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  1. #1
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    Travel computers revisted

    Does anybody have suggestions or experiences with the "really small" computers for travel similar to those you might find on www.dynamism.com? Or how about an updated opinion on netbooks or umpcs?

    I'm off to present and attend a conference in Spain at the end of May and I was originally planning to bring my iPad (yes, I got one ). However, as a Canadian, I can't access the iPad iWork suite yet, Docs-to-Go is not yet out for iPad, etc. So, I'm a bit concerned that I won't be able to make any last minute changes or respond to work demands while oversees. Also, I'm not keen in getting my finger ripped off in a country that I've been warned is notorious for pickpocketing and petty theft (apologies to all the law abiding Spanish!) and I'm guessing the iPad would make a great target.

    My backup plan was to get a used netbook or other umpc from EBay or other place. Small and light are good, and if lost or stolen, I wouldn't have lot much. Howeever I'm gathering a number of people find the small keyboard from the first generation of 9" or small screen netbooks to be too small to be worthwhile.

    Any recent opinions on good travel computers? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Would it be possible to just take a flash drive or a portable disk drive? Many hotels have a business center and I imagine there are Internet cafes and Kinko's equivalents there, though I have no real knowledge either way on that.
    Another idea is a Palm T|X, with a nice sized card in it. You can plop it into the Transformer (ie Autobot) like full sized keyboard accessory.

    Also, I got a rubber full sized keyboard at Staples last year for $5 on the clearance table. This was a keyboard for a PC and may settle keyboard troubles on the 9 incher you mentioned. It rolls up and is spill proof to boot. The make is OmniTech. I keep mine as a back-up keyboard. Here's a look at one.

    Good luck!
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  3. #3
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    Hmmm... I tend to avoid hotel computers or internet kiosks. I'll have some personal/travel documents I'll want to constantly access (e.g., tour information) and I often use my computer to update notes while at a conference. A straight vacation would be a different story.

    But I'm being an idiot... your suggestion for a roll up keyboard made me remember I just ordered a bluetooth keyboard off of EBay. I was intending to pair it with the iPad, but I guess I could pair it with any BT capable computer! Still, I'd like to hear from others about the advantages/disadvantages of various models.

  4. #4
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    Post

    Too bad the IPad is crippled by absence of a USB port, especially a SD card slot. The Internet cloud is convenient but I still want a local copy
    of my data.

    A notebook would serve you well on your overseas trip. ex machina has an excellent suggestion about the alternate keyboard. Unfortunately, I'm not sure
    if the netbooks have a keyboard input. My Dell Mini9 doesn't. You would need a USB/Bluetooth keyboard.

    As I have mentioned before, my Dell Mini9 is my main computer. With Office and One-Note, it makes an excellent portable environment for research and
    travel. Since the Mini9 has a 16gig SSD, I use my 320gig passport drive as a data drive. I even have a external USB CD drive in case I need
    to access a DVD/CD. Actually, I convert any DVD/CD to ISO files and use virtual CD/DVD drive software for access from the data drive.

    As a side note, some intrepid Dell Mini owners have loaded Mac OSX on their machines.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  5. #5
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    I just got a 10" netbook and I really love it. Very small and light, and great battery power. Not such a powerful processor, so sometimes its slow.

    I use basic programs on this, such as MS Office, One Note, Firefox and Thunderbird. I have skyped on it and that worked really well.

    It didn't take me long to get used to the keyboard. I don't use the trackpad often, I have a wireless mouse.

  6. #6
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    Consumer Search has a good, recently updated article (http://www.consumersearch.com/netbooks) on the recent crop of netbooks.

    I've had an Acer Aspire One since August 2008 and its been very useful during my travels. Which have all been vacation. It has an 8 GB solid state hard drive and two card slots which provide plenty of memory capability for travel purposes. The keyboard hasn't been difficult to use but my hands are on the small side of medium.

    The main difficulty has been the usual one of documents compatibility as it runs Linux, my other home computer is an iMac and most other people I send or receive documents from use Windows.

    JohnDel

  7. #7
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    Post Open Office

    Open Office is avaiable for Linux.

    I think there is a version for the Mac. It does handle Microsoft Office documents. I'm not sure about Office 2007 compatibility.

    The above URL should have information on compatibility.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  8. #8
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    BPritchard,

    Thanks - My Aspire One came with Open Office. Most of the difficulties were caused by my poor, but getting better, knowledge of file types and compatibility. Others were caused by incompatibility between that version of Open Office, Office 2007 and iWorks. From what I've read, the current version of Open Office resolves almost all of the compatibility problems.

