When Technology Works

June 30, 2009
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The problem with being an early adopter of new technologies is that leading edge can quickly turn into bleeding edge. In other words, brand new products are often buggy, and early adopters aren’t much different form guinea pigs. Technology enthusiasts like to fancy themselves as explorers of new frontiers, not disposable lab animals. So when new technologies actually work, it’s hard not to be excited about them.

Tonight, I’d like to share some of this excitement. Since I got my first iPhone on the first day of its release two years ago, I have been trying to use it as a universal remote control, either for my home theater (just because I could), or for my corporate presentations (I give a lot of those these days). I tried various applications, but none of them really worked, until now… Yesterday, I managed to make Keynote Remote work between my new MacBook Pro 13” (the best laptop ever for frequent travelers) and my iPhone 3GS. Here is how it works: you get both your MacBook and your iPhone on the same Wi-Fi network, you launch Keynote on your MacBook and Keynote Remote on your iPhone (after having paired them by following these instructions), and you’re ready to go. You can

The problem with being an early adopter of new technologies is that leading edge can quickly turn into bleeding edge. In other words, brand new products are often buggy, and early adopters aren’t much different form guinea pigs. Technology enthusiasts like to fancy themselves as explorers of new frontiers, not disposable lab animals. So when new technologies actually work, it’s hard not to be excited about them.

Tonight, I’d like to share some of this excitement. Since I got my first iPhone on the first day of its release two years ago, I have been trying to use it as a universal remote control, either for my home theater (just because I could), or for my corporate presentations (I give a lot of those these days). I tried various applications, but none of them really worked, until now… Yesterday, I managed to make Keynote Remote work between my new MacBook Pro 13” (the best laptop ever for frequent travelers) and my iPhone 3GS. Here is how it works: you get both your MacBook and your iPhone on the same Wi-Fi network, you launch Keynote on your MacBook and Keynote Remote on your iPhone (after having paired them by following these instructions), and you’re ready to go. You can start and stop the presentation from your iPhone, and go from slide to slide by sinply sliding a finger on your iPhone’s touchscreen. Awesome!

Problem is, Keynote Remote requires that both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, which can be a challenge when visiting customers or investors, either because no Wi-Fi network is available, or because you do not want to waste time trying to get two devices connected to it while your hosts are eagerly waiting for your presentation.

One solution to this problem is to carry your own Wi-Fi network, and the easiest way to do that so far was to get an Apple AirPort Express. While it’s certainly one of the best portable Wi-Fi routers (no cables, easy to setup), it’s still a bit bulky, and it requires an external power source. Also, plugging such a device into someone else’s power outlet feels a bit awkward at times, as if you were about to mess with their network, or implant some spying aparatus that would be left on site after you’d leave. Definitely not the kind of feeling you want customers or partners to have about you during a meeting.

Recently, a better alternative became available, in the form of Novatel’s amazingly small MiFi 2200 Mobile Hotspot. This device is essentially a 3G wireless modem paired to a Wi-Fi router, powered by a small cellphone battery, charged with a standard Micro USB cable, and packaged into a sleek brushed aluminum enclosure. I bought one from Sprint today, got it running in about 2 minutes (after charging the battery for a couple hours), and tested it with Keynote and Keynote Remote. Verdict? It works, and it’s a thing of beauty.

What’s the big deal about all this? Well, quite simply, mobile technology is really starting to work. With such a setup that fits into a tiny Incase 13” Nylon Sleeve Plus, I have a laptop with 6 hours of real battery life, a 3G smartphone that has a real web browser and works in pretty much any country (including Japan), and a personal mobile hotspot that turns on in about 15 seconds by pressing a single button. Even better, all I need to carry is a single power supply and two small cables (both available with retractable wires). In fact, this setup is so small and so lightweight that I can even add a LaCie Little Disk 500GB onto which I uploaded 371 movies, in case the in-flight entertainment system has nothing decent to offer. The later even comes with a built-in USB cable…

What more could I ask for?

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