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Best Laptop for Going Around the World?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the little-glowing-different dept.

Portables 479

mitbeaver writes "I'm planning a round-the-world trip. 6+ months in developing countries, including Everest base camps 1 & 2, the deserts of Namibia and lots of places in between. I want to bring something to write (blogs or the Great American Novel) and burn DVD photo backups to mail home. I don't really need much in the way of power, but I do need it to survive the altitude, dust, moisture of tropical locations, and being hauled around non-stop for the better part of a year. I will be carrying my life in my backpack, so every pound counts. It looks like some 'semi-rugged' ultraportables exist, but the truly 'rugged' are all pretty heavy. These are pricey, and the risk of theft is non trivial. A smaller laptop is easier to keep on my person more often, which is safer (in most countries) than leaving it in the hostel/hotel. Still, the rugged guys are 2x the price — almost worth buying a cheap one and planning an on the road replacement purchase. I know we've talked about gadgets to carry around the world before, but any advice would be greatly appreciated." We also discussed laptop travel cases a little more than a year ago.

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Panasonic toughbook elite (1)

wolfman_jake (974273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326630)

Have you looked at Panasonic's line of "business" class tough books?

Re:Panasonic toughbook elite (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326766)

Probably too heavy and bulky to carry around in his bag for a year.

Re:Panasonic toughbook elite (1)

rekrutacja (647394) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327096)

CF-18 or CF-19 laptop is 2,1kg. It's not that heavy and bulky. Used CF-18 sells for 1000-1500$ on eBay depending on spec, so it's also not that expensive.
I'm a happy user of 7 years old CF-M34 toughbook, and i must say this is a wonderful solution (except worn out battery and low processing power, but this is understandable). My laptop took a lot of abuse and is running almost 24/24 for the last 3 years without problems. Those things have amazing build quality.
Probably also XO could be an answer, because it's ruggedized (not "military spec ruggedized", but probably good enough) and cheap. You won't cry when you loose it.

Small, cheap and light: EeePC or XO. (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326780)

A toughbook will cost you a huge wad of cash and is heavy. If/when it gets stolen/broken you're going to cry.

I'd go for something very light and cheap. If it breaks and you need a replacement well you're still way ahead than if you'd bought a Toughbook.

Also, instead of burning CDs, use SD cards or something small and light. They are far more likely to get through 3rd world post without getting stolen/broken than DVDs and you don't need a DVD drive. Sure they are more expensive, but EeePC or XO + bunch of SD cards is still way cheaper than a toughbook.

Re:Small, cheap and light: EeePC or XO. (4, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326944)

Sure, but Toughbooks, unlike pretty much all other laptops, are monkey-approved [] . I'd like to see your puny Eee match that.

Re:Small, cheap and light: EeePC or XO. (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326996)

Exactly. I have a toughbook, yes it survives water, sand, heat, freezing. but it costs $8000.00
I also have an eee pc. neat toy.

get the cheapest dell or HP they have on sale. it will do what you want and when it get's stolen you wont cry too bad.

also everything important goes on a thumbdrive or uploaded to carbonite or other storage.

Re:Small, cheap and light: EeePC or XO. (5, Insightful)

lurker4hire (449306) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327014)

I second the eeePC but from experience...

While I didn't have six months I did just return from one month in thailand. Since I was lugging my SLR along with me already I opted to do without the laptop and just upload from internet cafes.

That didn't last long, it's too much of a PITA, I ended up buying an eeepc in chiang mai. Here's my recommendation:

- eeePC (light small does everything you need with great battery life)
- ditch the optical drive, you really don't need it and it'll be nothing but a liability while on the road. Instead take the money you're saving by buying a cheap laptop and just buy a bunch of memory cards for your camera (as the parent recommends, I really should read more than the subject before starting my own reply =\ ). Buy high capacity, and budget for buying more on the road. Mail complete ones home if you want, but honestly they're light and small and mail from developing world can be unreliable sometimes so I'd recommend hanging on to them until you're in the most developed centres and then UPS/fedex/etc them.

Other than that, non tech tips I'm sure you've heard a thousand times already but here goes.
-bring antibiotics for the inevitable case of dehli belly.
-remember that you will bring as much stuff as you can possibly fit in your pack. buy a pack smaller than you think you need.
-a headlamp will save you so much pain in the ass
-you can buy flip-flops when you get there (you will want to hit a beach eventually) and ditch them when you leave. In fact the same goes for just about everything you think you might need for some portion of your trip. Only pack things you'll need for the whole trip, it's worth spending money on the road to save a few kgs.

ok I'll stop... damn I'm jealous


Re:Small, cheap and light: EeePC or XO. (1)

rnswebx (473058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327022)

I too would recommend an EEE from Asus. Solid state is necessary if you're going as high as the Everest base camps. DVD burning makes absolutely no sense to me, for your purposes. Rugged conditions don't seem to lend well to fragile discs. Bring along a bunch of 512 or 1gb memory cards with your EEE and you'll be fine. Hell, spend another $400 and get a backup laptop, and only add 2.2 pounds to your pack. Also note that the power supply for an EEE is basically like a cellphone charger, instead of the larger power bricks usually associated with laptops. This saves additional weight and space that is often overlooked. It's a no brainer to me.

Instead of sending DVDs home (0, Redundant)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326646)

Instead of sending DVDs home, why not just send memory cards? They are smaller and you don't need a CD/DVD write drive. Just a memory card reader to write your data to.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326680)

Except that the price ratio of cards to DVDRs is ridiculous.

Having said that, I wouldn't want to trust a variety of postal systems for my backups.

