OSHKOSH, Wisconsin -- As I write, I've been working remotely, about 90 miles
north of Milwaukee, at a weeklong convention of 35,000 teenaged campers from around
the world. I had daily deadlines to meet, and not only was I away from my normal
surroundings; I had a lot to do in a short period of time.
Continuing developments in technology made my work a tad easier, and that's a good
thing for periodic business travelers as well as those constantly on the road.
Perhaps the greatest thing is the continuing pervasiveness of Wi-Fi Internet access:
from my hotel room to the campsite to the local Subway sandwich shop, I could log on
for free. On my flight to Wisconsin, AirTran Airways offered Wi-Fi for $9.95; I
didn't bite, but if time were an issue, I'd sign up in a flash.
Having Wi-Fi available, obviously, extends the Internet's reach and usefulness. It
also might well pave the way for more "cloud computing" in the future. If you
can access the computing "cloud" where your data and/or applications are stored,
you may not need as large a computer as you once might have required to work
effectively on the go.
I'm seeing more and more netbook devices popping up on the road, and the coming
months may see a continuing explosion on the micro-portables' popularity. At least
one manufacturer is touting a model with a "high definition" display; if such
devices deliver their advertised promise, it could truly stoke the marketplace.
A continuing delight on the road is Apple's iPhone, now in capacities up to 32
Gbytes. The phone's many useful features - and built-in Wi-Fi - come rather
close to making it a pocket-sized computer replacement. Of course, it doesn't
rival a desktop, or notebook, PC's hundreds of gigabytes of storage, but for
simple tasks, such as e-mail, basic search and even GPS navigation, it's a
One very useful application for the road warrior is Quickoffice (STET) for the
iPhone, a $12.99 program that'll let you open and edit Microsoft Word and Excel
files on your device. A colleague is impressed with the way in which Quickoffice
handles files: you can page through a Word-formatted document in a natural manner,
he says. I like that it brings editing down to pocketsize. This is one type of
application Apple should, in my view, have made "standard" on the iPhone as part
of the operating software. But certainly it's a small price to pay for such power.
There are two other items I'm very glad to have packed in my business case for
this trip: the NeatReceipts for Mac scanner and software, retail price $230, but
currently on sale for $199.95 from www.neatco.com. The stick-sized scanner is
powered via a USB connection, and the software does a nice job of "reading"
receipts and helping you file them. Very good stuff.
I'm also enamored, but not totally besotted with, the $29.95 OnBoard Travel
Keyboard from accessory-maker Atek, Inc., of Santa Ana, California. This is another
small device, also USB-based, and easy to pack into the aforementioned business bag.
Once connected to your laptop, you get the tactile responsiveness of a traditional
PC keyboard, and a numeric keypad to boot. Typing on the OnBoard is a delight, even
when your computer's keyboard is very good on its own. I like having all the
"dedicated" keys a desktop keyboard offers, such as page up, page down and
delete; the number pad is another blessing.
While compatible with the Mac operating system, the OnBoard's structure is
slightly different from a Mac keyboard; ironically, it's the "Windows" key
which is used to activate a number of Mac functions. Once you get by that - and,
sadly, there's no way to reprogram things - it's a great portable companion,
for which details can be found at www.atek.com.