Do you know someone (maybe it’s you) who’s "office" is at Starbucks, Panera Bread, or one of the other numerous (usually coffee or food) retailers that offer free wireless? These resourceful tech and business people hold meetings, do their daily work, check their email and update their social media – all from the comfort of a couch or countertop in an essentially public space.

Increasingly, it’s not just individuals using the virtual office – many companies now have no physical office space, and instead ask their employees to work from wherever they call “office”. Another mobile group that I’ll call “co-workers” share office space, admin support, conference rooms, and other physical resources, often for very little cash at the end of the month, and sometimes, even for barter (which is a whole different blog post :).

So, how the heck do they do it? What’s happening is that these folks run their businesses and lives from a set of devices that are getting smaller and ever more portable. Today the laptop is still the workhorse device – where most “real” work gets done – word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, photo and video editing, etc. Next smaller is a slate or tablet-size device that works very well for note-taking, light-duty documents, email, and web-based research. Smallest today is the mobile handset that, besides phone calls, is best for texting, email and limited web browsing (limited because much of the web isn’t yet mobile friendly).

There are a surprisingly large number of choices for the technology that runs behind this new breed of virtual and mobile worker. Within the past year or two, the enabling technology and common denominator between devices has become the cloud. Many of the new wave of software and services run from this ubiquitous cloud – which for this purpose we can consider as any hosted solution. Another notable recent trend is that the smallest devices are getting progressively better apps, plus the trend is to make them dock with keyboards and larger screens so they can be better used for “real” work.

Following is a set of broad categories of apps and technology with some examples – these focus on cloud-based solutions where it makes sense, but generally these still work best on the laptop/slate sized devices. Because cloud-based aps are generally browser-based, fuller functionality will quickly shift to smaller devices as the apps and mobile peripherals rapidly improve. Note that these examples are very much like skipping-the-stone, it’s not by any means an exhaustive list. I also have not separated this list into pay vs. free services, and it represents my personal favorites and biases, plus some pure research.

Consider this a list of menu item categories that can be mixed-and-matched to solve your unique problems. There are many hybrid solutions possible today, and some tools fit easily in more than one category.

There are also many things that aren’t covered here at all – notably mobile apps, organizers, billing and invoicing, image and media management, and the many different types of utilities. Nor is virtualization technology, which I feel will continue to become more important – both for operating systems and applications.

As far as mobile apps go – I haven’t even begun to cover apps for the major phone (WP7, Android, Apple) and device (iPad) markets. The trend now is to carry smaller-and-smaller devices – and to expect that all your data is available on each device that you have. This is why the cloud is so vital – it’s the common-denominator between all your device types. You will soon have the same online “personality” available to you on any device, based on how you login.

Here are a few ideas and tips to consider as you become more of a mobile worker:

  • File backup & transfer: email docs to yourself and CC multiple accounts
  • Public Wi-Fi hotspots
    • don’t use them where possible – use personal mobile hotspots if you can: Verizon My-Fi
    • be aware that others can intercept and read your traffic, including usernames and passwords
    • always select Public Network when Windows prompts on wireless connection
    • use HTTPS/SSL – to encrypt login and web data
    • us a VPN: Hotspot
    • avoid obvious things like online banking or buying online while at a public access point
    • use a personal firewall with intrusion detection
  • if you carry sensitive data – use encryption software!
  • Use a different password for each login you use on the web – this is hard, but worth it!!
  • Keep your computer patched and updated – including Office, Java, Flash, PDF Readers, etc.
  • Software licenses: free Microsoft BizSpark (tech startups), WebsiteSpark (web designers), DreamSpark (students)
  • Educate yourself on Open Source software. For developers and techies – there are lots of good tools available out on CodePlex, GitHub, and SourceForge – this is a great topic for a separate blog post!

Here are a few interesting links for the virtual entrepreneur:

From where we sit now – it’s possible to work very effectively in a completely mobile manner. Today you’re best served using a larger device such as a laptop or slate, but your devices are rapidly becoming smaller. The emergence of the cloud – with more effective applications and the sharing of data and identity across all your sites, will enable huge amounts of change in the near future. There are things happening in so many avenues that in maybe two years we will look back to today and think “how quaint!”.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes – by author William Gibson:

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.

Coming up this weekend – October 15 and 16, 2011, is our fourth BarCamp Sarasota Conference event! We run this series of FREE conferences twice per year, and they’re currently being held at the excellent G.WIZ Science Museum in Sarasota, FL.

I encourage you to attend – and speak on any topic that you’re passionate about! You can also join a panel discussion, run a birds-of-a-feather, or just come to network with your peers. In the spring we had over 300 attendees over the two days – so there’s always a conversation going on at BarCamp Sarasota – I hope to see you there!

