Its been a while since I wrote my article on electronics on the road - and so much new stuff is happening on this front that a post every six months is really needed to be on track.
Its not often that I would reccomend going dirt cheap, but in terms of a travelling computer, with the changes in technology, quality and prices, this is exactly what I reccomend. I would actually reccomend a small portable netbook, type Asus Eee with a screen of plus minus 10 inches. They are more robust and capable than most people think. As many don't have the typical spinning hard drives or DVD player/burner, they have no moving parts, and are therefore less prone to break. Also, many netbook models have battery time of plus minus ten hours, which is very convenient when travelling. Even though the netbooks are extremely light and portable, the keyboard is close to full size and quite comfortable. You get very quickly used to the small screen, and the small compromise should not pose a problem for most.
I've got so many lap tops lying arround I've lost track how many I've gotn (Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Asus, HP, Whitev\box hommemade, and more). Still, my tiny asus Eee is by far my all time favourite and the one I use 95% of the time (in fact, I'm using it right now even though I have a much larger, brand new, and much more expensive and capeable lying only two meeters away). I've used it for all types of office apps, uploading and downloading files, ftp, and even constructing entire websites on it, listening to music and watching movies in dvd quality (HD quality is a no-go), I've connected it to projectors for businesspresentations, carried out video chats accross the globe with the built in webcam, and much more. The only things I've not used it for is editing media (video/photo) and gaming - something I would not do while traveling anyways.
As for video editing, allmost all video these days is captured in HD. You will have a difficult time to edit this on any current laptop (there are a few haulable out there, but no portable, that can edit HD video). As for photo editing, I'm sure the basics could easilly be done on a Netbook. Still though, get as much memory as you can.
If reliability is absolutely cruicial, and massive ammounts of storage space is less so, then a Netbook with an SSD (Solide State Drive instead of a standard type harddrive that spins) ought to be conscidered. These have no moving parts and are less prone to breaking, and also improve the speed of the computer a bit. But, in terms of the ammount storage you get for your money, you get very little. Fortunately though, the costs are coming down every month and disk capacity is getting bigger. Personally I've not opted for the SSD as I've found a much betterway to secure my data - which I will explain in the following:
If you really want to secure both your data and your ability to "compute" while on the road, you should get yourself a smartphone in addition to your computer - these can do allmost everything your computer can, and they also serve as a great backup device for your files. In addition to using the phone to backup your files, you can even use it to write emails, browse the internet, write and read both documents and spreadsheets, watch movies, the list goes on and on. By now most people should be familiar with these types of phones, so I'm not going to go into detail of their capabilities. If you allready don't own one - then you rellay should get one regardless of what you conscider your needs to be - you don't know until you've tried...
With a phone as a backup device, if your computer is lost or broken, it will be inconvenient still, but atleast your files are backed up and you can access them on the phone or transfer to another computer. Personally I use an iPhone 4g with 32 GB of storage, which is more storage than i need on a trip. Unless you plan to capture a lot of HD quality video, there will no longer be a need for DVD/bluray burners to back up your files. But if you do plan to capture a lot of HD video, I would reccomend getting an external USB Blueray burner so that you can burn copies and ship a copy home and keep a second copy with you... alternatively a bunch of flash mememory sticks (it all depends on how much video you will capture). Economy set aside, the flash memory sticks is a better storage option than a portable burner and disks.
Since my first post in this thread, there are many new options to secure files and software. And there is one in particular that I can highly reccomed, the service is Dropbox. It comes as a free version with limited storage, or a paid version with unlimited storage. You might as well pay the few dollars a month that it will cost you to have a fully fledged service as once you implement it, you will quickly find that you will want to backup just about all your digital files on it.
Dropbox is a service that allows you to store your files in the "cloud". Basically you can mirror all your computers, and even your iPhone on it. This means that you at all time will have the same folders and same files on all your computers, and your files will be available both offline and online. You can access your file from any computer on any internetbrowser, or through your regular file hierarchy on any computer where you have installed the Dropbox client (like you are used to accessing your files). You can even access your file on your phone if need be, or upload files to your computers from your phone.
Every time you get an internetconnection you wil auto sync your local files on your computer/phone with all your other computers with the client installed, as well as having acopy stored on the internet in your secure Drop Box account. If your computer gets stolen, lost or broken, your files are secure if you have passwrod protected your computer. If this should happen you can access your account from another computer and disconnect the computer that was stolen, and even delete the files on it.
Dropbox also give you a public folder, i.e. for photos so that all who knows the address can access them. The public folder is also a convenient way to host photos that you want to publish on horizonsunlimited or other forums. And, with the drop box you can very easy share files or entire folders with other people who have a Dropbox account, easier than sending an email with an attachment. It is just like working in an offoce where many people share the same folders on a server.
With Dropbox you have a copy stored locally so that you can accesss them while offline, and you can choose under which conditions your computer is to sync (i.e. when idle, all the time, or when you tell it to do it).
Personally I use my dropbox on all my computers, and my wife and I share an account so we have access to eachother's files. And, on my iPhone 4 I've set it up so that the phone only stores the last 5gb of the last accessed files - this so I don't have to take up too much space on my phone and s that I don't have to download the most used files every time I need them - and remember, 5GB is a lot of files. The rest of the files on Dropbox is still available on my iPhone, but I will need to be online to access them. The only files I don't store in my Dropbox are movies and tv-series that can readily be replaced - I never watch a movie twice anyways.
In other words, a cheap computer paired with an iPhone or android based phone, plus Dropbox, is really the way to go if you can't live without computing capabilities or your files. If your computer is lost or broken you can still access your files from an internet cafe or your phone until you have replaced the computer with another dirt cheap one. Also, if you make copies of your software, then if your computer is stolen, it is not the end of the world. Remember though, your files will be useless if you don't have the right software to access them. Even though there are free software out there to handle most your needs quite adequately, chances are that your prefferred software is expensive, and that you will want it back. I won't discuss how you backup software here as it is a chapter in its own - I reccomend you talk to a fourteen year old computer geek - he will know the latest best means to do it. All I can say that it is a bit of a hazzle if you've never done it before, and sometimnes right down problematic. Personally though, I don't backup anything that can be replaced for money or found legally free on the internet, including software - I only backup my personal stuff.
For mail I use g-mail as I prefer it over Outlook for many reasons that I won't go into. Many documents and spreadsheets I also store/make in google docs as you can access them anywhere and allows for two people to collaborate in the same instant, something which can't be done on the microsoft alternatives.
In short, you can probably buy three or four Eee computers for the price of a good "rugged" computer, and paired up with Dropbox and an iPhone, you will be far more secure. You can take steps to secure yourself even further, but I'll leave it at this.
Last edited by Wheelie; 19 Mar 2011 at 12:24.
Reason: Improved structure - same content