Why not get 2 Asus EEEs and a USB drive? Redundancy and storage all the way round, for low weight.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326938)

The price per gigabyte doesn't even compare between DVDs and flash memory, that is true, but (assuming you're shooting JPEG rather than RAW) you'll still be able to get a very significant number of pictures on a 4, 8 or 16GB card. Sending home a $15-50 card every month or two shouldn't break the bank, although make sure you stock up either at home or somewhere like Singapore or Hong Kong because you'll be paying prices from five years ago for 128MB cards in a lot of places.

In answer to the original post, I took a Toughbook CF-W2 (which I bought fairly cheaply second hand) with me on a trip that sounds like it was fairly similar to what's being described and it performed faultlessly, although there was the odd time I wished it was a little lighter. If and when I end up faced with the same question again I'll be taking an Asus eee just like the parent suggested. USB 2.5" hard drives or flash drives are cheap (so much so that if you need reliability it's probably worth just buying two) and very small and light so storage shouldn't be an issue and the lack of moving parts in the machine itself should work to your advantage for durability.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (5, Informative)

kninja (121603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326974)

Forget the DVD burner.

I agree the EEEpc is by far the cheapest and most portable solution. You can buy a bigger SSD drive to stick in an EEEPC to survive riding in a jeep in Africa/Mt Everest etc., buy a bunch of 4-8-16 GB SDHC cards for additional storage/redundancy, and do offline backups when you have internet access (which you'll have if you're blogging).

Personally, I have a pimped out toshiba subnotebook that I upgraded to an SSD. I can get 10 hours of battery life.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (2, Informative)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327028)

"Except that the price ratio of cards to DVDRs is ridiculous."

Not if you include the price of postage, the dvd burner (moving part, probably will have to replace it, and the size of a spindle in your backpack. IF you want to send large amounts of HD video back, dvd-R might be the right way, but for the occasional video+ docs small (256 MB) SD cards are just a few euro, (5 euro for a 1 GB now) and are very hard to damage in post. You can have carry many around, they are light and they are rugged. And they are not lost, the receiver can return them for reuse, or use him himself.

THis allows you to go for a subnotebook, as noted, far easier to carry around.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

Joe Decker (3806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327140)

The price isn't that bad, [] it's instructive, I think, to realize that using memory cards as one-time disposable resources is arguably half the cost of storing photographs on slide film used to be. For that price, one could reasonably send a memory card home and keep one with you, which seems a completely sensible backup policy. And, of course, you *can* reuse the cards.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

trainman (6872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326750)

Agreed. Buy a bunch of 512MB or 1GB memory sticks, you can usually get them for less than $15 these days.

And then go with an XO laptop, they're small, durable, and low power.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

sfbiker (1118091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326998)

With a DVD drive he can make multiple copies of his data, then mail them separately from different origins for redundancy. Much cheaper to do this with 25 cent DVD's than with $30 flash drives. Besides, if he mails home a flash drive and it happens to be irradiated by the USPS, it'll be destroyed (or at least lose data). Can't find any hard information on what mail is irradiated (just Washington DC and NYC?) and whether or not DVD's are affected adversely. Do any other countries irradiate or do strong X-Ray scanning of mail?

Before you say that he should be able to fit thousands of pictures into one 4GB (8GB, 16GB, etc) card so he doesn't need more than one, maybe he has a DSLR and wants to save pictures in RAW format to preserve quality. He may only be able to fit a few hundred pics per card and may fill up more than one card per day.

Plus he probably wants to do some editing and annotating in the field so he can better organize the pics back home, if he's going to lug around a laptop anyway, he may as well include a DVD drive for burning pics cheaply and easily.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327012)

The XO doesn't have a memory stick slot. If you meant USB flash drive, don't call it a memory stick.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

tirerim (1108567) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327108)

The XO has an SD card slot. It's located under the edge of the screen.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (2, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326772)

That's a good idea. The optical drive is the real portability killer. It's large, power-hungry, and the most fragile piece of hardware in the kit. If you could use something else besides DVDs, you could go with a Micro PC (like the Sony Vaio UX380N [] ), combined with a bluetooth keyboard if you want to do a lot of typing. If you needed DVD you could still use a machine like the Sony with an external DVD drive.

Those devices probably aren't particularly rugged, but they are so small you could put them in a practically indestructible case and still be smaller and lighter than a laptop.

Dan East

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326962)

If you're concerned about more than "sending things home", then I suggest getting a VAIO. It pains me to say this as a mac-accolyte, but as far as hardware is concerned, I've seen nothing more portable nor light in the way of fully-operational. Hell, buy one and install linux on it - a bit more configuration before your trip, but you can be sure that it works everywhere.

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (1)

Scruffy Dan (1122291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326994)

Depending on how often you can get internet access you may want to just upload your photos to flickr or some other online service. That (combined with a 60gig ipod and the camera connector) was what i did while spending 6 months in semi remote areas of SE asia. That being said also making DVD backups is probably a good idea (keep one in your bag and mail one home) if you are extra paranoid. Also I don't belive the ipod camera connector. works with any of the newer ipods (damn you Apple!)

Re:Instead of sending DVDs home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327060)

Yep - I was thinking the same thing. I've seen 2-packs of 1GB SD cards for about $18. You can even have them mailed back to you for re-use if you have maildrops planned.

It's got to be far lighter, less power hungry & more rugged to carry around a USB card reader (or built in reader) and postage stamp sized SD cards then a DVD burner and disks. Particularly in dusty environments. And I think more likely to survive the international postal system as well.