BarCamp Sarasota is a group I co-founded in early 2009, and with over 2500 people registered in our social networks, is one of the largest and fastest-growing business and tech communities in Florida. At BarCamp Sarasota, we encourage people to Connect, Interact and Learn – What’s New in Business and Technology. Ours is a grass-roots group focused on supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Southwest coast of Florida – from Tampa Bay down to Naples.

There are many ways to connect with BarCamp Sarasota – we try to make it easy to do it on your own terms. Here are our links to the big social networks:

At BarCamp Sarasota – we also hold monthly evening social events on the first Thursday of the month at Shakespeare’s Pub. The evening social events have no agenda – just great friends and great conversations. Our monthly lunch and learn events are held on the third Friday of each month, and feature a speaker on a relevant business/technology topic. Watch our Meetup.com for details on these great lunch events. All events are free to attend – you are responsible for your own meals and drinks.

Come on out to one of our events, and you’ll be coming back for more. Please, join the conversation at BarCamp Sarasota! You’ll wonder how you ever got along without us…

Back in June 2010 at the SarasotaDev.net group that I run, we held our Visual Studio 2010 Community Launch event. Here was our agenda:

  • VB 10 Language and IDE New Features – Yang Xiao, Visual Studio VB IDE Team
  • C# 4 Language and IDE New Features – Kirill Osenkov, Visual Studio C# IDE Team
  • Doing What You Know and Going Beyond with VS 2010 – Stan Schultes, Microsoft MVP
  • Developing Windows Phone 7 and Silverlight 4 Apps with VS 2010 – Kevin Wolf, Microsoft MVP

I made a list of Visual Studio 2010 resource links that I thought I’d share – these cover a lot of territory! Thanks to Beth Massi for links and inspiration for this list.


MSDN Content

Visual Studio Developer Center (main MSDN links page): http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/default.aspx

Visual Studio Express Dev Center (free VS downloads): http://www.microsoft.com/express/

VB Developer Center:  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vbasic/default.aspx

C# Developer Center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vcsharp/default.aspx

C++ Developer Center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/visualc/default.aspx

F# Develop Center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/fsharp/default.aspx

VSTO Developer Center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vsto/default.aspx

SharePoint Developer Center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/default.aspx


Code Downloads

CodePlex – Project Hosting for Open Source Software: http://www.codeplex.com/

MSDN Code Gallery – primarily Microsoft content: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/
- use VS 2010 Extension Manager to browse the Code Gallery directly

Visual Basic 2010 Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/vb2010samples

Visual C# 2010 Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/cs2010samples

F# 2010 Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/fsharpsamples

VS 2010 Languages and Technologies Samples: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/dd238515.aspx

Parallel Programming Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/ParExtSamples

SharePoint Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/SharePointDev2010

Office Development Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/OfficeDevFuture

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) Samples: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/wpfsamples

Databinding Samples (WPF and Silverlight): http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/WPFDatabinding


Visual Studio Content

VS2010 product page: http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/

Visual Studio 2010 & .NET Framework 4 Training Kit: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=752CB725-969B-4732-A383-ED5740F02E93&displaylang=en

Visual Studio Topic Area on Channel 9 – online training courses: http://channel9.msdn.com/Learn/Courses/VS2010/

VS 2010 Walkthroughs on MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/dd441784.aspx

VS 2010 Software Development Kit (SDK): http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=47305CF4-2BEA-43C0-91CD-1B853602DCC5&displaylang=en

VS 2010 Resource Kit: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=5688c9ba-5071-4d9d-8794-c164f21a058c

VS 2010 Resources Page: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd831853.aspx

VS 2010 RC – Virtual Machines and Hands On Labs: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/briankel/archive/2010/03/18/now-available-visual-studio-2010-release-candidate-virtual-machines-with-sample-data-and-hands-on-labs.aspx

VS 2010 Feature Packs (released at TechEd 2010): http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/ff655021.aspx?ppud=4

VS 2010 Pro Power Tools (released at TechEd 2010): http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/d0d33361-18e2-46c0-8ff2-4adea1e34fef

Visual Studio Tip of the Day (Zain Naboulsi): http://blogs.msdn.com/b/zainnab/archive/tags/vs2010/tips+and+tricks/default.aspx

Keyboard shortcut posters for VB, C#, F#, and C++: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=92CED922-D505-457A-8C9C-84036160639F&displaylang=en

.NET Framework 4.0 Poster (namespaces) PDF: http://tinyurl.com/PDC2008-NETFX4PDF and DeepZoom version: http://tinyurl.com/DotNetFramework4PosterDeepZoom

Visual Studio Color Theme Editor (Microsoft): http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/20cd93a2-c435-4d00-a797-499f16402378

Visual Studio Color Schemes (community site): http://studiostyles.info/


External Tools / Add-ins

DevXpress – CodeRush Xpress for VB and C# (free): http://devexpress.com/Products/Visual_Studio_Add-in/CodeRushX/

