Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads

Posted on 07 April 2010, Last updated on 10 June 2018 by

Baby Nicklas Computes

This could be a long article or a short article because my 8-day old Son, Nicklas is sleeping and who knows when he’ll wake up. Everything I do at the moment has to be flexible, portable and completed in multiple short bursts. Many of you Dads out there will know what I mean and many of you will have tried, like me, to slip a little bit of ‘work’ into the quiet periods.

When you’ve got a studio full of mobile computers to choose from it’s interesting see see what bubbles up as the most used devices and I want to take a few minutes (or 30) to show you what I’ve been using. One thing is for sure though, my desktop keyboard is getting dusty!

[1st break – Clearing kitchen for lunch prep.]

We’re camped-out in our lounge during the daytime and with the kids off school (I have a 9 year old daughter and the kids are enjoying the Easter sun in the neighborhood gardens) and the midwife popping in every day it’s turning into an incredibly dynamic living space. I’m out most days doing some form of shopping…

[2nd break – Kids at the door]

…and trying my best to do as much cooking as possible along with helping where I can.

[3rd break. Baby woke. Now typing with one finger.]

[4th break. Had to take over the cooking]

OK, lets get to the point here. 4 mobile computing devices…

[5th break. Kids need a drink]

[6th break…oh wait. Wife is handling that one.]

..4 mobile devices have bubbled to the top.

IMG_2995One-handed use – Smartphone

Jenn Lee wrote an excellent article about this recently. [See: How Motherhood turned me into a smartphone Whore.] One-handed computing is so, so important for mobility and therefore you need a device that works with the thumb. You need to be able to do as much as possible in one hand too so that means convergence. Modern smartphones are therefore the ultimate solution. Forget that UMPCs can give you a faster, more complete Internet experience with faster keyboard input because you don’t have space for that second device. Forget a netbook too in this situation because despite being able to put a netbook on the side of an armchair and getting a great consumption experience, typing with one finger is hopeless and this static position won’t last for long. (See this post!)

As for convergence you want the best camera you can find when you have a new baby. I want to say that again because despite your thoughts of buying an HD cam or DSLR, you’ll find that, unless you are an absolute stickler for image quality, you’ll use a cameraphone more often and take more natural pictures. In addition to the cam, you’ll need a screen that’s not too large (thumb needs to reach all the way across) and you need, of course, great access to online data. That means not only having a web browser but also having finger friendly applications and references. Comfortable e-reading is a plus. Ensure your device has Wifi for unlimited home-based Internet activities.

One other tip: ‘Working’ with a smartphone is often more acceptable both socially and in the family situation than using anything that looks like a computer. Pulling out a netbook smacks of ‘work’ or ‘browsing’. With a smartphone you can pretend you’re sending an SMS to the mother while you check email.

[7th break… 2nd Pizza is ready.]

[8th break…clearing up.]

[Hiding further interruptions]

Best Choices for One-Handed Use.

I’ve got an N82 right now and its a great cameraphone but it’s not ideal for this scenario because when it comes to running multiple apps or browser windows the experience is relatively poor. There are so many phones out there that would be better and funnily enough, the Omnia Pro I gave to my wife would fit in really well here. (She’s sitting across from me right now thumbing the excellent Samsung on-screen keyboard in portrait mode.) Top choices right now would be HTC Desire/Google Nexus One (I question the camera quality on those having seen and taken a number of iffy-quality images that have characteristic plastic-lens fogging.) or, for a good value choice with an excellent camera and big capacitive touchscreen, the Nokia X6. The Motorola Milestone / Droid is also a great value choice and the recent Android 2.1 upgrade makes it even faster and more usable. The slider form-factor also helps with the bedroom scenario below. The Sony Ericsson X10 would be an expensive choice and if you can put up with some poor UI elements you can have one of the best videophones on the market, the HD and continuous-focus Sony Ericsson Vivaz. Again, get a great cameraphone because there will be many times when it’s the only camera/videocam you have. False friends here would be the Nokia N900 (terrible one-handed experience, slow camera software) and HTC HD2 (the screen is too large for most thumbs.) I wouldn’t recommend the iPhone because of the poor camera although the 3GS would just about creep into the ‘acceptable’ category. If you want a super-cheap cameraphone with a 5mp auto-focus Carl Zeiss lens, Xenon flash, lens-cover, free navigation and a T9 keypad, the Nokia 6220 Classic is amazing value at under 200 Euro for  (Make sure you have a data contract as there isn’t WiFi on this model.) My choice from the above: Motorola Milestone. SIM –Free with Android 2.1 for under 400 Euros + spare battery, bed-side docking station and car charger.


