Smartphone Keyboards

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.

Bluetooth Keyboard from Omoton
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.

Consuming Vs Creating

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.

Photo of a Samsung Monitor Mirroring Me Taking A Photo With the iPhone

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.

HDMI and VGA Dongles

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.

WordPress Hosting

A customer facing exec is going to want a blog, like this one. And even if you don’t want one, you’re going to need one. Get over it. Get used to it. Get to love it. It’s your voice, your mouthpiece and your connection to the community at large.

I’ve played with a lot of self hosted CMSs, and even forked WordPress at one point. But you shouldn’t put yourself behind the eightball. You need to keep yourself light and let other people hand administration and security unless you absolutely can’t for some reason.

That’s where WPEngine comes into play. The site has a simple configuration system that can get you up in running in almost no time at all.

WPEngine Login Page
WPEngine’s Administrative Console
  1. Point DNS to the correct IP address for the site (like within Godaddy or whichever registrar you’ve chosen.
  2. Change WordPress to the new domain URL (like
  3. Update the domain settings in WPengine to reflect the new domain that you’ve chosen.
  4. Wait up to 30 minutes for your registrar to push the DNS settings.

And just like that, you have a blog and a conduit to your community. Pretty simple. For around $350 a year you could be up and running in just a few minutes.

First Thing’s First

You can’t start a blog without a domain. And for domains you have lots of choices. I’ve loved working with Dynadot and Namecheap has also been great. But for something like this, Godaddy is simply easier. Yep, Godaddy, the same registrar with the semi-chauvinistic ads you see during the superbowl.

Godaddy Ordering Page

There are two reasons to get past the commecials for a project like this. Firstly, they have a somewhat good smart phone app. I say somewhat good because you’ll end up having to use the website in mobile Safari for a lot of the setup. It’s not a terrible app, just low on frills. Behold the DNS configuration screen:

Godaddy Phone App

Nothing to write home about and very light on featurs but if you need to make changes in a pinch, it’s a straight forward GUI.  The bad part comes when you try to configure other parts of their interface. But if that were the only reason to use Godaddy it wouldn’t be worth talking about.

The second reason is because they have a seamless Office365 integration, which makes setting up email accounts relatively painless.

Godaddy Meets Office 365

Office 365 Ordering Page

After setting that up you should be good to go with a domain and an email account. Two things a CEO should never be without!  All in it should cost you about $100 for one year. Next?  The blog itself…

The Rules

I can’t start this project without setting some ground rules. It’s unfair and incorrect to say I’m only ever on a smart phone only when it’s clear I will be utilizing other devices. So here’s what I consider to be out of scope:

  1. Other people and their tools. I can only do this experiment on myself and therefore I can’t force employees, partners, vendors or customers to use any kind of smart phone as their primary method of doing business.
  2. The past. I can’t change anything that already existed that didn’t use an phone during it’s creation.
  3. Websites and infrastructure. You’re not going to be served from my phone. Yes, I could root a  smart phone and install a webserver on it and jerry rig something to work, but no, I’m not going to do that. Time is money!
  4. Peripherals. Earphones, monitors, keyboards, printers, etc. we need these things and I’ll talk about them. But they are separate and aren’t in scope for phone only blog.
  5. Internet Access. This should go without saying but I’ll need Internet access and I’ll be discussing that a bit too. Being online is very important. But it’s not in scope.
  6. Power. Of course I’m going to need external power and that won’t be in scope, though I do have lots of thoughts about it and will certainly discuss it.
  7. Pictures and Video. If I can take pictures and video with the phone, I will. But if I can’t because they are of the phone itself, I won’t. I’ll use an external camera as needed. If I repost other people’s photos, those cannot be guaranteed to be from a phone either.
  8. Backups. I’ll need to use external equipment for backups. As much as I like the idea of the cloud, I’m a bit wary of it given some of my other projects. Backups will exist locally and are out of scope.
  9. Non-SmartPhone Exec stuff. This is a bit amorphic, but I do work on other projects and for those projects I may need other equipment. Those other projects are out of scope for this. So if you see me with some other tech, don’t tackle me and call the hypocrisy police!
  10. The Cloud. I’m not going to count anything in the cloud.  If I can access it through the smart phone, I’m not going to pretend like that should count.  Yes, this might feel a bit like cheating, if I VNC or SSH into a machine.  But in reality, this might be the best way to go truly mobile.
  11. Downtime. For my own sanity, I may chose other devices for rest and relaxation. We’ll see. But a man does need to binge watch some Netflix sometimes. The tiny screen and constant interruptions from the phone aren’t cutting it. So it’s out of scope.

