October 01, 2009, 1:20 PM — In the past few months, the dream of the digital nomad lifestyle has really taken flight. You know when major newspapers pick up on a trend, it's reaching the mainstream -- something that Computerworld's own Mike Elgan has been predicting for some time.
Like humanity's original nomads, today's denizens of the open road must carry everything they need. In fact, if you use, say, a ten-inch netbook, it's tempting to think that maybe, just maybe, in addition to a computer, you can cram everything else that makes up a digital office into your shoulder bag or backpack.
And that's exactly what I did. I tracked down a selection of input devices, output devices and peripherals that can fit into a typical computer bag alongside a netbook or even a reasonably-sized (say, a 14.1-inch) laptop. Each device can run on its own power or use whatever it can draw from a USB port. And just in case your trusty laptop bag starts to pop its seams under the load, I also found some bags with the capacity to handle the strain.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that mice are better than trackpads, and that's doubly true of the knuckle-crunching contraptions on today's netbooks. Enter the retractable-cord mouse, which uses a flat cord that winds up into a spring-loaded reel. For example, the $26 Targus Laptop Optical Mouse and the $15 Targus Ultra Mini Retractable Optical Mouse are USB 1.1 wheelie mice that look and work the same; the Ultra Mini i just much smaller -- only a whisker over 3 inches long.
Only slightly less widely accepted is the truth that the cord on a regular mouse can get in the way, especially when you're trying to maneuver on a coffee shop table. Consider Logitech's V320 Cordless Optical Mouse ($39) package, which uses a tiny USB transmitter on a 2.4Ghz network to communicate with the nicely designed cordless mouse. The transmitter tucks into the mouse when not in use, a process that turns the mouse's power off.