Tips for taking your laptop on vacation

Ready for vacation? Let’s check out the list of items you’re ready to pack:

Swimsuit, shorts, t-shirts, sun block, Edmonton Oiler visor, paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, laptop computer.

Uh, laptop? You bet.

25% Off CouponOur addiction of being Internet-connected means many of us bring a laptop on summer vacation. The popularity and low price of small, trendy Netbook computers have found their way into the vacation suitcase but if you really want everything to work properly, a bit of pre-vacation planning is in order. Done right, you can keep up with your office business and clients who will never know you are wearing only a Speedo and are answering their email while a bikini-clad waitress places a fresh Bud Light Lime in front of you. So, let’s review:

Internet connectivity; Let’s face it, a personal computer is not much good unless it is connected to the Internet, so knowing where you can “connect” is Rule # 1. Therefore, before you head out, Bing or Google “free Wi-Fi” and specify the city or town you are heading to. It will list the various Starbucks, Second Cup and others who offer free ‘Net connectivity. Cut the search results out and paste it into a Word document you save on the laptop. Be thorough and select several hot spots. Remember to keep in the spirit of the arrangement by buying a coffee while you hang around and tap away in your Facebook account.

Pack NO critical data: Always assume the worst: That your laptop is going to be lost or damaged when you decide to use it as a leveling wedge for your tent trailer. So, other than copies of your iTunes or Zune music, keep very little important data on the local hard drive. This means all of your email should be Web based – as opposed to using Microsoft Outlook – and all of your documents should be stored in the “cloud.” Google Docs offer plenty of free space and Microsoft’s Skydrive provides for 25 (free) GB of storage space. If you must use Outlook, make sure you have a dedicated SMTP server to send email. For example, if your main email account is with Shaw Cable, the hotel you are staying at may not allow access to the outgoing Shaw email server; meaning you can receive email fine but you will be unable to send email. In Shaw’s case (and like most other ISP’s) you can always access a Web based version of your email.

If you DO have to pack some important files to work on, consider using a great little (free) application called Dropbox ( that lets you synchronize files among three computers (EG: Home, office and laptop). Again, the message is there is more than one updated copy of the files you work on and it is a web-based, “cloud” application.

Use Remote access: If you DO need to get to your office data or your home personal computer, get familiar with the Remote Desktop Connection in your Windows XP or Vista Accessories folder. At the very least you can access the company server and from there you can RDC to your office computer. Other options like Go to My PC from Citrix allow you access any computer through any firewall, provided you set it up first. Go to the website and download a great little (free) tool called The Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools Pack (if you have a Win XP laptop) or the Microsoft Remote Server Administration Tools if you’re running Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 (SP1). This way, you can set up all your remote connections beforehand and get single click access to the home, office or other necessary PC’s. By the way, make sure your laptop is password protected. You don’t want junior accessing the corporate server during your afternoon snooze.

Other: Many new portables don’t ship with an old style telephone modem anymore so you may want to include a PC card modem. You will be thankful of this when you realize the cabin you rented does not have hi speed or satellite Internet access. Alternatively, you can pick up a Rogers 3.5G Rocket Stick – ZTE MF636 USB Modem for $175 per month sans plan. This USB combo modem and memory storage device that gives you email and internet access on your laptop and lets you store up to 4GB of data. Meanwhile, Telus is pitching its Sierra Wireless USB 598 Mobile High Speed Internet Key for $50/month on a 1 year contract.

Make sure you bring a couple of sets of headphones. Here, I recommend the Bose Mobile In-ear headset which is really made for your mobile phone but also fits your PC, BlackBerry and iPod. It’s pricey at $159 but it provides the absolute best quality sound and you can adjust the in-ear fit with the three, soft contoured tips they supply. This device works best with an iPhone that lets you take calls and switch back to your music with a single touch ease.

Furthermore, the headphones are loose enough that you can always hear the waitress ask if you’d like a coupla more Bud Light Limes.

Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 4:05 am  Comments (80)  

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