One of the more dangerous aspects of owning a phone is getting power. It may seem relatively innocuous most of the time, but USB connectors aren’t exactly free of issues. There have been a great many number of issues in various aspects of USB over the years.
This would be okay, if people only connected USB to the wall, but they also connect it to potentially infected computers. A great many times I’ve found situations where I’ve needed power and the nearest power is totally unknown PC. Not only is it bad for them, but it’s bad for me too. USB is like an infected needle – you really don’t want to be sharing it.
Therefore one quick solution to the problem is a power-only USB adapter. It’s relatively inexpensive – usually around $10. It’s lightweight. It’s easy to use. And most importantly, it works! Of course nothing is perfect, but this is a very handy solution to an annoying security problem. Dual-use power/data cords are always going to be an issue when one of the sides is infected, so these small devices can be a lifesaver.
In a previous blog post I mentioned trying out the Omoton Bluetooth keyboard. After a few weeks of trying to get used to the Omoton keyboard I’ve decided it’s not a good fit for this type of task. The important thing that’s missing is an escape key.
A single key may not seem like that big of a deal but it really truly is for programmers. And now I’m going to get into a religious war, beware. There is a lot of people who really believe that in the Emacs vs Vi world, that Emacs is better. And it may very well be better. But on many systems there is no Emacs installed. In fact there may not even be Vi installed, but rather Vi’s grandfather, Ed, which has many of the same keyboard commands. So if you aren’t familiar with Vi you often are far less useful on things like embedded systems that require a minimal install. Anyway, it’s not a religious issue for me, I just have gotten used to being able to do whatever I need to using Vi or Vim.
But for Vi to work you need an escape key to jump out of editing mode. The Omoton keyboard simply doesn’t have it. So I purchased the certified Apple Bluetooth keyboard, typically designed for iPads and was immediately happy with the ability to jump in and out of editing mode when on a server over the iSSH application.
Was it worth the extra expense? I think it was and will continue to be a useful tool for when I need to connect to servers. For most people who don’t code, I don’t think the added expense is necessary since they are effectively the same in other respects.
The next step to increasing your ability to work efficiently is getting yourself a good keyboard. One of my largest gripes with most modern smart phones is that they lack a physical keyboard.
But two things have changed since the early days. Firstly, the touch screens have gotten good enough and they keyboard layout is close enough to that of a full sized keyboard that you can get most work done. Secondly, Bluetooth has gotten much more secure and now it’s nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be to use a Bluetooth keyboard.
Granted, I still wouldn’t use a wireless keyboard if I thought there was an adversary nearby, but thankfully, that’s not as big of a deal when you’re not travelling. Still, it’s a worry, so I disable Bluetooth whenever I’m not using it.
So, a stand alone lightweight Bluetooth keyboard is a real option. It gives you the flexibility to write long-form prose, program, or operate your phone with far greater speed. That’s what a producer of content needs – speed of throughput. This makes using the phone a lot more viable as a full-time platform.
This is the Bluetooth keyboard from Omoton. It’s just around $14, and is lightweight, has multiple weeks of battery life using two AAA batteries. It has a regular sized QUERTY keyboard interface, and most of the functions you’d expect to see of a keyboard of it’s size. The arrow keys are strangely very useful when you’re writing, because taking your hands off they keyboard to re-position the cursor can be very slow compared to moving the arrow keys around.
This keyboard will likely not be my last. As a programming keyboard it has a lot wrong with it. Not the least of which is the lack of an escape key and like MacOS Delete is actually backspace and there is no delete key, which requires keyboard emulation. But it does provide me with a tremendous speed advantage in creating new content. I’d highly recommend getting something like this if you do tend to do a lot of data entry.
One of the very first problems I run into when deciding whether a device is simply capable of being one for consumption or is capable of more, is knowing if it can be used in day to day operations.
Firstly, let’s say for a second that I believed that a smart phone could be leveraged in terms of CPU, memory, etc. you’d still have to overcome some major limitations on general usability.
The first issue I came across is that if I’m going to use a smart phone in my work day, I’m going to be needing a bigger monitor. The first option is Airplay or Chromecast. Sure I could do work on my couch, but like many other people, I have multiple monitors and need to be able to use multiple computers for my non-smart phone exec type work.
So the couch is out (for today) though, I’m not against the idea conceptually. Instead, I need to use a monitor. The easiest way I found to do this is to buy a simple HDMI adapter.
The HDMI adapter has two uses. The first is that it allows you to connect to a monitor. The second is that it allows you to connect to overhead projectors for when you need to have a meeting and display something. Yes, your smart phone will become your display for presentations as well – all with one small little dongle that is easily shoved in your bag.
Once you connect your phone it still acts just like the phone would. Touch control still works. Vertical and Horizontal alignment affects layout of the monitor, etc. But now you have a full sized screen and won’t have to be hunched over all day trying to read things. Minor usability increases have a huge effect on your ability to produce new content.
Each one of these connectors can set you back around $50 or so. Some are cheaper, especially non-certified versions. I haven’t had any problems with any of them, but your mileage may vary.
But wait, that’s not all. The tiny slot next to the VGA female connector also accepts an iPhone charger cable. So you can be charging your phone while you work without using any extra cables or parts. Pretty slick! It all adds up.