Day 18 in the #vDM30in30
I’ve been a traveling consultant for about 4 years now, and there’s a few pieces of hardware that have made my professional life a lot more enjoyable, tech-wise.
Jabra SPEAK 510
A few years ago I learnt about the joy of trying to perform a multi-person standup on one computer. Feedback loops, crappy built in laptop microphones and everyone asking you to mute your mic from background noise when it is working. Not fun.
Someone on the team suggested getting a Jabra Speak. It’s pretty pricey (£75-120 on Amazon!), but it’s perfect for multi-person conference calls. It’s both a speaker and microphone that doesn’t feedback it’s own sound, even at high volume. It’s Plug and play on both Mac and PC and has a hardware volume control and mute. Pretty easy to do things that happen in your standard conference call, like muting and unmuting with a tap and adjusting volume on the fly.
3M Gold Privacy Filter
OpSec is always important, and if you’re travelling, you have a responsibility to make sure your customers and your organization’s data is kept safe.
A privacy screen is an easy way to allow you to work privately, and keep your work from prying eyes. The Gold filters also seem better than the standard ones, as it also reflects from above, whereas the standard black-looking ones don’t seem to.
It’s not perfect, as people sitting next to you at the right angle can still see if your brightness is set high enough, but it’s fine for most use cases:
If you look really closely, you can just about see the draft for this blog, but I could probably turn the brightness down even more to make it harder.
You should probably still not work on anything super sensitive in public just in case, but it’s a basic level of protection with people trying to shoulder-surf.
On the topic of InfoSec, I recently got a basic webcam cover for my laptop.
In the old days, I thought people who covered their webcams were luddites and paranoid. I’m not stupid enough to get my webcam hacked!
But recently, it seems more and more sensible to start doing so.
I just bought the cheapest prime-able one.
I mean, really, you can just put tape over it, but this one has a little slider so it’s easy to flick on and off.
But regardless of the privacy implications, on a more practical level, it prevents those “Oops, I joined that conference call with my camera on when I didn’t mean to” moments.
Not that that’s ever happened to me…
Kensington Presentair Clicker
If I’m doing a talk at a conference, teaching a class or just giving a general presentation, a basic clicker is pretty useful. Means you can get away from the lectern and speak to the audience more, and you can easily transition between slides without having to walk back over and click the mouse.
Why this one is better than most is that it doesn’t require AAA’s: it’s got a built-in battery, rechargeable through mini-USB. So in the disaster scenario of a dead clicker, you can quickly charge it in the 30 minutes or so before your presentation.
I’ve been using mine since I started at Puppet, hasn’t let me down so far after 2 years.
Bag o’ cables and things
Scouts Motto: always be prepared. And as anyone who has a Macbook knows, everything requires a converter cable, and customers might not have them.
So, I have a ButterFox Travel Organiser, which I just chose as it was primeable, cheap and had the best reviews.
This one seems to be pretty good, as its clear so quickly, but the case doesn’t really matter. My colleagues use pencil cases or makeup bags. It’s more about making sure you have a backup of everything you might need on-site.
For me I’ve got the following:
- 2 x USB Sticks
- 1 x CentOS 7 LiveUSB
- 2 x Thunderbolt to DVI
- 2 x Thunderbolt to VGA
- 2 x Thunderbolt to Ethernet
- 1 x US to UK Power converter
- 1 x EU to UK Power converter
- 1 x MiniUSB cable
- 1 x Short Ethernet Cable
- 1 x Panda Rubber Duck (for Rubber Duck debugging!)
- 1 x Master Cooler MechanicalL Keyboard Kew Switch Tester V2
Ok, that last one’s a bit of a weird one. It’s a small board with a tester for Keyboard keys. I basically brought it to show someone who I was consulting with who was a Mechanical Keyboard geek and never put it back.
But it’s a good stress reliever, if annoying for everyone else…
Every traveller has their own tastes for bags. In the Puppet confluence there are about 6 different articles about backpack and luggage choices.
To be honest I don’t care that much. I have a small hard-shell wheelie for weekend travel, and standard larger luggage for a week plus.
The main thing I need is a backpack that padded, has space for a laptop that won’t fall apart after a few flights.
Recently, I’ve been really into this bag:
The Eshow Backpack Overnight Duffel Bag
There’s actually a few of them on Amazon, a duffel bag/backpack combo, but again: this one was Prime and had the best reviews.
Whats good about it is that it can be both a backpack and Duffel bag as it has a handle at the top, and removeable shoulder strap.
So when you’ve got it full to the brim, you don’t have to be the jerk wearing it on your back, bashing into people in busy corridors/public transport. You can just carry it to your side, by the top handle.
I actually originally bought it as a gym bag, but it was so perfect for travelling I eventually got a new bag for gym stuff.
It also has loads of pockets for everything, (and at a stretch) has fit all at once:
- Weeks worth of clothes (if cubed, see below)
- Apple Airport
- Water Bottle
- 4 Plug US converter
These are super useful for when you have limited space. They’re basically just zip-up pouches you put your clothes into. Saves the trouble of having to squeeze everything in: just neatly sort them into the zip-up bags, then throw into backpack.
They’re all pretty much the same. Again, I just bought the cheapest, prime-able ones with the best Amazon reviews.
Honestly, recently I’ve just started checking baggage for longer flights so this is less of an issue, but if you’ve only got carry-on only they’re super useful.