My New Mobile Office

I recently moved into a new house in San Francisco which is perfect in all respects except one: it doesn’t have an additional room for me to use as an office. This is the first time in my entire life that I haven’t had a room completely set aside for working, so I’m being forced to adapt. My solution has been to put together a mobile office, or a collection of everything I need to work wherever in my house I can find a flat surface and a little peace and quiet.

The most important piece of equipment is obviously a laptop. Fortunately, I’ve been using laptops almost exclusively for many years, but I’ve also been using them with a 19" IBM ThinkVision monitor which I’m now learning to do without. Rather than having all my applications spread generously over a combined 34 inches of monitor (19 inches + my laptop’s 15 inches), I’m trying to adjust to a cycling through full-screen applications and windows. So far, so good, but I do wish OS X were a more keyboard-friendly operating system.

A wireless network is a given for nomadic offices. I’ve had a wireless network set up in my house since the very first non-commercial wireless routers were available (still using the same hardware, too), but in order to be able to use it from every corner of my house, I had to position it a little more strategically than I normally would. My cable comes in through my garage where I split it, ran it from a modem to a router to a wireless access point which I positioned under the floor right in the center of the house. Even with my ancient equipment, I get a strong signal everywhere I go.

A mobile phone is also a given. No change there. I recently switched from a Treo 650 to a Nokia 6680 which has the two things I need to make it an effective office phone: bluetooth and a speaker phone. (It also has several other features which make it an amazing phone, but that’s a post for another time.)

I used to listen to music in my office through iTunes, a 100GB firewire drive, and a set of Altec Lansing speakers. No more. My new setup consists of a 60GB iPod Photo and a pair of Bose QuietComfort II headphones. It’s not quite like having music playing in the background, but it’s an acceptable substitute.

When I wasn’t using my 19" ThinkVision monitor for work, I was using it with my Xbox through a special DVI adapter. Since losing my office, I’ve had to replace my Xbox with a PSP. Actually, I shouldn’t say "replace" because playing Lumines or Tony Hawk on my PSP doesn’t even come close to playing Halo 2 online, but it’s something, and it is portable. Maybe I’ll eventually get a Nintendo DS to help supplement, as well.

I used to have a Sharp atomic clock hanging on my office wall which I used to set my watch, computer, Xbox, etc. Since I no longer have an office wall on which to hang it, I wear an MSN Direct SPOT watch which not only calibrates itself, but also provides a constant stream of other useful data.

I used to have a bookshelf full of references which are now in boxes in the garage. My plan is to replace them all with eBooks and a good eBook reader. I’m hoping to find a Sony Librie from Japan on eBay one of these days, but so far, no luck. I can’t believe eBooks haven’t taken hold. Maybe I’ll get an O’Reilly Safari account in the meantime.

The last piece of my mobile office is a nice, big, compartmentalized and padded backpack to keep everything in. I’m using a Brenthaven that I bought at the Apple Store about 2 years ago, and is the best computer bag I’ve ever had (and I’ve had quite a few). Unfortunately, I can’t use my rare and beloved blue Macromedia Timbuk2 bag because as cool as it is, it just isn’t big enough.

Anyone else in the same boat? Any suggestions or anecdotes about your mobile office?