Regarding capacity - I would want to mail back my stuff in less then 4.7GB chunks anyway. I did a cross-country bicycle tour years ago. I mailed my rolls of film out as soon as I finished one. Another guy I met wanted to "save on postage" so he was keeping all of them to the end of the trip. Then his panniers got stolen about a week from the coast and he lost every picture from his trip - probably 30+ rolls of film.

I think you'll go far to avoid moving parts altogether - I'd really consider a solid state disk over a traditional hard drive. Less power consumption as well. No CD/DVD reader at all - moving parts, big hole in the case for more crap to get inside.

I think I'd seriously consider one of the Asus Eee systems and a good case/bag. I don't know how rugged they've proven to be - but for the price & size you could carry two and still be cheaper & lighter then a traditional laptop. Maybe add in a battery brick to compensate for the battery life.

Air? :) (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326648)

I was about to suggest a MacBook Air, but then I noticed the bit about burning DVD backups.

Aside from that, I have no idea.

Re:Air? :) (3, Funny)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326720)

I was about to suggest a MacBook Air, but then I noticed the bit about burning DVD backups.

Yeah, that and the Apple Store Everest won't be opening for another year at least (nothing against the air, but I honestly wouldn't suggest brand-spanking-new tech for something that has to be bullet proof)

Re:Air? :) (5, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326732)

That's actually a good idea, just mail home a manila envelope with the whole computer inside.

Re:Air? :) (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326882)

Seriously. The Air would be excellent for this. Preferably the one with the solid-state hard drive.

Burning DVDs is passe. Just toss it on a USB stick or solid state memory.

Of course, that's a lot of $$$$ for a laptop, but you've got the money for airfare, no?

Stupid DVD requirement (2, Interesting)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326650)

If you had not mentioned a need for DVD burning, I would have suggested the XO. Maybe you could get an external burner?

Re:Stupid DVD requirement (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326702)

External burner + XO laptop is cheaper than two other laptops, even if you have to replace the burner and XO two or three times on the trip. This is the perfect solution, really.

Re:Stupid DVD requirement (2, Insightful)

Jeeproxx (1174681) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326878)

The DVD burner is indeed the biggest downfall of the whole scheme. Especially when you take into consideration the fragility and power usage of optical drives. Last time i checked (30 seconds ago) you can get usb pen drives for under $5 on ebay. Find your local china town and hit up the shady computer stores were you can wheel and deal. The weight would be minimal, mailing price the same as a standard letter, reusable medium, rugged, and low power consumption. Combine that with an XO and you're rockin'!

Thinkpad (4, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326654)

Thinkpad X-series, maybe one of the T-series if you really need to burn stuff, but I wouldn't hesitate for a moment about taking my X40 anywhere. It's as rugged as you can get for that weight.

Re:Thinkpad (2, Interesting)

SuperQ (431) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327082)

Yup, I love my X series. I've been carrying thinkpads everywhere with me since 1996. I started with a Thinkpad 500. Then a T20, and then decided that size was more important and have had several of the X series since then.

As for backups/mailing, I agree with the other posts. SD cards are the way to go, not optical.

One other cool option would be an OLPC if you can get your hands on one.. although the keyboard is sub-optimal for a lot of writing. Same thing with the Eee PC, just not enough quality in the keyboard. The OLPC does have the more waterproof advantage. It also has a daylight readable screen. I wish more laptops had direct-sun readable screens.

I also suggest a good case. Waterfield Designs makes a bunch of really good custom-fit cases for various laptop sizes. A bit pricey, but damn good quality. []

Things to consider too! (5, Insightful)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326656)

One thing you must consider in Plan B (replacing the laptop) is the difficulty of getting an English version of the OS and keyboard

While OSes are internationalized and have English versions in the same package as other Latin-alphabet languages (Spanish, French, etc.) I'm not sure it would be true for non-Latin alphabets as would be the case in Asia.

In another topic, considering that postal systems in many underdeveloped countries is not very efficient you might want a plan B for your DVDs; a nice padded package might get stolen just out of curiosity and it will certainly can be opened by postal authorities in many countries to verify its contents.

Good luck and have fun!

Re:Things to consider too! (1)

Scruffy Dan (1122291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327024)

an easy plan B for your DVDs would be to make two copies. One to send home and one to keep in your bag. Plus uploading your pics to an online service like flickr whenever possible, should make loosing your pics a very remote possibility

Pick Two (4, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326660)

Rugged, light, cheap: pick any two.

Re:Pick Two (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326954)

Actually, if I were to do this, I'd choose a smartphone, or actually, I'd choose two. They are small, they are fairly rugged if you choose the correct ones and don't bathe with them, and they are powerful. With, say a Nokia N95, you have a decent compact camera, a powerful OS, it can play music, movies and you can write your novel or blog and all that.
Finding one which support most of the world's standards on GPRS, EDGE, 3G, Super3G, Wi-Fi and BlueTooth, and one that optionally support memory cards isn't that hard. If you have a Nokia, you should be able to pick up a charger just about anywhere as well. Also, several of todays units support GPS positioning, which I'd venture would come in handy.

I can see the keyboard part might put you off, but seriously, if you want to go small and have it all, a smartphone might be worth checking out.
The US and Japan, and possible South Korea might be different, but in Europe you really have a wide selection and they are usually built to function around the world (with some possible exceptions in the areas mentioned), as the phones seldom are made to go with the suppliers network spesifically (Europeans are whores when it comes to switching telecom partners, and they like to bring their handsets with them =)..).

Have a safe and interresting trip.

Re:Pick Two (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326968)

If I pick both of the commas, what exactly does that get me?

Re:Pick Two (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327164)

If I choose both of the commas, what does that get me?

