1. Plan for spotty Internet.
As software developers, Internet is our second most important resource (electricity is the first). Mobile networks and WiFi hotspots are not always available and you should plan to be “off the grid” for prolonged periods of time. This brings up the next few tips.
2. Use a source control system that does not rely on connectivity.
Git seems to work fairly well for me. I keep a local repository on an external hard drive and a remote one on a dedicated server. I push to the local one when I don’t have Internet, then when I get some signal I also push on the remote so that I always have two copies.
3. Get a WiFi antenna.
Most places where you end up staying for the night do not have many hubs (most have a single WiFi router), so if your room or campground spot is away from the central location, you might not have WiFi at all. With a good WiFi antenna you can pick up so much more signal. I use a USB-Yagi antenna (https://www.amazon.com/USB-Yagi-directional-Antenna-802-11n-2200mW/dp/B003LLS5JI), and it works wonders.
4. Encrypt your hard drive(s).
While on the road the risk of theft is much higher. I personally don’t care much about the value of my cheap Toshiba or Chromebook, but if somebody has access to my e-mails, source codes and personal data, I might start to get worried (and have a headache changing all of my passwords). Windows (7 Ultimate or 8.1 Pro) and OSX have BitLocker and File Vault built in the OS, which makes encryption a breeze. Make sure you save your encryption keys somewhere safe. On Linux you have a little bit more to setup, but there are also options.
5. Get a 12V charger.
You might be away from electric outlets for long periods of time. The best time to charge your laptop’s batteries is while driving. Get a 12V charger for your specific laptop (I found one on eBay for ~$8). I’m not a big fan of the DC-To-AC inverters because they waste power (not a big deal if the engine is running, but makes a difference if you use other 12V sources like the battery of a camper).
6. Get a phone that can tether via WiFi.
When WiFi is not available, LTE/4G/3G/Edge is your next best thing. Make sure you can share that Internet with your laptop(s). It still sucks to browse the internet on mobile devices.
7. Backup, backup, backup
Since you cannot rely on the cloud to save your data at any time, you must plan your own backup strategy. Have at least one external hard-drive that you keep separate from your laptop bag and one that plugs easily in the USB ports, without needing an AC power supply. Always think about the possibility of data corruption and/or theft. Schedule backups often.
8. Take breaks!
Coding on the road is not just about working in a place different than your traditional office cubicle. It’s about finding the balance between your professional life and the beautiful things the world has to offer. Once your laptop batteries become low, take a walk, or a hike, look at the scenery, enjoy a book or do whatever pleases you. This way not only you can recharge your laptop batteries, but also yours. You’ll be amazed at the productivity boost you’ll get.
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