The VAR Guy Abroad: Google Is My Copilot
While I try to blog away my jet lag, let your humble correspondent tell you a little bit about my travels in Cologne, Germany for the Open-Xchange Partner Summit. Specifically, here’s the scoop on how a strategic combination of Google cloud services, Apple iPhone 4, and the Amazon Kindle 2 made me a savvy wayfarer in a far-off land without breaking the bank.
The real MVP of this trip was Google Voice, the search giant’s cloud-based telephony control panel. It meant that I could send and receive texts and listen to voicemails anywhere my computer had WiFi — naturally, my mobility was reduced, but with unofficial iPhone app GV Mobile+ ($2.99, sadly) I got it right back. That means I could text to my heart’s content without risking a hefty AT&T bill and kept my iPhone in cellular-less “Airplane Mode” for the duration of my stay.
Better yet, by pairing it up with the phone-calling feature on Google Talk, I could make free calls to US numbers with impunity. Yes, the reliance on WiFi is a handicap, but it definitely beats the $1.29/minute and $0.50/text sent AT&T wanted to charge. With WiFi at the conference and in the hotel anyway, I didn’t notice much difference, but your international mileage may vary.
But for when I was walkabout in the city and away from the wireless Internet, it was the Kindle’s time to shine. Amazon’s popular eBook reader offers free wireless around the globe: a feature I’d never had occassion to test before. It worked fine, despite some slowdown, and let me access sites like Gmail and WikiTravel with no issues. And being able to look at a phrasebook without any locals being the wiser was a nice side-benefit.
And, of course, Google Maps was a huge help in finding my way around a city with plenty to see and do. But when I couldn’t get the iPhone online, I had to — gasp — write down the directions on a piece of paper and follow them that way.
Could I have done it easier? Maybe. But when the carrier wants to charge me $19.97/MB for data over 3G, The VAR Guy’s team starts looking for a back exit. And thanks to a cloud-enabled life, I was able to find one.