Buy a Cheap One (2, Interesting)

daliman (626662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326666)

I travelled for 20 months [] with an el cheapo Acer in my backpack. It's still going (although not in great condition), but I figured that if it was stolen then the loss wasn't too huge and if it broke, then likewise.

Carry one of those laptop locks, as well as a few other padlocks, and lock everything up any time you go anywhere and you'll be fine.

Oh, and install TOR before you go. Lots of those countries have daft internet filtering, but I didn't come across a country where TOR didn't work for me.

Re:Buy a Cheap One (1)

woodsrunner (746751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326916)

Agree with the ACER. They have a great warentee worldwide and rock. Also, check out Fujutsu. Those babies are tuff. I got one from them via their ebay store for $400 and it has been great. Got a second for the Mrs. and she loves it too.

Also, don't skimp on the RAM.

hard drives die at high altitude (5, Informative)

lopgok (871111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326678)

You will want to use a solid state disk when you are at Everest base camp.
If you read about computers used there, the hard drives fail very quickly due to low air pressure.
Hard drives are not rated to work at 18,000 feet.

Re:hard drives die at high altitude (2, Insightful)

chappel (1069900) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326836)

I can confirm that - my iPod ('color' 30g) crashed at about 11000 feet (I think the specs rate it to 10,000). I managed to revive it, but I don't think it's been quite the same since. I'd suggest looking into an 'eee' pc - all solid state, and cheap enough to get a spare. []

Re:hard drives die at high altitude (5, Interesting)

ajfrancis35 (1222414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327026)

You will want to use a solid state disk when you are at Everest base camp.
If you read about computers used there, the hard drives fail very quickly due to low air pressure.
Hard drives are not rated to work at 18,000 feet.
Very True. Dan Reed describes his experience with high altitude and hard drives here: [] "In an earlier blog posting, I mentioned that I was on my way to western China, to give a keynote talk at GCC2007 in Urumchi, which is in northwest China.....Needing a digital fix and wondering about network connectivity in Tibet, I turned on my IBM ThinkPad. Windows Vista booted normally, and my applications began loading. Life was good. Then, I saw the dreaded blue screen of death, followed by a message that struck terror in my heart: Disk read error Ctrl-Alt-Del to retry....... ...........The first night in Tibet, I awoke around 3 AM with a massive headache, one of those "Oh, please, bludgeon me into unconsciousness so the pain goes away" migraines from altitude sickness. I was having a second head crash, the biological kind this time., ......... ....I've been reflecting on the irony that my disk crash and altitude sickness were due to the same physics that dominates much of my professional life: the Navier-Stokes equations. Beguilingly simple to derive, yet fiendishly complex to evaluate, these differential equations are an application of Newton's second law to describe fluid flows in a wide range of physical situations:....

Re:hard drives die at high altitude (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327102)

can't mod you up higher, so I'll just comment - you're 100% totally right, can't stress that enough. you don't want your usual hard drives on such altitudes.

Also: LCD displays freeze and break. (2, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327116)

You will want to use a solid state disk when you are at Everest base camp..
Also: You will need a laptop rated for the low ambient temperature. Ordinary LCD displays freeze and break as a result of ice expansion.

IBM (1)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326684)

Used ThinkPad X31, if you can find one in good shape. Tiny and rugged as hell. Replace the hard drive with a new one (just to make sure it will last through your trip) and you should be good to go.

Bring a small external DVD burner to burn your DVDs. You can leave that behind with less fear than the whole laptop.

Don't buy a ThinkPad X4x -- they use the cheesy iPod-style 1.8" hard drives.

Solution: The Lappy 486 (2, Funny)

Skee09 (987325) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326694)

* Exceedingly portable 42 pounds * 2MB Hard Drive * Several-color Monitor * Five Minute Battery Life * 512K RAM * Every time the "enter" key is pressed, everyone else in town will temporarily lose electricity * The battery burns 45 acres of rainforest as it is used as the Lappy's main energy source []

spend money for the smallest, most rugged one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326700)

Don't be penny wise and pound foolish. If you are spending the money to go around the world, then spend the dough for the rugged, small laptop. The last thing you want to do is find your laptop breaking down 1/3 of the way through your trip. Have as small a laptop as possible, so that it's easiest to carry. Since this seems to be a large part of your trip, you shouldn't be trying to skimp on this, you pay for what you get.

Thinkpad X-series (5, Interesting)

rxmd (205533) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326704)

In 2006 I bought a Thinkpad X60s when they were new. Last year I spent nine months doing field work in Central Asia with it, going round the various countries, between deserts and mountains, between +45 and -20 degrees Centrigrade, and all the while lugging it around on buses, in shared taxis and in ex-Soviet trains.

Once it fell out of my bag off my back in Tashkent, five feet on solid concrete and landed on a corner. I thought "that was my laptop", opened it and it booted just fine. These are solid little devices. No optical drive, but I found I hardly ever have the need for one of those on the road.

So that would be my recommendation. It's light, yet solid, and not underpowered. I've got the extended battery, which gives me 7 to 9 hours of battery life, and I also bought a worldwide on-site warranty option which would probably be useful in your situation as well.

Re:Thinkpad X-series (3, Interesting)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327086)

Concurred. I would not travel with anything other than my Thinkpad. The X60's are thin, light, durable, and reliable. Plus, they don't stand out that much like some other laptops (such as a Mac), which is a good thing.

In my experience with my X60 (and my T60 for that matter) I've been able to carry them around without a case.

I'd also second the comments that some have been making about backing up your most important documents onto flash drives. It might be useful even for data you want to share with people back home, since internet connections may not always be available and reliable. To paraphrase the quote, never underestimate the bandwidth of a flash drive on a FedEx plane.

