Hardware optimize

Ten things they didn't tell you about mobile working

Jeff Dray reflects on the role of mobile networking in his work as a roving IT support pro and shares some of the mobility "rules" he's discovered over the years.

After years spent supporting mobile devices and more years as a user of mobile data products, I felt it was time to note down some of my experiences. In some ways mobile working is a liberating experience, but if you're not careful, it can follow you all the way home.

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1. Portable equipment breaks. If you keep your Blackberry or PDA in your shirt pocket, don’t lean over to look at things, it will fall out. Whether it falls onto a hard floor or down a toilet, the effect will be the same. If this does happen to you, take plenty of pictures, then you might be able to publish it as a PDA "unpacked" article.

2. Synchronization is essential. A daily backup of your mobile device means that vital information isn’t lost when the inevitable happens (see #1 above). If your diary is maintained by the office, it is essential to download the next day’s appointments.

3. If you are going to lose, leave behind, or forget something, it isn’t usually something minor, it will be the AC adapter, USB cable, or the item itself.

4. Murphy’s Law applies especially to mobile devices. In the UK it is known as Sod’s Law, but the effect is the same. You will drive out of network coverage just as you are getting details of a brilliant money-making opportunity or vital information about a key project. Know your geography as far as it relates to network coverage and find somewhere to stop if you think you are about to lose connection.

5. When you are a mobile worker it can be hard to get a lunch break. Learn where the coverage black spots are and use them for uninterrupted breaks. This isn’t laziness; people need their breaks and should be able to enjoy them uninterrupted. There’s always voicemail.

6. Jeff’s Law of mobile data communications. The quality of a stable connection is in inverse proportion to the urgency of making it. This means that any trivial or unwelcome communication will have no trouble in getting through. If you are being chased by wild dogs or angry customers, the display on your device will be the unwelcome message “No Network” or “Emergency calls only.”

7. It is possible to render an expensive piece of equipment useless merely by losing or breaking the 50p stylus that comes with it. There must be dozens of them in my car, but without emptying it and ripping all the carpets out I am unlikely ever to see them again. Take care of them.

8. With the advent of Bluetooth headsets, I have discovered a new phenomenon that takes me back to a quandary I last experienced back in the 1960s, before the age of Caller ID. Sometimes a phone call comes in, I can hear the phone ringing, but I don’t know where it is. I can answer it with the Bluetooth headset but don’t have the chance to see who it is. By the time I have disinterred the phone from under a pile of tools, jackets, and pieces of machinery, it will have gone to voicemail. I like to be able to see who is calling before I answer, so that I can greet them by name.

9. Sometimes the PDA’s capabilities exceed my own. I carry a device that has all the service manuals for every piece of equipment we sell, the entire global phone, and e-mail listings for the company, our call logging system as well as all the other Windows Mobile apps that we know and love. Sadly this is all shown on a two-inch screen, making spreadsheets, parts diagrams, and the global phone list all but unusable. Yes, you can zoom, but it is a slow and laborious process and nigh impossible if the sun is shining. (It sometimes does here.)

10. All mobile data equipment comes with a vital component, the off switch. A friend of mine complained that his boss would call him at all hours of the day and night, stating that he had the right to do so because the mobile phone was supplied by the company. My answer to this is simple: when you finish work for the day, turn it off. When you go to a pub or restaurant, turn it off. When you go to bed, check that it is off. Turn it back on when it is time to start work again. Remember, your time is a marketable product, don’t devalue your skills by giving it away for free.

16 comments
The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

It is illegal to drive and use a mobile device like this so the point is invalid - how would not know?

N4AOF
N4AOF

NO, it is not "illegal to drive and use a mobile device" -- different areas have different laws (or none at all) about using mobile devices, but I have yet to see or hear of anywhere that completely bans all mobile use of all mobile devices. Throughout the United States (where your Tennessee is located, for example) many states and cities ban cell phone use UNLESS you are using a 'hands free' device (such as a speakerphone or headset). Some of these laws are written very broadly in an effort to make sure they cover texting and gaming on cellphones etc, but all include numerous exemptions. Also, all the legal bans apply only to the driver -- so there are no bans when riding with someone else driving, including riding in a taxi, train, bus, etc.

blarman
blarman

All it takes is a little reciprocation to help them get the point. Make a few calls to THEIR company-issued phone at random times - especially when they are on vacation and in the middle of the night when you get up after a noise. If the problem persists, draw up a "fair use" policy and have the company CEO sign it and make it part of company policy. As long as it applies to all cell phones, everyone has the same rules. PS - if you have a boss that insists that you are still on-the-clock after leaving work, tell them to their face that you need time away from work when you leave. If they can't respect that, you need a new boss.

jlippens
jlippens

Wise advice from the 'sage' of the mobile tech world. Especially liked the one about "turn it off"...such a novel idea!!!

keith.rosenberg
keith.rosenberg

I do keep my PDA in my shirt pocket, but it comes with a nice case that had a magnet retaining strap. I just hook the strap over the packet and presto!; PDA does not pop out of the pocket. I also removed the belt clip to make it more pocket friendly.

dflower
dflower

Some very interesting points well made, Jeff. If you would you like to share the above, or something similar, with the readers of Service Management magazine, please let me know. Dennis Flower, Editor Service Management

wfriddle
wfriddle

I left my BB on top of my car and ran over it, is that covered??? Umm... Yeah, under "I'm an idiot"

Rastor9
Rastor9

How much damage to the top of the car then?

mcbinder
mcbinder

I once found a Dell laptop in the middle of the street. Same thing must have happened to the user, a travelling nurse for a home visit service, as heppened to you. On the car roof, etc. It wasn't damaged to much, just a few scratches and it worked but was secured. That is a change from the norn. Usually you hear of missing laptops with list of clients / patienst and SSNs etc. There were enough ID / proprty stickers on it that I found the company that owned it and returned it. mcb

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

When mobile (Cell) phones were a novelty I followed a car for about ten miles along a road in Sussex, trying to work out what the object on the roof was. When we turned a sharp corner it flew off and shattered against a stone wall. It was one of those enormous 80s phones. I'm still impressed that it stayed on as long as it did.

IronCanadian
IronCanadian

The weight of the phone and strength of the magnets were probably keeping it well glued to the roof, only a good 2-3 G turn was going to shake it loose.

Maarek
Maarek

You think it's only on the road, well guess what, it's 24/7. Let your battery run out in the evening and relax.

mcbinder
mcbinder

My brother is a hockey coach for his son's team. He had his Blackberry on his belt and was hit with a slap shot during practice. The soft case didn't help the PDA, but the BB saved him from a nasty bruise. He got a new BB and a hard aluminum case for it. mcb

billballew
billballew

subjects are important. You must work for CNN!

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

That's what the off switch is for