Mobility

How to set up your own mobile office

The mobile office -- complete!

My days are much more productive now. Having a stable, secure computing platform in my truck makes it much easier to invoice clients while on-site, catch up on e-mail, more quickly respond to client inquiries, place equipment and software orders online, better review maps and driving directions and more.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

79 comments
Regulus
Regulus

So where is the 'Print' and / or .PDF version.....??

KNOWLEDGE464
KNOWLEDGE464

This is very inventive. I think that your idea was supposed to be considered lean or efficient. But, never fails we go some jokers here who can't see past a clear piece of velum. This setup is obvious and perfect for a tech support or sales person whose work life is on the road. If this setup is so wrong post a blog with your perfect design since your all such precise engineers... oh your all not engineers nor are you all designers so that means your superficial jealous opinions that have no base on design or engineering of this means absolutely nothing at all they are what they are merely opinions like mine I see nothing wrong and if the law is a problem i am sure there are work a round's that may apply for businesses. Last thing I would say though would be add a printer for quotes and receipts and it can be wireless

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

Great setup for a laptop! For general office work (i.e. word processing, blog posting, etc.) wouldn't a tablet computer with 3G be just as effective and more compact?

jcqs.bchrd
jcqs.bchrd

Very interesting setup valid for any mobile situations, car, boat... One improvement: power: 12V DC to 110V AC to PC power and USB 5V. Better use combo cable such as http://www.acsparts.com/41R4510-ThinkPad.html or aquivalent, adapted to the voltage of your laptop. By avoiding conversion from 12V DC to 110 V AC you improve the life of your car's batteries.

Raystream
Raystream

Nice setup! I wonder how that compares to the mount setup in police interceptors. What software are you running on your mac for invoicing, etc?

skeller
skeller

You all amaze me! This is Fab!!

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

In several states this is completely illegal. Several states restrict a laptop (or any lcd device larger than 5")mounted within reach of and facing the driver...unless you are involved with EMS or law enforcement. I've seen this become a liability in company vehicles more than once if there is a traffic accident.

lipl1
lipl1

For the Road Warriors ... bring your own DVD so you can watch movies, that you like, in your room without having to pay a fee for it :-)

info
info

Wow!!!! I have been wanting a set up such as this for some time, but I wasn't aware it was possible, thanks for the great post, and the step by step pictures are a real asset, thank you again. An a message to all negative responses, while I and many others welcome constructive comments and genuine questions from those that seek genuine answers, perhaps those that post negitive comments, should think "could you do any better?", if so could they post it here for us all to share!!

inbox
inbox

This is great! I get bored watching the road constantly. Now I'll have something much more rivetting to attend to! And if I hit a pedestrian, it gives me a great legal defence - "Your honor, I couldn't possibly have seen a pedestrian, I was engrossed in my work at the time"!

scurlock
scurlock

I use a toshiba lap top with a sprint air card and a 400 watt inverter which allows me to use any other device such as a scanner, printer, etc. I have mounted speakers behind both seats for greater use of my yahool internet radio. I also route my phone into the laptop on occasions but the bluetooth really helps. California's no hand held cell phone bill becomes law 1 July 2008 for those of you who are travling out that way. I travel coast to coast logging over 100K miles per year. This set up, as shown, is very similiar to mine.

danzman1
danzman1

What I am waiting for is a high-capacity solid state hard drive. In this way I can boot up on a very cold day. Mechanical drives freeze up and become unusable until you have warmed up the PC. I have installed an Mini-ITX based system and that was the only setback.

Planouette
Planouette

Sorry, but a Jeep Wrangler is a far cry from a truck...

csigler
csigler

Does anyone realize that this is the way police operate. They all have laptops on and open all the time. Good article, I had a Jeep and was an on the go kind of consultant and it would have been great if I had that. Jeep is not condusive to anything except having fun and drinking gas.

lipl1
lipl1

How safe is the laptops hard drive since you will have a great deal of vibration. Especially is you are running a GPS program, will the life of the hard drive be seriously shortened ?

gregwhitmore
gregwhitmore

Can't believe the comments that precede this one. Eejuts! You've done a great job. Thanks.

Sarnath
Sarnath

In my country -- Driving with a mobile phone in hand is banned... I dont see a reason why this setup wont be banned... If you are properly organized, you wont find the need to work like this..inside a car..

