How to fit three 24″ monitors into a small suitcase

In my past two executive positions that I held it was required of me to wear (at least) two hats: one of the “manager” and one as a productive member of staff. So it’s natural for me in my relatively new role as a publisher to also continue to be productive as a book designer and typesetter and indeed a good portion of my typesetting is for other publishers.

However my blog post is really nothing to do with my job but rather a technological dilemma that a typesetter (and perhaps others) faces when traveling and that is of course, how does one work away from the office. You see my PC setup is very powerful i7 with 16GB RAM and the obligatory SSD, but that can all be squeezed into a laptop. The real problem are the monitors. You see as a typesetter you need a lot of screen real estate and there’s no way I can pack three 24″ monitors into a suitcase.

The second problem is my software and data. I am not dealing with little Word files but rather huge graphic files and software that as little as a year ago came on several DVDs.

So my first dilemma was how to deal with my computer setup. I knew I had access to a PC with a 24″ monitor (no not quite the resolution that I wanted but you can’t have everything in life) but the absolute minimum is two screens.

My second dilemma was a cellphone. But I digress.

So back to the computer. I knew I had a fast internet connection with wifi so my first thought was that I should remotely access my machine. However the connection from the UK to Israel was fine for doing corrections although somewhat cumbersome.

So it was time for plan B.

Recently software has moved to the cloud and Adobe is no exception. People don’t quite know what Adobe Creative Cloud is but apart from the unclear name it’s actually rather marvelous.

I logged into my account on the PC in England and downloaded the creative cloud app onto the computer. From there I chose the software that I needed and then switched on both file and font synchronization. I would like to say that 15 minutes later I was working but despite a 50 Mbit download connection it took quite a while (a day or so) for all the software, and in particular, for all my files to sync.

However once it all synced I had my entire software library and files in England. Remember I was syncing the files and software which meant that the software, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat were installed locally and the files were copied locally too. You don’t want to be working on a 50MB file that is being accessed on the internet.

My next job was Microsoft Office. I had recently subscribed to Office 365. Now here Microsoft do an amazing job. When I chose to install my software it was extremely fast. You see they install the core code that is needed for the software to run and then in the background the rest of code is downloaded. What this basically meant was that Word was running almost instantly. Now I confess that I’m an Outlook user. I know people swear by gmail, but I like the full version of outlook. Each to their own I guess. Office 365 gives you a 25 GB mailbox so I just synced that and my entire office was now locally synced. Some of my files are on SkyDrive and some are on Dropbox for various reasons beyond the scope of this post but it was trivial syncing them too.

Yes I had a whole bunch of scripts for InDesign that I needed to login remotely to grab them but on the whole I managed to transfer my entire office with a few clicks of the mouse and a lot of waiting.

Fortunately, when I get back to Israel all my files will be back in sync immediately.

Now back to the cellphone. Last time I flew I called up my local cellphone provider and got a deal but it was quite expensive. I also found that I used data a lot more since I wasn’t at home with wifi the whole time.

I was smarter this time. I picked up a Lebara SIM card for £1.10 and added a package for a tenner. It’s actually very good value. I loaded up with 1GB of data and have the option of calling Israel both land lines and mobile for 5p a minute. However, armed with my iPhone with iMessage and FaceTime (particularly FaceTime Audio) I haven’t needed to pay for calls to Israel.

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How a green blob led to finding my beshert

The green blob

This is the blob that appears in your system tray

As is the practice of religious singles in the Katamon neighborhood, Shabbat is the time where we would get together for our social. Often on a Friday, if I had no plans, I would call up a bunch of friends and organise a meal by saying, “I have no plans, do you want to ‘Grill Plus-it’?” No this wasn’t a play on google plus but actually the similarities are striking, but rather to the ready-made Shabbat food available for purchase on Rechov HaPalmach.

It was at one of these meals that we were moaning the poor internet speeds at the time. I was lucky and had ISDN offering me 64kbit speeds but this was disappointingly slow. However, the main advantage over POTS was the ability to (almost) instantly connect and make a call at the same time. However, the concept of being always online was still far away.

You have to remember that amongst our motley crew we had some pretty cool computer guys. One of them, let’s call him “Rob” for the sake of this conversation, had actually worked on the very first visual internet browser that Explorer is based on – NCSA Mosaic (and his name was in the credits to prove it) and another, we’ll call him “Daniel” again to protect his (or her) identity had built the network cards in the new Apple iMac (you remember those iconic flavoured Macs?)

Anyway back to the plot. So one of the guys, I think it was “Chaim” if I recall correctly, informed us over lunch that there was this new ADSL experiment going on in Jerusalem. It took me a few minutes to get my head around super fast speeds of 1.5Mbit/sec and being always online. Well sure enough, I wasn’t the only one on the phone to Bezeq the next morning and the technicians were very confused when they came to install the technology that half of the 30 beta testers knew each other and spoke English…

It was at the beginning of 2002 that I started my own typesetting firm, Jerusalem Typesetting. I had my PC and borrowed a lime–flavoured iMac from my friend Daniel. I had ADSL connected to my PC, but Bezeq didn’t provide routers in those days so I needed a way to connect the iMac to the internet. My my friend Daniel yet again came to the rescue. All I had to do was install a small piece of software called AnalogX Proxy. It did two things: one, it allowed other computers, in my case the lime iMac, to use the internet connection on my PC and two, it placed a little green blob at the bottom in my system tray. If there was a problem, the green blob turned red (at least I think it did…well it wasn’t green any more).

Well as it turned out I actually found that I never used the Mac and was able to do everything on my Windows PC, so the iMac was returned but the blog remained.

It was a few years later that a friend of mine moved in upstairs to the block of flats that I lived in. He was moving in literally for one month in between one long-term rental and another. Problem was, he needed internet.

No problem, I said, I have my green blob. I told him to get his hands on some Ethernet cable and I would take care of the rest for him. It took us a few hours of configuring, but he had broadband on his computer. His phone mobile phone rang (and for those of you wandering, no he couldn’t tether his computer to his Nokia 5110) and a female voice spoke. He spoke for a few minutes. I decided it was time for me to speak for a few minutes. Needless to say, she was very impressed with my efforts to help her friend.

Well, as they say, the rest is history.