Mobile Office.

3 years ago I would be looking at something like the Flybook V5, the Fujitsu P1620 or an Everun Note and considering the $1000-$2000 cost with 3G. Today, I have a choice of 10 or more 3G-capable mini laptops for $600 or less. The Gigabyte Touchnote I bought in 2009 is working out really well. The touchscreen helps with one-handed browsing, the 3G is strong, the SSD is fast and as I’m largely located in the armchair or out for a short errand, the relatively short battery life isn’t a problem.

Listen, I know that an iPad sounds like more fun but you probably need to do some work at some point on a laptop so put those thoughts of an iPad to one side and get yourself an ASUS T101MT or similar. If you’ve got the money, buy a Viliv S10 with the 32GB SSD and 3G. It’s one of the lightest, most rugged, connected and longest battery life touchscreen convertibles out there. If I didn’t already have a Gigbyte Touchnote, that’s the device I’d buy. [Yes, I have one for testing but it might have to move on to another review soon.]

IMG_2991Bedtime Reading.

As a new father you’ll spend many hours awake in bed where a mini-slate comes in extremely useful for e-reading, music, games, tweeting and more. One-handed use isn’t an issue (quiet at the back!) so I’m finding myself using the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. Great battery life, great screen, a good selection of apps, flash gaming capability, ebook applications, fast browser and super light-weight means it fits in extremely well. A large-format high-end smartphone would also work well here but if you do that, don’t forget to keep it charged for the morning. A Viliv S5, iPad, Milestone/Droid, HD2 or something similar (just choose something that suits you or works with your smartphone usage) is a fun device to have.

IMG_2987Ultra Mobile Computing.

One area you need to cover is the unplanned requirement to do something serious. Fixing a web server, answering an email with a modified spreadsheet, editing an , printing a document or even taking advantage of 20 minutes while waiting for the doctor means you need something reliable and something familiar. This is where the ultra mobile PC has always been the perfect companion as you get to take all your desktop apps and processes on the road with you. I’ve been using the UMID BZ with the Mifi 2352 (and tethered to my smartphone) and it’s been working out well. I also keep it by my bedside for occasions when I need to do some real work while in bed and to be honest, I could use it instead of the Archos 5. The Archos 5 is more fun though!

You could use a netbook in this scenario but netbooks are relatively heavy (especially when you need to carry a bag full of baby ‘stuff,’ and need a stable surface.

[5 interruptions hidden]

So Dads, as you can see, there are some opportunities out there and that it’s not just the Dads that sneak in some mobile computing while looking after their babies. In the spirit of parenthood then, what tips have you got to share? Anyone worked out how to have two hands free? I’ll be testing a baby sling soon so stay tuned for some more mobile Dad tips!

40 Comments For This Post

  1. Gretchen Glasscock says:

    Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads:
    This could be a long article or a short article because my 8-day o…

  2. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    RT @umpcportal: New article: Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads

  3. Alessandro Tucci says:

    RT @umpcportal: New article: Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads (congratulations on your newborn baby!)

  4. Andrew says:

    RT @umpcportal New article: Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads A fun article for new parents who love tech.

  5. David says:

    Dads> Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads | UMPCPortal – Ultra …

  6. Amy Barton says:

    RT @chippy: RT @umpcportal: New article: Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads <cutest baby pic!

