Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Remote Computing

[Note: While traveling around the country, I managed to post this to my other blog, Walking Arizona. Oh well, chock it up to whatever]

What if you need to travel? You may be one of the vast members of the vagabond RV culture or only travel when you absolutely have to do so. In either case, if you are a genealogist and especially if you are one who writes, you have to figure out how you can keep contact with your online world while you are traveling. This is especially true if travel is part of your participation in the genealogical world (or your work or whatever).

Yesterday, due to the convenience of a remote Internet connection from AT&T, my wife could do Indexing for FamilySearch while we traveled the freeways of California and Arizona. We are on our way to the Northern California Family History Expo in Sacramento, California but since we would do genealogy if we had a vacation, we do genealogy while we are traveling. So how do we do this?

First, it takes some investment in preparation and, of course, money. You have to have a portable device that you can use to do serious typing. That requires a laptop or other computer that you feel comfortable with using while traveling in a car or on an airplane. If you do not want to go to the expense of having a data plan and either an Internet card or a WiFi card, then you need to plan your work so that you can write while off-line and then upload or download what you need, when you find a free WiFi connection. These types of connections are becoming more and more accessible. Most hotels and motels have free WiFi as do many restaurants and fast food outlets.

There are some data dangers in using insecure Internet sources, but you need to be careful to only use public connections for public purposes.

OK, so you need a computer you can actually use for work, some kind of connection to the Internet and you are off and running. You might also remember to have with you passwords and anything else you need to do your work. If you are going to a conference to present, you need what ever outlines, notes and presentations you might need as well as a projector, if one is required and not provided.

All of this takes thought and planning. The last time I traveled, I tried to use my AT&T card, only to find that it had been cancelled for lack of use. It took a couple of hours and two trips to the AT&T store to get it functional again. You don't want to find yourself sitting in an airport somewhere or traveling in the middle of the Arizona desert and find that your Internet connection doesn't work. Make sure it is up and operating before you leave home.

1 comment:

  1. My husband (programmer in federal civil service, retired) and I stay connected while traveling by using wi-fi at restaurants (Panera is a favorite) and at libraries. We have security on our computers, and are aware of the possibilities (he was a certified computer security professional). Some hotels - an increasing number - offer free wi-fi, and I take advantage of that, too, on research trips.

    Locally, I also use Splashtop to keep my "traveling" laptop connected to my "desktop" laptop while I'm on campus (I'm a graduate student) or when I'm at my daughter and son-in-law's house taking care of my grandson.

    And we have portable hard drives - my husband bought us drives that are built to Department of Defense standards for durability. These are the same kind that the troops jump out of helicopters with the drives in their packs. I could run over it with my car and it would still function!

    I keep all of my files on the portable drive. Files that are not sensitive (i.e., that do not contain my proprietary research), I may also store in "the cloud" on my university's servers. The e-mail program the university has includes a "skydrive" - the cloud for storing such things as presentations and papers.

    I can do a lot of offline work, as I have many references on my portable drive to use in my writing. Of course, I also get many references by accessing archival collections, such as the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, through their websites.

    And as far as airports are concerned, they are becoming wi-fi enabled, as well. Some, such as the Philadelphia airport, grant free usage to students, and for others, the fee is eminently reasonable.