This Week in Mobile Tech Manor #75

The end of another week is drawing to a close which means I get to share the past week with you. My home office, Mobile Tech Manor, is often a revolving door for little gadgets and this week was no exception. I did some thinking about my recent business trip that I will share with you. A little laptop arrived that I am finding more useful than I expected, and I experienced another bout of browser infidelity.

Kindle fever

I took something with me for the first time on a recent trip to San Francisco. My gear bag was already light since it was a short trip so I decided to take the Kindle with me. My gear bag had a nice, thin pocket in the flap that was perfect for the Kindle so at the last minute I threw it in and brought it along for the ride. I must admit I enjoyed having it along much more than I thought I would.

Usually on trips I try to carry as little as possible. This means that if there is a gadget I am taking with me that can serve multiple purposes, then the single-purpose gadget (e.g. Kindle) stays home. I carried my iPhone which I can use to read Kindle books so usually that means the Kindle stays home. The trip was only for a couple of days so I didn’t need to bring the charger, just the Kindle, so I threw it in the bag on the way out the door.

Reading on the two flights was very enjoyable using the Kindle. It was easy to hold for several hours, and it fits in the pocket in the seat back in front when not in use. I did have to remember to turn wireless off on the flights, which I almost forgot. The Kindle brought the number of devices to on this trip on which I had to remember to turn off the wireless radios to four. In fact, I only brought four gadgets with me for this short trip and all of them have wireless connectivity. That’s a true mobile geek.

I was surprised this trip by how many others I saw reading on Kindles. On one of the flights, in just my row and the one in front of me there were three Kindles in use. I saw them in use at the airport gates, too, and one person was using a Kindle in the hotel lobby at one point. I definitely saw more Kindles on this one trip than I’ve seen on several past trips combined. I wasn’t making a concerted effort to spot them this time, so I’m not sure any conclusions can be reached by the observations, but it did make an impression on me.

Little laptop on deck

This past week the UMID mbook bz arrived, and I am having a blast with it. While I wish it had a swiveling screen like convertible laptops, it is still quite useful as a tiny clamshell. I am still impressed with just how small this thing is, and it is so easy to throw in any bag to bring along when I head out the door. There is a lot to be said for having a full Windows computer in a handheld form. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years.

I do a lot of work in Google Reader, as I follow thousands of site RSS feeds. I am in and out of Reader many times a day, and skim through thousands of items. The UMID is an outstanding gadget for this due to its small size and light weight. I hold it in my left hand and use the keyboard to skim items in Reader. This is so darn fast that I’m able to go through thousands of items in just a short time. It is especially useful for this while out and about, using the MiFi for 3G connectivity. The mbook doesn’t have integrated 3G, but with the MiFi I don’t need that. I use the Wi-Fi connection to work with the MiFi, and it’s just as good.

The screen of the UMID is awfully high-resolution for such a small display, so I had to adjust the Windows display settings to make things easier to view. I made the menu font much bigger and bold so I can see menus well. I also enlarged the windows boxes in the upper right so they are easier to hit, and did the same with the scroll bars. Even with these changes I find interacting with the touch screen to require a stylus for precision. I have plenty of those lying around but I wish the UMID came with one. Most people will find one necessary, I believe.

The little neoprene case that came with the UMID is nice for carrying it around. The UMID fits (barely) in the zippered case, and the smaller pocket on the front is good for the MiFi and stylus. I grab this little kit for short trips, and it is awesome having an entire 3G-enabled system in my hand. This is far more useful than I thought it would be. One observation — folks must be getting used to small computers in the wild as not a single person has approached me to ask what it is. I wonder if it’s due to the familiar laptop form that the UMID has, as opposed to many gadgets I carry that are slates.

Browser envy

I have written before about my inability to stay faithful to a single browser. The fact is I spend almost all day every single day inside a browser, and usually with at least six tabs open all the time. I do all of my work inside the browser, so which one I use is very important from an ease of use standpoint and also the speed of operation.

On the Mac side I switch among three browsers — Firefox, Safari and Chrome. I have been using Safari for a while, but this week a new Chrome version was released that finally added extensions. I started using it and was delighted to find it to be so fast. It is easily faster than the other two browsers, and I used it exclusively for a full day this week.

I used it on the Windows side, too, and found it just as fast as on the Mac. On Windows I have been using Firefox for a long time, but Chrome blew it away, speed-wise.

I installed several extensions to make Chrome fit the way I work. The TooManyTabs extension is marvelous, as it makes handling many tabs a simple thing to do. I love how it displays all of the open tabs in a very visual way, with the tabs large enough to easily find the one I want. It is especially useful on the Windows tablet, as it works well with touch control.

Unfortunately, I ran into an issue that forced me to drop Chrome for now. I spend a lot of time in the (see disclosure at bottom) editor, as this site is hosted there. The editor started crashing in Chrome, and I lost work due to the crashes. This is the single worst no-no that any program can do, as I work hard enough without having to redo things. So I am back to Safari on the Mac and Firefox on Windows. They aren’t bad, but I miss the speed of Chrome.

I am able to jump around browsers on the two platforms due to the Xmarks service and extensions. Xmarks keeps all of my bookmarks in both Firefox and Safari in sync using the cloud. This makes all of my browsers on any computer all the same as far as my personalization goes, and it is the first thing I install on any computer I pick up. It works in Internet Explorer, too, but I haven’t used IE in years. Maybe I should give IE8 a try. Thoughts?

Lost ThinkPad

I haven’t had much to say about the ThinkPad Edge notebook that Lenovo sent over for evaluation. I made the mistake of letting my wife try it as I wanted to get her thoughts since it is consumer-focused. I haven’t gotten my hands on it since, as she has not given it back to me. She loves the thin, light form, and she’s admitted she now knows why I have been touting the virtues of the ThinkPad keyboards for so long. I’ll have to figure out how to steal it back when she’s not looking.

e-Books of the week

The Kindle is letting me tear through good books at a frantic pace. This week I continued to hit the great fantasy series by James Clemens I started last week. I am already reading book No. 5, “Wit’ch Star.” This series has been a hell of a ride, with non-stop action from book one to the last. I have been amazed how Clemens has found so many plot lines to keep the story flowing. This is one of those series that I am sure I will feel drained when it’s complete. That’s the mark of a good storyteller in my book.


That’s the week as it happened at Mobile Tech Manor. It was a fairly typical week with gadgets and software dominating the time. I have developed a true appreciation of the Kindle that I didn’t think I would. Until next week, be safe and happy.

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.