Top 3 Tools For the Mobile Office

As computers get smaller and more portable, and wireless internet becomes more and more ubiquitous, it's getting easier and easier to do you job from almost anywhere. A lot of people are working from home - or anyplace else they want - but to make the most of this setup, there are a few tools you should have. Let's take a look at my top 3.

To do this, you're obviously going to need a portable computer of some type. It's kind of a given, but this is going to be my number one item. And to make the most of your portable computer, whatever form it might take - laptop, netbook, iPad, etc. - you'll want to be sure that it has enough power to meet your needs.

If your job is primarily handled through email and the web, almost any portable machine will work. The iPad is the latest and greatest, but a netbook or practically any notebook computer will work equally well. The key is to get something small enough that it's easy to carry around, without being so small that you can't use it effectively.

The second most important tool in my arsenal is my smartphone. I prefer the iPhone, but there are several very good platforms to choose from. Blackberry makes a number of excellent smartphones, as does HTC and other manufacturers who are using Google's Android operating system.

Windows Mobile - soon to be Windows Phone Edition - is another choice in the market, but the platform has become extremely fragmented and has not really kept up with the rest of the market. When Windows Phone 7 is released, this may change but at this point I would stick with one of the other three.

When choosing your smartphone plan, make sure you get enough data included to fully support your use. And if you can get tethering, you'll be able to use your phone as a wireless data connection for your mobile computer anywhere you can get coverage. This is the one thing I don't like about the iPhone - AT&T currently doesn't support tethering.

The third tool I couldn't work without is some kind of cloud-based storage system. My service of choice is Dropbox, but there are a number of others that work very well also. A cloud storage service lets you store your files on the web and access them from various devices.

You can access your files from any computer with an internet connection - Mac, Windows or even Linux - as well as your smartphone, iPad or almost any web-connected device.

With these three tools, you can be 100% mobile while still fully operational. So when you get the itch to take a spur-of-the-moment trip, you'll be able to be up and running no matter where you happen to be.

Solar Power for Notebook and Laptop Computers

This may seem incredible and impossible to do, but many computer technophiles are going "green" when they travel with a laptop in tow these days. If you are familiar with "extreme" or remote computing this may not seem too far fetched. Let's not forget that many professionals enjoy rugged recreational activities, but just can't always leave the office behind.

The idea of solar power for remote computing is finally catching on. It is working for everyone from the cross-country cyclist and weekend camper, to regular working stiffs that have to rough it on the job.

Solar power is not just a possibility, but could be a necessity for those that go remote. Solar panels are used to collect solar energy for direct use or storage in batteries to power up later.

Here is how solar, or photovoltaic energy is realized from the "How Stuff Works" website. If you are not an electrical engineer or scientist of some sort, don't be surprised if this does make light bulbs go off in your head. You can always come back and do further research on the Internet.

"The solar cells that you see on calculators and satellites are photovoltaic cells or modules (modules are simply a group of cells electrically connected and packaged in one frame). Photovoltaics, as the word implies (photo = light, voltaic = electricity), convert sunlight directly into electricity. Once used almost exclusively in space, photovoltaics are used more and more in less exotic ways. They could even power your house. How do these devices work?

Photovoltaic (PV) cells are made of special materials called semiconductors such as silicon, which is currently the most commonly used. Basically, when light strikes the cell, a certain portion of it is absorbed within the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is transferred to the semiconductor. The energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely. PV cells also all have one or more electric fields that act to force electrons freed by light absorption to flow in a certain direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the PV cell, we can draw that current off to use externally. For example, the current can power a calculator. This current, together with the cell's voltage (which is a result of its built-in electric field or fields), defines the power (or wattage) that the solar cell can produce."

To continue, we will discuss the smaller hand held devices for cell phones and PDAs, all the way to powerful self-contained and fully remote commercial solar systems. Here are several links that describe the use of solar power for mobile computers and other wireless devices from the Do-It-Yourself perspective.

