When traveling on business, it
would be great if you could receive and send
e-mail and easily perform other simple office
tasks, like sending and receiving faxes or
scanning documents into your computer—all without
lugging around a ton of equipment. It would be
even better if none of these chores required
high-tech skills. Follow along and we’ll show you
how to put together a collection of easy-to-use,
powerful high-tech tools for travel that cost
about $3,600, plus monthly fees of less than $90.
The centerpiece of your mobile toolkit is a
laptop tablet computer. It should be powerful but
small and lightweight. It also needs to have long
battery life, built-in wireless, Ethernet and
external video output capability, a DVD/CD drive,
a PC card slot and the ability to operate two
monitors (if needed for special projects).
That may seem like quite a hefty list of
requirements, but we found that an Acer TravelMate
C200 Tablet PC (
http://global.acer.com) with 2 gigabytes of
RAM does the job. It costs about $1,312.
Tablet PCs offer the full computing power of a
desktop, and can also translate notes and
signatures written on the screen into digital
To expand the computer’s
functionality, install Microsoft’s free on-screen
calculator, which is available at
. This program allows the user to handwrite
numbers on the screen with a stylus; the software
transforms the script into digital format so it
can be calculated.
| || |
|Acer TravelMate C200
configured as a conventional PC, above
left, and as a tablet, above right
We use the Pentax PocketJet 3 (
www.pentaxtech.com). Powered by a
lithium-ion battery, it’s capable of
printing about 100 pages before it needs
a recharge. However, since it also can
operate off the laptop’s electricity via
its USB port, you don’t have to bring
along its 1-pound electronic power
adapter. The printer measures
10-by-1-by-2 inches and prints on
readily available thermal paper. It
costs about $373.
Pentax PocketJet 3
a Casio XJ-S35 (
www.casio.com), which is shaped like
a thin laptop, so it fits easily in a
computer carrying case next to the
laptop. It weighs only 3.9 pounds and
measures 10.6-by-1.7-by-7.8 inches.
Despite its small size, it produces
images at 2,000 lumens, so presentations
are easy to view in normally lighted
rooms. It lists for $1,599.
Another essential tool is a scanner. Like
the computer, it must be lightweight, small and
highly functional. It must have minimal need for
external power and it must be capable of scanning
documents both in black and white and in color.
When looking for a scanner, make sure it has a
TWAIN driver, which allows it to work with
virtually any image-capture software.
The scanner we use is the Ambir
TravelScan Pro (
www.ambir.com), which retails for
about $150. It measures
1.9-by-11.1-by-1.5 inches and weighs
only 12 ounces. Since it can be powered
via the computer’s USB port, there’s no
need to plug it into an external power
source. Because it’s portable, it’s not
particularly fast: It scans
black-and-white images at five pages per
minute and color at three per minute.
But it is very rugged, standing up well
to our busy travel schedule. Another
plus: It’s easy to use and install.
Ambir TravelScan Pro
Getting and sending
e-mail on the road is a must. While connections
are often available at hotels, airports and client
offices, a frequent traveler must have more
options when none of those is available. We
connect via Verizon’s Broadband PC Card PC5740 (
www.verizonwireless.com), which provides
unlimited nationwide, high-speed access. In metro
areas we can upload at 180 to 240 kilobytes per
second and download at 360 to 400 kbps; in suburbs
it usually drops to about half those speeds. When
driving through rural areas, we get 56 kbps on
uploads and downloads. We have found few locations
where it couldn’t connect—even at 70 mph in the
sparser-populated Western states. The service
costs $59.99 a month with a two-year contract and
a qualifying voice calling plan.
Although you certainly need to be able to
send and receive faxes, you sure don’t want to
carry around a bulky fax machine. And since there
are no light, transportable fax machines, our
solution is a software service. We use Send2Fax
www.send2fax.com), which transmits and
receives faxes and zips them to you via e-mail.
Since we have a printer, we can produce a hard
copy of the received fax, too. The service costs
$11.95 a month, with each page over a monthly
limit incurring an additional charge.
only do we need Internet access for e-mail and
faxes, it’s critical that we maintain direct
access to our office computers at all times.
Although there are many choices available, we find
the best product for us is Citrix’s GoToMyPC (
www.gotomypc.com). The Internet connection
directly to our headquarters’ network costs about
$14.95 a month under an annual plan.
Although the remote-access software lets us
tap into our office computer network, where staff
members maintain their Outlook calendars,
sometimes we want to be able to review not just
our own calendar but the schedules of others on
the staff. So, in addition to our calendars, the
entire staff uses CalendarHub (
www.calendarhub.com), a free Web-based
calendar service. It’s accessible from any
Internet source and it can import and export data
to and from Outlook, PDAs and even cell phones
that have calendar capability.
If much of your
travel is by automobile, as is ours, we suggest
two handy pieces of equipment:
Vehicle Mount Kits. Ram
www.ram-mount.com) produces equipment that
securely and safely mounts laptops, scanners and
printers in a car so they are easily accessible
from the driver’s or passenger’s seat. We use the
mount to interchangeably hold those three tools.
The photo above shows our
mount, which cost $225. The installation is done
without drilling into the car’s frame.
Power Inverter. There will
be times when you need to recharge your computer
and other battery-powered devices. A power
inverter is the answer. It plugs into the car’s
cigarette lighter slot and transforms the current
from DC to AC and boosts the voltage to 110, which
is what a wall plug provides. We’re using a
350-watt, two-plug inverter mounted permanently
under the driver’s seat, where it’s out of the way
but easy to access. Such units cost about $50.
A MAXX 350-watt power inverter
, CPA, CITP, is president of Jennings
Seminars, Clarksville, Ind. His e-mail address
, and his Web site is at