  7. BRYAN B says:

    Congratulation to you and your wife on the new arrival!!!!!
    I wouldn’t sweat the choices much, new devices will continue to be released and you have 18 plus years to figure out the compromises that will inevitably have to be made.

  8. scrootch says:

    Funny article, been there , done that and doing all over again…

    My devices: iPhone, iPhone, iPhone and an iMac for late nights without babyscreams stressing us to much.

    I would consider an iPad or that new Gemini if it gets at least 64 GB

  9. C. says:

    Congratulations, cute, cute baby!!!

    Chippy – do you know if the higher end version of the ASUS T101MT is available yet? Amazon is now selling the one with Win 7 starters but I really need the higher end one with Home Premium. I think it is being sold in Europe but I am in the US. Any online sites where I could buy one from exporter? Any issues with an exported one?

    Congratulations again on the baby!


  10. animatio says:

    in switzerland yes – CHF 699.
    Intel Atom N450, 2048MB, 320GB,10″ GT WSVGA (1024×600),Win7-Premium(d/f/i/e), Intel GMA 3150 shared Grafik, LAN, WLAN (300 Mbps), Webcam, Multitouch-Display, 4 Cell Polymer-Akku,

  11. Realty says:

    Be careful of the new baby slings. Big recall here in the states recently of one brand. Baby sufficated in it.

  12. chippy says:

    Thanks Realty. I made a fuss about a baby sling (most of them are too expensive IMO) so we ended up with a kind of revers rucksack. Will be careful!

  13. focus says:

    Congratulations for the new baby!Live long and prosper!
    In the same situation we were using eeepc 701,the best bang for the buck ever.
    Raon everun can be used with one hand,by the way.
    I won`t agree with smartphone cameras,never using them ,they are only an damn waste of oportunities,bad pictures.

  14. chippy says:

    Ah yes. The Raon. One of my faves!
    Yeah, for some, cameraphones aren’t good enough.
    Tried an N82 or N86 though? The N82 has captured and shared more of my life than any other device i’ve ever had and has done it with good quality.

  15. focus says:

    No,and i won`t,because they are not a match for my camera canon hv10,not even close!and is an small and light camera.Try canon hv10(or similary)and compare with yours,i can assure you that you will cry a river thinking what you loose!

  16. Lee says:


    Congrats on your new son. Would you consider buying the gigabyte t1000 vs the viliv s10?

  17. Jean-Paul says:

    Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads | UMPCPortal – Ultra Mobile Personal Computing – – so true ;)

  18. krun_qy says:

    good healt, happiness and good luck for that young guy and for his parrents

  19. jpmatrix says:

    what a great article Chippy ! and congrats for kids&wife of course ;)

    one-handed use device…that’s definitely the case in transports too ! i mean with loaded train or bus, smartphones (or very small MID/PMP like iPod Touch or Archos5IT) are a must-have over even an UMPC….or an iPad…

    for photos, my favourite setup is now Canon Ixus 100IS with an EyeFi linked to my MiFi :) definitely efficient, fast and easy way to send high quality photos over the internet for parents ;)

  20. Larry Crider says:

    Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads | UMPCPortal – Ultra …: I wouldn't recommend the iPhone because of…

  21. animatio says:

    congrat’s to the growing family.
    so apart from a baby bag … which bag is recommended for the “mobile flying” baby-father?. ya know “chippy the kangaroo”

  22. JonnyN says:

    Great article. Well done for turning out something coherent with all the interruptions.too

    I’ve got a 3rd on the way in July and now planning my home office. Aiming for a the 2Ghz Viliv S10 and the HTC HD Mini (like the HD2 but smaller for the thumbs!)

    Thanks for the helpful tips and hope you manage to recover normality soon.

    P.S. we picked up a baby sling at 2nd-hand shop in UK, no problems and far cheaper than new.

  23. Jenno says:

    The point of the article is outstanding however here in australia if you are not in the IT industry you simply wont be able to afford these devices and have children! Thats a cold hard fact of life, the cheapest of vilivs products here from the national importer is around the $1200 au mark, thats 200 more than I earn in a week and should I buy the model I really like (S10) well I will have to mortgage one of said kids and probably leave an arm as a deposit!!

