Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Telecommuting... sort of

I know. I know. I know. This is supposed to be a "daddy-blog," filled with stories about a not-so-young father and his awfully young son, but I just have to get this out of my system... USB drives are really, really cool. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you do the bulk of your work in more than one place, you really should get one of these things.

Just having one doesn't really guarantee success as a roving worker bee. The trick is figuring out an efficient way to use it. This is what I've done with my USB drive after a year of perfecting my system....

Applications: In this folder I have Portable Firefox, Portable Thunderbird, Portable Gaim, and Portable Sunbird all sitting on my USB drive (check out for details on these programs). I also have a small text editor that I use to do the majority of my writing in (Haxial's really excellent and simple TextEdit), which later gets cut and pasted into Word for formatting and spell-checking. And, I've just started using Portable Open Office, for when I don't feel like messing with Word and Excel.

Work Files: This usually contains two folders: Backup and Things To Be Filed. The Backup folder holds copies of all of my work files, so that I can reference them whenever and wherever I want. Since a lot of my work revolves around writing, I like to be able to go back to previous reports, proposals, letters, whatever, to check how I might have described something in the past, what I may have said to someone in a previous letter, etc. Having all of those files available wherever I go is a huge help.

The "Things To Be Filed" folder contains things that I've been working on that are complete and need to be merged with my files at work. The first thing I do in the morning, when I'm in the office, is go through my "Things To Be Filed" folder and move files to their appropriate place on my work PC. Then, the last thing I do before I leave the office is copy everything on my work PC into my "Backup" folder on my USB drive. This keeps both places up-to-date.

Dropped around the "Backup" and "Things To Be Filed" folders are whatever files I'm working on at the moment. As I said, these are usually Haxial TextEdit files and are basically just raw text. When they get finalized, they're usually moved into the "Things To Be Filed" folder.

Home Files: This is my miscellaneous folder where I keep my personal stuff. It's not nearly as organized as my Work Files folder, but it's a good space to store the weird and varied stuff that doesn't really fit in the work folders. PDF articles, photos, MP3s, e-mail attachments, recipes, whatever. It gets dropped in here until I can get it home for storage on my computer there.

The only problem I'm really having is that I typically use my iBook at home, rather than my PC. Working with specific files isn't an issue, because the Mac is great at reading PC files without having to jump through any extra hoops. This is especially true of Haxial's TextEdit, which is available for both the PC and Mac (a big part of why I use it). The problem I'm running into is how to manage my calendar and e-mail. Portable Sunbird is a great beta and I really like it because of its calendar and to do lists, but I can't use it on my iBook. I have the same problem with e-mail. I haven't figured out a way to use the same data files using two different platforms. I'm thinking about sticking with web mail for my work address and finding a useful online calendar application that I can use to keep myself organized. There's a lot of good, online programs out there... I just need to find one I can work with.

There you have it. That's my recipe for staying sane, despite working in two different places throughout the week.

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