But that should be it. As I discuss the steps to becoming a real road warrior, you should keep in mind that these rules are intended to be a guideline and I may come back and revisit them. But I’ll do what I can to make this work. If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to shoot them over.

My Smartphone History

When I first saw the modern cell phone I thought it had a lot of promise.  It would take years before that dream could be realized.  The news and buzz around the first iPhone I thought might be interesting. For years I thought the concept of a device that integrated cellular, text, email, phone and GPS was inevitable and poof, one day Steve Jobs did it. But I wasn’t one of the first to rush out and wait in line to buy it. No, quite the contrary.

I deeply worried about the security implications of such a device. A friend of mine, HD Moore, (author of Metasploit) was eager to show me how he had rooted his device, and installed Python on it so that he could hack from the device. He was almost breathlessly excited to tell me he had found issues with the voicemail system and could listen to people’s voicemail as a result. In practically the same breath he was encouraging me to buy one.

I asked, “Why should I get an iPhone after you just told me that?”

He answered with a smirk, “So I can hack you.”

With that in mind I stayed clear of iPhones for the first several months, until I felt reasonably sure the phone had gotten most of the low hanging fruit fixed.  I finally broke down and bought one.

My first impressions weren’t good at all. It had bad battery life, no concept of multiple processes, it crashed regularly, didn’t have enough storage, it was slow and had no QUERTY keyboard. How did people live with this device? It felt like a giant step backwards to me and I’d regularly tell people it was the worst phone I had ever owned  – even worse than that Matrix slide phone that had loose microphone connectors so no one could hear you talk unless you held it just right.  Yes, the first iPhone really was that bad.

I had just left things like the Palm V and the latest Windows CE devices – all of which had nearly as many features, with way less annoying limitations around the app stores and better access to the device internals.

The next few iPhones came out and gradually my gripes decreased. With antenna-gate I went back to hating the phone. It was only slightly better than the 5 watt bag phone that I had in the car when I was younger… At least that thing had great cellular signal.  At this point the iPhone wasn’t impressing me very much.  Design failures, compounded with a locked ecosystem were a big drag.

But with the iPhone 6, nearly everything I disliked about the older versions has been rectified or I had gotten used to.  Even things like a screen that was too large to use single handedly seemed to vanish with multi-tap. In fact instead of being the worst phone I’ve ever had like the original iPhone it was suddenly the best!

Years ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Jeremiah Grossman about the iPhone. My major beef with it was that,

“it feels like a device for consumers of products, not builders of products.”

Of course you can update your Facebook status with photos and video. But you can’t make a company or create a product with an iPhone, I said. At least not then….

One of my dreams has always been to be truly mobile. Not just sort-of mobile where I still have a backpack full of gear when I travel. I mean really truly mobile where I can leave everything that doesn’t fit in my pocket behind and still get stuff done. No phone had never been close to that device for me. But maybe something had changed. Maybe the confluence of mobile app development, mobile responsive design with websites, better OS and superior hardware had made this possible while I hadn’t been paying attention.

So with that in mind I began thinking, perhaps it’s time to put this to the test. Can I operate my corporate life using only a cell phone?  Who knows? But we shall see.