Gone OOF the Radar

As I very rarely actually go anywhere, and even more rarely by train, I'm not an expert on the current digital device habits of rail travelers. However, the attraction of a nice comfy seat and table in some wonderful air-conditioned, piped music for free, even has a power socket railway carriage is that you can spend the time being productive. Laptop, tablet, mobile phone, and maybe even a portable printer - you might as well be in the office. The last time I took a long train journey (six years ago) I wrote a complete data access layer for a housing corporation website during the five hour trip.

However, according to a recent study undertaken on behalf of the Department of Transport here in the UK, business travelers now spend only ten percent of the total railway journey time being productive. It seems that the rest of the trip is taken up with reading non-business stuff, looking out of the window, and people-watching. So how come, that last time I went by train, the guy opposite me spent all of the journey from Edinburgh to Leeds shouting into his mobile phone about a customer he'd just been to visit in Pitlochry? Imagine what it will be like when they allow mobile phones on airplanes.

Mind you, next time you are on a 'plane, count how many people extract some hugely expensive laptop from their luggage and settle down over the keyboard. Then, on your way back from the toilet, take a surreptitious peek over their shoulder. You'll find that, rather than compiling their business reports or writing integration components for enterprise software systems, they're all reading trashy novels or watching a DVD.

So is there really any reason for manufacturers to make the fancy laptops we now take for granted lighter, slimmer, faster, and work longer on a charge? By my reckoning, at 10% of journey time on any train trip here in the UK, the most they'll be used is about an hour. Any more than that and you'll have wet feet. Though I suppose you could argue that our intrepid traveler is going through the Channel Tunnel and on to some far-off Europland destination, so needs to read trashy novels and watch DVDs for a lot longer.

Meanwhile, if all goes to plan, I'll actually be in Europland as you read this, but I can guarantee that I won't be laden with all the latest in technical sophistication. OK, so I'll have a mobile phone that has all the whizz-bang modern capabilities. However, after checking the cost of foreign data connections, bankruptcy avoidance mandates turning off that feature as soon as I get on the 'plane. Internet cafe? Probably not - the last time I used one in Cyprus I got home to find my server had been hacked.

So instead I'll be lazing round the pool at a friend's villa enjoying some late-in-the-year sunshine, reading trashy novels printed on real paper, and watching DVDs on a 48 inch screen with 7.1 surround sound. Meanwhile my laptop can rest and recover from endless rewrites of Azure guidance, manipulating multitudes of Visio bendy arrows, and trying to connect to some distant Azure datacenter to run half-finished (and, in my case, mostly half-baked) sample code.

Footnote: "OOF" in the title is not the album by Happy Flowers, slang for money, or the rude word they use in Hawaii. It's Microsoft-speak for "Out of Facility".

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