Alan's guide to mobile computing

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24 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 8 μήνες)

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Alan’s Guide to Mobile Computing

Here are some tips and tricks which I hope may be useful. They are things I have
found in trying to make my own digital life easier. Most are about how to transfer
things easily and reliably between an office and home machine, or remove the need to
use one particular computer, or not have to take a laptop with me on a trip, or ways to
make borrowed laptops easier to configure and reset before returning to the office.
Remember, in the school we have several nice new laptops which you can borrow
from Emma.

A. Backing up and getting mobile:

A good start is to free yourself from one particular machine:

1. Get a memory stick and put all your work on it. Be sure it is twice as big as
you think you need! I use 16GB.

2. Get and use the free Microsoft programme: SyncToy
. (Be sure it is version 2.0
or above - google for it). This allows you to set up a one click
synchronisation/update between your memory stick and any other hard drive
you may regularly use. It only copies/updates what is required and so is very

I have SyncToy on the PC in my office, at home and on the laptop. I use my
memory stick as the master copy and synchronise the machines with it as I use
them. This way I am sure all the places I work are up to date and as a bonus I
always have 3 backup copies. I also have the office version setup to
synchronise itself with the Y: drive…and I also burn a DVD of my stuff when
I remember.

Another thing I do which may apply to you – many laptops (like netbooks or
EEE PCs) take an SD memory card. I keep an SD card the same size as my
memory stick synchronised and use it in borrowed school laptops instead of
actually using the hard drive. It has the advantage of fitting flat in the laptop
rather than use the stick if I am travelling and I can “clean” the laptop for
return by just taking the card out.

B. Getting more freedom

If you travel a lot, then often it is useful to take the programmes with you as well as
your data. Portable applications (PortableApps) are software designed to run from a
USB stick. They include useful open source (i.e. free) stuff like open office (as good
as and fully interchangeable with Microsoft Office), Firefox (possibly better than
Internet Explorer) and Thunderbird (an email client which can do more than outlook).

I use many of these portable applications either on the USB stick or just copied from
the stick onto the hard drive of the machines I use. These are useful for a borrowed
laptop as the software does not install anything into windows, but runs from one self
contained directory or directly from the stick. Delete the directory or remove the stick
and the software and all trace is gone. No need to wipe your files and uninstall any
extra software from a borrowed laptop.

You can therefore sit at any windows PC (your own, a borrowed laptop, in a computer
lab, at an internet café, a friends, etc) and work with familiar software on your own
files with little trouble or worry.

Sources of portable applications:

Recommended Applications:
• OpenOffice (as good as and fully interchangeable with Microsoft Office)
• Firefox (possibly better than internet explorer)
• Thunderbird (an email client which can do more than outlook).
• USB disk eject - an easy to use way of checking that your USB stick is
finished with before taking it out
• Undelete plus – a USB way of getting back things you didn’t want to delete
• Skype – there is portable version
• KeePass - a secure place to keep all your passwords and sensitive data in one
• Mplayer and VLC – media players which can play any sound or video file
• xmplay – take your i-tunes library with you
• kompozer – an easy to use html editor
• rocketdock – gives a Mac like list of programmes and icons on the screen

C. Advanced Tips

1. RHUL and other email

With the portable (or any version) of thunderbird, you can set it up as a front end
to our RHUL email system (it uses a method called IMAP). With a little playing,
you can then have the same outlook experience (drag and drop, etc) on any PC
and the results happen on the machine in the computer centre, not locally to where
you are.

A trick is to use Google Mail as the SMTP email sender. Normally if you change
location, you have to reset some settings in outlook, use the VPN or just use the
low functionality of webmail to send email. With a correctly configured
thunderbird and gmail account, you can send as if it came direct from RHUL
without doing any of this. (In more detail: Step one – set up a gmail account, make
sure it is IMAP enabled and set the “send email as” section in gmail settings to
your RHUL address. Step two – set up the SMTP settings in thunderbird to use
gmail: it should be port 465, SSL and use your gmail account details to login. Be
sure to also tell thunderbird to keep a copy of sent mail in the RHUL IMAP sent
items folder).

Thunderbird will support multiple email accounts and so one window can also
show your private email as well as RHUL. Follow the instructions for either POP
or IMAP which your email firm can tell you. Gmail seems to be one of the best
free emails at the moment, having IMAP (remote holding of email whereas POP is
downloaded to your computer) and masses of space. A trick I use here is to use a
bigfoot email forwarding address for personal email. It doesn’t let you access your
email, but provides an address which doesn’t change as you can point it to any
other email address: As a result, when you move ISP’s, you
do not need to tell everyone of the change. Many other organisations offer an
email forwarding service for members such as alumni organisations and the IEEE.

2. Never have a full mailbox by using Google Mail to keep copies

Another tip is to use a gmail account to keep copies of emails. A copy of every
email I receive and send from my RHUL account is automatically copied to a
gmail account (this is done with 2 simple rules set up in outlook). This means I
never need to worry about a full mailbox, and also gmail has far superior search
capabilities than our system. Actually I access my backup gmail account with the
same thunderbird window I use for RHUL and my own personal email…

3. Calendar synchronisation

Thunderbird has a good calendar add in called Lightning. This works well and can
be made, through another add on, to synchronise with a Google Calendar. There is
a separate calendar/contact manager from the Mozilla (the Firefox/Thunderbird
people) called Sunbird, but I have not used it. Google Calendars can also be made
to synchronise with Outlook. This last step needs a PC with access to Outlook.

I use all these combined so my diary is in the same window as my emails. An
added benefit is that the Google Calendar is much more portable than Outlook and
can be up/downloaded to many different applications and devices.

4. TV on the go

I use a program called zattoo to watch TV on the pc. It is legal but needs a free
registration. It works well enough to catch up on the news, and if you are
travelling abroad, connecting to the RHUL VPN allows access to most UK TV
channels. You do need a good internet connection for this to work well.

Also connecting to the college VPN allows you to pretend to be in the UK and so
watch BBCi player and the ITV, Channel 4 equivalents, or other UK restricted
services whilst abroad.

Alan Pilkington