“Office Hours” a working title / term of endearment for an idea I've been iterating on for a while. Basically:
Through all these factors, I've retooled toward more outdoor work, and in the process also a bit more mobile in general.
Pretty fucking excellent. It's been a very good change. I think there's something very therapeutic, and natural ( I mean it's *right there* in the word ... ) about carving out more time to enjoy the outdoors. I'm honestly happy as a clam out there.
And even if it's mid/upper 90's out, finding a cool grassy, shady spot with a good breeze generally plays more like mid-70's. I'll relocate a couple times as the sun moves, usually following tree cover, but paired with some cold bevs ? I'm set.
It's taken some minor trial and error to get to a place where it's highly doable, so I'm hoping to share a work in progress on what has worked well, in terms of where to go, gear to consider, and other helpful tips so that you can stay cool and / or move on from the office, if that's possible.
Obviously a lot of personal preference baked into this; Your Mileage May Vary, but I hope this helps. Suggetsions, notes, corrections all welcome: email@example.com.
Breakthroughs in tech will only make this easier and more tenable, but I'm pretty decidedly against the notion you need to spend a bunch of money on the newest, most powerful and expensive gear for this. Feels wrong, for one lol but on the contrary, in a lot of cases, older tech ( and newer tech designed toward efficiency & less power consumption ) are probably best suited for the job. I ebb toward the 6-24 months old, slightly-yesteryear hardware. Apple has been releasing new products, built with older generation internal hardware for pretty cheap ( MacBook Air line, and iPhone SE line ), and I have been happy to take them up in supporting this model. 👌🏻
Update: As of writing ( May 2023 ), the M3 rumors have been circulating for some time, touting a much more power efficient processor ( ~30% ). This is gonna be a quantum leap forward when it drops; more efficiency makes the whole solar / charging seesaw all the easier to navigate, just baked in.
So the big constraint for most office-worker folk like myself, is your computer. Phone battery can maybe last all day but you can only get so much done on an iPhone. It's long been the case that laptops are usually only good for maybe 3-5 hours. But that's changed I think in the last few years. Apple's M1 line has crazy good battery life ( briefly for the uninitiated — they started producing laptops with their own chips, way more efficient 👍🏻 ). I am running a late 2020 M1 MacBook Air model and I have completely drank the [ tasty red sugary beverage ] on their efficiency and battery life pitch — I can get through most of a work day on a single charge. Most of my work is code and web, but it can handle Photoshop, QGIS, and other more intensive applications pretty handily for my uses. Video editor folks, you might not be there yet 🤷🏻♂️ but for most office / developer / designer folks, it's worth a look. Or the Pro might get you there if the Air's coming up short, but I favor portability and I'm perfectly happy.
If your laptop isn't going to cut it, but upgrading is out of your budget, bigger batteries are generally much cheaper by comparison and you can compensate by just bringing more power with you. More on that in a bit.
The next constraint is an internet connection. WiFi's an option in some places, but definitely not offered when you get farther away from civilization.
I hotspot and I've been pretty pleased. I've been on an iPhone SE 2020 for almost two years now and been happy with it, but did recently upgrade to iPhone SE 2022 for the 5G data service ( a big jump up in data speed ).
ONLY THING I'M NOTICING — 5G services still throttle the shit out of certain SSH upload operations. Speed test will offer up >= 100mbps downloads but heavily throttle uploading files through command line. Less than ideal if your workload depends on uploading hefty packages, ~160kbps is fuckin' weak !
If you're going really remote, Starlink might be worth a look. But unless you're doing overnight trips, RV-ing, etc., it's impressive but pretty costly and probably overkill.
The problem then moves to power. How much do you use? How much do you need? To what extent do you lean on solar to recharge? Remember, the more you need, generally speaking the more you need to haul in ( in the form of either a bigger / heavier battery, or more solar equipment ). This is a whole big topic of continued obsession and optimizational tinkering, but high level:
If you're just running your laptop and a cell phone, honestly you can probably get by for much of the day with a smaller power bank. This handlheld Conxwan from Amazon is $35. Maybe snag a couple if your devices use more power. It can charge my laptop probably twice if need be, and can charge my phone several times over I'm sure. I can head out for the day with an iPad-sized tablet bag and be pretty set.
Key distinctions here: it uses USB Power Delivery (PD) which I have personally found to be more efficient than using AC adapters ( the wall plugs ). Works great with my MacBook Air.
For solar with a smaller power bank, you can get a ~10-25W panel, often foldable / portable, on the order of maybe $30-40. Here's one on Amazon for $25.
If you have a more power hungry laptop, more family members to accommodate and whatnot, you probably need to move up. Take a look at Jackery, they start at about $130 and go up from there. The Jackery 160 boasts 10 hours of run time for a MacBook Pro ( and that's, I presume, on top of whatever battery life your laptop would provide fully charged on its own; so probably more like 15-20+ hours ) or charge your iPhone 16 times.
You really don't need much to get started IMO, but depending on how enterprising you want to get, someone will happily sell you the equipment.
And if you're REALLY enterprising and want to build your own shit, I'm sure you could make some engineering magic happen with e.g. a car battery and a few electrical components :D but personally I'mma stick to software.
Also / on that note — I'm working on some mini-calculators to try and make quesitons like "how big of a battery should I get?" or "how much solar should I look at getting?" more intelligible for non-nerds 🙋🏻♂️ that's a work in progress. 🚧
Learning about new gear, hunting for deals, fussing over different measurements and units of electricity, a little song and dance testing internet speeds, all while juggling getting said gear loaded and carted around ...
It can feel like a lot. The potential to go overboard is addictive and tempting; a little FOMO inducing.
The exercise at the end of the day is, coincidentally, about needing a little less. Sure, you could haul out 300W solar station and some absurd mini power grid, but eh. Do you need it ?
And getting back to the climate crisis, the main goal at the end of the day is really about reducing consumption. Less "let's over provision in case we need it," and more, "get what you need and will use, and even then, maybe aim to trim that up, where feasible ?"
We all need to, right ?
I've had days where I head out with more than a few backpacks worth of gear. More recently, for a variety of reasons — portability, and just being more conscious about my usage, perhaps the top two — I've been aiming much smaller.
Laptop. Likely a small battery pack. Maybe a smaller panel if I'm gonna be out there for a while. And that's it.
I'll continue putting this more minimalist setup to the test, but napkin math is telling me that's gonna do me fine, and early test runs are bearing that out..
Not exactly like going camping with a fishing pole instead of three weeks of food ? But, analogous.
Overprovisioning is an easy impulse. Planning for what you might need takes some thought and research. Experimentation can tell you quite a bit.
And as always, a work in progress.
If you see an oddball tech Dad comfortably enjoying himself amongst a tapestry of gadgets out at a local park, and think, "that *might* be Jon?", feel free to come say hi & I will happily recharge your cell phone. 🔋
Yooo 🤘🏻 not the biggest footprint of tree cover but the ~235 degree views are tough to beat and the wind is whippin' 👌🏻