- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

OSHKOSH, Wis. | As I write this, I am working about 90 miles north of Milwaukee at a weeklong convention of 35,000 teenage campers from around the world. I have deadlines to meet, and not only am I away from my normal surroundings, I have a lot to do in a short period of time.

Continuing developments in technology make my work a tad easier, and that’s a good thing for periodic business travelers as well as those who are constantly on the road.

Perhaps the greatest thing is the continuing pervasiveness of Wi-Fi Internet access. From my hotel room to the campsite to the local Subway sandwich shop, I can log on for free. On my flight to Wisconsin, AirTran Airways offered Wi-Fi for $9.95; I didn’t bite, but if time were an issue, I’d sign up in a flash.

Having Wi-Fi available, obviously, extends the Internet’s reach and usefulness. It also might well pave the way for more “cloud computing” in the future. If you can access the computing “cloud” where your data or applications are stored, you may not need as large a computer as you once did to work effectively on the go.

I’m seeing more and more netbook devices popping up on the road, and the coming months may see a continuing explosion of the microportables’ popularity. At least one manufacturer is touting a model with a “high-definition” display; if such devices deliver their advertised promise, it could truly stoke the marketplace.

A continuing delight on the road is Apple’s iPhone, now in capacities up to 32 gigabytes. The phone’s many useful features — and built-in Wi-Fi — come close to making it a pocket-sized computer replacement. Of course, it doesn’t rival a desktop or notebook PC’s hundreds of gigabytes of storage, but for simple tasks such as e-mail, basic search and even Global Positioning System navigation, it’s a lifesaver.

One very useful application for the road warrior is Quickoffice for the iPhone, a $12.99 program that will let you open and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files on your device.

A colleague is impressed by the way in which Quickoffice handles files: You can page through a Word-formatted document in a natural manner, he says. I like that it shrinks editing to pocket size. This is one type of application Apple should, in my view, have made standard on the iPhone as part of the operating software. But certainly it’s a small price to pay for such power.

There are two other items I’m very glad I packed in my business case for this trip. One is NeatReceipts for Mac scanner and software, retail price $230 but currently on sale for $199.95 from www.neatco.com. The stick-sized scanner is powered via a USB connection, and the software does a nice job of “reading” receipts and helping you file them. Very good stuff.

I’m also enamored, but not totally besotted by, the $29.95 OnBoard Travel Keyboard from accessory-maker Atek Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif. This is another small device, also USB-based, and easy to pack into the business bag.

Once connected to your laptop, you get the tactile responsiveness of a traditional PC keyboard and a numeric keypad to boot. Typing on the OnBoard is a delight, even when your computer’s keyboard is very good on its own. I like having all the “dedicated” keys a desktop keyboard offers, such as page up, page down and delete; the number pad is another blessing.

While the OnBoard is compatible with the Mac operating system, its structure is slightly different from a Mac keyboard; ironically, it’s the “Windows” key that is used to activate a number of Mac functions. Once you get by that — and, sadly, there’s no way to reprogram things — it’s a great portable companion, for which details can be found at www.atek.com.

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