MacBook – check.
Blackberry – check.
iPod – check.
Hello there. You find me packing once again, this time to head north of the border to the Edinburgh Book festival (do come and see me if you’re around – details here).
With every new leg of the journey, it’s the same check list as I tuck everything into its proper pocket of my maroon suitcase on wheels, taking special care to make sure I don’t leave anything expensive and electronic under the hotel bed.
And not least because, when it comes to electronic devices – particularly costly ones – I don’t enjoy the best luck.
Sure, partying plays a part – somewhere in the region of a billion lost iPods and an equal number of credit cards still languishing in tumblers behind bars will testify to that – but even sober, I seem to have a knack of killing or losing expensive gadgets.
Take laptops. I’ve had three – THREE – stolen now. Including one from a bag resting between my feet while I was having a conversation with two lawyers. Then there was the MacBook hard drive that died on the exact same day that my Blackberry fell in a sink full of water, meaning I lost the originals and backups of all my contacts at once. The day before I flew to the US for three months (a trip which saw me lose two digital cameras and an iPod Touch on the very day I bought it)
Ah, yes, Blackberrys (Blackberries?). I’ve had nine now. Three lost, one left in a hotel, one stolen on a train in Dallas as I slept, one drowned in the sink, one filled with soy sauce by a Geisha in Los Angeles, one dead of natural causes and the one I currently have wrapped in cotton wool on my desk.
Considering all of the above, it’s perhaps not surprising that I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about how much data I need to carry with me at any given time.
When I set off for the US – at the very start of the technomad experiment – I put my books into storage, digitised all of my music on to iTunes (with iPod backup, having learned nothing), switched all of my mail to Gmail and routed my phone number (expect the mobile number I reserve for friends) through Skype. I switched all of my bills to paperless, delivered via Gmail and I did similar with tax and banking.
I was pretty pleased with myself. Not only was my entire life paperless, but the only locally stored data I had was my iTunes music, my digital photos, a whole bunch of Word documents and all those books in storage. And of course my passport.
But in the months that followed, there was still a feeling nagging away at me. The feeling that my data was still vulnerable. Sure my music was backed up to my iPod, but if I got mugged and lost my laptop and iPod at the same time, it would all be gone. My photos the same. And the Word documents. And my contacts. Oh, and my calendar. And those books in storage – what if there was a fire? Or – more importantly – what if I wanted to refer to one of them?
I was determined to solve those problems. And it seemed like the only real solution was to figure out how to virtualise absolutely everything but the passport. The dream scenario would be one where, if all of my possessions vanished at the same time, all I would need do is pick up an fresh laptop and a new Blackberry, click a couple of links and – bing – everything would back as it was.
ALSO – I wanted any thief who ended up with my stuff to be as far away from my data as possible. I’m not talking passwords and encryption – I’m talking about keeping my laptop actually empty of anything valuable. This is also useful at customs.
I’ve been working on the problem for six months now and this seems like as good a time as any for a progress report. I won’t go into two many of the specifics as that would be kind of a dumb move, privacy-wise. But as of this evening, there is just one file in my Documents folder: the Word document I’m working on right now.
All of my research material, notes, spreadsheets, notes, emails etc etc are safely stored in a location far, far away. Two locations actually. And when I need them, a click or three brings them into Google Docs /Gmail for me to start hacking away. Ah, yes – Goodle Docs – local Office apps are a thing of the past too.
My photos – same story. 99% are on Flickr anyway, but the few that I don’t want to share with the world are safe and sound, but just a Blackberry/Wireless click away. Nothing on the harddrive.
Music is a slightly more tricky proposition. It’s all backed up securely, but I still have to store tracks locally if I want to listen to playlists or listen when there’s no decent wireless access. This is annoying. My ideal is to subscribe to a streaming music service that supports playlists, but also to be able to connect my iPod and my Mac using Bluetooth so that when the connection drops out, the iPod automatically picks up the slack. Maybe I should get an iPhone and investigate the Last.fm for iPhone app. But I don’t want an iPhone; I have a Blackberry. Hmm. Suggestions welcome.
Books! Here’s a really interesting one. Books are fucking heavy and annoying. That’s why mine are all in storage. And that’s also why I’m so keen to get a Sony Reader or Kindle and start experimenting. I’d be delighted if I could give 99% of my library to a charity shop and just keep the books I received as gifts in a small box somewhere with my birth certificate and old tax returns. But until I get hold of the Reader, I don’t know whether that’s possible. It all depends on whether it’ll let me keep remote backups of my eBooks. Because if not, it’s useless to me.
Movies! I could tell you – but the Federation Against Copyright Theft would have to kill me. Will someone PLEASE offer a decent movie streaming service in the UK? I’m bored of buying £4.99 DVDs in Sainsbury’s to watch in hotel rooms and throwing them away the next day. It’s just a waste.
So that’s where I am. Everything off-shored except for music, books and my passport. And I’m working on those.
Now on to my next big challenge: reducing down the maroon suitcase on wheels that currently holds all of my possessions. By the end of next month, I want to get my entire life into carry on luggage without any drop in standard of living. I think it’s very, very do-able – but first I have to find the perfect beautiful – but functional – bag.
Any suggestions? Cost not necessarily an option as it will – in effect – be my home.
I want something that makes people go ‘oooh’.
But first, Edinburgh.