It is amazing what is already available and out in the marketplace for solar power options. As energy costs and energy conservation continue to garner interest as mainstream issues, we should see the rapid development of solar integrated design features. Soon it may be a standard feature and part of everyday portable computers.

Let's hope so, because going green is good for everyone, not just an intriguing proposition for rugged notebook users and remote computing,

Hand Held Solar Kits

Solar kits are designed to be self-contained. They combine solar cells, rechargeable batteries, and a wide selection of cables. These won't power a portable laptop yet unless it's a miser on energy, but they will keep you connected with a limitless power supply for your cell phones, Smart phones, PDAs, and smaller devices. As long as the sun is shining, or the batteries are charged up, you will have power.

Many purists will argue anything solar is not really "green", either because it will never be energy positive (will never generate more power than it took to manufacture), or because it has a battery, making it environmentally unfriendly by default.

Arguments aside, at issue for rugged and remote users is a reliable power source, and having some sense of being connected. So, solar charging devices can be considered either as "convenience efficient" or "emergency efficient". Don't take this as a challenge to engineer types that will want to get their slide rules out, just a notation that these solar kits are an honest attempt at the "plus" column for reducing the human carbon footprint. Wider adoption and acceptance of new technology usually results in greater efficiencies.

Two promising examples that have had good reviews are the reasonably affordable products from Solar Style Dot Com, and the pricier Solio Dot Com. Do a search on YouTube and you will find many videos of Solio in action. If it did not work, we would know it by now.

Portable Solar Power Docking Stations

The idea of using solar power in remote situations is nothing new. The question for us is how well, and how fast, a solar power station will power up your notebook or laptop. Other considerations are the size, weight, and portability. You will find many products in this category, but few online reviews that confirm that these products will actually perform as advertised. The best source I have found for honest reviews in this regard is

There are very few winners in the category of a portable solar power docking station to efficiently run a laptop computer. One that does get good reviews on the subject is the "PowerDock System".

Do an online search for PowerDock System, and you will find many retailers and dealers at different price points. So be patient and shop around. Your Mobile Desk Dot Com is the best resource for a complete descriptions of the PowerDock product line. These include from the least expensive to the most expensive: PowerDock Lite, PowerDock Basic. PowerDock Executive, and PowerDock Elite.

Power Dock Systems are relatively expensive, and range in price form a few hundred dollars on up to $450.00. The PowerDock is an attractive product design an weighs in from 5 to 13.5 pounds.

Another potential winner is the Notepower Solar Laptop Charger from Sierra Solar Systems. You will see the Notepower Solar Charger pop up along with the PowerDock in a search engine query for these type of solar products. Plug in the SmartAdapter with extended 10 foot cord included, and start charging or topping off your computer battery as long as sunshine is available.

Once again, this is not a review recommendation, but the Notepower has had favorable comments by and other reliable sources, giving no pause to mention it here. The 3 lb. Notepower is not designed with a storage battery, but the 20-30 watts of power will charge and run most laptop computers, according to the specs.

You may not consider the Notepower as a true solar docking station, but it is an attractive portable solar package for a temporary power solution. Originally priced around $250.00.

Commercial and Military Grade Solar Power Systems

Some of the best remote solar power systems are designed to meet military standards. You could even say that anything designed for military use is pretty much guaranteed to perform. These systems will compliment anything in the fully rugged notebook computer category.

Energy Technologies, Inc. in Ohio, USA makes a wide assortment of military standard power equipment for field use. Things like field deployable inverters, converters, UPS, engine-generators, along with solar power stations with the trade name Tactical Solar Products.

The product features for these Tactical Solar Products include various combinations of charge controllers, power storage batteries, AC/DC power adapters, multiple DC outputs, and a large selection of folding solar panels. The specific product line is the Solar Suitcase I, Solar Suitcase II, Solar Suitcase III, Solar Suitcase IV, along with the folding SolarTacticalPanels.

