Gear up: Computers

Many travelers I know rely heavily on frequenting the now more ubiquitous internet cafes to get their email fix. With the increased spread of technology to most of the globe, these are not only convenient, but easy. However, with internet cafes comes a modicum of risk. With keystroke monitoring, data theft, screen grabs and other computer scams easily perpetrated without our knowledge, it might seem that doing anything beyond checking email (say, transferring money online) proves to be a great identity theft risk.

In addition to the security risks, there are access issues. We don’t plan to spend all of our time in major cities or hubs, in fact, I’d venture to say that a lot of the time we will be in smaller, rural areas. This will prove difficult for not only staying in touch, but updating this very site. Relying on an internet cafe to be nearby and open is not something with which I feel totally comfortable.

The public library I used to work at had internet access available to patrons. It was great that we were able to provide the community with free access, but the technology was outdated due to lack of funding. In addition, many patrons frequently complained that they lost their term papers or resumes when the computers ran out of time (they had a 60 min. limit) or froze. Sometimes, you just aren’t paying attention to details like that when work needs to get done. Obviously, internet cafes are privately operated and may have better technology, but I hate relying on someone else’s stuff to meet my needs. If there’s one thing about technology, it will probably frustrate you in a moment of need. Not to say your own laptop won’t fail you, but it certainly is more convenient.

I’ve been reading a lot, and talking to many travelers, about what the best way to get their tech on. A few fellow writers agreed that traveling with a notebook computer seems to be the only way to go for them. One coworker of mine is a constant traveler and spends ample time in Japan every year. He raved about the internet access points there, but insisted that it was great to have his laptop with him for spontaneous writing or email. I tend to agree with that sentiment, even if it does cling to the tech safety net with which we are now so comfortable. Sometimes I want to write at 2 a.m. — am I going to find an internet cafe open then? Probably not.

One big concern I have is theft or loss. Relying on safes may be fine in nicer hostels or hotels, but sometimes we won’t have that luxury. If that’s the case, it will prove difficult to lug around a larger laptop. Plus, if something happens to go wrong (doesn’t it always), I would feel horrible losing or dropping Mia’s expensive 13″ Macbook.

The solution seems to be a “netbook”–A compact laptop computer used primarily for internet access or in tandem with a portable hard drive. One model I’ve recently had my eye on is the Dell Mini 9:

At just around 8″x6″ and priced around $300, its a perfect fit for a day bag if need be (it weighs in at 2.2 lbs). I’d be upset if it got lost or broken, but I’d feel worse if it costed me $1000 to replace (see above).

In addition to the netbook, I think I’d love to get my hands on the sleek and tiny Free Agent external hard drive to store our thousands of mp3s, photos, and movies:

But what to do about an OS? Well, I won’t get too into the Mac v. PC flame war, but I will say that I use both for work, and prefer the elegance of the Mac interface. I do love the raw power of my Dell, but nothing quite parallels the simplicity (in a good way) of a Mac, and what’s better than keeping things simple when on the road?

I came across this hack for netbooks to run Mac OS 10.5.6:

Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh Test Drive from Andy Ihnatko on Vimeo.

Do you think its worth a shot? What do you travel with?



4 responses to “Gear up: Computers

  1. About once a month the Dell refurbished outlet puts a ton of Inspiron 9’s on sale for anywhere between 199 and 239 shipped. Keep checking spoofee and slickdeals. (The most recent promotion was at the end of March.)

  2. I have my eye on a MacBook with the aluminum unibody, along with an iPod Touch. Made the switch to Mac about two years ago and can’t fathom switching back now.

    The iPod Touch will be useful when I move because of the internet and apps capabilities. One can bring up Google Maps to locate eateries and train terminals, use e-mail to communicate, take care of bank stuff and bills, etc. Since I don’t really want to be tied into a contract with a phone company either here or in the UK, the Touch seems like a good choice. From my understanding, it’s the iPhone without the phone.

    • ourexcellentadventure

      Yeah, I had the iPod Touch for about a year, but using the free wi-fi spots is not the best. It was really nothing to rely on, but for an iPod, it was cool. I have an iPhone now and am considering ditching it, no need to pay $100 a month for it while on the road!


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