Sometimes My Office Goes with Me

Apart from the laptop, I sometimes have to print handouts (I do this week), so I have a USB laser printer I tote along (also shown in Figure 1). I know there are truly portable printers, but since I almost always drive, something a little bigger isn't a problem, and it's a whole lot cheaper. This model is a Brother HL-L2320D, and it prints fairly fast. It also has a duplexer, so really, for less than $100, I'm not complaining.

For mobile data when Wi-Fi isn't available, I used to carry a MiFi device everywhere I went. It was awesome. Since at that time I worked for a school, I could literally get unlimited 4G data, and it cost the school $35/month. That unlimited deal was available only for schools, and thanks to people like me, it's probably not available even for schools anymore. Nowadays, I just tether to one of my phones. I always carry two. My day job provides an iPhone 6s on the Verizon network, and I have a personal Moto-E using Cricket Wireless (Figure 3). Since I have both AT&T and Verizon networks at my disposal, I almost always have connectivity. If I do much more traveling, I'll invest in one of those "Karma Go" devices, so I have access to the Sprint network in a pinch. So far, I haven't needed it, but if I ever decide to do an extended road trip, I'll probably have to do that.

Figure 3. I've honestly never spoken on this phone. I don't even know if the phone part works!

The only other things I carry with me, hardware-wise, are power-related. I have a 12v inverter for the car that gives me 120v AC on the go. I also have a big 24,000mah lithium ion battery (I got it from on special) charged up and ready for dying devices. My Anker five-port USB charger (Figure 4) is still the charger I use for mobile devices, and with that combination, I've never run short on juice. I kind of want to get a portable solar panel so I can top off my batteries during sunny days, but I don't really need that. I just want it!

Figure 4. I reviewed this back in the September 2014 issue. It's the Anker 40w five-port charger, and it's awesome.


I've talked about software before, but things change from time to time, so my most current batch of "must-have" software includes the following:

  • BittorrentSync: this works amazingly well. I have it installed on all of my computers and laptops, and also on my big file server at home. My goal is to move all my documents to BittorrentSync.

  • Dropbox: I'm still a little chicken, and I haven't moved all my documents over to BittorrentSync. There's really no reason I haven't, except for the occasional time I need to share a file with a public link. BittorrentSync doesn't do that yet (I don't think it does anyway), and I've used Dropbox for so long, it's hard to switch. Plus, I have approximately 24GB of free Dropbox storage that I earned with a slightly shady Google Adwords campaign, so I feel like I should take advantage of my ill-gotten gain.

  • Bean: yes, Bean the OS X text editor. I use Bean to write articles for two main reasons. First, it has a running word count on the bottom of the window, so I know exactly how much I've blabbered. I can't find any decent text editor that does the same on Linux. All the ones I've tried get annoying after a little while. Second, when I try to do work on Linux, I get distracted. For some reason, two sentences into an article I find myself SSH'd into multiple servers, playing with Docker containers. When I'm using the native MacOS, I tend to get more actual work done.

  • Crashplan: because backups aren't just important, they're vital. Did you notice that in last month's issue there wasn't an Open-Source Classroom column? That's because I had a system crash, and my work hadn't been backed up yet. The world might never know the mysteries of running a syslog server, because I don't think I have the strength to write my article over again.

  • Final Cut Pro: I know, I know, you're losing faith in my Linux passion. Here's the deal, Kris Occhipinti—I've mentioned him often through the years, as he's a fellow reader and friend (Figure 5)—somehow gets his Linux video editing software to work amazingly well. Either I expect too much out of an editing package, or he is a much better technologist than I am. Since all I need from an editor is to overlay some text for the intro video every month, I suspect he's just better than I am. Nonetheless, for now, I use Final Cut Pro because it works.

  • TeamViewer (free version): this works on Linux, Mac and Windows, and it works amazingly well through NAT services. I know there recently was a data breach where all the logins and passwords were stolen, but as long as you don't leave it set for unattended access, it's a perfect way to help family members while you're away. In fact, my home router stopped forwarding SSH traffic, and I was able to use TeamViewer to log in to my office computer with the help of my daughter and fix the router remotely.

  • Evernote/Simplenote: I use Evernote for storing pretty much everything. The more I store, the more useful it is. I just discovered Simplenote, however, and for text, I might switch over. Based on my "switch" from Dropbox though, I'm not holding my breath, but I really do love the simplicity of Simplenote. Plus, it's open source now, and that does matter to me.

Figure 5. He's even better looking than me. You can find his videos here.


Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.