Living The Mobile Lifestyle

Hi! My name is Josh Bancroft, and I’m a blogger and mobile gadget addict geek. I work at Intel Software Network, but the fine folks who created this blog asked if I could lend a hand over here to get things kicked off. And since they tempted me with the promise of cool mobile toys to play with, I was easily convinced. :-) I’ve been computer geek all my life (since age 4, seriously), and deeply into mobile technology for at least a decade. My own blog is named TinyScreenfuls.com, because, when I started it 4+ years ago, I realized that on any given day, I carry on my person gadgets totaling no fewer than seven or eight screens. Yes, that’s why I wear cargo pants. Yes, I’m “that guy”. ;-)

Eee PC on Date Night, at Powell's

But the reason I do it is because there is SO MUCH cool stuff I can do with all of these devices. I get a huge kick out of living “The Mobile Lifestyle”, and I want to share a little bit about how it can change your life, too. It will probably require that you make some changes to your computing habits (like moving some of your activities “into the cloud” – onto the web). But I promise, you will not be required to wear cargo pants or a utility belt. ;-) In fact, the devices that grant you admittance to The Mobile Lifestyle are now considered fashionable, too. At least, they generate lots of buzz and interest when I use them in public. And they’re only getting smaller, more beautiful, and more powerful…

Let me introduce a little idea called “hostage time”. You know, the time you spend standing in line at the DMV, or on the train commuting, or in the car, or whatever. It’s time where you can’t easily whip out your laptop and start working, but you feel like there’s something, anything you could be doing to take advantage of that time. Being able to pull a device out of my pocket and check out the latest items in my reading list whenever I have a few minutes of “hostage time” is wonderful. And, if my past, present, or future bosses are reading this, I PROMISE I’ve never done this during one of your meetings. ;-) Today, I use an online aggregator called Google Reader to subscribe to over 500 feeds from websites and search services. I can read my feeds from any device with a web browser – from my main computer, a MacBook Pro, to my iPhone, and anything in between. Thanks to the magic of RSS, just about every site, blog, or anything else on the web these days has a feed you can subscribe to, and automatically receive updates when they’re posted. The one for this blog is located here.

Starting with a regular old PDA and AvantGo, way back in 1998, and graduating to reading feeds, I discovered that I loved being able to take my reading with me. Shortly thereafter I discovered ebooks. At first, most people hate the idea of reading a book on a small screen, and I admit that it takes some getting used to. There are those who are partial to the sensory experience of holding a dead tree in their hands and turning the pages (I even still read tons of books on paper – you should see them scattered around my house!). But once I started reading ebooks on my PDA, where I could take a whole library with me on a memory card – hundreds of books! – and have them available to read at a moment’s notice, anytime, anywhere, I was hooked. Now, ebooks are seeing a resurgence with the launch of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader. This clever device has a very low power “electronic ink” screen, and a wireless connection to Amazon’s ebook store, so you can browse, sample, and buy new books right on the Kindle reader. They’re currently back ordered, or I’d have one already. ;-) There have been other ebook reader devices, and I’m sure there will be more in the future. But reading books, whenever, wherever, is another thing I love about The Mobile Lifestyle.

Now, I can hear some of you saying “Enough of this frivolity! I have serious work I need to get done!” And of course I have some features of The Mobile Lifestyle that might interest you. Today, whether you work for a big company (like Intel), or are self employed, or fit somewhere in between, you probably get at least some of your work done on a computer. And chances are, it’s a laptop. Recently, laptops surpassed desktops in the global mix of computer sales, and lots of companies issue you a laptop as your one and only computer (Intel has done this for several years). That way, you can work while traveling, at the coffee shop, at home, or wherever. As I mentioned, my main computer is a MacBook Pro, and I can get just about any part of my job done as long as I have somewhere to sit with my laptop, and an Internet connection. Most of the time, it just doesn’t matter where I’m physically sitting. Wifi is almost everywhere, and we’ve been hearing about the next big thing – WiMAX – for a long time.

What is WiMAX? Think of it as super long range wifi. As in, wifi covers your house, WiMAX can cover your whole city. This year, WiMAX becomes reality. For example, Sprint (the cell phone company) is getting ready to launch a nationwide WiMAX network called Xohm (pronounce it “zome” as in “home”, I’m told). Imagine not having to hunt for a wifi hotspot, and not being limited to working from one of those magical locations. With WiMAX, you can stay connected from anywhere in the coverage area. Sure, those last few sentences could have come straight from a marketing brochure, but on this blog, we’re going to bring you the real scoop – news and experiences from people who are actually using WiMAX – including the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m very excited – as much as I love the few places around town that I frequent because of their free wifi, I can’t wait to have the freedom to work and be connected just about anywhere.