Another option... (1)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326706)

Why not consider paper and a standalone DVD photo burner? I could also see mailing the memory cards home as you fill them. Personally, I wouldn't want to drag a computer around the world with me if I could accomplish the same thing with a lot less weight.

fixing for you... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326852)

Why not consider paper and a film camera?
Fixed that for you. Seriously, though, if you're going to forsake a laptop for paper, you might as well forsake digital camera for film. Film will offer a more robust media (more likely to stand up to the various abuses perpetrated by postal systems of the world), offer much higher quality photos (don't even try to debate this point-- this if not opinion, it is fact. The resolution and dynamic range of 8perf (24x36) 35mm film is unmatched in even $30k medium format digital backs), and can be run through very inexpensive and rugged (metal body!) cameras (e.g. Canonet QL17).

The question is whether he wants ultimate reliability and quality (film, paper & pen), or to offer friends (or the world?!) immediate access to his thoughts and images (blogging via laptop, digital camera, etc).

Sidenote: the captcha for this post is 'archival' ..haha.

PowerBooks and MacBooks are very solid (2, Informative)

toby (759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326712)

I've dragged 2 different 17" Apple PowerBook G4s around the world a few times - maybe 100 flights, nearly a dozen countries in nearly every continent - and never had any glitch whatsoever. Both are still running perfectly, and both have been my every-day work machines in offices, hotels, wherever I am. The Apple universal power adapters are also very reliable (I've used them in every country I've been to). The current range of MacBooks [] should be equally dependable (but with much better battery life than the G4 :) ... and they run the most stable, secure and sexy desktop O/S.

Re:PowerBooks and MacBooks are very solid (2, Informative)

norkakn (102380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326822)

MacBooks are not built as well as PowerBooks. MacBook Pros are a bit better, but MacBooks aren't anywhere near as good. Sorry )-: (I support ~ 600 of them)

12" powerbook g4 (5, Interesting)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326722)

took mine with a motu traveler for recording in venice, berlin and kolobzeg. rock solid, even when recording a large rocksteady ska band. the aluminum case helps "ruggedfy" it, and the powersupply autosenses 220v. very small and light, and you should be able to pick one up fairly cheap now.

i still can't understand why apple dropped the 12" laptop form.

mr c

Re:12" powerbook g4 (1)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326784)

Ditto that! My 12'' G4 has been *all over* the place, is fast, lasts a long, long time, picks up wireless, and takes one heck of a beating. A truly strong, light and tremendous travel machine.

Re:12" powerbook g4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327006)

double ditto- my 12" G4 survived rude, beer-spilling frenchmen and a drop or two in france this last year. held up nicely...

obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326724)

In Soviet Russia, laptop carries you around the world!

Well LA DE DA! (-1, Troll)

dr_skipper (581180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326774)

If you've got that kind of coin, buy two. Seriously, fuck off with your 'oh look at me I'm traveling and need a toy' post.

Alternative Suggestion (1)

chainsofchaos (1234674) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326804)

Skip the DVD backups and carry some larger memory keys, they're nearly indestructible and light. You can purchase them in most airports. DVD burners are prone to dust, dirt, breakage etc. Also, you have to carry media, then try to mail it without damage. I'd suggest for thin and light a EEE PC, 7" screen, solid state hard drive, cheap to replace. Get a light aluminum hard shell and you're good to go. I've traveled with a 14", 13" and 10" laptop. By far, the smallest laptop was the best for weight and ease of use. Just check to see if you are able type on such a small keyboard. Upgrade the ram to a couple gigs and load XP, if that's what your familiar with. The base operating system is a type of Linux and is pretty good. []

eeepc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326814)

You should get an EeePC instead. Instead of backing up using a DVD burner, just juggle 3-4 8gb SD cards. The laptop is very light, small and has almost no moving parts (flash for hard drive), so it should be relatively rugged... that, and it's cheap enough that you could replace it without too financial worry.

You're asking (partially) the wrong question (5, Informative)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326816)

It's not just what laptop to bring, but what to carry it in so that you don't look like a rich guy carrying a laptop. I suggest something extremely light, and underpowered, and small. OLPC jumps to mind immediately. But the key is nobody knowing you have it, so that it doesn't a. get you jumped, and b. walk off in the night or when you leave it in your apartment/hotel room/tent, or what have you.

Don't get a laptop bag. Wrap it in a shirt or something and put it in a canvas backpack. If the machine doesn't look like it'll take that abuse, you're asking for trouble on one front or another.

Whatever you get, immediately try to make it look like crap.

I chose the wrong bag when I was in Madagascar, and KNEW it after about a day or so, there. I did pick the right laptop, though -- a cheapo dell. I put stuff on usb memory sticks, so that my data was always both on the laptop and in my room.

Asus Eee (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326824)

They're small enough to fit in a the pocket of a pair of cargo pants, and cheap enough not to worry about breaking. You can probably just burn dvds at netcafes, but you could also pick up a usb dvd burner if you really want.

Re:Asus Eee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327136)

Actually, having used many HPs, Dells, and Macs, I'd suggest the Eee also. Its super light, extremely small, is fairly ruggedly built (the casing is especially rugged -- the keyboard is not), and it has flash-based storage. Its powerful enough for your purposes, though I'd suggest Abiword over the preinstalled OpenOffice. If your camera happens to use SD cards, it has a built in reader.

