I'm on an extended work trip at the moment. My wife and I have been keeping touch with Skype, using the video conferencing and VoIP on a daily basis. It's great to be able to see each other and talk without speaking in to a phone. I've come to realise the value of a good microphone and proper speaker setup, as well as a decent camera. In general it has been really effective, at least within the US. Typically fast, quite clear audio and good picture quality.
We also needed to look at some documents on the computer. Skype doesn't have a remote desktop sharing option and we had some problems getting the Windows Live Messenger working to share screens and there would be the added difficulty of sharing from Windows XP to my Mac (I'd have been using a VM Fusion Windows session). Instead, we tried http://www.showmypc.com. I was impressed how easy it was to set up, just download an application and run it (a bit of trust required there). Then there is a password that you share with the user at the other end of the link and you are connected. Under the hood it sets up a VNC session via an SSH server, but from an end user perspective, all you need is the password to connect. It was fast, easy to use and worked well Windows XP <-> OS X. They have options where you set up your own SSH server in the middle, rather than trusting their servers, but I think you have to pay for that option. In general, it was surprisingly easy and effective. We were able to still have the Skype video call running in parallel too.
The picture of the beach? That's the Outer Banks in North Carolina - about 4 hours from where I'm working at the moment. I took the opportunity to go there for the weekend and camp out in the sand. Traveling for work isn't ideal but I try to make the most of the places I do get to go, in particular seeing the area or taking advantage of museums and art galleries I wouldn't normally have the chance to visit. In that respect, I tend to disagree with Grant Martin's sentiment over on his blog. I've still been able to disconnect on business trips and see a bit of the local culture. Two weeks ago I saw a Monet at the North Carolina museum of art. This weekend I was in the Outer Banks. I think you have to push yourself a bit to really take advantage of the opportunities that might be there, but it can certainly be done. For every business trip I've been on in the last few years, I've really worked to get to at least one museum or art gallery, just to make it worthwhile.
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