Working on the Go: A post covid Mobile setup (or what's in my bag?)

Working on the Go: A post covid Mobile setup (or what's in my bag?)

When I started this post it was just a "what's in the bag" post, however, while writing it I pulled out some links to other posts I have written about some of the systems.

Hardware

The place to start is Hardware, it's the foundation of working mobile. For me, there are some core requirements for working mobile the first is battery life. I'll forego a 4K screen for extra battery life every time.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

This is my workhorse. For the price, there is very little out there laptop wise that can match the i7 version of this device.  

Before you knock the fact it is ChromeOS, the fastest growing OS in the world right now, as yourself on the go what are you using your laptop for?

Webpages, Coding? Email? Video Calls, Video Streaming? Games

Nothing so far can't be done on this Chromebook which also runs Linux and Android apps and can if you work for a company that uses Google enterprise also connect to the company network.

And a large number of these things you can do offline however I'd ask yourself, if you didn't have the internet on your Windows/MBP would it be used as much?

The battery on this laptop is legendary as well I can happily use the device for a day or so with videos playing and it's still got battery left.

Also, ChromeOS recently added a feature called Mobile Connect which as the name suggests over Bluetooth connects your Android device to your Chromebook and will provide an immediate hotspot on the go as well as many other features.

Here’s Chrome OS’s Android ‘Phone Hub’ and everything it can do
Google is working on an Android “Phone Hub” for Chrome OS. Here’s a preview of Phone Hub in action and everything it will do when it launches.

I have a whole group of posts on this site based around software and setting you can use on the Chromebook

https://tech.davidfield.co.uk/tag/chromeos/

Oneplus 8 Pro

I fell in love with the OnePlus brand when it was released and although I've had Samsung's or Huawei's since it's the OnePlus I love. ITs a solid phone, the cameras are great

DavidMarkField | EyeEm Photographer
Discover the unique and authenthic photography of DavidMarkField on EyeEm

Since 2010 every phone I've bought has been a refurbished device a year behind the latest release to ensure great deals on the phones.

The 1+8p using a Smarty Sim with unlimited internet I've also noted in London over the last week has been showing a 5G symbol when using data in London.

After 12 months of using the phone, it's still updating, its battery is a day and a half and it's still as smooth as butter with its usage.

Data Package

Simple, honest mobile
SMARTY is a new SIM-only mobile network that’s built to be fair, transparent and smart.

If you're going to be working mobile data is key to your success, and while you can work from Starbucks to McDonald's for your free wifi this isn't a long term workable solution..

In the UK, I use the Pay as you go Sim from Smarty its unlimited data for £20 a month and I will say that's not a "capped" unlimited as I've got a 4G router as a backup internet connection at home and had to use that for a couple of months. Smarty provided continual data over the whole period at decent 4G speeds.

The service piggybacks on Three in the UK and as I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog they seem to be offering 5G in London as well.

Simple, honest mobile
SMARTY is a new SIM-only mobile network that’s built to be fair, transparent and smart.

Self-hosted

With the basic hardware, this setup needs a way to phone home. For a long time, I've been using Twingate to do this and would wholeheartedly recommend it as a service.

I use RHEL8 for all my servers based on the fallout from the CentOS news last year Redhat now provide a 16 servers for free solution. This provides good access to RedHat's other online tools and repositories.  

These are the public-facing services I host myself and access over the web.

Home VPN - Wireguard

Integrated into almost every mainstream OS, and supported on the Chromebook as the Android app which then provides a VPN wrapper to launch from the ChromeOS menu.

Wireguard uses cryptology not username and password to ensure security

I wrote about setting up Wireguard to access as a Road Warrior on an OpnSense server here:

https://tech.davidfield.co.uk/setting-up-wireguard-on-opnsense/

As some extended reading have a look at this post combining Wireguard and the USB-GL150 stick

https://tech.davidfield.co.uk/secure-mobile-internet-the-self-hosted-way/

Kasm

Kasm Workspaces
Kasm - Web Accessible Browser/Desktop Provides Security, Disposability, and Accessibility

Kasm is a VDI solution, what's that? It's a remote desktop like Citrix or WindowsRemoteDesktop sat on my home servers which you can connect to over the internet which in KASM's case uses Docker instead of a hypervisor to supply the desktop.

I've got an article here on how to set this up and create your own Kasm Apps

https://tech.davidfield.co.uk/looking-at-kasm-again/

I use Kasm to provide access to an Ubuntu desktop and several key applications I use on the go.

The whole setup is accessible using a web browser so no special software is needed on the client.

Plex

Watch Free Movies Online Now | Stream Free TV with Plex
Free movies and TV plus all your personal media libraries on every device. Master your Mediaverse.

I've been using Plex for years for watching podcasts, listening to Audio and streaming media while in hotels or waiting for planes.

I don't run my Plex server publically and connect to it using the Wireguard VPN however I included it here because it's great software and I use it all the time.

