Mobile and on the road: Travelling with your laptop
By Jay Dougherty Aug 12, 2006, 11:24 GMT
Washington - Laptops are made to be carried. Why is it, then, that there's always so much to think about when you're getting ready to take your notebook with you for an extended time away? You have to worry not only about what you're going to bring with your laptop but also how you'll keep it safe, keep it running, and which software you'll need that away from home that you might not normally use. Here are some tips to get you thinking.
--- The right bag
Notebooks today rarely travel alone. With the growing number of gadgets that connect to mobile computers - MP3 players, digital cameras, external hard drives, headset microphones, electrical cords, and more - it's not uncommon for a typical notebook carrying case to be bulging at the seams.
So you have three choices: carry less, buy a bigger notebook case, or ditch the notebook case altogether. The last option may be the best. Consider putting your notebook computer in a typical carry-on piece of luggage, perhaps even one with a handle and wheels.
Not only will you be able to fit a notebook and its accessories in conventional carry-on baggage, but there will usually be plenty of room left over for toiletries and other items that you might need while on your journey. Just remember to keep anything that could leak safely separated from your notebook computer.
A notebook in a traditional carry-on bag also won't attract attention from thieves who target notebook computers in airport terminals and train stations. Nothing screams 'steal me' more than a notebook in a case obviously designed for notebooks. Make sure your carry-on bag can be locked, and you're all set.
--- Airport security
If you're worried about x-ray machines at airports possibly damaging your notebook computer, don't be. The magnetic field that x-ray machines use is not strong enough to do damage to your hard drive or any of its data. A notebook is more likely to be damaged by a baggage inspector at an airport than it is by the x-ray machine itself.
When it comes to inspections, be sure that you have a fully-charged batttery in your notebook computer. It's not uncommon for a security inspector to ask you to turn on your notebook computer to verify that it is indeed a functioning computer. If your battery is dead, you'll run into delays that you don't want.
If you plan to use your computer inside of an airport terminal or train station - or any other public place while travelling - wait until after you've crossed the security checkpoint, where only ticketed passengers are allowed.
In any open areas, try to put some distance between yourself and others. Avoid drawing attention to the fact that you have a notebook computer. If that's not possible, keep alert, and don't let your notebook computer out of your site. Also, once you've used your notebook computer in an airport, be aware that you've now been identified as having a notebook. Keep alert.
***Editor's note: Please check airline policy regards laptops before packing, recent events have meant some no longer allow hand luggage.
Can your notebook be plugged in when you're at your destination? Most notebook computers today come with universal power adapters, meaning they can work in most parts of the world, regardless of the type of electricity.
But they don't usually come with the specific plug adapter required abroad. Your local computer or electrical store, however, should have a simple plug adapter that converts your plug into the proper type used in your destination. You'll probably want to carry this adapter as one of your regular notebook accessories if you frequently travel abroad.
--- Wireless Internet
It may be easier than you think to stay connected through the Internet these days. Hotels, coffee shops, and other public places where people stay or gather increasingly offer Internet 'hot spots' that offer wireless Internet for free or for a small fee.
Of course, your notebook has to be set up to handle wireless Internet connections. Even if you don't have wireless built in to your notebook, you can purchase a PCMCIA or USB wireless notebook adapter for very little money - often around 20 dollars.
Once you're set up properly, you have the option to make accomodation arrangement based upon the availability of wireless Internet access. Call ahead if you're not sure whether the place you'll stay offers wireless. If it doesn't, find out whether nearby hot spots exist.
--- Remote software
Being on the road sometimes means relying upon software that you don't need at home - even if that software is Web-based. Make a check-list. Will you need virtual private networking (VPN) software that allows you to connect to your office while you're away? Is it working? Do you need remote control or file transfer protocol software that allows you to connect to your home PC?
If you need to check e-mail on the road, will your Internet service provider allow you to access its e-mail servers if you're not connected to the Internet through its network? If the answer is 'no,' learn to use one of the free Web-based e-mail checking sites, such as Mail2Web (http://www.mail2Web.com). Such sites enable you to read and respond to your e-mail no matter where you are - so long as you have access to the Internet.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur