My Mobile Office

One of the advantages of working at Surge is that I can work wherever I go, which means I can go wherever…I can get good internet reception.

The biggest enabler for a mobile office, then, is my Verizon Elipsis Jetpack MiFi Hotspot. Some clients require a fixed IP so I opened a TorGuard fixed IP VPN account. Verizon has the best connectivity nationwide and this configuration has worked out well for me, on the move (more on that later) or Away-from-Home Office.

To help others thinking of making this journey, I’ll walk through the other components of my Mobile Office and keep it up to date with what I currently use. I’ll discuss my go-anywhere Mobile Desktop, my Away-From-Home Office setup, and the Mobile Desk arrangement in our Mitsubishi Outlander. Finally, I’ll list a few items we use to get around and to entertain ourselves. But first, I’ll discuss the core developer’s tool, my laptop.

Mobile Workstation

I bought the HP Spectre x360 Convertible Laptop — 15t touch, not quite as fast as the Dell XPS 15, but, as a convertible, I thought it would be more useful on the road. To make sure I could handle any project, I ordered it with Windows 10 Pro, a 1TB SSD drive, and 16 MB RAM. I previously had the Spectre x360 13 so I knew I would enjoy this device. It took a month to arrive but I love it!

Previously, I mentioned my Verizon Elipsis Hotspot and TorGuard fixed IP VPN subscription which should keep me connected wherever I go. I also use a nifty utility, Net Uptime Monitor, to be alerted to any real time connectivity or latency issues.

Mobile Desktop

The goal is Work-Anywhere. To accomplish that, I need a completely mobile desktop, so the single most important component is the container to move it. I went with the Timbuk2 Ace Laptop Backpack Messenger Bag, and I promise that I fit the laptop and all the following components into it, though it is heavy enough that it’s more practical to use as a backpack than as a messenger bag.

After I pull out my Laptop, I set up the ASUS MB169C+ 15.6" Full HD USB Type-C Powered Portable Monitor. For me two screens makes all the difference. The monitor is so sharp and light it’s foolish not to bring it along. It would be nice if it were a bit brighter but can’t complain for a fully USB-powered portable device.

Next I pull out the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 Wireless Mobile Mouse. Like the second monitor, having a mouse makes all the difference in the world to me for productivity, especially since the Spectre x360 15t has such a high resolution making running the cursor around on the track pad a pain.

A nice feature of the MX Anywhere 2 is that it can use either Bluetooth or Logitech’s universal RF transceiver. I used to have a Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, which I really enjoyed, but the RF transceiver — which is not replaceable — was getting damaged. I, then, went with a Bluetooth Arch Touch Mouse but the connectivity was spotty. When I got this mouse, I realized that the problem is with the Bluetooth mouse protocol, not the mouse itself. Now I have the best of both worlds: I can use the Bluetooth connectivity when I have no other choice but I also have the RF transceiver plugged into an AmazonBasics 4 Port USB 3.0 Hub, which is compact and leaves three ports for other peripherals. I got the hub that has a 5V/2.5A power adapter, so I can charge all my portable components.

Speaking of which, all of these powered portable components use a micro-USB charging port. I use the Wsken Mini2 Micro USB Magnetic Charge Cable to charge all my devices, so I pull one of those out and connect my hotspot to keep it powered. If you ever see the Peripatetic WiFi network, you’ll know I’m nearby. The cable has a magnetic connector so my devices’ USB ports will never get damaged.

If I’m in a low light area, I’ll pull out the MoKo Portable Dimmable LED Desk Lamp with Rechargeable Battery. I had wanted an LED lamp that had a cold+warm light (daylight) mode but this was the best I could find that would stow in my pack and not turn on in the bag. It’s a nice lamp. Yes, it fits in the bag nicely, I promise.

I carry the Jetpack in the case for my Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones, which I would have on by now. I bought it for use as a mobile headset but I was blown away by the ear comfort and the amazing active noise cancelling feature that is all too necessary when working away from home. Highly recommended if you can afford the steep price.

Unfortunately, the headphones do not perform well for the main purpose I bought them, business calls. One embarrassing call was one too many for me, and I bought the Jabra Evolve 65 UC Stereo Wireless Headset, which has a boom mic. It also works as on-ear wireless headphones too, but I like the Bose headphones and use them whenever I can. The Jabra headset, though, is light, the boom folds away nicely, and, in its case, it fits right in the pack. Really, it does.

For when it’s hot, I bought the E-More Mini USB Portable Fan Collapsible Outdoor Fan. I’ll have more on that when I’ve had the chance to try it out.

Unfortunately, I’m getting older and need my computer glasses to work. These I keep in an uncrushable semi-hard zipperd case. Beside it, I store the Pro-Lens Dr.™ Eyeglass Cleaning Kit, which I use frequently. I’m very happy with both products.

