By Tony Barthel
How do you work from the road? We’ve probably all looked at articles about mobile internet and all the other things. But how do you set up your office while you’re traveling? As I embark on a two-month cross-country trip, this is something that’s at the forefront of my thinking. After all, I sincerely appreciate all of you and hope the articles I have here on RV Travel are of value to you.
There is more than one study of work environments that correlate the amount of computer screen size that you have with the amount of productivity you possess, as well. The larger and more square inches you have in the screen department, the better your ability to get things done.
With that in mind, I began a quest for a larger amount of portable screen real estate that I could pack along for the journey. The first thought was to somehow mount my large 32” monitor in my travel trailer, perhaps utilizing the space that was meant for a TV.
I actually do not have a TV in my trailer (nor in my house for that matter… yes, I’m weird). That space has heretofore gone unused. So that was my first thought. But I also do a lot of boondocking so I would need to provide 120vac power to the monitor while off the grid.
That’s simple enough with a number of gadgets that I have, including a generator. However, I hate using the generator and usually rely on solar power or residual electrical power that my tow vehicle has provided my batteries while the trailer is in transport. That means I’d have to facilitate an inverter, which is not difficult.
Another screen to the rescue!
Looking around I came across an Asus 15.6” 1080p portable monitor. What I like about this little thing is that it is very small and light when packed for travel. But it is also powered via the USB port on my confuser … er … computer.
Combined with the 13” screen on my MacBook Pro, this creates a decent amount of screen real estate. The Asus screen seems to be comparable to the high-quality screen of my laptop. The computer and screen pack away easily into a backpack.
There’s a folding holder for the screen that’s somewhat of a satchel that also acts as the monitor stand. You can either prop the monitor on it vertically or horizontally. I do both as I often write these articles with the monitor in a vertical position so I just see more of my mistakes in one place.
Using it with a Mac
Since I’m using this with a Mac, which is supposed to be the simpler option, I had to jump through a few hoops to make things happen. Asus has drivers on their website but they couldn’t get this thing to talk with the Mac.
Looking in the various nerd forums that I troll, I found that Asus’ drivers come from DisplayLink for this product and that company’s website has the latest versions. After going through the installation process, I still got nowhere.
I know a lot of you Windows users are already snickering.
On my Mac, since I only have two USB-type C ports, I have an adapter that gives me USB 3.0 ports, a VGA port, and a Cat 5 port. Just for grins and giggles, I tried a different brand of this contraption and the problem was solved. It turns out the odd brand adapter and the monitor just don’t like each other.
What about an iPad?
One of the other options I had considered was an iPad Pro. Apple includes the ability to use this as a second monitor, and I used to do so when I had an iPad Pro. That is, until said iPad Pro suffered the gravitational pull of the planet we’re all residing on and became more e-waste in the process.
Yes, I had considered getting a new iPad Pro. (Apple can use any iPad as a second monitor with their “Side Car” feature). But the 12.9-inch model that I really wanted was well over $1,000. So that wasn’t happening in my world.
One more thing
To borrow Steve Jobs’ famous conclusion of his presentations, I have since bought a cable that just plugs directly into the Mac’s USB-C port and then to the “Micro B” port on the monitor. This eliminates the digital middleman and makes the whole thing better.
Your mobile office
I have seen more than a few mobile office solutions in RVs which makes me curious about what you have done to make this happen in your world. Are you just using a single screen? Have you adapted multiple screens? Have you figured out that that 55” monster screen in your RV can also be used as a monitor? Please leave a comment detailing your setup below.
Speaking of that, I have since put an AppleTV device on my 32” computer monitor and can use it wirelessly as well – although that large screen still is a bit out of place in my smaller trailer. At least that’s what my wife said.