Solar Suitcases I-IV can charge Lead Acid, Li-Ion, NiCad, NiMH & other types of rechargeable batteries. The nearly bullet proof folding solar collection panels are available from a 15 Watt to a hefty 330 Watt output panel set. This is "green power", but you are out of luck if you prefer a color other than the two camouflage patterns available.

You will have to call ETI for costs, as product pricing is not published on the ETI websites.

Computing Solar Power Wrap-up

We have looked at several of the many possibilities for solar power, and going "green" with remote computing. The possibilities are becoming more reliable and starting to make more economic sense. You can try to go solar and Do-It-Yourself, or for the less technically inclined there is a wide range of retail and commercial applications for sale. We have attempted to highlight a few of the proven DIY options, and find some of the readily available products, and systems from various online reviews.

Some of the solar power resource websites you might want to keep an eye on include:,, and There obviously are many more you will find now and in the future with your favorite search engine.

As computing devices become smaller and more mobile, and with nascent technology soon to push the boundaries of wireless networks, solar power could prove to be a factor in your computing future.

Wireless Computing

So what exactly is wireless computer networking? Wireless computer networking provides a wireless hub facility which makes use of radio waves to sustain open communication channels between computers, from 2 computers to probably a dozen or even more computers. Wireless networks are modern innovations offering a far better alternative to wired networking, which relies on copper and, or fiber optic cabling for communication to take place between computers. So in essence, wireless networks basically refer to any type of computer network connection that does not rely on cables or wires of any kind.

With wireless networks, homes, businesses and even telecommunications enterprises avoid the expensive process of introducing cables into buildings for connection purposes. Main advantages that should be noted with the use of wireless networks are the mobility and also the elimination of multiple wires. However, despite these two, wireless computing offers some disadvantages key among them being the interference of radio waves by changing weather and walls. Despite these downsides, the potential that can be gained from wireless computing is vast and as such, the use of wireless networks is fast gaining popularity all over.

There are several types of wireless networks; Wireless personal area networks (WPANs), Wireless local area network (WLAN), Wireless metropolitan area networks among others. In most cases we make use of wireless networks through the use of a wireless router. A wireless router is simply a device that joins different-multiple wired and wireless networks together. A router can be looked at as a sort of traffic warden, as it directs traffic on the internet (so to speak). The most common router types are the ones used in homes which facilitate wireless laptop computing enabling the passing of data like email and web pages between computers. Configuring your router is not a difficult task, although it does require some technical know-how to achieve. Various help forums and even consultants can easily be to found to help with this task.

A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device used for modulation and demodulation, for example between the digital data of a computer and the analog signal of a telephone line. Not every modem works with a telephone as DSL modems are known to work with a broadband connection. Unlike what a 56kbit/s modem is capable of doing, a DSL modem working with a broadband connection serves users with a far superior internet download speed than a 56kbit/s modem. The DSL modem can be obtained for wireless computing, therefore enabling wireless computing to take place on the go.

How the Wireless Portable Printer Could Conquer the World

When you look at incredibly popular products such as Apple's iPhone for example, it's easy to see how such an advanced piece of technology took the world by storm and continues to do so. I think the very same is true of the wireless portable printer which has in the last few years been improved to the point where its gone from an expensive, frivolous luxury to an important and everyday object in the homes of many people. The question is why.

To start with, as is true of many new pieces of technology, the price of the once very expensive wireless portable printer has dropped dramatically in recent years. It's very comparable to early computers which used to be incredibly expensive, and yet nowadays you could easily fork out just a few hundred dollars for a computer with reasonable specifications and capabilities. So whereas a printer model may have once cost a minimum of 200-300 dollars with the most advanced products costing around a 1000 dollars it's now possible nowadays to purchase a device that's only 100-200 dollars. Not only this, but the assumption is that such a low price means an inferior product - this is simple not true, and many brands such as HP and Printstik offer very an incredible compromise between price and quality. For example the HP OfficeJet H470 Mobile Printer is only around a 150 dollars, and it comes with optional wireless connectivity that can utilize both a wireless network that you can find all over the place from your own home to Starbucks and it also allows Bluetooth wireless data transfer which means that you can transfer the information from your laptop, smart phone and even some wireless portable hard drives.