KNOWLEDGE464
KNOWLEDGE464

Except... that tablet's onscreen keyboard and apples limitations. I think it would be innovative but tablets dont have USB ports and the majority of tech support PC's are standard and and you may need to use a flash drive to transfer data or tools from your laptop. Tablets may have a space advantage and glamor but I think the laptop wont die anytime soon

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

There are no laws that prevent DVD or laptop use in my state. In fact, AT&T service trucks, energy company providers and others all use similar mounts in the field (I've seen). Plus, something most folks have failed to read in the comments, the mount is nothing but a holder when the vehicle is running or in motion (the laptop is only open and powered on when the vehicle is stopped and parked in a parking lot).

waltz
waltz

That's right, do anything other than paying attention to where you're driving the %$#@ing car!

marquis
marquis

I have several comments. To wit: 1) A couple of folks (apparently under the influence of the id10t paradigm) mentioned using while driving.. DUH! No further comment needed. 2) One respondent mentioned a printer. My first thought. Gotta have one. Also some small paper filing system. We are not yet a paperless society, not even on the road. 3) Oh yeah, about #1): I recently had a local cop give me a courtesy ride (REALLY!) when my car broke down. From my view in the back seat, I watched as the officer drove, talked on his radio, and read and typed on his keyboard! Again, DUH! 4) Apparently the respondents that think OnTheRoad computing is unnecessary, have nice cushy cubicles from which to view the world, and have NO idea what it is like to be a Road Warrior! Poor fools, what a life they have missed. I am turning 62, and I still love it. 5) I think I will quit here, tho there is sooo much more to be said.

cjgau
cjgau

I also have installed an Mini-ITX based system with GPS system (arguably, this justifies the needs for a carputer). The monitor is a tuch screen. The HD is an 8G CF card connected to IDE adapter. (My wife always laughs at me while the PC boots; it's damn slow) :)

jjr9898
jjr9898

According to Uncle Sam before the term SUV a JEEP was a 1/4 ton truck

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I would love to see the version of this portatil office in a regular car (like the ones cops drive)... with the stick between the driver and the passenger.. that would require probably more work. but it would be cool.. although, having a laptop display in a sunny day would be hard to see.. but oh well.. I like the pics and the article.. cheers :)

nitra.matsoc
nitra.matsoc

There is no problem as far as I can see. My laptop HDD survived on it's vehicle mount for more than 3 years, it was actually replaced without failing, just as a precaution.

martika
martika

Sounds like a great excuse for a solid-state HDD. ;)

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

The laptop is closed (hibernates) while the vehicle is moving. I complete all of my data entry for each day's multiple service calls while in the client's parking lot (or a restaurant's parking lot). Thus, the hard disk is never spinning when the vehicle is being driven. Thus, there's actually very little vibration to really impact the hard disk. That said, this laptop is three years old and is used daily. No troubles to report.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

You would not live long enough trying to use this while driving.

kferraro
kferraro

No need of this set up for me, but I can see where a salesman or on the go technician would find it very helpful. This is your work vehicle so let's not worry about lack of passenger seating and if the airbags go off, (many can be disabled in a truck so might be a moot point in this case) you probably have more to worry about than a broken LCD panel. And who said anything about using it while you were driving? Well done.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

I need the ability to send/receive email and post invoices from inside my car. This set up saves me at least 45 minutes a day. I do not use the laptop while driving. The laptop is closed whenever the vehicle is in motion. Thus, there's no safety issue whatsoever (and no reason it would be banned).

TheFiebre
TheFiebre

Sorry, dude... Respectfully, in these lands the rule is to work hard, anytime, anywhere... you can also safely stop & work need be... but keeping thing in perspective USA / India life pace are quite not comparable... On a more important note... this is a good article. I think the mounting gear can be improved for either dismount it or move it away easily should you have a passanger... Overall, very practical.

lammwa
lammwa

Hey Erik, Just went through the pictures & text a 3rd time and find NO mention about "the mount is nothing but a holder when the vehicle is running or in motion (the laptop is only open and powered on when the vehicle is stopped and parked in a parking lot)". Perhaps it's in the original 2008 article but not in this new version...

