Tech Talk over the Atlantic

As I sit perched in the sky above the steely-grey waters of the North Atlantic—"perched" might not be the best word as we are currently hurtling toward Rome at an amiable 696 mph—the look on my face would best be characterized as......smug.

You see, I had a technical problem to solve at the Ethiopian gate waiting area, and not much time to solve it. But solve it I did! Hence my insufferable self-satisfaction. (Be glad you're not here right now!)

Let's suppose you've known for months that a particular paper must at all costs be in the hands of a certain person at a time when you might be indisposed…say…oh I don't know…in an airplane. And let's suppose that this document is to be included on a CD to be passed out to attendees of an important conference where you are scheduled to present. Let's also imagine, for the sake of argument, that you did what you swore you wouldn't do and pushed back your editing of said paper to the last minute. As impossible as it is to conceive (insert heavy eye-rolling here), this is the predicament in which I found myself this morning.

I stayed up very late last night and finished most of my edits. I got up early and completed the rest of the edits just before I needed to check out of the hotel. Still, I was breathing a sigh of relief. I mean, as they say in Jamaica, "no problem, mon." All I had left to do was email the document. Easy. I'm home free. 

Imagine my consternation when I arrived at the gate and discovered the the wifi access that is available in the rest of the facility was no where to be found. Evidently Ethiopian Airlines does just enough business to be stuck in the bowls of the terminal maze that is Washington Dulles Airport. But I digress.

What was I to do? My iPhone had 3G access to AT&T's much maligned network (which has always worked great for me, BTW). But the file was on my laptop. How was I to get the file from my laptop to my iPhone?

There are several excellent solutions for this problem, such as Mobile Me, Dropbox, Evernote, just to name a few. But all of these fine products require wifi to sync "to the cloud." Listen, cloud computing isn't all it's cracked up to be when stuck at a gate with no connectivity and a deadline barreling down at you like an overloaded semi.

I tried importing the PDF as a book into iTunes and syncing it with my iPhone. This got the file on my phone, but I couldn't figure out a way to get it out of the book reader to mail.

Then I remembered an app that I had installed long ago but seldom used. It's called Air Sharing by Avatron Software. While they have a pro version, I believe (if memory serves since I have no wifi to check, being in an airplane and all) that the version I'm using is free. 

Air Sharing performs a host of wondrous tasks, but the one that I eagerly searched for was the ability to mount my iPhone as a server on my laptop. Of course, this requires a wifi network! But wait, since I don't need a server located in the cloud (funny, I'm staring out the window of the plane, gracefully winging its way above the clouds and I don't see any data!) I could make my own network!

Mac OSX allows a user to make a private network of their own! With the call to "begin boarding" booming over the public address, I went to the system preferences and created the network. Next, I connected the iPhone to the network I just created. Air Sharing provides a static IP address to be used for mounting the drive. Using the "connect to server" menu option in OSX, I quickly had my iPhone all dress-up as a hard drive on my desktop. A quick copy and it was done.

Ah, but wait. The only program that would access the file was Air Sharing! Seems that they feel that, since they created the hard drive, everything on it belongs to their program. 

Beads of perspiration dotted my furrowed brow as I prayed that the fine folks at Avatron included a mail document feature into their software. I actually let out a quite loud and completely involuntary "yesssss" (which turned more than a few startled heads) when the comforting "whoosh" of sent mail was heard. 

Unlike the other passengers who endured with heavy sighs the long line to gain admittance to the aircraft, I was quite content as I shuffled toward the cattle chute and Rome.

Now if I can just find the time to finish that presentation……

[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]