I want to be able to leave the office and do so without worrying that things are falling apart.

This is just another example of how technology can free you from the office and still allow you to effectively practice law.

Use TripIt to Organize Your Travel

When I schedule trips, I often end up with reservation confirmations from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies. I then have to put all of that information together to keep track of when I am supposed to be and how I am getting there.

TripIt is a website that offers you a way to organize your travel plans. You simply forward your reservation emails to your account at TripIt and TripIt automatically organizes your travel plans. In organizing your plan, TripIt also automatically adds common maps that people use. Additionally, TripIt shows you typical weather based upon historical patterns. It also includes a cool feature to give you one button access to flight check in and flight status on your airline’s website.

As long as you don’t mind uploading your travel information to the website, TripIt looks like a useful tool for traveling.