EEE PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326826)

Its under $400, solid state, keep all your data on digital cards and buy an external dvd burner for backups

At under 1 kg you can carry it around with you daily, and if it gets stolen buy another and still save compared to other options

flash hard drive (0, Redundant)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326838)

A: it's less likely to get injured in an impact
B: as weird as this sounds, mechanical hard drives with spinning discs don't work well at high altitudes, like Everest Base Camp. Apparently many hard drives [] fail at over roughly 3500 meters altitude. With that said, none of my computers or apple ipod/creative zen have had troubles with extended operation -- several days at a time -- at 11,000' elevation, and it's not a problem if they're not running. (I didn't previously know the hard drive cases were vented to atmosphere, although I guess it makes sense.)

olpc, like the tag says... (1)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326844)

useless advice, of course, since they're not selling them, but that plus a usb-connectable dvd drive would be what you're looking for, if you can deal with a small, funky keyboard. Maybe you can get one off ebay? Install Xubuntu on a 16GB SD card, and you'd have the light, cheap, indestructible computer of your dreams. Sunlight readable screen, too. I use mine on the beach on Southern California, and blowing sand doesn't get into it either.

Other than that, you are very out of luck. I *carefully* transported a Toshiba and, later, a Sony Vaio to and from work on a bicycle. It was in a padded case, the roads were all smooth blacktop, and the rest of the time it was having a quiet life on a desk or at home. The Sony needed the hard disk replaced in about four months. The Toshiba developed screen problems because of a loose connection after about three months. These were newish laptops. The problems were due to shaking, not old age.

If you can't get an olpc, maybe get two Eee's and make arrangements to have the second one sent to you when the first one craps out.

Water, Heat, Cold, Dust Resistant? Try the XO (1)

d0ida (1195115) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326908)

I have an XO laptop from the One Laptop per Child program. I haven't travelled the world with it yet, but I can tell you it is perfectly capable of being a lightweight machine for internet browsing and writing. Its specs allow for toleration of extreme environments and voltages for charging. I can charge mine in the car. The battery lasts me about 3 hours, or more if I dial down the backlight and turn off the wifi. The screen really is sunlight-readable. Another comment talked about storing photos on an SD card. That could work since the laptop has an SD slot and three USB ports. Of course you would have to see if the OS would work with your camera. The machine itself weighs about three pounds and is smaller than an 8.5x11 inch piece of paper and just a little thicker than a US quarter is in diameter. Caveat: the keyboard is small for adult-size fingers. Some custom installation is needed to get things like Flash websites to work. Oh, and you'll have to get one off Ebay unless you have some helpful contact since they are not being sold singly at present.

what worked for me (2, Insightful)

BlueStraggler (765543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326856)

Was one of those $2 notebooks made out of paper. They are lightweight, easy to use, and replaceable just about anywhere. They accept a variety of input devices, can survive being dropped from a large distance, and work reasonably well even after getting dunked in a river, although the fit and finish may suffer. They can exchange data with just about anything, by the simple expedient of tearing out pages. They have amazing translation and cross-cultural communication capabilities - just hand the notebook and your pen to the guy you are trying to get directions from, and he'll whip up a great little vector drawing in the local language to show you which turns to take. It has a crude but useful backup system, which consists of ripping out important pages and mailing them home. There is a very cool built-in security feature, which is that nobody wants your goddam notebook, so it will still be there in that café tomorrow when you remember where you left it. You can attach nearly anything to your files, even actual physical objects, if you bring some scotch tape with you.

And when you get home, take some of the thousands of dollars you saved, and hire a typist to transcribe it all for you. Or save even more money and take a week to do it yourself.

toughbooks (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326862)

The one with the membrane keyboard.

6hr battery life, water resistant, dropped several times, still runs like a champ. (used in a car environment). A bit to type though.

Rugged laptops (1)

ultima (3696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326866)

The Toughbook C30s are about as good as you are going to find in a fully rugged portable, but expend to spend about $4000 for a loaded unit.

That said, this guy: [] went around the world with a Toshiba Tecra. He apparently had serious problems with a mac and did OK with a vaio.

Burn your DVD at internet cafes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326872)

Most can easily convert CF or SD cards to DVD. Its easier then carrying around a DVD burner (which will break or freeze at 18,000').

Nokia N810 and cheap Flash (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326888)

I'm in a similar position however not doing nearly as many countries, and I'm thinking the Nokia N810 [] is right for me. (looking at the n800 also)

It has GPS, wifi, bluetooth and all that, so you may want to pair it with a full size folding bluetooth keyboard.

As for cheap media to send photos home?, how about a bank of SD cards - you can get them as cheap as for 128MB. You can of course get 1GB for $5 from Newegg also. []

I'm interested in your final decision.

Re:Nokia N810 and cheap Flash (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326920)

*slaps forehead* That should read as cheap as 49c for 128MB. [] You can of course get 1GB for $5 from Newegg also.

Moleskine (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326896)

I did this kind of trip in 2001.
Trust me, bring some Moleskine notebooks, and a USB adaptor for whatever memory cards your camera uses. Then, just upload the pix at cybercafes as you go. These days, if you can find a place to mail something, you can find a cybercafe.

A laptop is not worth the PITA factor.

Re:Moleskine (2, Informative)

TheDugong (701481) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327084)

FWIW I agree. Laptops are a pain when traveling. Take loads of memory cards and enjoy the trip while not worrying so much about your bag being stolen. Internet Cafes are everywhere.

PITA?!?! (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327112)

A laptop is not worth the PITA factor....Moleskine

Moleskin ? I won't kill any helpless little mole for a notebook!

P.I.T.A = Pound In The Ass? For a notebook?!? Dude, where did you travel?!?

