my travel loadout, part 3: computers and cell phones

As promised in my last post on this subject and at long last, the computing and communication devices (increasingly the same thing) I rely on when traveling.

  • My personal laptop is an Asus EeePC 901, now sadly discontinued. Or at least it began life that way — I’ve now replaced the screen (due to the original cracking) and the original stupid-slow 20GB SSD with a nice fast Intel 60GB SSD. It’s got a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, so it’s no speed demon, but it’s fine for web surfing, e-mail, and SSH, which is most of what I used it for. (And in fact I did all my schoolwork on it last year, mostly using it as a terminal for faster machines located elsewhere.) It’s a wonderful travel machine, 2.5 pounds and easy to toss in a messenger bag with a couple days’ worth of clothes for short trips. It’s also got decent battery life — fourish hours with my usual use (and the modern web is not CPU-light), which is about what I expect, and better than my Macbook Pro, though apparently more modern netbooks can get something like eight or twelve. I’ve considered getting one of the extended batteries for it, but that ups the weight significantly and I don’t care that much day-to-day, so I haven’t bothered for now.

    I absolutely don’t mind the small form-factor for the keyboard, and in fact anyone who knows me well knows that I prefer small keyboards, and will bring one of my several Happy Hacking Lite 2 keyboards to wherever I work when I am forced to work on a desktop machine. I’m sad that nobody sells 9″ formfactor netbooks any more. They all seem supplanted by 10″ and larger netbooks, though I understand that most people don’t have my small-computer fetish. When I’m traveling, I care about every extra pound, and the 901 is an excellent machine for that. (I do wish it had some kind of minimal graphics chipset in it, because there are a lot of games of a certain age I’d like to play that should run fine on it, but then again most of what I play when I’m traveling is Crawl, so I don’t actually need it.)

  • My work laptop is a 13″ unibody Macbook Pro (which, ironically, I use a lot in the same way as a terminal for other systems elsewhere). It’s kind of becoming my primary machine, just because I do appreciate the larger screen (and my, is it a beautiful screen). The unibody has possibly the best build quality of any laptop I’ve encountered ever, which I appreciate a lot — it just feels sturdy. It’s about 5 pounds, and I’m lucky to get three hours of battery life out of it (I think average is more like two or two and a half), so it’s much more a machine which wanders between outlets than a true portable. Most of the things I don’t like about it are impedence mismatches between the software and me, not problems with the hardware, and if I had one of my own I’d definitely try installing Linux on it. (Last I asked around, I think wireless had issues, but these things change fairly fast?) Mostly I like laptops way better with a tiling windowmanager, Linux has a way better handle on multiple desktops than any other OS, and Steve’s Way is otherwise only about 75% congruent with the way I want to use my computer. But it’s being an effecive work machine, so that’s the most important bit right now.
  • My old G1 died a quiet death early this summer, and conveniently T-Mobile had just released the myTouch 3G Slide, which has a hardware keyboard (a requirement for me in a smartphone, since, in what you are no doubt beginning to recognize as a trend, one of my prime uses of it is a SSH terminal). I miss the G1 keyboard, which was about as close to a real, full QWERTY keyboard as I’ve seen anyone do on a phone (a full 5 rows), but I’ve found the Slide’s 4-row keyboard to be acceptable enough that I’m not considering upgrading to one of the newer phones with a physical keyboard. Android 2 is wonderful, and the ability to pull in phone numbers from Facebook is something I didn’t expect to find useful but I like a lot. I am annoyed that T-Mobile discontinued the 300 text message plan I was on, so I’m now paying $60 instead of $50 for the same service, since I never use more than 300 text messages a month anyway. (I’m still on the no-longer open Google Friends and Family plan, thankfully, so I save ~$10/month over what you’d see just starting out new now. I can’t quite see paying iPhone-level prices for the Slide, no matter how much I like it.)

So that’s basically my current travel loadout. Things that I’m still looking for, and would happily accept suggestions for:

  • Rollerboard luggage, at least the stuff I’ve got, is heavy. Really freaking heavy. Also, after this much travel, getting rather beat up, though I do kind of expect that. (Like, do they make rollerboards with aluminum frames that are any good at all? Because that would be nice.) I’m looking for a sturdy, lightweight, carry-on sized rollerboard.
  • I got a crappy cheap Bluetooth headset with my G1 for something like $10, which was worthwhile to prove the utility of the concept to myself, but not so great for long-term use. Does anyone have a Bluetooth headset they recommend? (I’m tempted by the headsets made by Etymotic Research, and I like their earphones, a pair of which I just got.)

Next time I’ll be posting some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned about international travel. (These are supremely unlikely to be news to my friends who travel a bunch, but I hadn’t known them beforehand, and I pay pretty close attention to you guys’ expriences, so maybe they aren’t well-enough known yet and could use a little publicizing.)

2 thoughts on “my travel loadout, part 3: computers and cell phones”

  1. (a) I didn’t know you played Crawl!

    (b) I use the Jawbone Prime headset and it works well in all three contexts I have long phone conversations: Walking outside next to roads (decent noice cancellation), driving (decent volume), puttering around the house doing chores (doesn’t fall off).

  2. I do play Crawl! Sometimes I even play it on your server. 🙂 I play neither particularly seriously or particularly well, but I enjoy it. I appreciate that it’s a lot more discoverable than Nethack.

    Interesting. The reviews on Amazon are pretty split.

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