Friday, April 17, 2009

Go Out and Get a Little Fresh Air

Today was an incredibly beautifully awesome spring – almost summer-like day. The sun was shining brightly across a brilliant light blue sky, dotted with the occasional speck of cloud. On warm, sunny days like today – it is 18C as I write this – many have often wished they could work outside.

It’s too nice to be stuck in a stuffy office, where the windows don’t even open, many have thought – possibly even you. I know I have – I’ve even on occasion thought about tossing a chair through those hermetically sealed windows, but I haven’t.

Enough thinking, and time for doing – today I took my laptop outside and began my daily work routine truly mobile. I had access to the network and the Internet thanks to the wireless high-speed network.

I wanted to do some real work, completely wirelessly – for years we’ve had the technology, but can it be done.

Is it possible to do office work, sans office?

Truthfully, for the first 20 or 30-minutes, I probably didn’t get a whole lot done. I was too excited, too enthralled, too mesmerized by the fresh air, the sunshine, and all the natural distractions around me. I could hear traffic from the street below, the birds from way high up, and wait . . . what’s that smell? Fresh air! There’s something we sadly miss in our hyperbolic ultra-enclosed cubicle worlds.

Eventually, as the wonder wore off, I began working. It wasn’t all that hard at first, checking and responding to emails, re-tooling an image in PhotoShop, and hammering out this blog in Word.

But then came the sun. In all it’s brilliance and warmth, the sun came a beaming down upon me and my laptop. It was nice to be immersed in the warmth of nature’s most powerful light source, but my laptop’s LCD screen almost vanished.

I tilted the screen way forward, but then it was too dark. After tilting it way back, and playing with the brightness and contrast levels, I was able to see the screen again. But they weren’t representing the true colors of the world, as I had to really lower those levels to make the screen visible in the bright sunlight.

As the direction of the sun changed throughout the afternoon, I had to constantly change the angle and levels of my LCD screen. These changes were more of a nuisance than anything else, and probably had to be changed every 45-minutes or thereabouts.

The further back I had to tilt the LCD screen, the less comfortable I was reading off the thing. And finding my mouse cursor at times was like finding Waldo – you know he’s there somewhere, but where?

After four-hours, I was unable to change the levels or the angle of the LCD screen enough to compensate for the brilliant sunlight. No matter which way I moved the screen, or adjusted the levels, the sun still shone too brightly for me to see it. I tried changing my sitting position, moving my seat to a completely different spot. But this just complicated matters and made it even harder make out what was on the screen.

So, I powered down the laptop, packed it up and came back inside.

It was nice getting some much needed fresh air, and working in a different environment from the typical one. And, I even managed to avoid the usual distractions you typically get from colleagues stopping by.

Ironically, one of the very reasons I went outside was the cause of my early return – the sun. As brilliant a light it is, and as pleasant it is to bask in its warmth, the sun was just too bright for my LCD to handle.

Yes, it is possible to work outside in our wireless world, but only for a limited time, or in shaded spot, away from the sun’s rays. It demands a bit more focused attention to get things done at first, but that may not be always the case, after you get used to working in the great outdoors.

And depending on your laptop and the applications you are running, you may have less time outside than you need. The more processor-heavy applications will use greater computing power, and in turn drain your laptop’s battery faster.

Working outside to check and respond to emails, type documents in Word, or even create presentations in PowerPoint are all fine. But once you start to edit photos in PhotoShop, develop web pages in Dreamweaver, or even attempt to edit a video in Premier, you’ll be using so many processor-heavy applications, you will seriously limit the time you can spend outside. That and of course the brightness of the sun and it’s affect on your ability to see the screen.

Overall, I found this to be a great experience, and I look forward to taking the occasional timeout from working indoors, to enjoy working outdoors.

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