A few more items

For a truly Work-Anywhere experience I use the insTand CR1 with Swing Out Mouse Shelf. I’ve used this stand for years and really like that I can work anywhere I have a place to sit down. I just purchased the model that has a swing out mouse tray.

To make sure I can connect to any plug even remotely close, I carry the HDX 15 ft. 16/3 Indoor Cord.

To round out my desktop-in-bag, I also carry a Fire HD 10 Tablet for my online programming books in a MoKo Case for Fire HD 10, the only component I’m mildly disappointed with because it requires two hands to work with the tablet.

Finally my favorite travel mug, the 24oz Contigo Autoseal West Loop Vacuum Insulated Travel Mug, is large. I affectionately call it foot-of-tea, after the largest beer glass, yard-of-ale. While outsized, I really like it and want to bring it along with my Mobile Desktop. The solution? The OneTigris Mesh Bottom MOLLE Water Bottle Pouch Drawstring Hydration Carrier actually holds my travel mug quite nicely and attaches to my bag.

And, yes, it all fits in my bag for a Go-Anywhere desktop.

But wait, there’s more!

Once upon a time, I worked at the AV department at the Wharton School of Business, while studying Computer Engineering at University of Pennsylvania. The only way to safely run cables is to use gaffer’s tape, which looks like duct tape with a cloth back. I don’t like my 15 ft cable tripping people in public places, so I got the amazing GaffGun on ebay and an AV bag from BHPhoto to hold it. If you’ve ever laid cable down with gaffer’s tape, you would appreciate this tool! It’s still on order, so I’ll share more on this once I get it.

Mobile Desk

For long trips when I need to keep working, I have the Backseat Reach Desk. Pricy, I know, but, c’mon, it’s an honest to goodness desk work surface in a car! To power all my Mobile Desktop devices, I use the BESTEK 200W Power Inverter, which has two 110v plugs and four 2.4A USB charging ports.

Plus, it has a cigarette lighter socket, which I used for the generously sized Jhua 6 inch Car Clip Fan Automobile Vehicle Cooling Car Fan because our Outlander’s AC is a little under powered. The cord for the power inverter is a little short, so I bought the GutReise Car Auto Truck Cigarette Lighter Charger Extension Cable.

And for those long trips I bought the Dreamer Car High-density Memory Foam Lumbar Support Cushion & Neck Pillow Kit. You laugh, but what if you needed to program for hours on end in the back seat of a car? Speaking of which, I keep a vial of Dramamine in the Mobile Desktop bag — the less drowsy formula using Meclizine Hydrochloride — which I try to take an hour before we head out.

Our svelte 7 passenger beauty, a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL, though we have the exterior package with a roof rack.

My Bose noise cancelling headphones keeps the car noise down, but to get the glare under control, I bought the Shevron Window Sox sunshades all the way from Australia for the backseat windows.

I’m also trying some self sticking plastic shades for bright spots. I’ll share more once I try them. The glare control is still a work in progress.

Finally, I purchased the StowAway Carriers Max Cargo Box Swingaway Frame directly from the manufacturer to get a few extra accessories. This cargo carrier swings away from the lift gate and neatly fits six carry-on bags. We promptly bought a few at Ross so our family can just lock and load when it’s time to head out. We are very happy with this product. It was easy to assemble.

Away-From-Home Office

I find when renting a home or cabin that I need a desk to work over long periods. So I purchased the Laputa Foldable Adjustable Height Computer Desk which folds flat for storage. And, yes, it does fit in the Outlander, though not straight up.

I also found that a kitchen table chair doesn’t cut it. The Outlander can’t fit an office task chair so I bought the Harper Faux Leather Folding Chair, which seems comfortable enough. With an adjustable height desk, I should be able to find a configuration that will not be uncomfortable. I’ll share more after our next trip.

Entertainment

It wouldn’t be a Workation if we just had all work and no play, so I purchased a Roku Streaming Stick (3600R). Paul Thurrott highly recommends the Roku and it has all the streaming services we subscribe to. I thought about lugging along a larger Roku, but I think HD, which the Streaming Stick supports, is all we can expect or need on the road. I bought some accessories to make sure it will work just about anywhere:

The Roku Mini USB Cable Designed to Power Your Roku Streaming Stick, which are a pair of short cables that should allow you to power the stick with without breaking out the long one; the VCE Combo HDMI 90 Degree and 270 Degree Male to Female Adapter, which will allow the stick to fit in small spaces; and the Hermitshell Hard EVA Travel Case for Roku Streaming Stick which holds everything quite nicely. The case fits in a pocket of my carry-on, so we should be good to go on any rainy day.

Hit the road

I’ve got all the equipment, now it’s time to get down to work — and hopefully have some fun along the way. As I gain experience, I’ll share some tips on how to make mobile computing more successful.