Size doesn't matter : The 12-inch mobile office.

Since we are doing some home renovation over at Casa del Knightwise for the moment, living space is at a premium. While our downstairs looks like its been raided by a group of angry drunken Constructicons, both @Niejana and I need to “flee” to my upstairs office to spend our evenings watching tv and doing stuff. The otherwise pristine (and organised) room is now packed with boxes, our tv, a couch, @Niejana’s desktop , 2 doggies and a cat. Needless to say : Space is scarce. That requirement comes at a convenient time, since I’ve just shrunk down my “Digital survival kit” to the size of a 12 inch messenger bag. Bigger is better ? Not always, let me show you.

What do I need : In order to digitally survive this era of grime and dust I need a mobile setup that allows me to do the three crucial things : Communicate , Consume media and compose content. An added “required factor” is that the setup has to be completely mobile and fit inside a bag that can be carried around ANYWHERE leisurely without yelling “This is a laptop bag, mug me now”

Setup

Bag : Finding the right bag is an art. Call me metro-sexual or just someone with a right balance between appreciating both practicality and esthetics : Finding the right bag is crucial. The trick is to find the sweet spot between ” Too small” Where you cannot get all the gear you want into the bag OR damadge your gear by cramming it in. Samsonite’s 12 inch horizontally slung messenger bag is ideal for this operation. It has all the compartments you need and comes with extra padding and a safety latch to keep whatever you need tucked in safely. With the “Horizontal” orientation the weight is distributed equally so the strap doesn’t wear into your shoulder. The extra “Handles” make it easy to grab and sling anywhere you need to while the whole formfactor is just big enough to encompass anything, but small enough to be casual and unobtrusive. 

Laptop : My newly purchased 11.6 inch Macbook Air is a dream here. Dual booting into both Linux and OSX the device offers me the 2 platforms that I need in my daily routines. OSX for content production, Ubuntu for advance geek stuff. The 128 gig SSD might be small but with the addition of cloud storage AND using storage on my home server over SSH connections, disk space is not THAT important. The Air is delightfully light, well built and has a great screen. It lacks the “Hussle” of consiously ” getting out your laptop”. With the size of an A4 piece of paper (or an iPad) it just pops on the table, gets the job done and slides back in the bag when i’m done. 

Phone :  The pinnacle of communications here is my smartphone. The 16Gig iPhone 4 might not be the top of the line model, but it does preform the tasks it needs to do. With the Hootsuite and the Google+ app most of my social media channels are covered. I’m tied in to my multiple email and calendar accounts via the mail app. Aside from the music, Downcast takes care of my podcast subscriptions and the Webbased interface of Google Reader together with the Buffer and the WordPress app let me do most daily chores for the website. Crucial here is the presence of headphones (so I can “Zone Out” anywhere) and the “Hotspot” functionality turns it into a crucial component to “connect” the entire setup while on the road.

Tablet : The Google Nexus 7 proves to be invaluable when it comes to this “Compact but Crispy” setup. It’s 7 inch size and relatively long battery size help me get through the day with ease. Reading books, Doing my “communications” on a bigger screen and watching the downloaded Video Podcasts are just cut out for the Nexus. An extra “slide right in” protection sleeve and the vertical orientation of the tablet in the bag, make it great to “grab and check” your device in a tricorder style. The only downside is the smaller ‘diskspace’ (8 gig) and the absence of 3G. But the latter is easily overcome by using my iPhone as a hotspot.

Cables and chargers : The trick here is to have the smallest amount of cables with you, while still covering all the bases.

  • Macbook air Charger (with just the plug connector, not the long cable)
  • Apple iPhone/iPad cable : Used to charge the iPhone using the Macbooks usb port.
  • Usb Microsim cable : Used to charge the Nexus (from the Macbooks usb port.)
  • Usb charger : Small usb charging plug to wallcharge the iPhone / Nexus 
  • 16 gig Usb stick : Small and compact but packing 5 extra “Live” linux Cd’s to have any OS I want at my portable disposal.
  • iPhone Tripod : A little tripod to make sure I can use my iPhone as a one man camera crew in a pinch.
  • In the car : The trick of such a compact setup is to make sure you have some “extra’s” nearby. So in the car I have a small bag with a longer powercord, a Usb to Ethernet adapter, a network cable and an iPhone / iPad charger just in case.
 
So where is the iPad : To be honest, my 64 gig iPad ALSO fits into this bag (it adds another layer of protection to the Macbook) but altough its filled with Tv shows and content I like to watch, my iPad is becoming more and more “domesticated” Getting its fair amount of use around the house but, due to weight and size , doesn’t accompany me on the road every day. When I touchdown at home though it makes a perfect “second screen” to this setup that I often use to play movies or keep track of social feeds and stuff.
 
In the end : This setup is no powerhouse, but that’s not what it is supposed to be. For that I have my desktop at home with its big screens. The mobility here trumps the muscle-power the gear has to offer. I can easily dock the Macbook to a second screen and slide in a keyboard and a mouse and transform it into a more “domestic” setup if I want to. And it is THAT combination : Light and flexible to use on the road, but easily transformable into a “home setup” that I absolutely love about my new tiny setup.
 

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