Panasonic (4, Interesting)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326900)

The industry standard for what it seems you're looking for is the Panasonic Toughbook. [] The Toughbook is commonly used by EMTs, police, and the US Military. "The Toughbook was tested on numerous levels, while being compared to a Toshiba of a similar specification, kept in a secure laptop bag. These tests included the laptops being used as tennis rackets, dunked in a water tank and being blown up by "the equivalent to two sticks of dynamite" and "20 litres of fuel". After the latter experiment the Toshiba was destroyed, but the Toughbook, continued to work.

involves the sort of torture that would have lesser laptops admitting to witchcraft. It's trained to withstand 4 inches of rain in an hour pounding down on the keyboard and screen, be frozen at minus 29 degrees centigrade and baked at plus 60. And to gain the name of Toughbook, any design must pass all these tests - twice!" []

Pretty reliable laptop, huh. On a side note, how did you get the money to do this adventure?

Take a Toughbook, but forget DVDs... (1)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326902)

... the media itself is fragile and you'd be surprised at the number of places you still can't buy them (I don't know about Nepal and Namibia though, but I'd wager places in between will have a hard time with them). I'd go for mailing memory cards home, or the good ol' internerweb.

Also, the DVD drive itself is fragile and will pack up way before you get back.

Personally, I'd go for something small, light, and with a solid state drive like the eeePC or OLPC if you were on a budget. If money is no option and you want an all-singing, all-dancing laptop that's going to survive, I'd look at the fantastic Panasonic Toughbooks, specifically the CF-W7 [] model, which weighs in at a sweet 2.4 pounds.

Harddrive... (1)

rew (6140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326912)

As noted above, needs stating again...

Harddisks are specified to work upto 10000 feet or 3000m. Above that, you're on thin ice. Solid state drives are becoming available. Sounds like a good plan to go with one of those.

Toughbooks (1)

sibsybcys (820086) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326924)

I've seen a lot of Toughbooks take a very serious beating. From a construction worker who frequently drops his in the field to a electrician who doesn't even flinch when he hears his bent and scratched Toughbook dinging from side to side in his truck, they're good at surviving.

They're a far cry from from elegant and stylish but honestly, they sound right up your alley.

I used to travel a lot ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22326934)

Less is better. Nothing is a good ideal. As Ryszard Kapuscinski pointed out, to have things is to die. [] Kapuscinski traveled the world as a reporter. He got into places that no other reporter could and got out alive. If you're truly going to rough places, the less you have, the less likely you are to be murdered for your worldly goods.

A cell phone will do most of what you want. If you can, forget the laptop.

It is just going to be stolen... (2, Informative)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326940) why bother? If you must take an old P2 laptop that you can treat as disposable.

Buy a bunch of Compact Flash cards and mail your pics home. Assuming they dont get your camera too.

casting my vote (2, Interesting)

insanechemist (323218) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326942)

Macbook (not pro). tough plastic shell - reasonably rugged framework. Ours has survived our 2yr old trying to torque on the screen and mashing the keys for over a year now. As a backup the Lenovo thinkpads - nice construction.

Itronix (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326960)

Your choice is a small form factor or a DVD R/W media bay.

MR-1 []
4.5"x6.1"x 1.4", weighs 2 lbs
There isn't even form factor space for a media bay, but it does come with a 40 GB hard drive; 80 GB HD or 32 GB SSD optional.

XR-1 []
Media Bay: DVD-RW/CD-RW

MR-1: starting at $4,295 []
XR-1: starting at $3,908 []

A laptop of any variety will be a non-trivial theft risk in the situation you're describing. It's your choice to get a cheap, throw-away item that you have to try to replace mid-way through the trip, at questionable cost, or an expensive, reliable item that might actually survive the trip intact.

Hopefully, you aren't taking the same "replace it in the field" mindset with the rest of your gear.

DVD region locking (0, Offtopic)

alext (29323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326966)

Be warned that while the menace of DVD region locking can be defeated for many drives, Matshita have gone out of their way to enforce it. These are unfortunately pretty common (e.g. in Sony SZs) so help reeducate this brand by avoiding.

power connections vary (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22326982)

US household current is 120 Volts AC with a period of 60Hz. Voltages worldwide vary and can be as high as 240V AC varying at 50hz. Most laptop power supplies these days have a 2-part cord. The transformer box (the heavy box in your laptop cord) connects to the laptop itself with some connector specific to the manufacturer. The transformer connect to the wall with the same kind of power connector a desktop pc uses. I'm not certain, but I think you can just swap out the cord that connects to the wall and many transformers should handle the varying voltages and frequencies you might encounter (look for AC 100-240V 50/60hz on the transformer box's label).

The trick then would be to get a cord for the many different wall outlets you might run into.

As for weight/ruggedness, I don't really know. My guess is that solid-state storage is lighter and more rugged than hard drives, but quite a bit more expensive.

Also, I'm not entirely certain, but I've heard stories about laptops you can power with a hand crank - although i doubt they can burn DVDs.

Any cheap laptop will do. (1)

Edward Teach (11577) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327000)

All you need is a couple of bootable pen drives with Kubuntu on them and any cheap laptop that will boot off of a pen drive will work. Get more pen drives to send your stuff home and you are golden.

No worries about an English language OS, you are carrying it with you.
No worries about DVD, they would probably be broken before they made it home anyway (Netflix anyone?).
No worries about backups, if you have a couple of the pen drives with the OS on them in separate locations.
If you lose the laptop along the way, you can probably boot your OS in any coffee shop.

Look at the Everex laptops. Not rugged, but pretty cheap. Guess that goes hand-in-hand.

One more thing...can I go?

Have you considered... (1)

netruner (588721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327008)

If this is simply to offload pictures/video to media and send it home (presumably for safe(r) keeping), have you considered getting several data cards for your camera and mailing them back as they fill up? Even a cheap laptop is going to be expensive, heavy, require power for charging and in general be a major liability. I don't know what media your camera uses, but I saw on Pricewatch that someone was selling $11 2Gb SD cards. Buy about 100 of those and you'll have a lot less to carry. Think of what a laptop weighs and then think of what a spindle of DVDs weighs - then consider the cost.

