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Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 10 Laptop Accessories for the Online Road Warrior

Today's online freelance writers can work virtually anywhere. For as long as you have a laptop/notebook/netbook, you can turn any location that has an Internet connection into your own workplace. For this post, I picked 10 laptop accessories that every online road warrior (not just writers) might want to aspire for. These laptop supplementary items can increase your productivity manyfold.

Here they are:

1. Headphone - Some clients find writing too time consuming, and so they relay their instructions through videos or podcasts. However, listening to their instructions through your notebook's built-in speakers can be bothersome to people around you. The best way to keep the voice from the video or podcast to yourself would be to use a headphone.

For the same reason mentioned earlier, you should also use your headphone when watching videos or listening to music during your breaktime. If you work as an online telemarketer, virtual call center agent, or simply need to communicate with your client through voice or video conference, then it would be best to purchase a headset with a built-in mic.

2.  Laptop Bag or Backpack - If you want to be mobile, you'll need something to secure and carry your laptop in. Now, although newly purchased laptops typically come with their own complimentary bag, they're only usually built with the bare essentials. If you want to have added storage capacity, superior ergonomics, or better aesthetics, then there are laptop backpacks or bags that can meet these demands.

Road warriors who prefer the rugged look are best suited with backpacks with sufficient paddings that can provide optimal protection to your unit. If you want to look more professional, however, you might want to opt for bags. In either case, one that has multiple compartments for your other accessories would be the best choice.  

3.  Laptop Car Charger - Unless you own a netbook or the latest MacBook Pro, which can operate for about 10 hours on a full charge, you'll need to pack a couple of spare batteries if you want to be fully mobile the entire day. If you find this too much of a hassle, you should seriously consider buying a notebook car charger.

These devices plug right into your car's power source (the cigarette lighter) when you want to charge your notebook. Just make sure you get the voltages right. Otherwise, you might end up with a melted plug.

4.  Laptop Batteries - Of course, if you don't own a car, what use is a car charger? Most laptops only last up to about 2-3 hours; even less if you need to use many applications at the same time or have the Wi-Fi feature on, which are all typical of online freelancers. In that case, you'll really need to have some spare laptop batteries on hand if you intend to spend a great deal of time away from a wall outlet.

5.  Extension cable - Ever experienced walking into a coffee shop with an almost fully-drained laptop and finding the power outlet too far from the only available table? How about checking into a hotel room with an outlet that's not reachable from your bed? If only your laptop's power cord was a bit longer.

Well, if you can't do anything about that, you might as well consider adding an inexpensive extension cable to your backpack's inhabitants. The extension cable may end up as the cheapest accessory in this list but it'll certainly go a long way ... literally.

6.  Laptop Cooling Stand - I'm pretty sure many of you get annoyed when your laptop's bottom starts to heat up. Even a laptop's built-in fans can do little to alleviate the inconvenience. The solution? a laptop cooling stand. Aside from cooling both your lap and your laptop, these devices can improve ergonomics by providing better height and tilt. This can minimize eye and neck strain.

Most laptop cooling stands are equipped with fans to facilitate continuous airflow. There are however a few models that simply rely on their structure to provide ample cooling. A cool device always works more efficiently. Furthermore, without the bothersome heat, you can work efficiently as well.

7.  Memory Cards and Card Reader - Not all notebooks are equipped with card readers. But do you really need them? Well, until the majority of computer users feel secure enough to upload their documents to an online storage service, memory cards will remain the most popular laptop accessory for exchanging files.

As much as possible, go for a card reader that supports multiple formats. CompactFlash (CF), Multimedia Card (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), microSD, and Memory Stick Duo (MSD) are just some of the many widely used memory card formats.

8.  Mouse - If you rely solely on your laptop's touchpad (a.k.a. trackpad) for navigation, you may develop RSI (repetitive strain injury). To be less susceptible to RSI, you might want to alternate between your trackpad and a mouse. Besides, mice are best suited for carrying out shortcut functions.

You may go for a cordless laser mouse to do away with tangles and a mouse pad. Or, for optimal comfort, you may opt for an air mouse instead. With an air mouse, you can control your mouse pointer with smooth, effortless motions in the air.

9.  USB cellular modem - In the past, my wife and I would make it a point to look for the WiFi hotspot logo each time we stepped into a place we weren't familiar with. Establishments without WiFi zones were then classified as having unfavorable working conditions. That meant we were less likely to stay there long, or in extreme cases, even visit the place again in the future.

That practice has been foregone since we discovered USB cellular modems. With a USB cellular modem, you can plug into the Web wherever your cellular network has a signal. With it, our ideal workplaces are no longer confined indoors. Aside from restaurants, fastfoods, and other establishments that don't have WiFi zones, we can now hook up to the Web on a beach, mountain resort, or even on a barge or boat.

10.  Portable Speakers - Who says all of the best laptop accessories should be work-related? Don't stop at sharpening the saw. Get renewed strength and your creative juices flowing again by putting the saw down. Headphones provide some degree of restriction when you're listening to music or watching a movie. Besides, what if you'd like to enjoy them with someone else or a bunch of friends?

Portable speakers can give your listening or viewing experience the needed oomph without compromising your own mobility. Don't expect them to be as blaring as full-blown speakers, but rest assured that they can release enough quality sound to fill a cubicle or a small room.