    So my recommendation to Ozone is to be sure to work out file type and software compatibility between your base system and whatever you get to travel with long before you go.

    JohnDel

  9. #9
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    Ah thanks everyone. My base system is Mac OS X, but I'm a long time Tablet PC user as well. Well, the netbook option seems fine for a number of posters, so I'll look into it some more.

  10. #10
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    If it helps...

    I have 2 netbooks in my home, and would gladly recommend either.

    1. Hp Mini 100

    2. Samsung N120

    Both have 2gb of memory and run Windows 7 Ultimate (32 bit) flawlessly. (Both also have the full version of MS Office 2010 Beta installed as well.)
    Battery life for both machines is north of 6 hours depending on my usage. When not playing video files, I get well beyond that benchmark.

    Best,

    -Brandon
    Last edited by brantroz; 04-22-2010 at 09:53 AM.

  11. #11
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    For what it's worth - We have a MSI Wind U100 (older netbook) with only 1GB RAM and Windows 7 Home Professional works with no problem as does Open Office (can't bring myself to buy MS Office). Battery lasts for 5-6 hours under normal conditions. Video is great when plugged in but choppy/stuttery when using the battery (there is a two speed processor which automatically drops to the slowest, most energy efficient speed when not plugged in - this can be changed in the BIOS if you don't mind mucking around with BIOS. The faster speed does significant impact battery life. I think - but am not certain - that current MSI models use the same strategy with 6-10 hour battery life).

  12. #12
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    I actually have a gen-1 Asus EeePC netbook, the 4G Surf (4G in this case referring to the 4GB of memory) with a 7" screen. You could probably pick one up used for REALLY cheap; I only paid $250 for it new a couple of years ago. It has a solid-state hard drive, so it is pretty sturdy for traveling. I've taken it on a few trips now. Way better than my old PDA/Bluetooth keyboard setup, to be honest. However, the keyboard is cramped. I'm used to it now so it's not too bad. I do a lot of writing on the netbook, so it is usable, and I'm a 100+ wpm touch-typist.

    I have also given a presentation using it. It hooked up easily to the projector and worked great. No dongle or anything necessary.

    Mine uses a modified version of Xandros Linux. You can switch it to the KDE environment (they call it Advanced View, I think), which is very Windows-like. However, the regular view is really fine and easy to use.

    The battery life is pretty awful. Three hours off the charger if I'm lucky. However, if you have access to a plug most of the time, it's great.

    I plan to upgrade to something with a 10" screen later this year or next year. I'm kind of hoping someone comes out with a netbook with a PixelQi screen. I'm not that interested in tablet computers--I need a real keyboard.
    Last edited by MaggieScratch; 04-22-2010 at 01:07 PM.

  13. #13
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    Thumbs up New Display

    Maggie, thanks for the reference to PixelQi.
    I haven't heard of this before. I'll look into the technology. Sounds like the next generation of e-book type screens.
    Been there. Done that. Can't remember.

  14. #14
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    I would love a netbook with a PixelQi screen because for writing, I think most people* would need only the white screen with black type, so you can turn off the backlighting and get crazy battery life. I know there is a tablet planned with this technology, but I don't know about netbooks; however, there have been reports that PixelQi will sell kits so you can swap out the screen in your netbook yourself. Not sure I'm quite ready for that...


    *I say "I think most people" because somebody got all up in my grille once for ASSUMING I KNOW WHAT EVERYONE WANTS IN THEIR NETBOOK I WANT PURPLE TYPE ON A BROWN SCREEN SHUT UP!

  15. #15
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    While the Samsung and HP netbooks are solid machines, Acer Aspire One with its new 11 inch screen and MSI Wind are the best of the breed simply b/c of their superior keyboards.

    Netbooks with their smaller screen area are difficult to view. Acer is the leader in this mobile product category, but like everything else in PC computing, its a moving target and advances are being made monthly.

    The best advice is to go to several stores and checkout the various brands for yourself before making a final decision. I did just that this weekend and found the smaller screen was not a productive writing tool for me.

    Here in Mesa, AZ, Fry's Electronics had the best selection of netbooks.

    With respect to screen background, you can easily change that at the opening and program screen colors. For example, I run MS Word with a blue background screen much like the old WordPerfect.
    Last edited by PM4HIRE; 04-25-2010 at 03:03 PM.
    Tom Welch > Mesa, Arizona, USA
    Author of 101 Financial Ratios 5.0
    Travel Lite & Smart


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