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The backpackers office, work & play with just a tablet

Backpackers Office

You can read more about me backpacking as a diabetic here: type1traveller.co.uk

My main device for all work and entertainment while backpacking for 9-12 months is the Nexus 7 tablet. This little device is very powerful with a fantastic screen at a reasonable price. I have a few configurations with this tablet that allow me to work and relax...

The Basics

  • Nexus 7 (2013) - great little tablet, very powerful and not too expensive that it will be a disaster if damaged.
  • Microsoft Wedge Bluetooth keyboard - little on the pricy side but well worth the extra over cheaper units. Has a well layed out buttons that have plenty of space and firm feedback. Also thw lid doubles as a stand for the tablet.
  • Microsoft Wedge Bluetooth mouse
  • Kindle 3g - 3g model allows me to download books in most countries and has a basic web browser what's great as email backup (not working for web browsing, Amazon may off changed terms of use - need to investigate!)
  • O2 Tu Go - now this is clever, it's like Skype but with your UK mobile number. When connected to the internet this allows me to call and text as if I'm still in the UK by routing my calls over the internet. This allows me to keep my mobile number I have had since 15, access my voicemail and make and receive calls - usage comes out your monthly O2 deal. Little buggy at the moment but getting more stable, real game changer this app is.

Entertainment

While travelling we find ourselves with time to burn, be it waiting for flight or sitting on a train. What better than to catchup with a movie or two and tv shows?
On the Nexus I have installed:

  • XBMC - fantastic media app that will play almost any video file and turns your tablet into a media centre. XBMC for Android is still being worked on and can be downloaded direct from the team here.
  • One pain with the Nexus 7 is the lack of SD Card slot. To store all these videos I have a 64GB pen drive. This is split into two 32GB partitions formated in FAT32 - the tablet has difficulties with other file systems types and the max partition size for FAT32 is 32GB.
  • To access the pen drive your Nexus must be rooted and you will need an OTG cable. Installing StickMount will allow auto mounting of the drive when you plug it in. (yes, there are ways to access the drive without rooting, but rooting is best)
  • Lastly we have a Y audio cable that allows myself and kinga to plug in our head phones.

Work

Sometimes it's best to have the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connected when writing long emails, blog posts, working on remote computers etc. Once connected this setup is surprisingly comfortable and you will get many admiring looks from passers by on your kick arse setup.
Few apps that help with work...

  • Any.do - reminder app
  • ConnectBot - Terminal access to remote Linux boxes. Used to manage my AWS systems
  • Google Drive - All of my work and personal documents
  • External Keyboard Helper - first when using the Bluetooth keyboard I had difficulties with the virtual keyboard popping up or repeat key presses being sent. This app resolved these issues.
  • File Manager - little basic, but solid
  • LogMeIn - allows remote access to Windows computers. I use the free computer client and pay 200USD a year for Central membership.
  • AndFTP - SCP access to my Linux boxes
  • LastPass - password manager

Big Boy Work

 

Now, sit down, as this is just amazing, I still cannot get over it!
While the Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse combo work well with the Nexus 7, there are times when I want a full blown desktop to run apps in as Android and its Apps are just not meeting my needs.
While traveling I discovered a way to boot a full Linux desktop from the Nexus 7 - OMG! And this sits along side Android, no need to wipe the device - for real!?

  • Install Complete Linux Installer and follow the instructions to download your flavour of Linux - I went with Ubuntu
  • Once installed fire up the VNC client you installed as part of the setup and, BAM! Linux desktop!

Seriously, this is just amazing and works very smoothly. To get the best exspireance I made the following adjustments...

  • Set the screen res to 1440x850, this is a lower res than the tablet supports but provides clearer text and takes in consideration the software buttons at the bottom of the screen.
  • Customise the text size under prefrances on the system to make it a little larger
  • I find that Desktop Anywhere a better VNC client that supports mirroring mouse location and right click

Once setup this is a amazing portable office, I keep showing Kinga how amazing this is but she just gives me a blank look with a little bit of pity.

tablet computer with linux desktopFinally, to top it all off get your hands on a SlimPort Adapter cable, this provides HDMI out from the tablet and a port that still allows it to be charged, with this you can plug into to any HDMI TV and enjoy all the above on a big screen.
Job, done!

 

Given a stable internet connection with this setup working and relaxing while traveling is surprisingly easy and productive. Even using the Bluetooth keyboard with our Samsung S3 phones kinga can hammer out a blog post in time.
Unfortunately while wireless internet is easy to come by in Asia, the quality of the connection at guesthouses (mostly due to too many tourists on Facebook / Skype) can be an issue. Connecting in a restaurant with a cool drink is a good way to find a stable connection.

Enjoy.

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