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Jewish World Review March 28, 2001 / 4 Nissan, 5761

The Computer Maven by James Derk

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Consumer Reports

Tips on traveling with a laptop -- BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Once again I'm overseas with my laptop and learning more and more about traveling with computer equipment and getting online. So I figure I would share some hints.

- Don't check your laptop. If you fly commuter planes like me, you often will be accosted by a baggage dude (or dudette) at the entrance to the plane telling you to check your laptop case "planeside." The word "planeside" is a euphemism for "we're going to smash your bag."

First off, insist on keeping your case. It likely will fit under the seat. If not, take your laptop out before you check the case. Not a single airline I know of will cover the destruction of a laptop in checked baggage.

If you plan to use your laptop in-flight, ask your travel agent or the airline if your seat has a power socket. (Some do, but you need a special cord.) You also can stock up on batteries for your computer if not. Many first-class seats have power sockets, but if you can afford to fly first-class you can hire someone to type for you.

- Keep an eye on your computer. Roving bands of thieves work large airports and try to rip you off. Here's how it often works: You put your laptop case on the X-ray conveyor belt but before you can walk through the X-ray scanner to claim it, someone will jump ahead of you. Trouble is, they have a ton of metal on them. So they get rescanned a few times and before you get to the other side, someone else has claimed your bag.

- Once you get to your hotel, don't just plug in your modem and let it fly. Invest 10 bucks in a phone-line tester, especially if you are flying overseas. The wrong wiring or voltage in that phone line and you can kiss your modem (if not your PC) goodbye. The tester can be bought at many computer stores or online at one of the many sites that specialize in overseas travel.

- Speaking of which, make sure you have the correct adapter. Most computers today can handle dual voltages (check the power "brick" that comes with your laptop to see if it can handle the voltage where you are going (Europe is 220v, for example)). However, you often will need the plug adapter so your power brick will plug in to the foreign plug. If your laptop won't handle the other voltage, you also will need a quality power transformer.

- In some countries, laptops are considered rare and are much more valuable than in the USA. So use the in-room safe in your room or consider checking your laptop at the front desk if you are staying in a higher-theft area. Some people I know remove the PC's hard drive and hide it someplace in the room so at least if the laptop gets stolen the data is intact.

- What is the best way to get connected? Some better hotels are offering high-speed Internet access, so bring your computer's network card (and its "pigtail" if you need one.) If you need to use a dial-up account, make sure you get the dial-in numbers for the countries you plan to visit before you leave. For example, America Online has dial-in numbers for cities all over the world. You can get a list on the company's Web site or online before you leave. If you work for a large company, it likely has dial-in access in other cities as well.

- Things to bring: short phone cord; dual phone jack (so you can leave the phone connected, too); plastic thing that connects two phone lines together; a backup modem if you have one; small mouse.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: For ideas and products for laptop travel, check out The Road Warrior (

James Derk is computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. Comment by clicking here.


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03/06/01: Apollo printers...CD problems...more
02/27/01: Good firewalls to keep your computer safe
02/12/01: How to set up a LAN party
01/30/01: Used computers... picture.exe...other problems
01/23/00: Cool computer tricks

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