This week, CNET is launching its At Work
section, of which I'm proud to be the editor. At Work will be CNET's new home for reviews, features, and how-to guides about the personal technology we all use to get our jobs done.
In preparing this section, our team put together an Ultimate Office feature
, in which we picked out our favorite products for the various places we work--the office, the cubicle, the conference room, and the hotel.
In some cases, I chose glitzy, cutting-edge technology that I just love. In others, it's the cheap solutions that serve best.
As an exercise, I went through each of the rooms we covered, as well as some others, and tried to think of the products that help me personally be more productive. In some cases, I chose glitzy, cutting-edge technology that I just love, expense notwithstanding. In other cases, it's the cheap solutions that serve best. Here are my secret weapons.
In the office
If you read my column from two weeks ago
, this is no surprise: my work technology of choice is multiple monitors. Sadly, my bosses at CNET haven't yet realized how much more labor they could wring from me if they'd only equip my desk with dual 20-inch LCDs
. But I'm working on it. In my home office, I have a cobbled-together dual-screen display, and I work much more effectively there because of it.
There is one secret weapon I actually do have at my office: our Voice over IP
phone system. I still have a phone on my desk, but it can be controlled from my PC, where it is a million times easier to control advanced features. With this killer ShoreTel
installation, I get cool features, such as Outlook contact records that pop up for incoming calls; voicemail that comes into my e-mail in-box (and which can be forwarded as easily as e-mail); the capability to put conference calls together with mouse clicks instead of impossible keypad entries; and even a new thing we're testing, where I can drag files to the PC phone application and they'll show up on the desktop of the person I'm calling. Single (nonenterprise) users can get many of these features with some Internet phone services
now on the market. I recommend it; this is what phones should have become ages ago.
: Almost everybody has it today, and what a difference it makes. Since I run my own technology budget at home, I actually have a nicer installation than I do at work (my own printer, for example, instead of one down the hall). And with my high-speed connection, I can be just as productive as I can be at my desk, with the exception that I can't go to meetings as easily. Come to think of it, that makes me more productive.
The conference room
I've experimented with a lot of great conference room-focused technologies, from meeting software
to tablet PCs, and here's what I've found: none of them are quite there yet.
Sometimes, I take my laptop to meetings to take notes (using OneNote
), which is helpful. But everyone always assumes that I'm answering e-mail, which doesn't win me any friends. And let's face it, when the meeting gets boring, sometimes I am
Actually I've found that just setting down my Good G100
near my meeting paperwork lets me monitor incoming e-mail without looking nearly as obnoxious. A Treo 600
would also do the same job nicely.
For me, traveling with technology is all about traveling light. Some things have to come with you--a laptop and a cell phone, maybe a PDA and an MP3 player, too. But here's one thing that doesn't: all those pain-in-the-neck adapters and chargers.
There are after-market power adapters
that can charge multiple devices, which is a handy idea. But they're way too heavy and wildly overpriced. Here's a better bet. Get a laptop with a lightweight power adapter and use your USB ports to recharge your cell phone and PDA. USB-to-handheld device chargers
weigh just an ounce or two and pack down smaller than any plug-in-adapter.
I want to silence all of it--the engines, the screaming babies, the conversation about Miami going on behind me.
A lot of people I know swear by noise-reduction headsets
. I've tried them, and they work well enough. But on an airplane, I don't really want to block out the roar of the engines. No, I want to silence all of it--the engines, the screaming babies, the conversation about Miami going on behind me, every last annoying decibel. And bulky noise-reducers don't do that.
Here's what does: in-ear earbuds
. They're cheap, comfortable, and small; you don't have to hassle with bulky electronics; and they make your PC's media player, your MP3 device, or the airplane's own sound system sound great. Or you can just turn everything off and use them like earplugs.
Here's one location where I do go for cutting-edge technology. I drive a stick-shift, and you can't safely do that and hold a phone at the same time. And wired headsets tend to get wrapped up in the gearshift (unless you get one with a cable long enough, which is--bizarrely--quite rare). So when I have to talk in the car, I like to use a Bluetooth headset
. It's a pain to keep the thing charged up, but it's comfortable, easy to use, and it keeps my eyes on the road.
Like a lot of people, I do some of my best thinking when standing under hot running water. To date, though, I haven't found any technology (aside from a water heater with a really big tank) that makes this process work any better. If I come across any, I'll let you know.