Travel Tech Q&A: Oracle's Angus MacDonald

Angus MacDonald, chief technologist for Oracle Australia/New Zealand, is all about being covert and secure when he travels. From getting information from the CIA to covert gaming under the table in meetings. Find out what's in his suitcase when he travels abroad.

Angus MacDonald, chief technologist for Oracle Australia/New Zealand, puts a high value on being secure when he travels. From getting travel information from the CIA to covert gaming under the table in meetings. Find out what's in his suitcase when he travels abroad.

Angus MacDonald

Oracle Australia/New Zealand's chief technologist, Angus MacDonald
(Credit: Oracle)

What tech do you travel with and why?

I typically travel with my iPhone 3GS, with sufficient connectivity to cope with the amount of countries I visit. However, I would also have to say that most of my travels are currently [in] Australia and New Zealand so it's not currently an issue. Basically, I use it for quick access to email.

I sometimes wish we hadn't invented smartphones for that reason because you can never get any peace and quiet! But I can just check my mail and see if there's any meeting change or late information I need to get. I also use it for calendaring and believe it or not, I also use it for phone calls!

The smartphone is one thing; it depends a little bit on what I'm doing [and] how long I'm going for. Obviously the laptop is one of the tools I use — I have an Apple one, running both Windows and OS X for the integration with my iPad and iPhone. If I'm going for a short time and won't have to make any edits to presentations and so on, I'll often travel with just an iPad and iPhone.

If I know that I'm going to have to make changes to a presentation or do a lot of editing of graphic stuff, I'll take my laptop with me. We have the ability in our own offices through SunRay technology … a thin client device with software behind it supporting [essentially] a [window] into any of our datacentres from there. If I know I'm going to be stuck in an office and not going out to customer sites et cetera, I'll just use SunRay on the iPad or phone.

Tell us about your laptop

I actually have two. I've got an old 13-inch white MacBook, and I've also got a thing called a ModBook, which I bought as a curiosity.

Somebody ripped the screen off of a MacBook and put a Wacom tablet over it so it's actually a slate. It runs OS X and Windows. I quite often use it for presentations if I'm preparing them and being able to use a digitiser pen is quite neat.

What's your favourite app?

I use a number [of apps]. I suppose OmniFocus, I enjoy it because it gives me the ability to do my to-do lists and bits and pieces in an intelligent fashion. I've got a document management thing I use from Devonthink, but I've also got a series of Oracle application specifically on the iPhone that give me access to our own internal systems, so I suppose they're the three categories I would use. We have a People Finder from Oracle on our phones as well, which allows me to look up each individual within Oracle. Find out who they are, where they are, what time zone they're in, et cetera.

I've got a plethora of them. I tend to look at a lot of them just out of curiosity. The problem with the iPhone and iPad is that the apps are too cheap; by the time you've bought 100 of them it adds up!

OmniOutliner I use quite often to create the outline of speeches I have to give. But I have to plead guilty to the fact that I like a few games that keep me entertained during really boring meetings. It's really a matter of finding a game that doesn't look like you're playing a game!

The one thing I particularly like though is that [the iPhone and iPad] really integrate well into the Oracle environment.

What's the best place for good duty-free shopping?

I think because of the GST in Australia and because of the combative nature of physical retailers compared with online retailers, duty free is sort of become a little less than stunning.

I typically buy from duty free if there is something particularly unusual or special. I have a penchant for single malt whiskeys and you'll occasionally find ... a whiskey sold through the duty free because they can't create enough of it.

But to be entirely honest, unless you're a smoker, which I'm not, I would typically only end up getting alcohol because most of the things I can get a better price by negotiating with one of the local retailers or looking at it online.

Some of the places I've enjoyed? I'd say Singapore, San Francisco and Auckland duty free.

What's a good website to use while travelling?

I suppose if I'm going to a country I haven't been before I'll use the CIA documentation for the country itself, but to be entirely honest — and this is going to sound a little corny — I typically just go through the Oracle website. I find that we're an organisation of slightly over 100,000 employees. The fact is that if you look at the communities within Oracle, there is almost nothing I would have to go outside Oracle to get information that I trust as I'm travelling. Certainly our own security and travel people provide me with all the information I need for planning trips for security while I'm travelling.

I'm sure our competitors do something that's not dissimilar, but if I go out to the internet I have to make a value judgement around the quality of what I'm getting, and I have to go searching. To be brutally honest, the abilities within the Oracle environment to find the information quickly and easily tend to outweigh [external sources].

How do you secure your gear when you go travelling?

Laptops are all set up with encrypted disks so nobody can actually get into it. The iPad and iPhone will basically destroy the data if somebody doesn't succeed with getting the PIN and things right in a period of time. I try to ensure I don't leave anything that is hyper-critical unencrypted.

The other thing, believe it or not, I have a carry-on bag that I can survive out of for about five days, so on 99.9 per cent of business trips I never check in baggage. As a result of which I find it easier to carry my bag with me and I suppose that nothing beats having something at your fingertips as far as ensuring its security. If I go out for dinner in the evenings, I typically lock my laptop and bits and pieces in the hotel safe, but security for me is not so much about the physical device, but what might be stored on it and the steps I take are around them not being able to take that rather than them not taking the device.