Rocket Chat

Rocket.Chat - The Ultimate Communication Platform
Lead with open source and keep your workflow going with the right team collaboration platform

My opinions on Rocket Chat are simple, there is no better chat/audio/video conferencing software out there. I have a private group of individuals in communication on this service which I host as a local docker swarm and fully automate the updates and failover.

https://tech.davidfield.co.uk/rocket-chat/

Out of the box, Rocket chat integrates with jitsi-meet either publically or hosted yourself for video conferencing and they are constantly providing updates with new features.

Cloud

Hosting at home is good, keeping data in multiple places is safe. These services are all about my data and ensuring I have access to it over the internet when needed. Do I have problems with my data being on Google? Some, however, there is a line between trying to find alternative solutions to self-host and fiddling around with them for months on end and something which just works.

Google Drive

As a Chromebook user, this is baked in, and I'm fine with that, it's still one of the cheapest ways of getting 1Tb storage and the integration with Google Docs and other services works well for me.

Google Photos

Having recently started charging for its extended services I like others had a good look around for an alternative. The result was I'm staying at Google. The search of my 120000+ photos is quick, it's amazing and it works. I use my 1+8p as my primary camera and the photos are uploaded (unlimited data sim on smarty) immediately.

Nextcloud

If it goes up to Google Drive it goes up to Nextcloud as well, this is one of the few services I host off my own private home cloud. I use it mainly for the dropbox like file sync features and to be sure that my data is held in 2 locations.

I also utilise WebDAV in Nextcloud as a backup location for several server configs.

Evernote

If it comes through the post or email as a document, it goes into Evernote and it gets tagged. A service worth paying for I have had an Evernote account since day one and have my scanner set up to deliver scans straight to it, and the android phone will share to it.

Once in Evernote, everything text is searchable so between tags and uploads its easy to find those old documents in a hurry.

Accessories

Plug

UGREEN 65W USB C Charger Plug 4 Port GaN Type C PD QC 3.0 Fast Wall Mains Adapter UK Compatible with iPad,iPhone 12 Pro 11,Samsung S21 S20,Dell XPS 13,Lenovo HP Laptop,Acer Chromebook: Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories
Shop UGREEN 65W USB C Charger Plug 4 Port GaN Type C PD QC 3.0 Fast Wall Mains Adapter UK Compatible with iPad,iPhone 12 Pro 11,Samsung S21 S20,Dell XPS 13,Lenovo HP Laptop,Acer Chromebook. Free delivery and returns on eligible orders.

Power is important, however, so is keeping what you carry to a minimum, carrying this power adaptor means I can plug in 4 devices at the same time using a single socket.

  • 65W Powerful Charger: UGREEN 4 port USB C PD charger, with the combined power output of 65W, offers fast and efficient charging for laptops, tablets, phones, fully charge the Macbook Pro 13 within 1.8h.
  • 4 Port USB C Charging Station: Comes with 3 USB C ports and a standard USB-A port, the 65W USB C GaN charger allocates the power smartly and provides efficient power for 4 devices at the same time.
  • Universal Compatibility: This 65W GaN Tech USB C Charger is compatible with laptops like Macbook Air/ Pro, HP Specter x360/ Envy / Elite, Dell XPS, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon/ Yoga, Asus Zenbook, Razer Blade Steath, Huawei MateBook, Acer Switch Alpha12, Asus ZenBook 3, Google Pixelbook, Chromebook Pixel etc but also smartphones or tablets like iPhone 12/SE 2020/ 11, Galaxy S21 Note 20, S20, Huawei P40, Google Pixel 3A, iPad Pro 12.9 etc.

Battery

Anker PowerCore Speed 20100 mAh Powerbank with Power Delivery, 20000 PD External Battery with great capacity iPhone 8/X, USB type C Macbooks and others: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo
Free delivery and returns on eligible orders. Buy Anker PowerCore Speed 20100 mAh Powerbank with Power Delivery, 20000 PD External Battery with great capacity iPhone 8/X, USB type C Macbooks and others at Amazon UK.

If you're not near a power supply and your device is getting low on juice you need to be able to charge it quickly. I've got a few of these power banks however this one is my go-to as a single charge will recharge the ChromeBook quickly and the phone a few times.

Stand

Nulaxy Laptop Stand, Portable Computer Laptop Mount, Aluminum Laptop Riser with 6 Levels Height Adjustment, Fully Collapsible, Supports up to 44lbs : Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories
Nulaxy Laptop Stand, Portable Computer Laptop Mount, Aluminum Laptop Riser with 6 Levels Height Adjustment, Fully Collapsible, Supports up to 44lbs : Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

The final item on this list is a Laptop stand, being able to rise the Chromebook (or any laptop off the table helps with aching wrists and puts the display closer to a horizontal looking.

Thoughts

Keep it light, keep it powered, keep the data flowing and your mobile working will be vastly improved.


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