Packing for Maemo

No, that’s not a typo– I don’t mean packaging.  I’m getting ready for the Maemo Summit 2009 in Amsterdam and thought I’d share some experiences and ideas for fellow travelers.

I learned a lot from my last boss at Nokia, who was constantly jetting off here and there.  But I also gained hard-earned wisdom from embarassing experiences as well.

On my first trip to Helsinki (my first overseas) I unpacked in my hotel room to discover my laptop was missing.  I realized I did not remember checking it anywhere along the route– which meant it had apparently been left behind.  A colleague back in Irving confirmed it with a chuckle at my expense.  I had taken everything but the computer.

Fortunately I had prepared my N800 with a trial enterprise solution some Maemo guys had put together as a side project.  This meant I had a VPN client with which I could reach Nokia’s intranet resources, and was able to perform about 80% of what I needed to do there… albeit with some squinting.

Lesson 1: keep your wits about you, slow down, and make a checklist.

As the N800 preparation shows, even though I can be scatterbrained I’m a big believer in contingency planning.  Maybe because I am scatterbrained.

This means I carry a backup phone and extra clothes.  But on my first few trips I overdid it.  This became obvious in Zurich when the military took extra interest in the wires and devices in my backpack.  Other passengers in line were not amused.  The subsequent inspection delayed me a bit but thankfully not by too much.

Lesson 2: try not to take so many gadgets, regardless of how fun they are.  And if you must, then perhaps put them in checked-in luggage instead carry-on!  (edit: just keep in mind the risks, as Antonio notes below).

On that note, it occurred to me today that since I will be bringing a few electronic items to Amsterdam, it might be wise to include a note and some printouts related to the event atop the stuff in my checked-in bag.  Something to assure the inevitable inspectors that my gear has a harmless purpose.  😉

I have also learned that dry cleaners will gladly fold and seal your shirts if you ask, rather than hanging them.  This way they take up less space and arrive neater.  I have also discovered that putting shoes in the outer pocket of a bag is a very bad idea, no matter how stiff the material is.  Finally, printing out directions and destination details beforehand is very, very useful.  Trust me on that.  Same for loading your cell phone with important contacts.

I also make sure I bring at least two days clothing in my carry-on luggage.  During two out my last three trips my checked-in stuff has gone on separate journeys… and clothing in Helsinki is expensive.  I sympathize with the citizens.  Hint: avoid Stockmann.

Things I tend to lose or forget (other than laptops) are toothbrushes, combs, deodorant, belts and writing materials… so those get high priority on my list.  Shopping for deodorant in Mexico is not high on my list of things to do.

lesson 3: remember the checklist?  USE IT.

Anyway, I will be off in a few days and there remains a lot left to do.  Time to quit blogging and get busy!


10 responses to “Packing for Maemo

  1. Antonio Ca' Zorzi

    Man, if we had to follow your advice to send gadgets with checked-in luggage looters in airport baggage handling departments would become really rich…

    • I’m not sure if you’re being antagonistic or just not thinking it through. There are locks one can use that are supported by most air authorities, and that minimizes looting.

      But pick your poison. If you’re carrying electronics on board (especially an unusual amount), be prepared to have your bags scrutinized to the point you may be delayed. It only had to happen to me twice to get the message, and the last time was just too close for comfort.

      You could also ship items ahead, something I neglected to mention, and sometimes that may be the best option. But there are risks in that, too… just as there are in any choice.

      As for my own experiences, I’ve never had anything stolen and I’ve checked in luggage bearing a lot of expensive items. Of course, my layovers have been short which reduces time for looters… another factor to consider while traveling.

  2. Antonio Ca' Zorzi

    Hello Randall,

    I did not want to appear antagonistic at all. Sorry if you felt I was. I was only poking a gentle fun to you. But I apparently missed it completely.

    When I read your lines I thought of all the American tourists who lost their cameras and whatever in several airports in Italy and elsewhere.

    I have been traveling quite a lot internationally and I would always keep my valuables with me. And when traveling on a short trip (up to a week) I usually avoid shipping luggage. This way I never lost anything.

