March 23, 2006



Posted: 06.04

Weighty Technology

Though manufacturers have successfully reduced the weight of their laptops, the combined weight of technology can be a drag.
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By Tim Bajarin

The first time I lugged my early Compaq transportable onto an airplane in 1984, I vowed to convince portable computer makers to create lighter and, well, more portable products. Back then, portability meant carrying a 35-pound computer and trying to make it fit in the overhead bin of a Boeing 707. Today, laptops indeed have come down in weight and size, and taking a computer with me on the road is now second nature. But I continue to push vendors to create laptops that are still lighter, yet include all of the bells and whistles.

Ironically, while I try to carry the lightest laptop I can, by the time I pack various other support items, my shoulder bag still often tips the scales at around 12 pounds. Being the consummate road warrior, I should have this weight thing down to a science. But the truth is, while laptops have become smaller and lighter, many require you to carry extra ‘stuff’ on the side. For example, the Dell X300 by itself is a great ultraportable. But, like most ultraportables, it does not include an optical drive, so you also need to carry a MediaDock, which is roughly the same size as the laptop but about an inch thick and just over a pound— bringing the X300 back over four pounds.

While I try to travel light, I do carry some extra items to help me be more productive. I use a single power supply from iGO called the
Juice, which provides me with separate tips for each of my laptops and can be plugged into a wall or, with an adaptor, the power supply on a plane. I also carry a portable battery from N Charge, which weighs about a pound and provides an additional four hours of battery life.

Next, I make sure I have three USB memory devices with me. The main one is the DigitalWay MPIO storage drive, which has the 1.5 GB Cornice HD in it. On this USB drive I carry very large files and presentations for emergency purposes. It can also be used for transferring files between laptops. I also carry a product called the MIGO, which is a USB drive with software that can sync my Outlook files between my computer and any other computer without leaving a trace of my data. And finally, I carry the Stealth-Surfer, a USB drive that lets me surf the Internet on any computer without leaving a trail of my surfing. This is especially important if I am on the road and need to get private banking data or credit info from a public computer.

I also always carry the Sprint CDMA 1XRTT wireless card, in case I’m not near a Wi-Fi hot spot. I even use this in hotels instead of dial-up service. However, since Verizon is about to launch their new EV-DO services, I plan to jump over to their higher-speed network once it becomes more broadly available. EV-DO promises wireless speeds up to 1.5 Mbps, which could eventually make this the only way I connect when traveling, unless I am in a Wi-Fi hot spot with truly higher speeds.

I also carry a TREO 600, which does double duty as my PDA and my cell phone.

These are the main tech tools that are a must when I travel, but I also toss in my Apple iPod, the Sony MDR-NC11 noise-canceling earbuds, at least 12 movies in my CD/DVD case, an assortment of books, glasses and extra alkaline batteries. That is how I eventually wind up with a 12-pound shoulder bag.

Though I’ll continue to encourage vendors to create lighter laptops, in the end, I’m afraid I am doomed to lug a bag twice the weight of my laptop, just to make sure I always have what I need when traveling. •

Tim Bajarin is president of Creative Strategies
(, a Calif.-based consultancy.
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