I spend between two and three days a week away from my home in an "unconnected" environment . The place Itravel to is about 115 miles away from Escondido, where my bullet proof wireless network and laser printer reside. One of my dirty little secrets is that I still print a lot of paper. In fact, much of what I write is based on material that's comes out of my printer.
Because I lost the use my left hand from a --here comes that damned phrase again-- "vascular brain accident" a couple of years ago, I now take notes using a computer, rather than a lined pad. The transition from one technique of note taking to another has been pretty smooth. The more I bang away on the keyboard, the better my note taking skills become. And the added bonus is that I'm able to remain focused on the task at hand for longer periods of time.
That damned accident also has had some unintended benefits. notably, I'm much more open to trying software that I can use to become more efficient in my life. Hence my use of Microsoft OneNote, a product I now use daily to organize the thoughts I use as the basis of my blog entries.
Back to the topic at hand, portability. Evey notebook I've ever used for a long time has its own unique eccentricities. For me to really bind with a machine though, it has to be drop dead reliable, withstand my ham handed typing without sending key caps into orbit beyond Pluto, and, it needs to have good battery life as well as easy connectivity. And nothing illustrates the emphasis I place on easy connectivity more than my weekly trip to my ancestral home in Azusa, CA.
Azusa is so far from the cutting edge of technology as to be classified as "neolithic." I make my Internet connection via an AOL dial up account and until recently had to print documents remotely at a friend's copy shop.
The big change happened last week, when along with my Lenovo ThinkPad X41 portable, I brought along an HP PSC 1140 multi-function printer. Because Ma Forbes is no longer a spring chicken I was very reluctant to leave ten feet of USB cable on the spare bedroom's floor. I really don't want to go to through the broken hip thing again. One of the key things that originally intrigued me about the X41, was its native support of multiple wireless ( Bluetooth as well as 802.11) connectivity schemes. So, before i left last week for my regularly scheduled trip to Mom's I spent a couple of minutes rummaging around my desk drawer where I remembered stashing Bluetooth and 802.11 wireless dongles a couple of months ago. Arriving in Azusa, i realized that I all I really needed was a short range network that didn't require a lot of bandwidth,since I typically only print one page of at a time.
"Voila!" I thought. Here was a chance to do something I'd always wanted to do, create my very own personal Bluetooth network. Total time from power on of the printer and notebook to looking at a completed test page was approximately 5.75 minutes, and until the test page appeared, I had been a Bluetooth networking virgin. i like Bluetooth on my X41 a lot. I'm a Skype user and I've become accustomed to using a blue tooth headset. I like mine because it has great noise canceling technology, allowing me to type notes as I talk on the phone without the person I'm talking to hearing me beat a keyboard to death.
It's also not much of an extra power drain on the X41's battery, which goes into the plus category for increasing connectivity and usability without significantly cutting down on battery life.
As i said earlier, every notebook has its own set of eccentricities. The X41's happens to be slow boot up and I've learned to live with that and accepted that IBM's mirror image on the hard disk (which is invaluable if you need to go back to restore point to get your machine back up and running) outweighs any disadvantages of waiting for the X41 to become usable. But really makes this machine a delight for me is its rock solid construction, extreme versatility, and the most comfortable keyboard and cursor controller I've ever used on a small form-factor notebook.
I use my X41 in the tablet mode about once a day, typically in the morning, when I'm at home in Escondido, taking notes on the vegetable stock and conditions in my garden. While I'm as far from a scientific agronomist as you can possibly get, I now know from comparing my notes from last year, against those from this year, that I can plant organic heritage and hybrid tomatoes much sooner than I previously thought (providing there's neither a invasion of locusts or a freak hail storm) and that I need to move my ever-bearing sequoia strawberry beds to the lower garden in time for the summer season.
My notes also suggest that I can cut down on fertilizing my garden. I'm sure the steers from the Bandini herd will miss my business.
But, while things look pretty good in the garden I haven't stopped waiting for a plague of frogs. Should it come, I'll be out there with my compact portable, measuring amphibians and recording the results in my gardener's spreadsheet.
And that's my latest ThinkPad X41 usage report for now--Jim Forbes, from rural northern San Diego County, written on my ThinkPad X41 connected to a high speed wireless network from about 285 feet away from the nearest access point.
<<Obligatory Disclosure: I am not a paid blogger. For 10 years, however, i was an unpaid member of IBM's Mobile (Computing) Advisory Council, during which time I frequently discussed issues relating to portable computing and user requirements>>