Working/Staying Connected in the Cloud

Just because we are on the road, doesn’t mean we get to travel and sightsee all the time.  Completely the opposite in fact.  We run a cloud software company from here in the cloud, and it’s not all fluffy clouds and rainbows.  I have just finished four days straight of 2:30am-12pm conference calls working with a client in Europe, and then taking care of normal stuff in the afternoon.  Tuesday was 2:30am-10:30pm, and then get up at 2:30am again the next morning!  By this afternoon (Thursday) I was going stir crazy and getting crabby from no sleep, and told Peggy that I just had to get out of here.

“Here” is currently the Wanee Lake RV & Country Club in Ashburn, GA.  I’ll post another review of it later, but it’s a very nice golf and RV park, full hookup, and lots of very friendly folks.  I like it.  But being cooped up in 350sqft of motorhome for four days straight is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies.  Peggy found a place in Sylvester just up the road a piece, called Isabella Station and we headed out.  I’ll post a review of that later too, but it was a wonderful surprise – great food and atmosphere, friendly staff, and we have an invitation to return tomorrow evening with a fresh menu and live music.  It was exactly what I needed, total brain reset.  We’ll head back there tomorrow night.

Work, Sweet Work

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Working in a small space is a study in compromise, but if you’re organized and careful you can make it work.  Somehow we managed to cram two laptops, two keyboards and two external displays (including my 27″ monster) onto what is normally a dinette.  For us, it’s the office and it works pretty darn well.  I spend 12-14 hours a day in front of that giant display, so it had better be a comfortable place to be and so far I have no complaints.  We don’t really use paper since we work in the cloud, and the lack of file cabinets means nothing in the days of digital records.  So really there’s plenty of room here, and some left over for things like eating lunch…which I usually do sitting at the desk anyway.

The plan is to eventually replace the dinette with a real two-person desk that will also serve as a dining table on the rare occasions we need it.  That will give us even more room to work.  We’ll make it to Indiana at some point (where the Newmar craftsmen are located), and schedule some customization.

Surfing the Digital Wave

If you read other full-timer blogs you’ll find tons of great information on how to stay online while you’re on the road, and the two best I read are Technomadia and RVLove.  They have a lot of great information on the latest connectivity gadgets, compromises, and methods to stay sane while working on the road.  Of course as always, everyone has their own set of requirements and things will be a bit different.  But at least they get you going in the right direction with some confidence.

Our setup is the same, but different.

  • Verizon Jetpack 4G/LTE with a 40Gb rollover plan
  • Cradlepoint MBR95 router
  • SynologyDS216J network attached storage (NAS)
  • T-mobile 15Gb hotspot (and phones with unlimited data)

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The Cradlepoint and Synology boxes live in their hidey-hole under the desk, and the Jetpack sits on top between the laptops.  Why on earth do we use such a setup?  Well the Verizon Jetpack works great for internet access, and the T-mobile data plan serves as a backup if we need it.  However we still have a need to connect to other devices on our own network, specifically the Synology for backup, a Canon wireless printer, a Polycom conference phone, an iPad and whatever else we can dream up.

The problem is, there is no wired connection to the Jetpack so you need a router that can use a wireless connection as a WAN source.  Enter the Cradlepoint, which works beautifully as our main wireless router, allowing all of our devices to connect to each other and serving as the pipeline to the Jetpack for internet access.  It will swap connections to the T-mobile phones if we need it to, zero disruption to our stuff, and is otherwise totally invisible and does its job.  The only hiccup is for some reason the Polycom can’t make the connection through the Cradlepoint to the Jetpack – something with Verizon is blocking the VOIP connection, but I’ll get that figured out soon.

So far this setup is working just beautifully, no worries at all and we are able to do everything we need…including online conference calls at 2:30am with Denmark!

Coverage

coverageSpeaking of connectivity, I have to give a shout out to Technomadia again and their Coverage app.  If you need connectivity on the road and want to make sure it’s there when and where you need it, this app is a lifesaver!  What a great idea, and it defines our travels.  If we don’t see it in Coverage, we won’t be staying there.  Go check it out on the app store, great app.

Gotta stay comfortable and pain-free

aeronAs much time as I spend sitting at this desk, I have to be able to function comfortably and without pain.  There are three things that make that possible for me and honestly I couldn’t function without.  The first is my Aeron chair.  It is comfortable and supportive, stays cool in the summer, and I can sit here all day long without pain or fatigue.  That wasn’t the case with my last couple chairs, and I will never give this thing up.

The second was almost literally a lifesaver.  I have been an IT/computer professional for 25 years now, and spending two-and-a-half-decades using a keyboard amagic-trackpadnd a mouse has its consequences.  For me it’s knifing pain in my right arm and hand from using a mouse for that long.  These days if I use a normal mouse for just 20 minutes, my arm goes numb and my wrist and hand are in excruciating pain.  I tried different kinds of mice, track balls, Logitech’s thumb-ball, and even went left-handed for six months hoping that a rest would help.  Nope.  Then I found Apple’s Magic Trackpad.  This touchpad is not only far more efficient than a mouse, its ergonomic features completely took away my pain.  Goodbye Aleve, hello productivity.  To this day I cannot understand why Apple doesn’t promote it for this reason.  It is what allows me to make a living and put food on the table, take care of my family and now live on the road.  It made my life possible.

stressballI also keep a couple of these sitting on the desk, and I find them in my hand without realizing it.  Best stress balls ever, gel center with a smooth comfortable surface.  They really do help.

Well that’s about it.  We are able to stay online and connected thanks to this stuff, and it’s really not as hard as you might think.  This day and age is a pretty good time to be living and working, and you really can do it from anywhere.

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