Reading My Email from the Freeway

Okay, since has turned onto a mobile manners confessional this week — and I am so enjoying the show — I will admit that I’m writing this while traveling 70 miles per hour on I40 in North Carolina. (If you missed the confessional post, you should get over there and confess so you can enter to win a Netbook.) I’m on my way to pick up my son who has spent the week at a geeky camp for teens who want to learn to build computer games. I’ve had a very busy week and this drive is messing up what should be one last productive work day before the long weekend.

But, thanks to a sweet tech rig I’m trying out, I have checked email, tweeted, checked in at, Skype-chatted with a colleague, shopped online (research), and now I’m writing this blog post. I’m doing all this in a tiny Honda Fit and I haven’t pulled over once. Don’t worry! I am in the passenger seat so I’m not endangering the world or the tween in the backseat. I may be endangering my marriage though because my husband is driving and he is very, very jealous of the gear that is making this high-velocity net access possible.

Acer sent me a ruby red Aspire One 10.1 to try out. I love it. (There are some consolations for not being in line to win that HP Vivienne Tam netbook) I want to keep it. When Kelly at Acer starts asking for it back, I may cry – or go to Amazon to get one of my own. I have a Dell Mini 9. But I promised my daughter she could have that one for school. And this 10-inch screen and the 90%-of-full-size keyboard is the sweet spot in the netbook usability world. (The smaller ones are great for email and Twitter but not suitable as a work machine for this working writer with no-longer 20/20 vision and adult-sized hands.) The Aspire One also has a decent hard drive (160 GB) so I can run all the little software tools I like to have with me, write in Microsoft Word, and grab photos off my camera. Despite all this – and a price tag of $329 — it weighs less than the paperback I usually throw in my purse.

But the part of my mobile rig that is causing my husband to turn green (and that qualifies this entry for Frugal Friday) is the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go card I’m also trying out. This is the first prepaid mobile plan for data I’ve seen. It’s certainly the first mobile data solution for a laptop that fits into my budget. Cellular data cards are typically targeted at business users and require a $60 a month data plan (in addition to the one you carry for your cell phone.) That’s out of reach for me.

But the Broadband2Go card works like a prepaid cell phone. You purchase the USB-slot card ($150) at Best Buy, activate it from your netbook (or laptop) and top it up (online or with top-up cards you can buy retail) based on how much data you need. You can put as little as $10 on it or automatically add $50 a month. Whatever you want. I put $20 on mine yesterday. When I don’t have a Wi-Fi connection –like right now as I’m flying down the freeway – I use it to connect. That $20 got me 250 MB of data that will expire in 30 days. I’ve been surfing intermittently in the car as I work (and show off) for almost two hours. I also downloaded about 800 emails. I have 236 MB of data left. That $20 will certainly get me through the long weekend trip we are also embarking on, especially since there is Wi-Fi in our hotel. It will probably last a month.

This geeky setup has turned what could have been a long and boring drive into a productive couple of hours. Instead of telling everyone that I’m out of the office and unavailable, I’m completely available via my Skype office number and email. And, since I’m getting lots done, I’ll be free to vacation with my family when we arrive.

9 thoughts on “Reading My Email from the Freeway

  1. I definitely need to try out the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go. It sounds perfect for what I need – occasional web access on the road for meetings and vacation trips.

    We’re big fans of the Sony Vaio P-Series mini-netbook. It’s super-light at only 1.4 pounds and easily fits into a small bag or purse. Has enough power and RAM to run Vista as the OS. Perfect for getting some quick work or Tweeting done while at Starbucks or in a car (as a passenger, of course!). Screen is small, so wouldn’t be my choice for a main work computer, and is pricey at just under $1,000. But, it’s great for occasional away-from-home/office stuff. Everyone who sees us using it wants one.

  2. That Virgin Broadband to-go dealie is verrry interesting. I haven’t seen that before, and I’m intrigued.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this “plastick-y” critisism. I’m just not getting it from this unit, though. I like the heft and size of it. My only complaints — and they are so minor I just didn’t bother including them in the post — are that the red color is a bit too maroon and the charger is too bulky. The charger has a “brick.” It’s a small brick. But I like the non-brick, cord-only charger of the Dell mini. It fits more easily in my accessories bag.

    I’m getting in the new Toshiba netbook to try so…..I’ll respond to that later. I’ll also take a look at some other netbooks.

  4. I’m completely guilty! Sometimes I put my phone in my purse and set in the trunk. It helps me from reading my emails and texts while I’m on the freeway. But aren’t we all a bit of a hypocrite??

  5. I want the Vivienne Tam netbook myself – too bad I can’t win since I work at Intel. What I also really like are the new thin and light laptops, like Acer’s Timeline. It’s $899 at Microcenter…pricetag aside, it has 8 hours of batterylife and weights only 3.5 pounds. That, I like!

  6. Now I’m just doubly jealous. I would probably get more benefit from the broadband2go than my current air card, but I’m stuck for another couple of years with this plan.

    Off to explore the Acers and the HPminis, just in case the worst should happen and I don’t win the cutie VT. 🙂

    Have an awesome weekend!

  7. I found the Acer laptops to feel quite cheap. Too plastick-y. The old Toshiba NB100 was awful too.

    I bought a HP Mini in black, myself. WAY cheaper than the Vivienne Tam version and I LOVE IT for travelling and general everyday stuff like watching Top Chef while cooking in the kitchen 🙂

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