I’m getting ready to go on the road for work and I find that I may have to bring a laptop. This is a big change for me. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to carry the only computer I really want to lug: my smartphone.
Instead of a laptop, I’ve been substituting my Canon XSi, a couple of lens and my SpeedLite 430 flash. When it comes to taking decent pictures of the people and technologies I cover, no phone camera really quite works.
But the laptop is back in my backpack because I’m addicted to my social work world.
Of course I have access to all of my social activity streams, email, and IM on my phone. But even my HTC EVO 4G (disclosure: I pay for the device and the service out of my own pocket) doesn’t have a big enough screen to handle my multi-tasking habits. As much as I like this phone, the battery life makes it nearly impossible to stay online all day.
Enter, the laptop.
Like a car dealer taking a new model out on the road with dealer plates, I’ll be traveling with a test sample. Since the machine has not yet been announced, I will only say that it’s a very thin and (more importantly) very light, full-power system.
Even so, here are the 9 things I hate about traveling with a laptop and 3 things that make it a little less annoying than years past.
- Weight. I hate hauling 10-15 pounds of compute (and that is a thin and light model) on my shoulder. I don’t like it when I’m hauling the laptop up the steps of the rental car or parking lot shuttle, I don’t like standing in line with a laptop case ruining the line of my suit or torturing my shoulder.
- Bulk. I love to travel light and slim. No matter how thin or light a laptop is, the bulk all comes back in the form of the protective case to save it from the travel shocks and drops. I despise getting a cup of coffee and then having my laptop bag “swing into action” or worse, doing the shoulder-to-crook-of-elbow bungee jump.
- Check point wrestling mania. Shoes, belts, toiletries, jackets, laptop…I try to spend as little time in the jostling, cranky mess that is airport security. A laptop adds a thumping, let-me-throw-my-coat-at-your-feet dimension that universally sours my mood.
- Seat wrestling. Overhead? Under the seat? In the seat pocket? (Well, that one’s been ruled out on most airlines.) And once you get the thing stowed, there’s the in-flight unstowing/restowing and general awkwardness of trying to use the seat back tray as a work area. If the person in front of you reclines, that’s usually the end of working through the flight.
- Table wrestling. So I get to the conference session and now I have to join the sullen crew looking for a power outlet. Or once again jostling for table space. And once I’ve established a beach head, having to share that space with late comers.
- Roll call. I use checklists to make sure I have everything before I leave a home and before I leave the hotel. It’s not such a big deal, but I really don’t like adding the laptop, power cord and extra battery to that list.
- No check luggage. I know this will shock some of you, but more often than not I’ll check my luggage. I think that allowing hermit crabs (passengers for whom the phrase “two small carry-ons” means a laptop bag, garment bag, rollaboard, and at least one shopping bag and an overcoat) is customer service gone amuck. If I’m traveling with a laptop, that means I’m carrying it on board and seriously cramping my “travel light” style.
- Flashing my business all over the place. Laptop screens love to be bright and easily read from every angle. I dislike that characteristic when I’m on an airplane and when I’m at a conference. My smartphone screen is so much more discreet.
- Don’t need most of what it has. Most of my computing happens in the cloud. So I don’t really need the disk drive, all those ports, and the speakers.
Okay, whinging off. Here’s what makes traveling with a laptop better than pretty much any time in the past.
- Longer battery life. Now that processors and chip sets don’t run at full speed, all the time, and because of advances in battery chemistry and usage, it’s pretty easy to use a laptop throughout the flight. If #4 doesn’t happen to you.
- Cooler/quieter. Mostly as a corollary to longer battery life, modern laptops run much cooler and much quieter making them more easily tolerated in most non-office environments.
- Lighter. And thanks to engineering advances, it’s not uncommon for a laptop by itself to weigh under 4 pounds. Although once you add in all the attendant extras, you’re usually looking at around 10-15.