I test my outside-computer setup in drafting and publishing this post

I test my outside-computer setup in drafting and publishing this post

My main computing machine has been a laptop for a long time. And it being a portable machine, I did use it outside and inside the house, at least—before 2020, I did.

Now I cannot fathom bringing my laptop that has sat on some table in a public space back to my bed. Yes my bed is workspace.

An outside computing setup

So I had been thinking of having a secondary laptop, one for “using outside only”. A Chromebook is often pretty inexpensive. And I could safely do most of my work in a terminal ssh-ing into my remote server! No sweat.

Whatever people may say against Chromebooks, I absolutely enjoyed my experience while I used it on a daily basis. It was snappy and lasted long hours per charge and it charged over USB-C!

Most work I did was on a browser. And when I needed a real Linux environment, I could just login to my server using ssh via the client distributed by Google as a Chrome extension. In a pinch, I could have also just used Crostini. But having very little storage and working with Docker containers was not very appealing to me. There was also the battery drain to consider.

So a Chromebook was definitely a viable option for me.

Another option I had in mind was a MacBook Air. But I eventually changed my mind because I realised I was looking for a convertible after all.

Uh-oh thr’s a problm

In my existing Chromebook, many of the keys—notably e would not work at all.

Well not an issue, I was thinking of buying a new one anyway… But this made me wonder…

Do I really need another laptop?

What kind of work do I do?

  • I browse the web.
  • I sometimes write code.
  • I do system administration via ssh.
  • I write emails.
  • And I write in general using Google Docs.
  • When I do make spreadsheets, I use Google Sheets.

When do I feel the need for a laptop outside?

  • When a website is not optimised for mobile
  • When I want a physical keyboard because I don’t enjoy typing on a software one.

Apparently, I said that before

So what I really need is…

A physical keyboard that I can connect to my phone and a larger display.

That should solve my problems, right?

Experiments and baby steps

The first step was procuring a keyboard. A mouse was optional, and the bigger screen could wait.

Oh when I said bigger screen I was thinking of a foldable. No mobile display by itself would be big enough to render broken websites comfortable.

Testing existing keyboard

I already had a keyboard that could connect to my phone. A Logitech K480 bluetooth keyboard. Viewing angle of the phone in its dedicated slot was comfortable. And typing was decent enough. A bit noisy, but not enough to bother me. And the keyboard has enough heft to it that I could easily use the keyboard on my lap with the phone in its slot and type away without any real issue. Except&hellips;

Android and physical keyboards

A lot of Android apps are simply never developed with the physcial keyboard in mind. They are justified because after all, Android is mostly used as a touch-only operating system. But this meant that a lot of apps didn’t have great keyboard support.

WhatsApp was especially painful because now I had to enable “enter is send” because there was no other mechanism to send text messages (I was hoping for ctrl + enter).

But enabling that option meant I could no longer draft multi-line messages.

Navigation with a keyboard is even more painful alt + tab brings up the Recent Apps screen, but doesn’t allow switching between apps. And the arrow keys often mean nothing.

Chrome, and Google Docs on the other hand worked really well. They even supported common keyboard shortcuts that I would often use.

  • In Chrome for Android
    • ctrl + tab
    • ctrl + r
    • ctrl + t
    • ctrl + l
  • In Google Docs for Android
    • ctrl + b/u/i
    • ctrl + alt + 0…6
  • In Android, the operating system
    • ctrl + a
    • ctrl + x/c/v
    • ctrl + backspace/delete
    • ctrl + arrow keys

While that’s not an exhaustive list, it is a list of my most commonly used shortcuts.

And while I couldn’t use alt + tab I could at least double tap my keyboard’s “menu” key to switch to the last app instantly.

A different keyboard

Hoping to reduce the weight of my backpack, I was browsing for lighter bluetooth keyboards from Logitech. And the one I eventually picked and purchased was not good enough. The slot for the phone did not inspire confidence. I even managed to drop my phone twice while using it with the keyboard.

And that is how the K480 became the first part of my outdoor computing setup.

Software and how I code now

This entire post so far has been written using my phone with the K480!

I logged into my remote server using Termux, a terminal emulator for android with mosh, the mobile shell.

And as I have been writing blogs since returning from the break, I am typing in good old vim.

Unfortunately, Termux isn’t supporting ctrl + shift + v. So to paste the links I have created so far, I had to reach forward and long press the screen to paste.

I suppose this may be one of my first “real” open source contributions to an Android app. Should be easy enough to implement, right?

To check that the page is rendered as expected, I quickly spun up a docker container behind my proxy on a subdomain in my domain. Shout out to nginx-proxy for making that such an easy thing to do!


  • Lack of support from the OS and the apps
    • Navigation
    • Some pretty basic functionality
  • I need to take the cover off my phone to make it fit the slot
    • But then with a foldable, cover who? So might as well live with it.
  • Couldn’t hot reload Jekyll pages because nginx-proxy can proxy only one port by default.

Honestly, that’s it. I have been working just fine.