Gun For Hire: Portability

I get asked about my netbook at least once or twice each week. No matter where I go, the little Dell 10v with the Apple sticker draws a few stares. What is it? Why on earth is it so small? How could anyone get anything done on that thing?!


I consider it a huge privilege to own a laptop of any kind, much less one that was less than $300 and runs Show Leopard. The journey to “hackintosh” this thing has been long and frustrating, yet very rewarding. I have a great little platform for getting things done that works just exactly as I like. (Also, did I mention it was cheap?)

My father was the one who heard about the Dell 10v first, encouraging my brother and I to try and figure out how to make them work with the Mac OS. This presented a big opportunity, but also a series of limitations:

  • Relatively light-weight processor
  • Less than 2GB of RAM
  • Small (9″) screen size

Despite these obstacles, the netbook has been my only mobile platform over the past several years. Ask me about using my bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone during a long flight, however, and I’ll say that both tools have their place. Right now my laptop is bound to 10.6.8 for all time, thanks to hardware limitations, so my lack of upgrading is certainly not a product of my own masochism.


One consideration with mobile platforms is what you can get done without sacrificing mobility. This may seem like an old discussion to some; technology has certainly advanced to the point where we can perform most tasks while on the go. I think an important part of that is determining what you can do, and where, before you venture back and forth between contexts. Everything needs to get done; why would you sacrifice precious time being frustrated when you could think about that ahead of time?

One helpful constraint on my little netbook has been the need to run apps fullscreen instead of in smaller sections as I’m used to doing on my home setup. The concept of training my brain to look at one thing at a time has been…freeing.

Tips, Tricks, PortaTrustâ„¢

Here are a few nitty-gritty considerations for your mobile setup:

  • Define your mobile “context” as what you can do on your hardware of choice.
  • Use something like Dropbox to sync your data, but only files for mobile use.
  • Take notes on something that is accessible both on the go and back at HQ.

Someone who was just getting into freelancing asked me about keeping things secure while you take a bathroom break. I can’t speak for your environment, but here in my town we don’t have professional computer thieves hanging out at coffee houses. There are several ways you can deal with answering the call of the wild; minimize your setup and move quickly, ask someone to keep an eye on things for you, or pack stuff up and take it with you…every time.

I prefer the former, especially if the area isn’t that crowded. Be responsible, but place some faith in your fellow man! One thing you can do is start training yourself not to freak out by simply getting a refill. If you can make it to the drink area, replenish your beverage, and get back again, all without having everything you own run off into the shadows, chances are that you could make a run to the restroom juuuuuust fine.

Leaf On The Wind

There will always be newer, flashier, smaller, lighter, faster, and sexier mobile setups. I’m working with what I have to try and make great stuff; a little bit of foresight goes a long way, and I’m finding that being a digital nomad is very doable in this day and age. Try turning those constraints into opportunities! Set up some work that you can do only from that mobile context, then go grab a tea and don’t get a refill until you’re finished.

Perhaps your mobile rig is a pad of paper (my favorite) or the back of napkins (Orson Scott Card) in a restaurant. Whatever you use, wherever you are, just get something done. (Don’t get me started on Facebook…)

Part of the “game” here is trusting that things are going to work after you put in the time. I feel as though I could go anywhere with a trusty mobile platform at my side; that freedom is addicting! Even the simple things feel new every day, which makes me want to use that context properly and do really great work, no matter where I am.

By CK Hicks

Greetings! I'm a life-long innovator and "heartful technologist" with 13+ years professional experience as a Developer. My primary passion is crafting experiences that enable compelling, human-first storytelling.

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