Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday’s travel tech

N7I continue to grow into my Nexus 7, ‘still far from my goal of replacing everything in my shoulder bag with apps and content on the tablet, but making steady progress.

And learning as I go.

I noted previously that the tablet is pretty worthless without a connection.  Books and magazines can be cached, but nearly everything else requires connection to the cloud.  Travel means 3G connectivity, and that means a good data plan.

I use RoamLine, international coverage at 0.39 euro / MB.  The connections are seamless and fast: technical performance has been excellent. But the weekly billings quickly add up.  Costs escalated from 10 to 30 to 70 euro through three successive weeks in February with each 100 MB adding 40 euro.  Business Traveller recently listed the costs of common activities:

data usage

My biggest hogs were unintentional: app downloads, newspaper updates, Ingress.  I’ve put a much more careful watch on when my 3G is on, rather than the default of  “whenever WiFi is off”, and have forbidden news apps from using it.  I’m also looking for local flat-rate data-only plans to replace my PayGo plan in the UK and Netherlands.

I got notice this week of more cloud services shutting down, reminding me to archive my content before they are deleted: one for photos, one from Microsoft.  This is my second biggest issue with cloud storage services (after mobile access): they close up shop if they can’t make money.  The Chromebook ”cloud everything” model just won’t work if storage migration can’t be resolved.

kclI found that my King County, Washington public library allows e-books to be checked out: it’s a wonderful service (and yes, I still pay property taxes to support it).  I already have a queue waiting, and it’s been great to simply tap in a hold when I find a good book review.

I’m less thrilled with Amazon’s e-book rental service: there are constant nags to “renew or buy”, and the costs quickly grow to where I simply “quit or buy ”in frustration.

I use NetVibes to aggregate blog feeds and some news content: the mobile app is not as good at summarizing content, so I started casting round for others.  Both Google Currents and Flipboard are fantastic: rich content, simple navigation, easily configurable.  I’ve copied my NetVibe feeds to Google Reader so that they appear in these aggregators: the only issue is the occasional bump into a magazine’s paywall when following links.


In general, magazines don’t work well on the tablet: flowing content and pictures together onto a small screen can’t accommodate both types of media well.   But the Economist has now arrived on Android and it really works well.  I’ll pay for the tablet in six months of not having to buy backup print copies when I’m outside the Netherlands.

On the ‘in progress’ list:

  • I’ve ratcheted way back on Ingress play (now Level 4) in favor of House of Cards (Netflix).
  • Battery life is still an issue during all-day excursions: I get about four hours.
  • I’m looking for a way to search and access iTunes U content (or connect remotely through my home PCs that have iTunes).
  • My phone’s bluetooth finally died: ‘probably time to get a new Nokia, something between basic dialing and a mini-tablet,  maybe a 720?
  • I still havn’t found a good earbud / microphone to use with Nexus’ Skype.
  • And I ‘m still sorting through my contacts, cleaning up and connecting LinkedIn for auto-maintenance.

Pointers to anything interesting are welcome!

Disclaimer:  I pay for and use all apps and devices mentioned here: I have neither been asked nor paid to write any reviews.

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