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Jetpacking

I finally broke down and popped for cellular data service and a Mifi device. So now, when I am riding along in a train or (as happens to be the case even now) as a passenger in a car, I can create a wifi network of my own. It's by no means free, but I'm deciding pretty quickly that it's pretty darned handy.

The reason it's handy, I have to confess, is that so many things I do when sitting at a computer involve quick dips into the Internet, checking facts on web sites, dealing with emails as they come in so that I don't hang up processes at work, that sort of thing.

There's more to it than that, though. The truth is, I find it pretty unsettling, actually, when the computer is just sitting there, not connected to the rest of the world. I hit the first thing that *might* be helped by a quick check of some fact on the Web, remember that I can't do it right now, and just sort of freeze up.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this really isn't all that healthy. Life is too chopped up and disjointed already without having it depend on quick hits of Internet nonsense every couple of minutes.

Yeah, so I have mixed feelings about the cellular data. But all the same, I can get stuff done on the road now in a way that I really wasn't able to in the past. And this, in turn, has coupled with a >>streak of getting things done<<. It enables me to write a blog post while in the car, for example (my wife is driving), synching it to the cloud so it's backed up, and then going live with it on the Web site, without having to wait till I get home to finish things up. By the time I get home, the task is crossed off the list and I'm ready to move on.

I haven't used the jetpack enough to get a sense of how reliable it is or isn't. It seems to work pretty well out on the highways of the Northeast corridor, at least for surfing (feels pretty snappy). You want to check something on a Web site? No problem. You want to check your mail? Absolutely not a problem. Someone attached a long video clip to the email? Well, that's where you'll notice a difference. Not saying video doesn't work, especially if you're in a 4G service area, but you get some glitchiness and, as you'd expect, it really eats into your monthly allowance.

Since the sorts of work that I'm likely to want to keep going while on a train or waiting in a church lobby while my daughter practices with the country youth orchestra is all about email and writing and doing general Web research, I rather expect this to be money well spent.

I will say this, though: I think the rates for smart phones on the major carriers here in the U.S. are pretty sobering. They may be perfectly reasonable in terms of what it costs to build out the infrastructure (though, frankly, I doubt it), or perhaps in terms of what it costs to subsidize those expensive handsets, but it's pretty darned hard to come out spending less than eighty a month for a smart phone with some data service. For me, that borders on not being worth it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Richardson is the principle nomad here at the Mode.
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