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Originally published March 2008.
IT consultants, field engineers and other technology professionals need mobile computing capacity, complete with widespread Internet connectivity. Here’s how to create just such a set up in your car and enjoy enhanced productivity.
The Ram Mounts box
Here’s proof good things arrive in large, heavy boxes.
The Ram Mounts box
Ram Mounting Systems Inc. manufactures and distributes mobile computing mounts for a wide variety of applications. I chose a Ram No-Drill Vehicle Laptop Mount to take create my mobile office.
Vehicle power outlet
If you’re going to use a laptop in your car, you’re going to need power. This is especially true if you plan on using mobile broadband (or Internet service provided by a cellular telephone provider). Laptop computers must not only power their own electronics and display, but the wireless data communications, as well. That takes quite a toll on a typical six or nine cell battery.
Here is the Targus power outlet I chose to fuel my small business IT consultancy. This unit, purchased from a major office supply chain, was less than $70 and features surge protection and (car) battery depletion protection. Producing 90 watts, it’s capable of not only powering the laptop, but simultaneously charging the notebook battery.
Second laptop power adapter
Mobile professionals are typically pressed for time, so who has time to repeatedly plug, coil, unplug and recoil a laptop power adapter and its cable? Skip the hassle. Purchase a second notebook adapter, thereby enabling you to keep one in your service vehicle.
The office that's going mobile
Here’s the service vehicle we’ll be equipping with a mobile, Internet-connected office.
The before shot
Here’s my truck’s interior before installing a laptop mount. In the past, I was forced to balance a laptop on my knees or precariously on the (too small) center console).
Laptop mount installation
Installing the Ram No-Drill Laptop mount in my truck (and many other cars and trucks) requires only removing a few bolts. In the case of my Jeep, the two black bolts that secure the front of the seat to the body need just to be unscrewed.
Ram Mounts baseplate
Here’s the heavy duty Ram Mounts base plate. The plate attaches securely to the vehicle using the existing front passenger seat bolts.
Ram Mounts telescope riser
The Ram Mounts telescope riser connects the laptop tray to the baseplate.
Ram Mounts installation
With the telescoping riser connected to the base plate, the assembly is ready for installation. Again, the baseplate is easily secured using the seat’s existing rail bolts, as shown here.
Some assembly required
While the RAM No-Drill Vehicle Laptop Mount does not require drilling any holes, some assembly is required. Here are the parts that must be assembled to create the unit’s swing arm (which enables simple positioning and repositioning of the laptop mount).
Swing arm assembly
Here’s how the Ram Mounts’ swing arm components look once assembled. The long tube, shown here, is then inserted inside the telescoping riser we’ve already connected to the system’s baseplate.
Ram Mounts assembly
Once the telescoping riser and swing arm are connected, as shown here, you’re ready to attach the patented Universal Laptop Holder.
Universal laptop holder
Ram Mounts’ Universal Laptop Holder uses spring tension to secure laptops of varying sizes.
Universal laptop holder
The Ram Mount Systems’ Universal Ram Tough Tray connects to the pedestal assembly using a round, adjustable socket joint.
Four rubberized retaining arms can be positioned in numerous locations vertically and horizontally, thereby ensuring a secure, snug fit.
The Targus power supply
Here’s a close up view of the Targus power supply. Besides offering a surge-protected power outlet, the device provides an additional cigarette adapter.
Apple power supply
As mentioned earlier, like many mobile professionals, I don’t have time to constantly connect and disconnect my laptop’s power adapter and move it between my office and truck. Instead, I simply purchased a second power adapter (shown here).
Power inverter installation
The Ram Mounts baseplate offered a snug channel in which I could place the Targus power inverter. I secured the inverter using two zip ties (which aren’t even seen in the vehicle, since it’s essentially tucked beneath the seat).
Next I carefully routed the power adapter’s cable, after plugging the adapter into the inverter.
Mobile broadband service
My laptop (Windows or Macintosh) receives widespread Internet access courtesy of a mobile broadband Internet connection. Here you can see the USBConnect adapter installed in my laptop.
I originally chose to secure the power adapter’s cable using a zip tie, but later realized occasions may arise when I need to take the power adapter with me. Although the situation rarely arises, using an adjustable zip tie, as shown here, provides flexibility.
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.