Monday, July 13, 2009

Becoming a Pod Person

I never realized how much I used my computer until it died on me. It's my entertainment, my connection to company, my connection to home and friends, my weight and balance worksheet, my flight planning tool, the way I check on the progress of that charts order (still not here), the way I look up regulations, and where a lot of my data is stored.

I have the essentials printed out on a sheet that I keep meaning to laminate, but instead just print out again every time it gets tattered. I have more data, including encrypted passwords for more sites than I can remember, in a memory stick. I take the memory stick down to the hotel "business centre" and pop it in a USB slot to get what I need. It's a nifty little thing that will put the password I need in the clipboard so I can paste it, and then clear the buffer. That way I need never type my password when anyone, including a potential keyboard stroke counter, is watching. But this business centre computer has been so thoroughly sanitized that I cannot run the executable necessary to get at my data. It won't run from the E: drive and it can't be copied onto the hotel computer.

Fortunately my company e-mail is web-based, and I remember that password, so I can communicate that way. I don't want to sit in the business centre and blog, though, and besides the blog entries I intended to post this week are all in partially-written note form on the hard drive of the dead computer. I don't want to have to reconstruct them.

I do have one more Internet-capable device, that I'd almost forgotten. An iPod Touch. I know, how do you forget you have a cool pocket-sized computer? It is mine, a gift, but I passed it to someone else to use while I was at work, because I had my iPod shuffle and my laptop and didn't see a need for what was essentially a second computer and a second iPod. And I don't like things to go to waste. I have only just reclaimed it, and not really used it yet except as a photo album.

I turned it on and it easily connected to the hotel Internet. Some websites automatically detected that it was a mobile and provided a mobile interface that was easy to use. Others were virtually impossible to use, as their navigation conflicted with the touch interface. The on-screen keyboard wasn't quite as hard to use as I would have expected for something that small, and it does make fairly intelligent autocompletion and autocorrection suggestions. Except when I had some grease on my hands from the airplane and then it would crazily autocorrect to strings like "triiiiiyyyuyiiiiing tyyyyyo". Washing my hands and cleaning the screen helped there.

I knew that most of my problems could be solved with software, and I was willing to pay for some, so I googled things like "iPod touch spreadsheet" and tried to download what I found. The sites told me that I needed to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes. "Simply connect your device to your computer," it told me. I guess thinking of this as a kind of miniature emergency back up computer is not the right model. I guess it really is just a mobile Sudoku, YouTube and photograph display tablet.

And the one time I didn't bring my camera on a flight we're overflying both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The change in terrain is subtle but in the corner of the Yukon where I am there are eskers on the ground, long ridgy things, very recognizable, somehow formed during glaciation. These were very clear and would have been easy to photograph, although I can't upload any pictures until I get my computer back.

16 comments:

Jimmy Mack said...

For some of the offstrip stuff we do on the Hudson Bay coast we land on eskers. Sand makes a great airstrip.... even in wet weather they are good because they pack down well. The only thing that sucks is sometimes it gets very soft, and turning around can be an easy way to end up stuck. I guess just keep them in mind in case you ever need to put down!

Band Man said...

Did you search the AppStore? There are several programs (some good - Foreflight Mobile, some not so good), including some free ones for the Ipod Touch/Iphone.

I wouldn't consider using them for actual flight planning myself, but they do serve me as a quick reference source.

I enjoy lurking around your blog and reading your posts! Happy flying!

Aviatrix said...

You can't use the iTunes store without upgrading to the lastest iTunes version, and you can't upgrade iTunes without a computer, and if I had a real computer I wouldn't give a damn about the latest version of iTunes.

Brian said...

Actually you don't need iTunes, or a computer, to download apps for the iPod Touch. Just touch the App Store icon and shop away.

Aviatrix said...

I'm just telling you what the website told me when I tried.

Matthew said...

you should think of the Touch as an "iPod+" It's a music player, that also does other neat things, like browse the internet in a pinch, display photos, and run apps. When possible, you should update iTunes, and probably any other software you have. I'm sure I don't need to go on about software updates, but it's like preventative maintenance on an airplane, it is easy to forget or ignore until S hits the fan. Not to mention, by in large software updates are free and easy to install, the only exception being to programs that jump in generation and thus become new products. iTunes, however, was, is, and probably will always be free and its the same at its core as it was back when it was first released - ie: it has lots of neat toys attached, but none of them need to be used.

:)

david said...

Grab yourself a netbook (any brand) for around $300. When it breaks or gets lost, buy a new one :)

John Lennerton said...

As David suggested, an inexpensive "netbook" is a good alternative to traveling with a full blown notebook, or as a backup. Although I imagine you need to travel light, the netbook isn't that big. All of them do basic email/browser net stuff, some of them have Office (either MS or Open Office) installed. Two basic flavors are available, Windows based and Linux based.

I dunno, if I were without my laptop for an extended length of time, I'd feel absolutely cut off. It's worse than drugs...or so I'm told.

Chad said...

I second the netbook suggestion. I'm on mine right now. Its great for travelling cause it can fit right into my flight bag so I don't have to lug around another bag with me.

Speed isn't blazing but sufficient for blogging, browsing, and running spreadsheets and stuff.

Sarah said...

My trusty powerbook is showing its age. I'm thinking a mini netbook will be next. But I'm completely spoiled by OS/X and can't abide Windows. Yes, I know, I use Linux @work, but consumer s/w is mac or pc.

This is really off topic, but what's a good netbook? I'd love one from Apple, but it appears to get one I'd have to hack a bit - the Dell mini-9 looks nice.

david said...

Sarah: In Canada, at least recently, Dell shipped its Netbook -- the Dell Mini -- with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, for less than the cost of the Windows version.

You'll be surprised how easy it us to connect new hardware to Ubuntu Linux, especially if you're used to MacOS or Windows.

HECK said...

I know how you feel---we never realize how dependent we are on our technology till it goes down. Fortunately, like some other commenters have suggested, there are lots of remedies these days.

dpierce said...

Being a full blown nerd, I have a complete spare laptop pre-boxed back at the office. If my laptop dies, all I have to do is call and ask them to drop the box with FedEx. If it's the hard disk that dies, there's a plan for that, too.

Of course, as the laptop is central to my current profession, I have some justification for these measures. I can do most things off my phone in a pinch -- if nothing else, I can use it to remote control a PC back at the office. But that's a pain.

Lakotahope said...

Yup, I actually think I suffer withdrawal symptoms when I am away from my computer for any extended length of time....I ought to be ashamed, but when I can ask the great Google god any questions and get immediate satisfaction...good thing everything doesn't have this feature.

Aviatrix said...

In response to the "you don't need iTunes, just go to the app store" comments: that's a feature of the new 2.0 iPods, not my version one.

Aviatrix said...

I'm locking comments here because blog entries about technology attract comment spam. Feel free to e-mail me iPod advice or post it on an unlocked entry. I receive all comments in my mailbox, so it doesn't matter where you put it.