Pocket-sized toolbox

Q. When traveling to do commissioned artwork, I want to have source information, photos and working files with me, but I don’t want to carry my laptop. Is there a more portable way to store these materials electronically?

A. Assuming you’ll have access to a computer, the first and least expensive way to carry your portable studio is to burn several CDs with everything you need on them. They carry approximately 650 megabytes of data, the equivalent of approximately 200 small-format photos.

Another, more practical solution is the new USB drive, also known as a “thumb drive” or “jump drive.” It’s literally about the size of your thumb, it can plug into virtually any computer’s USB port, and newer versions can carry about 10 CDs of information. In fact, many people with small businesses could put everything from their desktop computer into this small device—with room to spare.

Remember that both CDs and USB drives are versions of “capture media,” meaning they’re only good for storing and carrying information. You’ll still need a computer or laptop to access it.

If you’d like to access it independently of a computer and still have the portability of a pocket-sized device, you’ll need to look at the new Pocket PCs. Pocket computers are a new and improved version of the old personal digital assistants (PDAs). These hand-held computers allow you to store vast amounts of text documents, music and photos and also use applications such as Excel and Power Point.

Many of these devices also accept capture media like the kind you’d use in your digital cameras. This, along with a collapsible, full-sized keyboard, will permit you to use this mini-computer just as you would any full-sized one. And the two components—Pocket PC and keyboard—together take up less space than a paperback novel.

So my advice? Leave the laptop at home and pop your studio into your pocket.

Dustin Van Wechel won the prestigious 2004 Wyoming Conservation Stamp Art Competition and was just invited to participate in the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s Western Visions Show. He was also recently welcomed as a signature member to both the Society of Animal Artists and the Pastel Society of America. He currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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