Okay, since GeekGirlfriends.com 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 Facebook.com, 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“like right now as I’m flying down the freeway â€“ 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.