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

Ram Mount offers attachments, I'm pretty sure, that enable holding printers alongside the computer, as well. I don't need to print while on client sites, typically, so I haven't had to worry about it. I have seen some home inspection trucks/vans that maintain printers in each vehicle. That way the home inspectors can write, complete, print and deliver their reports for homeowners before even leaving the site. What I've learned from some of the comments in this thread is many readers don't actually work as consultants or field engineers. Drive 70-100 miles a day, stopping at four or five client sites a day, and tell me this simple (less than $250 set up that saves 45 minutes or more a day) doesn't come in handy.

lipl1
lipl1

it shouldn't be a problem because you can't have a passenger since the unit basically sits in the passenger seat

nitra.matsoc
nitra.matsoc

I just had to provoke a little, but the fact is true. I use the laptop while driving for my GPS and mapping software. My stand is built with 1/2" pipe from Home Depot for less than $20,-. My first laptop was a Dell C400 that was about 4 years old when it started in my truck, it worked for another 4 years bouncing around the truck with a regular HDD with no problems. The laptop and vehicle mount is just another tool, to use it responsibly is a completely different story.

lammwa
lammwa

A simple risk evaluation shows the realites here. The next time you are on the streets or highways pay attention to how many of your fellow "responsible" motorist are talking (w or w/o hands free devices)or texting. A few of you may be responssible enough to only use such a device "most of the time" but you will all at one time or another lower the barrier "just this once". And this "once" may cost a life, it's not worth it! Sorry gentlemen, this device and anything like it is STUPIDITY in the making. I do not even answer my mobile phone while in my auto and everyone that works with or for me knows that. NO business decision or tasks justifies putting life & limb at stake...

lipl1
lipl1

I use the voice guidance feature where the GPS program will announce the next maneuver so I never look at the screen

brad
brad

The author is obviously savvy enough to configure a mobile office. I seriously doubt this person would jeopardize their safety by using this laptop while driving. On the positive side, this "mobile office" has a better view than the one found sitting in a cubicle. :-( Check out a fold-away interior auto desktop at http://www.kurgo.com/products/att.html.

Captain Spalding
Captain Spalding

I have a board that fits wedged on the dash, so WHILE I'M PARKED (for those who don't understand mobile computing) I can send information or look things up on the web. Other times I have a laptop running with a GPS (sitting on the seat) and mapping/routing software like Street Atlas USA, which means I didn't have to buy an expensive, stand alone GPS in addition to the laptop. Someone needs to argue why a GPS isn't worse with a smaller screen and as much of a distraction as a laptop doing the same thing? Mobile computing is because I'm nowhere near the office or home, for days at a time. Having a nice stand like this would be advantageous to pulling into a car park or rest area and sending data of an immediate nature. This isn't about working oneself to death. In fact that's why I'm not at the office and out on the road instead! :D

mcarr
mcarr

I've been trying to multi-task too, combining my hobby of drinking myself stupid with my love of touring the countryside in my car. It's dumb - you can't get to the gearstick or the handbrake and you can't have a front-seat passenger, to say nothing of the fact that you may wish to constantly monitor that ever-changing visage that is traffic. Maybe you could hook a web-cam up though, so you could see what's happening without taking your eyes off the screen...

pfeiffes
pfeiffes

Passengers can seat at the back! This is a MOBILE OFFICE he is setting up, meaning - it's not necessarily meant as a passenger vehicle. He can still pickup hitch hikers if he so chooses and they all sit at the back. He definitely is not going to be sending emails on the laptop while driving - although I've known a few who do that on their crackberries :o Overall, good concept, but maybe RAM can design a foldable laptop tray and base that you can hide under a car seat when not in use.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

The mobile rule also applies in the UK so this too would be banned there, period. Respectfully, in these lands safety is a higher factor than work hard, anytime, anywhere motto. Note that the USA / UK life pace are quite comparable, so I am told...

