One of our goals on this trip was to stay in contact with all the people in our lives. We decided that maintaining a blog would be most effective and moved on to figuring out how we were going to manage it and travel light. This is more difficult than it sounds. We both work in technology based jobs. Most of the time it means convincing other people that adding technology to their work lives will “help”. However, we are resistant to early adoption of technology in our personal lives. My resistance is inherited; I grew up with only two channels and a black and white TV until sometime in the 70’s and my father was doing TV repair on the side. Gillian can comment on her reasons.
There were two choices; maintain a blog site and store documents and photos on line by using internet cafes or acquire some kind of portable computing device and look for connectivity. We performed a quick and very casual survey (no one knew we were planning to travel yet) of friends who’ve recently travelled and maintained blogs using only internet cafes. The common thread was crowded, noisy, virus infested (computer that is) internet cafes were not the best place to compose the beautiful prose you are all getting use to. That was enough to make us decide on a new electronic toy instead.
My task was to do the research. I was looking for something lightweight, with a keyboard big enough to use, rugged enough to take some travel abuse and all for as little money as possible. It all sounds like a small laptop computer.
Small laptops for high end business users or rugged outdoor users have been around for a number of years but mostly they have come with the premium price because of small production and special purpose. In the last couple of years a new category of computers has emerged. They are called a number of different names; netbooks, ultra-laptops, subnotebooks, ultra-portables. The defining features are small screens (25 cm/10 in or less), lightweight (under 1.5 kg/3 lbs), extended battery life, light feature processors and solid state storage options.
The first entry in the category was by ASUS with the eee pc in 2007 but since then the category has exploded in the second half of 2008 with new releases by Acer, MSI, HP, ASUS and Dell. There are reviews and comparisons by all of the usual geek sources; www.CNET.com, www.PCMag.com, www.PCWorld.com, www.Engadget.com and www.NotebookReview.com. I’m not going to summarize all of the dirty bits here except to say there is no clear winner, it all depends on your budget and what you want to do with the thing.
What I did pick is the ASUS eee pc 1000 in glossy ebony. It is on the high side for price but features a 40 G solid state drive, over 6 hours of battery time in normal use and a Linux based operating system.
It has been successful test driven in the reclined couch position while drinking beer. This is the best simulation of what I hope extended travel is like.