A Travel PC

July 24, 2008

Sibylle and I are preparing for our next overseas trip, which starts in just six weeks.  Travel brochures, train schedules, dreaming of places to go, et cetera.  Last year, after some deliberation, we opted to not take a laptop with us. Instead I took a 40 GB drive in a USB/Firewire enclosure, and the card readers for our cameras.  We relied on an Internet café for getting email, and to transfer pictures from camera to had drive.  

By and large this was successful, although not every machine in the café worked with USB, and, as we discovered after getting home, the machines were virus infested.  Both of our camera memory cards had to be cleaned using anti-virus software once we were home.

The other inconvenience was not having a computer ready to hand when a blog posting idea struck, or when we had some down time that could be filled with picture moving.  Therefore, this year we are planning on taking a laptop with us.

There are enough stories about laptop thefts in airports and tourist areas to make me nervous about taking my prize machine out in to the wild.  I have a cable lock that would slow down an opportunistic thief, but there is still a real chance it could get taken.  There have also been a few horror stories about border agents confiscating laptops, or sifting through their contents.  We talked about investing four or five hundred dollars on a used laptop for the trip.  Enough machine to do email, web browsing, and picture off-loading.  The added advantage to a new (to us) machine is that it would have no, or very little, information about us on it.  If it were stolen or confiscated, we'd lose nothing, especially if we had kept a copy of our pictures on the memory cards.

Tonight it occurred to me that I have the original hard drive this machine came with - it's the 40 GB portable that went to Europe last year.  Why not swap the 100 GB drive out, put the original drive back in place, and install a fresh copy of OS X?  We'd could setup our email accounts, import browser favorites and bookmarks, and we'd have iPhoto for picture duty.  Best of all, the accumulation of my digital life, would be home in relative safety.

The machine itself is valuable to me, but nowhere near as valuable as the pictures, files, documents, and other bits of digital flotsam and jetsam it contains.  Not risking those irreplaceable parts of my life feels like a very smart thing to do, being able protect those digital parts of my life with something as simple as a hard drive swap feels very good.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.