monster_cookie2148
monster_cookie2148

Although the article is good for the NEW Tech person graduating from college, this is actually about as outdated as it gets. I was installing dumb terminals in vehicles back in the early 80's, then moved up to laptops in the late 90's when they were plentiful on the net at cheap prices. Mounting hardware like shown here are old style, been around since the early 90's, the power inverter you have listed is too big to bother with in size and cost more than most smaller size ones with greater output. With the development of netbooks available now, you can use most anything to set it on with out the hassle of installing that big rack looking thing you have shown here. And, what's with the big usb wireless card? They are available in smaller versions now. As to the laws, dum-a*** walk the streets daily. All states have either a law that prohibits any "video" device in the front portion inside of the vehicle within view of the driver, laws that prohibit the availability of use of any such devices by or within reach of the driver, or the mounting of such "accessories" that are within the reach or view of the driver or passengers that can be harmful or deadly in an accident where such accessories or mounted objects do not meet Federal DOT approval, unless it is used and operated by a law enforcement officer whom has been certified to use such a device (Yes they teach that in the police academies now). In addition, most people are not aware of the little fact that most auto insurance providers have written in small (very small) letters that they will not cover any medical cost, personal injury expenses, replacement of vehicle or vehicles or represent or hire a lawyer to represent you in any case where one of these devices have been installed. There are other mounting devices on the market that the center stand up rod "quick disconnects" at the floor so that when you are done and need to drive down the road you simply put your laptop in the back seat. These are the types of devices we use in our company, along with micro printers mounted in the back seats or in the back of our vans and should be the type of devices you should be writing about if you truly wanted to help others become more productive on the road. Just IMHO, that is.

paypwip
paypwip

Like the Idea and if I was having to travel with a laptop to customer sites, would definitely get one.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

If you've seen a police car.. they do have space for their partner.. but the computer they carry is pretty much built-in in the front panel.. I guess there's not easy way to do this.. at less you have a mini laptop and put it next to your GPS device. althought the display would be really tiny :( I remember some techs in colombia had to drill and do a lot of wiring so they can have a built-in computer in the car.. but that's not what this article is about.. so.. at least is a good solution for SUVs, 4x4 and pick-up owners :)

martika
martika

LOL, If you got the web cam and a few other Gizmos, I'm sure you could drive the car with the laptop. It's probably quite comfortable in the back, without the front seats! Anyway, I like this setup. Would be a good way to update cases while on the move. Doubt I'd be allow to install in the lease car tho...

TheFiebre
TheFiebre

Foldable... uhmmm good point

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

Not hitchhikers, but family, friends, etc. when not in use.

tiredoftechrepublic
tiredoftechrepublic

Why does "The Listed 'G MAN' like to kick everyone in the crotch? At least ccastellanos@ posted... don't forget, "The Listed 'G MAN' you also made a first post last year. Oh, I also see your Site Activity Rating is in the Top 44% of the last thirty days. All that talk and 0 (zero)HELPFUL ANSWERS GIVEN!

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

To back up and prove "The fact that people work harder in countries in development does not mean their pace is faster (just harder once again)"

TheFiebre
TheFiebre

G-man: I do not agree that you need to live everywhere to have an opinion. It is a fact that USA is a super power, my country is not and India is not. The fact that people work harder in countries in development does not mean their pace is faster (just harder once again)... and please take this with a grain of salt, it has its pros and cons... But going back to the main subject, it is up to the driver when to use the device, I keep an independent mind that there is no need for Big brother to ban things in order for anyone to apply good judgment when driving. The device in this article is undeniably a practical one for those that chooses and more importantly (including your thoughts) CAN use it...

TheFiebre
TheFiebre

It is OK... I respect your opinion but you are still missing the point... keep reading... please do not miss the expression "stop & work"

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

I took issue with the "USA / India life pace are quite not comparable" comment. In order to make such a comment you would have to have lived in both places for a substantial time. This was ccastellanos@ first post, quite a poor first post at that. You have made 8 posts since you joined. Why not try to engage more instead of just calling people idiots. The next time you drive and somebody (who is on the phone, not paying attention) comes careering towards you, remember my post will you not....?

mbm29414
mbm29414

G-Man, with all due respect, you're an idiot. We don't disregard safety in the US, but we know that most people can walk and chew gum at the same time, or in the case you mention, drive and talk at the same time. Plus, any rational person realizes that this setup isn't meant to be used WHILE driving. It's a setup like what policemen have, so that they can sit in the car, relatively comfortably, and still work. By the by, I'm reading this email in my car, as I work online, so, this is a particularly relevant email for me. :) To the author: Great job!!! I love it!