Tag Archives: cloud

This is why digital nomads, remote workers and everyone who travels must rely on offline tools

2017-03-02

Traveling professionals, digital nomads and remote workers rely on their computing devices to get the work done. One key thing workers take for granted in an office – Internet access – is not always available on the road. Once a nomadic worker realizes what it really means to be disconnected for a few critical hours or even for days, it becomes clear that the whole computer setup must be prepared for travel. It is a setup that relies on offline tools.
laptop on office desk, woman reads newspaper
If you stop for a moment and review all the applications and online services you are using, you may discover that being without an Internet connection makes up to 90% of your tools redundant. A vital application to get a job done becomes completely useless if you can’t access the Internet. This is a common situation for everyone who is traveling, settling into a new place, or is having problems with telecommunication connections.

I learned all this the hard way. I can still remember how it felt to land in a city where I had never been before, hire a car (without a navigator), and drive to a nearby city where a hotel room was waiting for us. Finding the right direction on the highway was easy by following the street signs, but when it was time to open the navigation application on the smartphone and get detailed instructions for finding the hotel, it didn’t work. The smartphone navigation app didn’t work because it required Internet connection. It was night already, and we were completely lost. In the end, helpful police officers showed us the way to the hotel.

Another painful lesson was during a customer project that I had started before traveling to another country. I had saved the project documents in Google Drive because I had used Google Docs for taking notes and drafting the material. I had reserved two days for finishing the project. I had the time, the tools, but no documents. Internet connection in the place I had rented for a month didn’t work. I contacted the agent who hired the place to me, but because it was weekend, she was off duty. No help. Those two days were lost in frantic search for cafés with Internet connection and prepaid SIM cards. In the end, I managed to buy a prepaid SIM card. Two days were completely lost, but the acquired SIM card proved valuable: it saved me from the same problem later.

So, perhaps contrary to the popular opinion, I am arguing that digital nomads, remote workers and anyone who needs to travel must give up Google Docs, Office 365 and similar cloud services if they are using those services for work. People on the move must rely on offline tools.

Essential offline apps

Here is a brief list of common apps that you must be able to run without Internet connection.

Word processor (for instance, Libreoffice Writer, Word or Pages)
Spreadsheet (for instance, Libreoffice Calc, Excel, or Numbers)
Notes / Journal / Editor application
Maps (Maps.me which runs on tablets and smartphones, but not on PCs is a good choice)
Navigation (Maps.me has been designed to run offline, which is why it is far more reliable and faster than running an online navigation app, like Google Maps in offline mode)
Password manager
Contacts
Calendar
Ereading software and ebook library (for instance, Bluefire Reader or Fbreader)
Photo editor
Dictionary

How to test that your key applications run without an Internet connection?

1. Disable Wi-Fi and mobile data on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
2. Start every application, one app at a time, that you absolutely need on the road, and try out if you can use it without hindrances.

Using a smartphone for communications even when there is no Internet access

compose text message on Android smartphone
Just a reminder that even when you are offline, you probably have a smartphone that can connect to a mobile network. You should activate roaming for phone calls before leaving your home country. If you don’t’ answer phone calls or make phone calls yourself, you don’t have to pay any extra (to be sure, check with your telco). When roaming for phone calls is activated, you can also send and receive text messages (SMS) that are a low-cost way to communicate even overseas.

Do not activate overseas data roaming for your smartphone, unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. Usually, it means that either you have a special overseas data package, or you have a EU mobile subscription and you are roaming in the EU region.

Minimum set of cloud services

Once you have secured Internet access, it is time to connect with the employer, clients, audiences, friends and family. The minimum set of online services a traveling professional needs:

Email
Cloud Backup
Social media
Skype or other teleconferencing and messaging service

What does the sharp separation of offline and online tools mean in practice?

Having a large selection of offline tools always available means that it has been possible for you to be productive during those periods without Internet connection. Once you manage to get your computing devices online, you have text documents, messages, photos, spreadsheets and presentations ready to be shared with your employer, clients or audiences.

