Back From France (Like I Was Never Gone)

By Ted Dieck | Latest - Technology - Travel | Mar 5, 2010

I was out of the office for two weeks, but not out of touch. E-mails, texting, internet and phone service all followed me just about everywhere. Really amazing.

Lots of people around the world do this kind of thing all the time. And doubtless many do it far better than I did. But I had to test it out for myself. So, part of my trip to France included a secret check on whether all this tech stuff would actually work in a mysterious place like Paris. (And if did work, could we conclude that Napoleon’s right hand was reaching in his coat for an iPhone?) 

So, on the way out of town, I put the office line on Call Forwarding, sending all calls straight to my BlackBerry.

BLACKBERRY IN THE BUCKEYE – When I got to Ohio, I used my laptop to do some work on a website. We took a break and headed out to a restaurant. On the way, we stopped our car in front of a public library where I caught a Wi-Fi signal.

Over several minutes, I downloaded the website pictures, a hundred e-mails, and a couple of half-hour television shows from my iTunes subscription. Fast.

The next day, about an hour before heading back to the airport, I wrote one of my e-letters from my laptop, just like I usually do. I had it tethered to the BlackBerry for an excellent internet connection. I posted a draft copy of the letter to my service, then closed up, and headed out the door.

No computer with me for the trip to France. Just carrying the BlackBerry.

Oops. Forgot my password for the e-letter service. I called the service from my BlackBerry, while Dad drove us to the airport, dodging potholes all the way. With my e-letter password reset, I was back in business. Safely inside the terminal, I logged back onto the service from the quiet of the airport lounge, finished the e-letter, and sent it off with a comfortable half hour to spare.

Just for fun, I checked the e-mail on my BlackBerry and there was my html copy of the e-letter. Everything received in perfect shape. Incredible.

AMERICAN IN PARIS, WITH A BLACKBERRY – We headed over to the plane, sent the “I’m Outta Here” texts, and turned the BlackBerry off. Ten hours and 4,000 miles later, we were on the ground in France, through customs, and the BlackBerry was up and reloading. Texts, e-mails, alerts. It all started figuring out where I was, lurched a few times, and went right back to doing its thing.

I didn’t take any phone calls during my long weekend overseas. I could have, if necessary. That service was also available to me. Phone service was pricey, so I left it out of my test. Otherwise, everything else kept ticking, just like there was nothing to it.

I mean, really nothing to it. I was texting back and forth – internationally – from a train car moving beneath the River Seine. That blows my mind!

I thought the sound of the moving train, with the French train station announcements, was pretty cool. So, I clicked on the BlackBerry’s recorder and caught a two minute slice of life that I have played back several times. In fact, I’m sure I can also e-mail it. Maybe I’ll try that, too.

TECH SPECIFICS – For the record, I was working off the old BlackBerry 8830 World Edition, using Verizon. It has a SIM card for international service. Simply tell Verizon when you’ll be overseas, and they’ll shift the account to Global for a few days, and then they’ll restore the previous account settings when you return. No calls necessary. It’s all pre-scheduled. Just remember to update the handset, so it can find the international towers, and everything works like a charm.

At first, it took me awhile to understand the service , but with the right rep (Thank You, Lori!) and access to the Global Department (they really know their stuff,) it all works great. Total added cost should come in around $5.00 per day for the duration of the trip.

The Global service was just an experiment for me. I wanted to be sure all this technology – and accounting – works properly, before I start depending on it in a big way.

So far, so good.

No doubt about it, I could become a major fan.