Out on the road and back

My main purpose of getting the Toshiba Portege 3490CT through an auction at work is to travel to conferences and give presentations. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the laptop because I have a Mac mini as the desktop at home and I totally love it. After I installed Ubuntu Linux onto the laptop, everything done on the laptop goes through the Internet. I use a USB flash drive to carry a few files in case there is no Wifi connection but otherwise, I don’t store any files on the laptop. Before I actually went on the road for the first time, I bought a bunch of gears:

All the accessories total around $260. Adding the $90 laptop, I spent about $350 for a complete mobile laptop system. It’s quite affordable for something I would use only when I travel which happens a handful of times in a year. Obviously, it is not good enough for the business traveler type.

The accessories are not perfect. The combo lock is a little awkward to use and it’s not hard to cut it loose with some big tools but it’s good enough for a short bathroom trip at a cafe I hope. The battery has a little scratch although the eBay seller said it’s new. It might not have been used ever before but I later learned that lithium ion battery starts degrading the moment it leaves the factory. I concluded that the battery is at least a few years old.

The High Sierra bag is too wide to go through the tiny middle aisle on the airplane so I had to pick it up and carry it with both hands down the aisle. If I got a seat at the back of the plane, it would really suck to carry it that far. The telescoping handle is rather questionable. I am glad that I bought the bag locally instead of online because I tested another exact same bag on location and its handle was way too loose. The one I bought seems to have a sturdier handle but it’s not as rock solid as the one on my luggage.

There are a few things I like about this bag though. The hidden water bottle mesh pocket is a nice touch. When it’s not in use, it folds up and hides behind a zipper flap. It does makes the bottle sticks out quite a bit and I hit it several times around door frames going in and out of bathrooms. There are plenty of small pockets inside to store battery charges, power cords, cellphone, MP3 player, and a few pens. The inline skate wheels run great after several miles at least. My first trip out with this bag was at a huge university campus. I gave a presentation in the middle of campus and then I had to drag the bag all the way out to the edge of campus following the person who gave me a ride to the train station. I dragged the bag through a variety of surfaces like cobbled stones, bricks, concrete, plus picking it up and down some steps. Surprisingly, it was harder to drag it on carpeted floors in airports on my second trip. Too much friction I guess. I also had to take my video camera with me on that trip so the bag was so much heavier. It was a very tight fit for the camera with its carrying case. I had to pull the zipper together every time I closed the High Sierra bag. So far, the zipper and wheels are still working fine.

The TRENDnet wireless PC card works wonderfully once I figured out how to use NetworkManager. The ZeroShock notebook sleeve gives me a peace of mind although I don’t usually drop my electronics but you just never know. The mini optical mouse works like any plug-and-play device and the retractable cord is the main attraction for me.

On both of the trips I took recently, I used Google Docs for the presentations. I’ve already written an earlier post complaining about all the problems of the presentation tool in Google Docs so I won’t repeat myself too much again. The new issue I learned is browser and platform dependent. Google Docs doesn’t work in Apple Safari so it’s somewhat useless for me to tell the audience to check out my published presentation afterwards when some of them cannot see it. The font size of the presentation looks larger on my PC at work compared to my Mac at home. The text runs off the page on some slides on the PC but it’s not an issue on my Mac and the laptop. May be there is something I need to do in Firefox on the PC at work.

All in all, I have pretty good luck with the laptop so far. When Google works out the kinks and adds more features to Docs, I will be a much happier occasional road warrior.

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