    I wish you wholeheartedly a nice trip and a good presentation in Amsterdam

    • Heh… my mistake then, no need to apologize. Maybe I’m just stressed from everything I’m scrambling to do. My apologies for jumping to the wrong conclusion.

      You’ve got much more experience at international travel than I do so I certainly value your perspective. My comments were really meant for people who, for whatever reason, are toting a great many gadgets that are going to be problematic regardless of how they’re carried. But you made me think about it a bit more and I updated the article accordingly– thanks! 🙂

  3. Hi Randall!

    Looks like we’re taking the same flight into AMS on Thursday! Send me an email and I’ll give you my cell and we can hang out before boarding.


  4. Interesting, as I refuse to check luggage unless *completely* necessary (i.e. required by the airline). I’ve conditioned myself to be able to pack for a trip of any length in a single carry on. I then bring my backpack (with padded laptop sleeve) for all the ‘toys’. I’ve also never really had a problem with security, despite taking 2 laptops, a tablet, and 4 phones to Nokia World in September, lol.

    I definitely recommend that you *print* things out, too. As awesome as our technology is these days, there have been several instances in which I’d wished I could have a print out handy.

    • My last boss rarely checked bags in, either, and I don’t understand how he was able to do it. Maybe one day I need to analyze your system Ricky. 😉

      Experiencing 2 serious security interventions was enough for me though. I either don’t carry all those gadgets (if I have no need) or I split stuff between checkin and carryon. I really think though it was the cables that caused the concern.

      Having no printout handy was a big problem in Virginia last year when I could not access the airport wifi, and my cell phone data service was acting up. Now I print multiple copies of itinerary and related details, including leaving some with my wife or another friend/family member.

  5. allnameswereout

    Good advices, the checklist you can have on your mobile phone or something. Or your Maemo device maybe.

    Some other things: 1) Don’t take too much with you! Less is more! Maybe it is better to leave laptop home, take a netbook instead, to watch a video. Speaking of that, better copy a DVD to your HDD/SSD to save battery and ofcourse tweak your device with e.g. powertop. Clothes you can put on to save weight & space on carry-on bagage. 2) its good to catch sleep in airplane and keep in mind jetlag; melatonin or 5HTP for in airplane (or stuff influencing GABA), to get asleep or if you have prescription medicine also OK but need medicine list alternatively an upper might help you get to the next evening/night 3) earplugs which stop external sound (kids, babies etc), something to read, personally I also need a pillow because I have long neck, I use a foam one which supports neck, but or a short trip it is not so necessary. I also forget to take with me case for my glasses which I like to put off when going to sleep but better be safe than sorry..

    For laptop bag there are some rather neat things you can do. There are tons of advices for this…

    They wrote many more of these ‘what is $person’s laptop bag’ on Lifehacker. They also wrote a howto for how to pack your bag _ergonomically_. Very useful. Also, I like to put my beauty case (or whatever is that called) seperate from rest so I can easily access it like e.g. brushing teeth before flight. Distribution of weight also something to keep in mind. I like to use a backpack because I find it easy to walk with, and you can fine tune it for your body to even the weight (70% on back, 30% on hips is ideal).

    My favourite suggestions for laptop bag are: indeed put wires and other weird (and unnecessary) stuff in a seperate part of your travel bag so you can toss the stuff to your laptop bag easily after flight. Also, 1 2 or 3 prong for electricity, US EU converter, small STP cable, Airport Express for in hotel to create WLAN (cheaper non-Apple alternatives exist), USB charger for laptop phone, reserve batteries loaded at 40%.

    On your mobile device, go preload the maps of the city/nation in your GPS application because you should count 1 EUR/USD for 1 MB for data traffic just to be safe. In some countries its even much more… so also check the opportunities of WLAN in the target city/nation. And keep in mind to set up a VPN over unsecure connections, or use something like $protocol over SSL (IMAPS for example).

    Enjoy your stay and be careful for pick pocketers, don’t walk around with lot of luggage, don’t go to a market or crowded area with a lot of baggage, use a money bag when in city!! If you look like a tourist or nerd (laptop bag 😛 or glasses + nerdy device in hand is enough :P) you’re extra vulnerable.

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