On the Road: Sprint SmartView

When I’m on the road, I use a Sprint Sierra card. I used to pay for Internet access in my room, fish around for Wi-fi networks, etc. But no more. Now, when I’m at the airport, in the hotel or even when I’m at home and both of my Internet connections go down (sadly, it happens) I’m able to use my laptop and be online. Right now, I’m using the Compass 597 from Sierra, which has a top speed of 3.1 Mbps down or 1.8 Mbps up. I look forward to the day when I can upgrade to the Sierra USB 306/307, which actually bumps that top speed to 21 Mbps, but for now I’ll take what I can get. I knew from the day that Zack lent me his card at MacWorld that I loved this thing. You plug it in, an installer pops up (located on the USB stick) and it’s a 30 second install and then reboot. The installer loads 3 kexts (SierraSwitch, SierraSwitchKicker and SierraSupport) so last time I installed it I tested doing a kextload of the drivers and thus hopefully not needing a reboot, no dice and eliminating a reboot I rarely do isn’t high on my radar, but theoretically you should be able to install without the restart… Once installed, you just open the application and click on the Connect button and it does the rest. What the GUI design lacks in a sleek and pretty look, it makes up for in simplicity of use. Don’t get me wrong, they used that glass shelf widget look and it’s not ugly to look at, it’s just a bit of an awkward app. Once you’re connected, the Sprint card has a couple of other features that I find pretty useful. The first most iPhone users will scoff at, but if you click on the GPS slide-down menu and click on the play button, it will retrieve your GPS coordinates. Using that information you can click on icons to bring up coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations and of course the nearest Sprint store. Under Applications (which also brings up web pages), you can do a speed test, hit up Sprint’s support, manage your account and of course, find coverage maps. Overall, Sprint SmartView and the Sierra cards make for a great combo punch and a great tool that I use every time I’m on the road (mostly in airports and hotel rooms, not while actually driving on a road – usually). I rarely give a product a glowing recommendation, but I’ve been planning on writing this up for awhile as these things deserve it!

On the Road: Vegas

I’m staying on the West Side of Las Vegas for the first time, to be close to my job site.  It’s nice.  It’s less crowded, less pretentious and really a lot more like a suburb with a random casino here and there.  If you’re looking for the Vegas experience, probably not what you’re after.  But if you’re looking for a low-key place away from it all, there’s plenty here that’s appealing.  Good stuff.

On the Road: DIA Again

For the second time in two months I got stuck in Denver International for the night in the middle of a layover.  But this time it was a completely different experience.  Last time I arrived at DIA at midnight after being delayed and after facing a snotty customer service desk ended up stuck outside the airport (the security gate was closed already) and proceeded to grab a hotel for 4 or 5 hours on my own dime only to come back to a standby flight where I got to sit in the center seat in the back of the plane.  This time though I arrived about 5 minutes after my connecting flight left.  So I proceed to the customer service desk to inquire about what to do to find I had automagically been transferred to another flight leaving at 8 in the morning, handed a voucher for a hotel room and a voucher for dinner at any of the restaurants in the area of the airport.  And the staff tracked down my bag to make sure I had it when I got home and was pretty much the nicest I’ve ever encountered at an airline.  So congrats to United for screwing up and then making it up to me.

On the Road Again

When you’re traveling it can be difficult to keep track of all those receipts.  Whether it’s cabs, parking or meals you’re bound to loose a receipt or two.  That’s one reason I like to reconcile my expense reports on a nightly basis.  I’ve made a little spreadsheet to do it for me, but sometimes I get back to the hotel room and realize I’ve lost that receipt.  This is where being able to log into Amex comes into play.  I scribble down what I missed in the spreadsheet and then it appears on Amex shortly thereafter.  I print the copy out of the web portal, attach it to my expense report, and viola – I’m not loosing hundreds or thousands a year in missed receipts.

On the Road: Milwaukee

Traveling for work can suck.  Like really suck.  It just gets old.  But then you get sent to a city like Milwaukee, WI (aka Beer City), where all they can talk about on the radio is Brett Favre.  If you get the chance, stay at the Ambassador Inn some time, head down to Mader’s (which is over 100 years old) and grab some good old school German food and then try to go do work the next day…  It’s tough, but well worth it!

On the Road: Gaining Weight

It sure is a good feeling to be the one that figures out the impossible.  When you’re at a client and you can walk out of there with that kind of feeling, you feel like you own the world.  That is, until you realize you’re in a small town in the middle of nowhere and the only thing open is a Taco Bell.  Then you realize you didn’t bother to eat lunch or dinner and you scarf down more food than you really should.  That’s when you realize, sitting in your hotel room, that you haven’t worked out in months, your surfboard has run off with a boogie board (well that happened when you left it for the land of non-salty water) and you’re starting to put on a little extra weight.  Suddenly all those late nights with the clients don’t seem nearly as fun as they did before and you wonder how long it’s going to take to get back to your old self…

On the Road: Death and Taxes

Be careful with keeping expenses used for work separate from those used for taxes.  You see the last thing you want is to have to get IRS help from someone like American Tax Relief.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that type of company, but no one wants a IRS problem.  They can be timely and costly.  So, don’t expense things your job pays you back for…

On the Road: Orange County

I know, it’s close to LA so not very big on the travel thing.  But according to what part of OC you are in you still might want to just stay down here rather than brave traffic nightly.  But the thing that strikes me so much about OC is how different it is from LA.  There are definitely different parts of OC, each with its own little thing about it to set it apart.  Anaheim seems a lot like Atlanta.  It’s not as trashy as LA anywhere here, and there is obviously a lot of money.  I like that so many people here surf.  But there’s a reason people say “behind the Orange Curtain”.  It’s like a totally planned community in areas like Irvine, which can be kinda’ weird compared to the random sprawl of other parts of SoCal.