Which online services are the best for a traveling professional?

The best ones are those cloud services that let you have full control over the access and access rights of your account. It may mean you have to pay for your email service and backup space in the cloud to ensure you truly own full control over the account and the data you have stored into the account.

Popular free services, like Gmail and other Google and Yahoo services are extremely risky for travelers. These services have full control over your account and data. It is their decision if they let you access your data or not. A login attempt – even with the correct credentials – from a new place is a red flag for the services, and they may lock you out from your account. Read more about the risks of Google and Yahoo services for nomadic workers in the article Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling.

Being offline isn’t the end of the world for a traveling professional who relies on computers and the Internet to get the work done. When you are prepared, you can keep working offline until you manage to secure access to the Internet. The fruits of those productive offline hours – or even days – can then be shared with the world.

Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling

2016-12-28

A few years ago, when I started traveling for work, a strange thing happened with some of the web services I had been using. These cloud services, such as email, photo sharing and calendar refused to let me in to my account. I really needed to access them because my work processes relied on those services. Instead, the services insisted I was a hacker who had managed to discover my user id and password. The cloud services refused me from accessing my own account.

That’s when I quit Yahoo. Now, I am in the process of quitting all my Google services as well.
an office for a digital nomad in Bordeaux, France
In 2012 and 2013 I was on a long journey that took me to several countries in Europe. I was using Yahoo Mail and Flickr quite a lot when things started to go wrong. Every time I moved to a new place, Yahoo wanted verification after verification to prove that I was really me. When I had done it a few times, and had been locked out from my accounts once, and had very frustrating moments with Yahoo support, I was fed up. I decided to quit all my Yahoo services.

With the information that we have today (in December 2016), it is easy to realize that Yahoo may have been fighting with serious hacking problems just then, in 2013. Their solution was to make life hard for their customers without telling what had happened.

I decided to migrate my cloud services to Google. That decision I have bitterly regretted recently. I have been traveling in Europe during 2016, staying one night in one place, a week in another and a month somewhere else. Every time I have tried to access my Gmail, Google Photos, Google Plus, Analytics, or any other Google service, I have been treated as a criminal. Even after I have correctly entered my login id, password, and the required verification information, Google haven’t let me access my account. Instead, Google took the effort to send me an email message:
Google: someone has your password

“Someone has your password
Hi,
Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your Google Account [name]@[address].com.
Details: Saturday, [month], 2016 12:43 PM (Central European Standard Time)
[country]*
Google stopped this sign-in attempt, but you should review your recently used devices:”

The first time Google locked me out of my account, I spent quite a lot precious time trying to explain the situation to Google Support. Nothing happened. That was it. I had enough of Google. For my work that requires traveling, it is a waste of time to try and follow Google’s verification instructions – only to be locked out.

So, I am moving my work, business, and life away from Google.

I understand and really hope that services like Yahoo and Google have security measures in place to prevent hijacking of accounts. If I login to my account in Edinburgh today, and in Dublin tomorrow, it is perfectly all right to ask verification for proving that I am really me. What I don’t understand is why both Yahoo and Google fail to recognize the credentials I am entering. For instance, Google’s verification process can send a message to a backup email address stored on the account. Going through this process doesn’t help. I am still a criminal to Google.

I understand that Google has other ways for verifying customer’s identity, but whatever they are, I can not trust Google anymore. Google does whatever it wants with my data. I don’t have any hope to have any control over the data I have stored on Google’s servers. The risk with dealing with services like Yahoo and Google is simply too high. The critical moment when I need information stored on my account, or access communication services I have relied on my work, the services fail. They have been designed that way, and nothing I say or do will change it.

Since I will be traveling (and writing about it), I have started a long process of creating a whole new cloud working environment for me and for people I work with. It takes time and effort, because some choices prove to be wrong and as painful it is, switching to another tool is better than limping ahead with an unreliable or unsecure tool.