Having said that, I would recommend getting the smaller cards and mailing more often to reduce the chance that your Pulitzer Prize winning picture is on the card that will inevitably get lost in the mail (despite our complaints about our mail system, there are many worse ones out there).

If you're wanting some kind of device to tap into some wifi, there are many devices that can do that and not have the footprint of a full laptop.

My personal prefrence (1)

scuffs (1152473) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327032)

Instead of going for ruged just go small and light. The Dell m1330 or the sony tz150n, then get a small rugidized case for it to fit into. Theft will be a serious issue and with its small size and light weight you will be able to keep it with you at all times. They are not very rugged but with a nice tough aluminum case to fit them in you wont have to worry about that much. They have great battery life and the sony has a built in sd card reader (I liked the idea of sending home sd cards, buy a dozen 1gig cards on ebay for $5 each and reuse them next time.) Keeping it in a case will keep most of the dust off it, keep it from getting broken. If it was me I would go this route just for the weight savings. Finding a good case to keep it in will be a pain. Keeping it powered up will probably be hard, but the longer lasting battery should make up for some of that.

Maybe a better solution... (5, Insightful)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327034)

Rather than DVDs, use memory cards. Yes, they're more expensive but they're a LOT more convenient and you can carry 128 GB of cards in the same space as a single DVD. Easier to mail in an envelope, too...

For the computer, I'm going to recommend something different...;) Go for a PDA with a bluetooth roll-up keyboard. You'll get a LOT better battery life, something infinitely more portable (and concealable), and exceptionally rugged - they're built to take a lot more abuse.

Additionally, if you get one of the HTC units (or other Windows SmartPhones) you can write your journal entries in Word, and with the addition of a local SIM card have a cell phone as well. Plus never be without a really handy albeit low resolution video camera.

just a different option to consider!

Time (0, Offtopic)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327042)

The real WTF (tm) is that you can afford to take that much time away from work!

6+ months? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327054)

If you didn't worry about a damn laptop, you could probably make it 'round the world in 80 days. Just watch out for the Native Americans. Oh, and I hope you like the circus.

rugged laptops (1)

FreeBSD evangelist (873412) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327072)

Sounds like you want to try to get your hands on the One Laptop Per Child XO. It is extremely rugged (drop able) sealed against dust and dirt, waterproof (but not submersible), light, low power, solid state drive and memory card slot (for those saved pictures). Also mesh wireless, camera, stereo speakers.

There are some on eBay for way more than they sold for, but...

MacBook (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327078)

Most robust machine I have ever owned apart from the ancient Toshiba with a P75 CPU is my iBook. I've lugged it around the world (to NZ twice now from the UK) and it has held up very nicely. Would hope the current MacBook would survive to the same degree as the materials are similar. Polycarb case gets scratched but otherwise very tough, keyboard takes a pounding and overall it has done me proud now for over four years. Compare that to less than a year for any of the PC laptops I bought before their cases had chunks missing, keys falling off and backlight, battery and power supply failure.

Sure, you could buy a toughbook or something for big money but for a regular off-the-shelf laptop, the MacBook should do you fine. Get a decent semi-hard case for it and slap it in your backpack.

LG has nice small laptops (1)

matsh (30900) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327104)

I own a LG LW25, core 2 duo machine. Works great with Ubuntu. New models are the E200. Pink, if you're man enough for that. Nice keyboard. Not the fastest machine around, but pretty tough. I've carried mine back and forth to work every day in my backpack for over a year, just with a neoprene soft shell around. No damages. I use it about 10 hours a day. They weigh in at 1.9 kilos, a wee bit over 4 pounds.

an old one (1)

marxzed (1075971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327114)

pen + paper and internet cafes....

however if you insist on a laptop then I'd suggest you get a used Apple iBook... sadly not so light but pretty damn tough with their Lucite shell. If it's not already scratched up then tat it up some with some stickers and/or spray paint... make it less appealing to thieves.

get something Sealine Urban bag or get a sealine or equivalent roll top water proof bag that will either fit as a sleeve for the laptop (and just allow the laptop bag getting wet) or one that will fit the whole laptop gag in (though makes it harder to tote.

Chance of being stolen? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327120)

I'd say the chance of at least an attempted theft is 100%.

Don't use DVD, use flash cards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22327124)

Instead of mailing home DVD's, mail home CF or other flash cards - a lot more portable, often roomier, and less fragile. A little more costly, perhaps, but worth it. Not having a DVD burner will save you a lot of space - and even if the laptop doesn't have a builtin reader, a USB reader is light and robust.

An older ThinkPad from the X Series (1)

wehe (135130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22327138)

I suggest to take an older and therefore cheaper ThinkPad from the X series, e.g. X31 or X41 models. They are build very strongly. Though in case they get broken, the manufacturer itself provides free hardware maintenance manuals online, there are many other free repair and upgrade guides for ThinkPad laptops [] as well. The manufacturer Lenovo/IBM has offices all around the world. If you can effort a newer model you can even get a three years warranty for many parts of the world. Instead of replacing the internal hard disk drive with a solid state disk I recommend to put all the data on an external USB thumbdrive. This way the data can be savely stored away from the laptop. You should consider to encrypt the data on the USB drive as well as on the hard drive. ThinkPads even offer a BIOS option to achieve encryption. If you can't live without a DVD drive you need an additional external DVD drive, because the X series doesn't feature an internal DVD drive.
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