And speaking of the trusty old laptop, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on there, too. Laptops are getting smaller, lighter, and more powerful. You’ve seen the drop-dead gorgeous MacBook Air, right? Or the Lenovo X300? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Later this year, Intel is launching a new processor, codenamed Silverthorne, that’s so much smaller, and uses so little power compared to current laptop processors, that we’re going to see a whole new class of computing device. We’re already starting to see glimpses – Ultra Mobile PCs have been on the market for a year or so, and we’ve been hearing about MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) at shows like Intel Developer Forum and CES. These are tiny little computers that fit in your pocket, but still run a full-blown operating system, so you can do, well, just about anything with them. Silverthorne and its variants are going to really shake things up for those of us who partake in The Mobile Lifestyle.

Asus EEE PC

One of the most popular devices that’s available right now is the Asus Eee PC. It’s a tiny little laptop, with a 7 inch screen, a 2 or 4 or 8 GB solid state disk (flash memory – no moving parts), wifi, and in current models, a 900 MHz Ultra Low Voltage Intel Celeron processor. It runs a custom version of Linux, and it’s built for the web, so it’s got a full blown version of the Firefox web browser, OpenOffice, Adobe Reader, and some games and learning applications. It’s got a webcam and built-in microphone, so voice and video calls using Skype (which is included) are a breeze. And the whole thing is no bigger than a hardback book, and weighs no more than a couple of pounds. Oh, and did I mention that it only costs $299 (for the 2GB model, and only $399 for the 4GB)? I got an Eee PC to play with for a couple of weeks, and it’s been absolutely amazing. I took it to the bookstore on date night with my wife, wrote some emails, had some IM conversations, and read a couple hundred feed items with ease. My kids love to play with the webcam, and record videos of themselves (the Eee PC would make a GREAT kids computer!). You can hook it up to an external monitor, keyboard, USB hard drive, and mouse, and you have a very capable desktop computer system. When I first brought it back to my desk, my cube neighbors gathered around in awe. We all started geeking out, testing out its capabilities, and within a few minutes, we were all pretty much convinced that we each needed one of these little babies for ourselves. In fact, one guy started shopping for one online right then and there. :-)

If the current devices with Celeron, Pentium M, and Core Solo processors are great, just imagine how much they’re going to improve when Silverthorne arrives. They’ll get a lot smaller. They’ll perform much better, and you’ll be able to do more things like, say, audio or video editing, which is possible on today’s devices, but not exactly speedy. They’ll get much better battery life and put out a lot less heat, because of Silverthorne’s super low power consumption. In addition to wifi, which has become standard on mobile connected gadgets, we’ll start to see WiMAX, both in the devices and in the cities you live in. Faster, smaller, cheaper, better connected, and more capable. Plus a few things that will probably take you completely by surprise. What’s not to get excited about? ;-)

In short, this year is going to be pretty amazing. Those of us who partake in The Mobile Lifestyle are going to be able to take it to a whole other level, and I’m betting that a whole lot of people that haven’t yet tried it out are going to take the plunge. Thanks to the support of the folks who run this blog, as well as my work with Intel Software Network, and the fact that I can’t resist buying and playing with the latest and greatest mobile toys, I’ll be right in the middle of all of it, blogging the whole time. So stay tuned, and join in the conversation! Let us know how YOU live The Mobile Lifestyle. Ask questions, share tips and tricks, cool gadgets, killer apps or web services, or anything else that helps you kick butt without being chained down to a desk. We hate it when we’re the only ones talking in the room, so leave us a comment, and make your voice heard!

2 Responses to Living The Mobile Lifestyle

  1. Thomas Han says:

    Hi Josh & Intel Team,
    Glad to see you (start the) blogging for them and hopefully your stature in blogging world and Twitterverse will draw new readers like myself to this site.
    Just subscribed this feed. We’re such “feed whores”. This would make it my 337th feed in my GR.
    Speaking of mobility, like you, I’m pretty mobile. iPhone + MacBook Pro or OLPC laptop :-)

  2. Rm says:

    Hello,Josh; You write well,very well. It’s an argument, and a happy one too for what you know and do, and are proposing. Premo Mobile EComunications-are somewhat new. But:I did have a couple of dell laptops, over some years awhile ago. I did so enjoy them, to say the least.
    Your so convincing, Mr Bancroft, I’m thinking of returning (another) Medion PC (MD 8825) recently acquired, and that’s sorta loaded up with “stuff”. However, if you see this and have a better idea for me about this Medion, then feel free to give a commentback on this….