What can a traveling remote worker, or digital nomad, who doesn’t have tools provided by corporate IT department do without Google or Yahoo? Here are some suggestions. I may update them as my migration process progresses:

– An email account from a reliable ISP (hosting company). Many ISPs give a large inbox (up to 1 GB) for the price of a domain name. Annual cost around 10-15 USD/Euros.
– Flickr is an excellent photo service – if you can login to your account. I am still looking for a replacement for it (won’t be Google Photos).
– Some hosted email services come with a calendar, some ISPs charge extra for it. I have been trying out Sunrise and Moxtra that are free.
– Google Plus social media service can be important for some people, but it wasn’t critical for me. Goodbye Google+. Other social media services, like Twitter or Instagram have co-operated smoothly with me on the road.
– In addition to backing up data to an external drive, find a cloud backup service. Forget Google Drive, and pay a few euros/dollars per month to a company that really knows what they are doing. I am traveling in Europe, so Hubic servers in France are never far away from places I am staying.
– Google Analytics can be difficult to replace as the web site analytics tool, but we are trying out Piwik and Open Web Analytics at the moment.

Why am I discontent with Google and Yahoo services alone? Surely, I must be using social media services as well? Yes, I am. It is just that, for instance, Twitter, Dropbox, Skype, or Instagram have made life easy for customers who are traveling. They know someone is accessing your account from a new place, tell you about it, ask if everything is all right, and act accordingly. The difference with Google and Yahoo is that these services just work.

Online security is not easy. Customers want to be assured that their accounts are in safe hands. For a service provider, it means balancing between ease of use and requiring customers to take a few extra steps. Yet, even tight security can be implemented so that customers who prove their identity are not locked out from the services they rely on their work.


Subscribe to our newsletter on ebooks, writing and photography:

Solution for all of us who want an easy way for creating spectacular timelapse videos

2015-12-24

Timelapse photography is so spectacular way of taking pictures that it drives many travel and landscape photographers to study the secrets of the technique. Once they discover how laborious it is, how much time it requires and what kind of equipment is needed, many simply forget it. French startup Enlaps has created a solution for anyone who wants to become a timelapse photographer. Enlaps has developed an integrated solution that consists of a camera, cloud photo storage and a timelapse video creation application.
enlaps timelapse photography camera
Enlaps has a working prototype camera and cloud software solution that they can demonstrate. They have already won a design award and an innovation award for the timelapse system. The product should be available in August 2016, because the startup still needs money to start production o f the special camera they have created.

Enlaps expects the price of the product to be around 600 Euros once it reaches production. Before it happens, they sell the product at lower early-bird price at Kickstarter.

Here is how the Enlaps dedicated timelapse photography system works:

1. Place the camera (known as Tikee) at a spot you want to photograph. Turn the solar panel towards the sun for keeping the camera powered. Tikee has two wide area lenses in the corners that must face the subject.
2. Connect the Tikee camera to a Wi-Fi hotspot (for instance, your smartphone), or if you have the Pro edition of the camera, you can connect it directly to the mobile data network (3G or 4G).
3. The camera starts transmitting images to your cloud storage at given interval.
4. Logon to your cloud account and make sure pictures show the subject that you expected.
5. Once you have received enough photos to your cloud storage, you can let the cloud app create a timelapse video for you. You can edit and select photos before you create a video.

Here is a video where Enlaps co-founder explains how the system works:

The Tikee camera can function without sunlight and without Internet for awhile. Its built-in battery should last for one week if it takes a photo every 10 minutes. An SD memory card can store photos instead of sending them to the cloud storage.
The camera specifications:

– 2 image sensors and 2 lenses.
– 16 megapixels per sensor.
– F2.8 wide angle lenses.
– Field of view 220 degrees after images have been (automatically) stitched together.
– Weatherproof.
– Operating temperature -10 – +45 Celsius.