This is a lesson I should have learned years ago. But before a trip, it is often hectic and important steps are skipped. Earlier this week I rushed to complete some important legal work in time to catch my Wednesday flight from Tampa to Detroit to speak at a seminar for Michigan's Institute of Continuing Legal Eduction (ICLE), draft a mediation summary for a substantial family law matter being handled by my former employer and mentor in Michigan, attend a Michigan Chapter meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), take four depositions for another former colleague from my Michigan trial practice days, and then hopefully have enough energy to sit in on electric bass with yet another colleague's rock and roll oldies band on Saturday night at a suburban Detroit eatery before heading back to Tampa early Sunday morning.
In order to pull this off, all of my technology needed to work perfectly. It didn't. First, I rely on software from June Fabrics called PdaNet to tether my Droid X smart phone to my portable computer for Internet connectivity if Wi-Fi is not handy. I usually travel with my Toshiba Mini NB205 netbook, so I has the current Droid X USB connection and charging driver and the latest version of PdaNet already installed. However, for this trip I opted for my aging Lenovo ThinkPad R61i because it has a superb keyboard and I need to do extensive typing while working on the mediation summary. They keyboard on the Toshiba netbook is excellent for that class of device, but nothing beats a ThinkPad keyboard for comfortable long typing sessions on a portable computer.
Well as you might have guessed, since I had not traveled with the ThinkPad in a few months, it did not have the current version of PdaNet. Worse yet, when I last traveled with the ThinkPad, I was still using my original Moto Droid smart phone (now passed along to my wife, who enjoys as much as I did, which is a lot). Although I don't think there is much difference in the drivers required for the two phones, I could not get the Droid X and the ThinkPad to communicate with one another to use PdaNet. Of course, I could have downloaded the correct driver from the Motorola web site, but there was no Wi-Fi at the moment I needed to connect (which is why I was trying to tether in the first place). I should have tested the connection and tethering before I left home and worked out any kinks at that time to avoid a crisis of non-connectivity later.
Fortunately, I survived the crisis without doing damage to my self or the client on whose case I was working (and for whom I needed to do on-line research). When I finally got to a location with Wi-Fi access, I did what I should have done at home and downloaded the latest Droid X USB driver and the latest version of PdaNet.
But that wasn't the only near disaster. I arranged in advance with the court reporter for the four depositions scheduled for Friday (which went from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. without a lunch break) to use a real-time connection and software so I could see the transcript on my ThinkPad's screen as she was transcribing, mark issues, and formulate better follow-up questions. The reporter asked me to bring a USB to serial adapter cable and recommended the IOGear model. As it happened, that brand and model was already in my travel bag. I hadn't used it in a while, but it work the last time I used it.
You guessed it. At the depositions, as we were connecting my ThinkPad to the reporter's notebook PC, the light on the USB to Serial adapter cable that indicates it is receiving power refused to illuminate and the connection could not be made. I deleted and reinstalled the driver, but no luck. As unlikely as it seemed, this simple adapter cable fail despite working the last time I used it. Had I plugged it in and checked for the power light before I left home, I would have learned of the problem and could have picked up a new adapter cable before departing. Finding out that the adapter cable was inoperable five minutes before the start of a full day of depositions is not an auspicious start to a difficult day (make even more difficult by a loud, hostile, and rude opposing counsel bend on personal attacks against witnesses and fellow counsel alike, but the issue of civility in the practice of law, as important as it is, must be saved for a different forum).
Learn from my mistakes. I am generally a tech-savvy mobile lawyer. But this trip could have been a disaster due to my failure to properly test my equipment before leaving. Thank goodness no permanent damage was done.