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This is my view on the bus…

Today, for the first time in a looooong time, I’m riding public transit. As soon as I boarded my first train I found myself frantically digging through my bag and through my tablet try and find something distracting to do to keep my brain busy and distracted from the long commute.

As I meticulously explored every nook and cranny of my bag like it was a plane crash, I began to get frustrated… I was in deep by this time and I was beginning to become aware of the humidity and smell of the train-car. Then I remembered how good I used to be at this when I would ride transit every day. I unlocked my PDA, mined my way down to my InstaPaper App, and began to read a Comrade in Pharms article I had flagged.

The rest of the commute was a breeze… Not just because of Instapaper, but because of an entire folder of my old time-killing go-to’s… It seems I was quite a prolific distraction hunter. I had a strategy back then, and keeping sane on the train (no rhyme intended, but no regret that it did), wasn’t a matter of simply saving bookmarks; it was about fit… It was about resources that roped me in and kept me engaged just long enough to move to the next tool without losing interest or time.

My distraction saved me during many a ridiculous trip, so I thought I would share how you can build your own sanity saver. For Beta Nerds, the opportunity cost of sitting idle on a bus for two hours is unacceptable…  Make the most of it:

Before you get started I have quick rule of thumb that might make things way easier: Everything is more engaging on public transit.

Get the most from your Instapaper/Instafetch:
Having Instapaper is the best place to start, but it’s not enough. The real trick is to juice that mother effer and get the most out of it. Start by adding Instapaper (or InstaFetch if you’re a Blackberry user) to everything electronic you own… primarily your smart phone, your home computer, your work computer and your tablet. The key is being able to add to your Reading list anywhere and everywhere.

As an added bonus that you may not have been aware of, the browser version of InstaPaper features an easy ePub conversion button.
Digital Magazines: If you’re a magazine person, there’s a ton out there for you. Think beyond the actual subscription based digital offerings from the physical magazines’ websites and explore what the rest of the Web has for you. One of my favourites is Magazine Time because of its science content and its usability. Another cool resource is eBook3000.com although navigating it is frustrating.

Most free digital magazine sites offer the newest editions of the big names like People, Time, and Discover, but as always, check in on your moral compass before downloading these.

Digital Comics: Comics have gone digital in a big way. There are tons of subscription based sites, places to purchase the latest editions issue by issue, and places to do all of the above and then some. I’m especially fond of the Marvel and DC sites which has everything you could want with a dump load of extra behind the scenes and editorial type content.

Another perk about digital comics is that they are incredibly accessible on most digital toys. iphone, ipad, blackberries smart phones, almost all tablets, PSP, Vita, ereaders, you name it! What can I say; geeks make our tech and geeks like comics… It should be no surprise that comics have been so conveniently integrated into our gadgets.

Convert to ePub: If you have an ereader of any type, this is a must… It’s also far easier than you would think.

Start by downloading either a 3rd party ereader manager, an ePub converter program, or an ePub converter add-on in Firefox. These are always free, simple to use, and often stuffed with features your native reader manager is missing. These tools are always incredibly flexible and work with most readers. My favourite it Calibre.

Next, slap on your creative cap and get epub-ing outside the box… you might be surprised what can be epub-ed. Some of my favourite go-to’s are: vintage comics (just as good in black and white), wikipedia articles, favourite blog posts, flash cards and study notes, infographics (again, black and white is still good), movie and tv scripts and more.

Vintage Gaming: Console Emulators seem like the obvious go-to for any vintage gaming, but I don’t want to focus on that here. Despite their convenience, there is no substitute for the real thing and getting the real thing for the bus is pretty aaffordable. Not surprisingly, I’m going to focus on mobile gaming… More specifically, Gameboy Advanced and the PSP. Depending on your view on the industry, there are either a lot or not nearly enough mobile gaming options out there, but these two are cheap, versatile and were around for long enough reasonable library.

  • GBA SP: Nintendo takes a lot of heat for regurgitating old titles on new systems, but on the GBA, it’s A-Okay… in fact, this is basically where Nintendo first went bananas with their regurgitations and it worked… it worked well… this is why they keep doing it. Anyway, you can find almost all of your favourite classics for the system as well as some new loves. The system also plays original Gameboy and Gameboy Colour games. I don’t expect that you are still holding on to all of your old  games, but that’s the point. The point is you can go to a Swap Meet and get a GBA SP with a bag of old and less old games for nothing.
  • PSP: The system has been retired, but for transit, it’s still a beast. You can get your movies on there, create an ad hoc ereader, read your comics and of course play games. Many will hate on the PSP library because of how little attention Sony gave it, but with its long lifespan there’s more than enough to play in transit. Again, the best part is everything is cheap! cheap! cheap! The unit will cost a bit more than a Gameboy, but the games are nothing. Also (I said I didn’t want to focus on this, but I will mention it), if you jailbreak this bad boy, it is the best mobile emulator you will ever have.

So Anyway, there’s just a few ways to keep busy on the stinky ol’ bus. I have more, but this has really dragged on, so I’ll have to share them later.