Traditional laptop and netbook PCs have been joined by tablets like the iPad and by increasingly powerful smartphones to make computing while tethered to a desk almost a foreign concept. But there’s still a big difference between a person who does a little Web surfing or text messaging on the go and a business professional who relies on mobile technology to get the job done.
An Apple iPad may be adequate as a mobile computing device for light users–and even an iPhone or high-end Android smartphone like the Droid X can suffice in a pinch. Demanding mobile users, though, need a different bag of tricks to stay productive on the go. Here are a few things that stalwart road warriors could use in their survival kit:
Mobile broadband hotspot: One thing that desk workers take for granted is being connected to the company network and to the Internet. Mobile professionals can patch in at public Wi-Fi hotspots like those offered at Starbucks or McDonald’s–but such hotspots have some additional security concerns and may not always be convenient to use.
A mobile broadband hotspot such as the Clearwire Puck or the Virgin Mobile MiFi lets a traveling professional set up a personal Wi-Fi hotspot that connects over 3G or 4G cellular networks to access online resources from virtually anywhere.
Myinnergie mCube Mini: Laptops have improved dramatically over time, but even the best of them are unlikely make it through a business day on battery power without needing recharging. Unfortunately the typical massive power brick designed for mobile PC power cords isn’t very portable. The Myinnergie mCube Mini fits in the palm of your hand and plugs into 12-volt car outlets or the outlets provided on commercial aircraft to give your laptop some juice.
Aegis Padlock Drive: Laptop hard-drive capacities have increased, but the storage space the offer is finite. Also, some companies practically require an act of Congress to allow a third-party visitor to connect to their internal network, so a portable USB hard drive is one of the more convenient methods of sharing data with clients or partners when the need arises.
Their small size and portability also make USB hard drives easy to lose through forgetfulness or theft. For that reason, you should use a portable USB hard drive like the Aegis Padlock, which requires you to enter a PIN code in order to access the hardware-encrypted data it contains.
Microsoft Arc: The touchpads or eraser stick pointers that are standard fare on laptops are okay as temporary mouse replacements, but if you plan to work on the road for an extended period of time, a mouse is still the way to go. Though you have many portable wireless mice to choose from, most sacrifice full-size and long-term comfort for portability, as they lean toward the diminutive end of the scale.
The Microsoft Arc is a different story, however. It snaps flat for storage and transportation–taking up almost no space in a laptop bag, but then it snaps into an arc to provide the look and feel of a full-size mouse.
Seagate Momentus: Solid-state drives have been all the rage lately. The purely digital form of storage enables mobile computers to boot more quickly and access data faster, and the lack of moving parts supposedly makes the drives more reliable than traditional hard-disk drives. But SSDs are also substantially more expensive than comparable HDDs, and recent surveys suggest that SSD performance in the real world might not live up to the marketing hype. The Seagate Momentus takes a hybrid approach. The Momentus combines the lower cost and larger capacity of an HDD with the faster access and reliability of an SSD.
What tools have I missed? I’d love to hear what gadgets, tools, or services you find invaluable for mobile computing, and what your suggestions might be for a road warrior survival kit.