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Posts Tagged ‘road

Yesterday I shared some wifi-related tips for the road warrior. Today I focus on hardware peripherals.
 

 
If wifi is like the air, then electrical power is the food and water of your devices. Since you cannot guarantee yourself a power point when you are on the move, an external battery that can charge a phone, slate, or even a laptop is a must.

I do not recommend skimping on quality when buying a battery and the cables that feed your devices. You do not want to risk damage to either the battery or your devices.

A good (but expensive) brand is Anker. (Disclosure: I am not paid to promote the brand.) If you choose to buy external battery packs and charging cables from Anker, I recommend you buy them online from the supplier instead of a store. A SGD24 cable online can cost between SGD5 to 10 more in store.

If, like me, you need to conduct seminars or facilitate workshops, you need a laptop charger and a dongle to connect to a projector. I recommend buying a spare charger from the maker of your laptop or go for a reputable brand.

If you have a Macbook Pro, you might only have USB-C ports and need to get a multi-purpose dongle that provides power, one or more USB-A ports, VGA and/or HDMI output, and a LAN (cabled Internet) connection.

If you can afford to, get one dongle and a set of cables for home and one for the travel bag. This avoids the inconvenience of disconnecting and reconnecting cables at home while ensuring you are prepared for whatever a new room throws at you.

My last tip is an expensive one: Noise-cancelling headphones. These drown the world out while allowing you to make clear phone or video calls. While some might baulk at the cost, noise-cancelling headphones are an investment for your sanity.

Oh, and get the over-the-ear headphones and not the stick-in-your-ear earphones. The headphones send others a visual signal that you are not to be disturbed.

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. -- Thoreau

Yesterday I had a meeting at a Starbucks with someone who just learnt that its free wifi expired after 30 minutes.

I realised that what I took for granted was news to others, so I decided to type out a few of the many things that make a local road warrior’s office tick. I focus on wifi today and an assortment of tips tomorrow.
 

 
Wifi is the lifeblood of the road warrior. But if you use the free wifi offered by places like Starbucks or McDonald’s, you pay for the convenience with some inconvenience.

Starbucks in Singapore currently partners with MyRepublic and wifi access is free after you register. However, you are limited to 30 minute sessions and must reconnect in between. (Disclosure: This is not a sponsored piece.)

If you do not want your workflow interrupted, you might do what I do — I set a timer for 29 minutes by Googling “timer for 29 minutes” as a reminder.

At other eateries, you might be able to set up a mobile phone and laptop for automatic connection to Wireless@SGx. The mobile and laptop apps that facilitate this process and can be downloaded here.

M1's FAQ #8 on Wireless@SGx.

Note: There is the Wireless@SG variant (no “x” at the end) that requires a manual login via SMS, but this service is less secure according to one local telco’s FAQ.

Most malls offer free wifi in exchange for some personal information. I do not risk abuse of this information, so I recommend avoiding them. If you must connect, use temporary email and generic contact numbers. These are good options if messages are not sent to the email and number for verification.
 

 
Regardless of the wifi source, it is always a good idea to use a VPN service to protect your connection. I have used Private Internet Access (PIA) for years. It costs me only about SGD3.50 a month for peace of mind. (Disclosure: I have not been paid in any way by PIA to mention this.) Here are some paid and free VPN alternatives.

If you are not on VPN, do not conduct transactions like banking, billing, or otherwise logging into sensitive sites.

Using VPN is not without its hiccups. One mall I frequent blocks VPN services on its free wifi. Some online services like Google Drive, Google Photos, and macOS Notes might not sync or work properly when connected to public wifi protected by VPN. For me this happens on my laptop, but not on my phone (VPN is on all the time), so I am not sure what it going on.

Where public wifi is not available, you may need to tether your phone to a laptop with a suitable cable or use your phone as a hotspot.

To ensure that my laptop sips data instead of gulps it, I make sure that background processes are shutdown or paused. File sync and media streaming services can rack up your bill.

We have it relatively easy in Singapore with free wifi almost everywhere. But the convenience should not lull road warriors into a false sense of security. Better to be safe than sorry.

We do not have winter in Singapore so the locals might not relate to this video. And no, visiting a snowy place to play in the powder or ski down some slopes is not the same as living there.


Video source

However, you should be able to relate to the frustration this videographer had. He decided to record his conversations and arguments with cable workers because they could not see — and perhaps refused to see — what he could.

The workers were doing their jobs and they took the safety precautions as prescribed by policy. But these were not enough to prevent road accidents.

The videographer realised that there were not enough warning cones and provided some of his own, but this still did not stop accidents from happening. His appeals to the cable workers went unheeded.

It is easy to just keep your head down and do your work. It is more difficult to look up and take action.

If you are the receiver of information that you might not like, it is difficult to admit you are wrong. If you are the giver of that information, it is frustrating to be ignored.

Sometimes an outsider looking in can offer perspectives we cannot see because we are too close to the work or refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong. We do this to our detriment.

Sometimes the impact of what we choose to ignore is immediately obvious. Unfortunately, other times the impact is felt only years after.

I was excited to read about Singapore’s plans to trial a Smart Nation Platform (SNP) in the Jurong Lake District. This was reported in CNA and STonline.

Examples of what such a system could do was highlighted in the latter as:

Using your smartphone to sense the bumpiness of a bus ride and sending the data back to the local authorities will soon be a click away. Similarly, drivers will not be able to get away with illegal parking when advanced cameras that automate the work of enforcement officers are turned on. These cameras can also detect people smoking in prohibited zones.

I am not going to make a statement about us being police state version 2 because that is not all the system does.

The trial is slated to begin in “the third quarter of this year in Singapore’s push to be a smart nation to improve citizens’ quality of life.” A system that deters inconsiderate behaviour like indiscriminate parking or smoking is great.

Instead of the bumpiness of a bus ride, I would rather the system detect the jerkiness of one. Bumpiness reflects the condition of the road. Having a system that detects road defects is good. Having a system that provides evidence of errant bus drivers is better.

If you take public transport as often as I do here, you know that bus drivers only behave when inspectors or supervisors are on board. Otherwise they pretend to be Grand Prix drivers on quiet roads, roll over speed bumps like they were not there, speed up just before pulling into bus bays only to test their brakes, and provide their best simulation of a horizontal roller coaster.

I hope we have systems that improve human behaviours. That would make the quality of life better here.

If the SNP includes roads, I suggest this idea.


Video source

We have an abundance of sunlight and we could use a system of roads and surfaces that are easy to repair and configure, take away our torrential rain, and generate electricity to boot. It is a system that minimizes our carbon footprint, encourages the use of recycled materials, and creates jobs.

I do not think I am being a jerk to suggest that we be humble enough to accept that someone else had a better idea and to work with them to scale it up in small country like ours. I think it is a bump in the right direction.


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