JetBrains – ReSharper (trial): http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/EA4AC039-1B5C-4D11-804E-9BEDE2E63ECF


Blogs

Visual Studio Team: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudio/

Visual Basic Team: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/vbteam/

Office Dev with Visual Studio: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/vsto/

Visual Studio Data Team: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/vsdata/

SharePoint Team: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sharepoint/

WPF & Silverlight Designer Team: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/wpfsldesigner/

Somasegar: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/somasegar/

Scott Guthrie: http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/

Jason Zander: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jasonz/

Beth Massi: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bethmassi/

The It’s All About the Tools! live audience TV show focused on developer tools and techniques that help make us better coders, and also highlights upcoming community events. These shows were a blast – there was lots of audience participation with Russ as the ringleader, and special guests in every segment.

Season 1 of It’s AATT! was recorded during the spring and summer of 2009, while Russ was still with Microsoft. I’m posting this from my old blog, so as not to lose the links.

There were a total of five live-audience shows in Season 1. The full episodes are 60-75 minutes in length, including the intro with theme song, segues, and closing for the full effect. We’ve also broken each show into shorter segments as Toolshed Tooltips, which are about 10 minutes long each. Tooltips are very digestible at this length, and each focuses on a single tool. Here’s the complete set of links for the first 5 shows, all of Season 1:

Episode 1

Recorded at the South Florida CodeCamp, February 7, 2009. Special guest: MVP Jason Beres of Infragistics doing WPF styling.

Episode 2

Recorded at the Orlando CodeCamp, March 28, 2009. Special guest: MVP Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi creating an MSBuild status updater for Twitter.

Episode 3

Recorded at the Pensacola, FL SQL Saturday, June 6, 2009. Special guests: MVP Jessica Moss showing SSIS Data Profiling tools in SQL 2008, and Don “DonXml” Demsak doing a community segment.

Episode 4

Recorded at the Tampa, FL .NET User Group, July 22, 2009. Special guests: MVPs Nikita Polyakov on WinMo, and Bill Reiss on Expression Blend behaviors.

Episode 5

Recorded at the Jacksonville, FL CodeCamp, August 29, 2009. Special guests: MVPs Jim Wooley on LINQ tools, Christopher Bennage on importing Photoshop assets to Expression Blend, and David Silverlight on his Silverlight group and community site architecture.

  • Episode 5 – full recording
  • Session segments: DeepZoom overview, Expression Web 3, VS Code Snippet Editor, Jim, Chris, and David.
  • Tooltips have not yet been published for Episode 5, watch here for updates if this changes…

The live-audience AATT! shows have been a whole lot of fun to produce, and now we’re branching out a bit into developer resources with a new show called It’s All About the Resources!, in addition to the Tools! shows. Although we’re recording the Resources! shows in front of a live audience, they’re not as much about audience participation, so the shows have more technical focus.

As we moved into Season 2, we’d already gotten the first Tools! and Resources! sessions taped, and into production, however, they were never published. I’ll update this post if those episodes ever go live.

Just starting to recover from the loss of my Live Spaces blog – my site there was never moved to WordPress as it was supposed to be… I don’t know who to blame for the failure, so I’ll just kick myself for putting the conversion off until the last minute…

I spent the day today bringing up and playing with the Windows 8 Developer Preview on my Acer convertible tablet. I’m posting this from within Win8, and loving the new interface!! So, how was it that I managed to do the install, considering the hard drive I put in wasn’t bootable, and there’s no DVD drive in the little machine. Hint: it wasn’t hard!!

Here’s the basic rundown of the steps I followed:

  1. Downloaded the Win8 preview .iso image (4.8GB for 64-bit Windows – including developer tools) from http://dev.windows.com
  2. Inserted a new hard drive into the Acer 1420p tablet (the PDC 2009 multi-touch machine) – which I’d previously upgraded to 4GB memory. I switched hard drives so I could get back to my Windows 7 developer environment on the machine – I use it for multi-touch phone app dev.
  3. Downloaded the Windows7-USB-DVD-Download-Tool-Installer from http://wudt.codeplex.com
  4. On my regular laptop, ran the WUDT tool against the Win8 .iso image, and created a bootable USB drive (high speed 8GB USB stick)
  5. Put the USB drive into the Acer and turned it on. Hit F2 to enter BIOS setup, and set the default boot device to USB HDD, saved and rebooted
  6. Formatted the hard drive from within Win8 setup, and let it run. It actually took longer to get the bootable USB drive working than to install Windows 8!
  7. Took about 10 minutes to do the initial load and reboot, about 4 minutes to load devices and reboot, and about 10 minutes to do the initial manual configuration
  8. Note that on the first reboot, I went back into BIOS setup and switched the default boot device back to the hard disk

That was it! Since this morning, I’ve been learning how to navigate a fully touch-enabled version of Windows, while trying to ignore the physical keyboard. It’s actually pretty cool!

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