    In fact it seems that we down under are doomed to our standard laptops, desktops and at best a Netbook to get buy on! UMPC’s are not a family priced item in this small market

  24. chippy says:

    Its a very important point, yes. I’m just lucky as I have a bunch of devices I can play around with. If I was in that position i’d be investing in a good smartphone/laptop combo of course. Everything else comes later unless your business depends on it.

  25. umpcaddict says:

    congratulations on your baby. looks like a cute little old man baby with that frown!

  26. tekplay says:

    Congrats on your new one Chippy. Looks just like a chip of the old block :),and seems like he does not approve of the UMID..

  27. Nomax says:

    Hi Chippy, one word from a father of two: forget camera phones – have a charged decent cam with video capabilities ready in the kitchen (where all acion takes place, mostly). I have the Panasonic ZS3/TZ7 and I really enjoy the HD video option. Or do you want Nicklas ask you later “Daddy, why did’nt you film me in HD”? ;)


  28. chippy says:

    Actually i don’t do much filming at all. I have a couple of good cams but prefer to be catching moments rather than having a ton of film that really never get’s edited or watched.
    When I look back to crappy B&W photos of my childhood I wish there were simply more. The quality is irrelevant.

  29. umpcaddict says:

    you should model your son with various pc’s under different usage scenarios! UltraMobileBaby! with a cape.

    u da man, man

  30. Chippy says:

    I may have to have a sidenote in all my reviews from UltraMobileBaby. Good idea!

  31. ArchiMark says:

    Congratz on the new mobile addition (son) to your family!

    Glad to see that your boy is already using computers! BZ looks just right for him… ;)

    All the best,


  32. BRYAN B says:

    Now that the congratulation are over, when are the modification going to start.
    Will we see the stroller canopy converted to a solar panel, maybe some form of energy reclamation device attached to the wheels, flashing Ad banners fastened to the sides. It time to fess up Chippy, what’s on the agenda!!!!!

    As far as the babies expression I would vote for

    1. he’s being forced to watch that purple Dino Barny
    2. he’s making a deposit or would it be a withdrawal

    Sorry, I could resist any longer!!!!!

  33. umpcaddict says:


    Do you have a p.o box? I want to get an “UltraMobileBaby” t-shirt printed and send it to your son..but you’re responsible for the cape. Maybe I’ll add a picture of a UMID or a battery.


  34. Chippy says:

    What a wonderful thought! UltraMobileBaby would be very happy if that happened but he’s also happy that so many people have sent best wishes. steve at umpcportal point com is a direct email address you can use if you need to contact me.

    Again, thanks for the thoughts everyone.

  35. umpcaddict says:

    Anyone who wants to chip in ($10.00 US DOLLARS via PayPal [I’m verified]) for Nicklas’ UltraMobileBaby gear,

    PM me or email me: [email removed]

    I’ll email invoices/receipts to anyone who donates and of course, it will be from ALL OF US. Any unused funds will be refunded.

    Let’s give back to Chippy who gives us so much (even though I partially blame him for my UMPC addiction).

    Donations from 4-11-2010 – 4-18-2010 (1 week).

    Please donate.

  36. umpcaddict says:

    HEY!! Sorry for the spam but is available! Wouldn’t it be great from one day getting UMPC/mobile reviews from a 10 year old?!?! I’m expecting Nicklas to start writing his own sidenotes within 5 years.

  37. insomniac says:

    Congrats! My daughter is 14months now and I have found that I use the u820 around the house while I am doing the various chores and whatnot.

    the biggest problem I have is that I get sidetracked and before I know it I need to focus all my attention on my daughter again and no chores have been done.

  38. Chippy says:

    Yeah, the wonders of the Internet. It makes you forget what you were there for in the first place!

  39. Isabella Products says:

    This little guy should win some cute kid contest! He's starring in "Mobile (and Stealthy) Computing Tips For Dads"

  40. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    @Nguyen im with you! Dad duty computing tips. What are yours?

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