Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Don’t leave home without it

originally published in National Magazine

Dominic Jaar recently spoke at a gathering of the National Judicial Institute in Victoria, B.C. Such trips are routine for the frequent-flying Montréal-based legal counsel at Ledjit Consulting.

They also help explain Jaar’s loyalty to notebook computers. Jaar used the Victoria trip as a backdrop to explain the best practices he has developed over years of mobile computing.

Jaar started preparing his conference PowerPoint presentation months beforehand. Given his travel schedule, much of this prep work took place on the road.

Before leaving for Victoria, Jaar backed up his files to a hard drive. “Both my notebook drive and the backup drive are encrypted,” he says, adding that his notebook sports a fingerprint reader.

During his cross-country flight, Jaar revised, polished and practiced his presentation. He also spent time in Outlook to answer emails he had downloaded prior to takeoff and work on litigation files in Summation. Since the programs both function offline, Jaar’s work while airborne synchronizes when he next connects to the web.

“At first, I didn’t like working in an airplane. Now it’s the place I like best. I’m never disturbed. I never receive any email. I can’t make or receive phone calls. I can focus on what I need to do.”

Three-hour layovers annoy many people, but not Jaar. “I love Vancouver’s airport!” he says. “It’s one of the rare airports that offers free wireless Internet access.”

While in Vancouver, Jaar synchronized Outlook and Summation, replied to email, downloaded more pictures for his presentation that he thought of while in the air, and participated in a conference call using Skype. “My office can be anywhere,” he says, “and my clients think I’m always connected.”

Meanwhile, his notebook started a background backup that it performs whenever it connects to the net. Jaar uses a “cloud” application called Mozy that automatically backs up all changes to data files, like his PowerPoint presentation, to a server on the Internet.

Mozy serves as both a redundant backup for his business files as well as a second copy of said files. “If I am on a trip and I can’t access files on my computer, I can connect remotely to Mozy and get what I need,” he says.

For the presentation, Jaar used a display switch to run two screens from his laptop: the PowerPoint presentation and his Windows desktop.

About the size of two cigarette packs put together, the switch, like most of Jaar’s gadgets, are travel-sized. Another device he carries is a portable scanner almost as long as his forearm.

Rounding out the equipment list are: a MicroSD card reader Jaar uses to transfer files between his BlackBerry and his notebook; noise-cancelling earphones to help him concentrate when working on planes; a USB memory stick; a power plug; and a USB conversion cable that attaches many types of hardware to his notebook.

On his chiropractor’s advice, Jaar no longer tows a computer case on wheels – he switched to a backpack.

For a PDF of this article, click Technology – don’t leave home without it.