For me, the truth is I could live without my wireless portable printer, but the reality of the situation is that I don't need one. However I can straight away see people in situations where a portable printer would become as important as their Blackberry for example. Imagine a businessman who quickly needed to alter and then print of some documents before an important meeting. Before he had his wireless, mobile printer he would have had to have quickly driven home in order to print of what he needed. What he has now is a Printstik printer in his car at all times, it's very small and is literally just a few inches thick and it's just long enough to hold an A4 piece of paper - but that's it. It's very basic, it prints in just black and white, it's light and small and isn't used for regular printing. But nevertheless the time will come for everyone when they realise they've forgotten to print something important out. For most people this is an infrequent occurrence because they don't often print things out. But it just takes a few seconds and you can instantly think of a half dozen of professions who print a lot, and print on the go.

Imagine how great it would be for a doctor or nurse visiting the patient to be able to print of the prescription right then and there. Or to print out whatever medical forms were necessary right then and there without having to waste time going back to somewhere to print out what is necessary.

But why stop a professionals?

What about a family on holiday who want their pictures then and there, they can do that not with wireless mobile picture printers. Or what about the family which only has one printer which everyone is constantly nagging at the person unfortunate enough to have the printer connected to their computer to use. Instead of the hassle of transferring work/data to a USB stick, loading it onto the computer that the printer is connected to and then finally printing. Imagine if you knew the printer was downstairs in the kitchen for example, and all you had to do was hit print without the bother and hassle.

This is what technology does for us, it makes our lives easier. This isn't going to change the world, but if that businessman's deal goes through, or that doctor prints of a prescription then and there which allows him to go and see another patient. That family who went on holiday to visit their relatives, they can now print of their pictures then and there and even give a copy to their relatives.

To the right person, a wireless portable printer makes a difference, the question is whether that person is you?

Wireless Classrooms: Mobile Laptop Labs for Schools

Wireless networks in schools is not a new thing but it's rare to see the wireless network used to it's full potential.

Technology with out wires gives the teacher the ability to bring the technology to the student instead of the whole class going to a computer lab.

Wireless mobile laptop labs can be used for many purposes:

o Wireless Streaming Video 
o Research
o Report Writing
o Teacher Guided Instruction
o Report writing
o Typing

What ever a student can do in a wired lab they can do with a wireless laptop mobile lab.

What are the features of a wireless mobile laptop lab:

1. Wireless Laptops - Laptops for schools should meet the following specs. First they need to have at least 512 mb of memory. Anything less will cause educational software to crawl. The laptop should weight about six pounds, a heavy laptop is about eight pounds plus and a light laptop is about 4lbs. The ultra light laptops are over $2,000 each and too expensive for schools. So six pound laptops are easy enough for schools to carry around. Now some people will tell me I'm wrong but school laptops don't need cd-roms or DVD -roms. Why you ask? It's because they will be the first thing to break and all software will run off the hard drive. The case needs to be a slim case so students can have proper hand placement when typing. Bluetooth devices are becoming all the rage so built in Bluetooth will be something to think about also. Hard drive size should only be about 30gig because nobody is going to download music or large media files.

2. Mobile Laptop Carts - They need to be easily moved, easy enough to take out and put in the laptops, and have a built in power strip for charging. Laptop carts can hold any where from 6 to 30 laptops at once. I recommend using laptop carts of 15 or smaller and spreading them through out the school.

3. Access points and printers - If you school can not afford permanent wireless access points have a wireless access point mounted on the card and plug it into a network port when needed. Also the cart can have a printer on it if needed, but I recommend network printers not desktops.

Studies have shown that students who use laptops in classrooms are more focused and have an easier time typing. Wireless networks free students from their desktops and frees them from having to go a computer lab to work with technology.