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Best Laptop for Going Around the World? 479

Posted by Zonk
from the little-glowing-different dept.
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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Best Laptop for Going Around the World?

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  • 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? :) (Score:4, Funny)

      by thefirelane (586885) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:53PM (#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? :) (Score:5, Funny)

      by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:54PM (#22326732)
      That's actually a good idea, just mail home a manila envelope with the whole computer inside.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by zippthorne (748122)
        Those are for interoffice communications, you insensitive clod. Where would you put the stamp?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EEPROMS (889169)
      I originally thought the Macbook Air was a good traveling laptop until I realised it had no LAN port. If you walk into any hotel or Internet Caffe most will have a LAN connection and very few will have WiFi. I know the Mac fans will say "but but you can carry a LAN dongle", sorry carrying dongles is a "PAIN IN THE ASS" and you always find the dongle you need is back at work sitting in your desks top drawer. The best travelers laptop Ive seen so far is the Toshiba R500, light (2lb),small, has a optical drive
  • by calebt3 (1098475)
    If you had not mentioned a need for DVD burning, I would have suggested the XO. Maybe you could get an external burner?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jeeproxx (1174681)
      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:48PM (#22326654) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SuperQ (431) *
      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
  • by jelizondo (183861) * <jerry,elizondo&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:48PM (#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!

  • Pick Two (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:48PM (#22326660)
    Rugged, light, cheap: pick any two.
  • Buy a Cheap One (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daliman (626662)

    I travelled for 20 months [ontheroad.net.nz] 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.

    • 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.
  • by lopgok (871111) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:50PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chappel (1069900)
      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. http://eeepc.asus.com/ [asus.com]
    • by ajfrancis35 (1222414) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:20PM (#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: http://hpcdanreed.typepad.com/reeds_ruminations/2007/08/yo-head-crashes.html#more [typepad.com] "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:....
    • by imbaczek (690596)
      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.
    • 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.
    • by Pentagram (40862)
      I'd go for an Asus Eee then. Ultra portable (approx the size of two stacked DVD cases closed if you haven't seen one), solid state disk, cheap, and widespread enough to replace if necessary. No easy way of burning CD/DVDs, but SD cards/USB flash drives are pretty cheap these days. I've got one I find it very handy for just sticking in a bag and keeping it handy.
  • by dal20402 (895630) *

    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.

  • * 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 http://www.hrwiki.org/index.php/Lappy_486#Features [hrwiki.org]
  • Thinkpad X-series (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rxmd (205533) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:52PM (#22326704) Homepage
    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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by qw0ntum (831414) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:26PM (#22327086) Journal
      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.
    • by (H)elix1 (231155) *
      Second the x60s with the extended battery pack. Back when I covered EMEA and AP, I had zero issues with it. The power brick handled all sorts of dirty power, much that killed off other devices. You can even open this laptop on an aircraft in coach - important for me as I was doing the Minneapolis > Amsterdam > New Delhi run and back every week and a half.

      And yes - mine also survived a fall when one of our TSA folks fumbled it during a screening.
  • 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.
  • by toby (759) * on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:52PM (#22326712) Homepage Journal
    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 [apple.com] 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by norkakn (102380)
      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrcdeckard (810717) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @06:53PM (#22326722) Homepage
    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
    • 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.
  • by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:01PM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fear the Clam (230933)
      I agree with wonkavader, but I suggest using a laptop sleeve. A sleeve offers better padding than a shirt as well as some rudimentary water repellence. I carry my MacBook in an InCase [goincase.com] neoprene sleeve in my old knapsack and nobody knows unlike those folks walking around with laptop bags and obvious computer knapsacks.
  • by Rix (54095)
    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.
    • An Eee PC with a USB card reader and a small pile of cards. CF is too big to carry a pile of, and Xd is probably too small to carry round without losing (although those cradles that hold 6 seem to be the go). Get a bunch of cards in 1G+ (whatever you can afford) and burn/post. IF you sticky-tape the XD to the inside of a card and mail it back it is likely to look and feel like one of thise singing birthday cards when it passes through customs (so it won't get lost).

      If you're paranoid you can even encrypt
  • 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* tra
  • 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

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
      Many years ago when I did my first big trip, the ability to post pictures and stories of my travels for my friends was one of the things that helped to maintain connections both between the people back home, and those met on the road. I have thousands of pictures from the travels; it was before the days of digital cameras, as well as a couple notepads that I wrote for my personal journal. While the crate of photos and the journals might be cool for the next generation, nothing took the place of the websit
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JonathanR (852748)
      It's bitch writing a 6 megapix photo to storage tho'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mad Merlin (837387)

      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 might be a vector graphic in his head, but I think that the device is only capable of raster graphics...

  • I'm in a similar position however not doing nearly as many countries, and I'm thinking the Nokia N810 [wikipedia.org] 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. [vendio.com]

    I'm interested in your final decision.
    • by russ1337 (938915)
      *slaps forehead* That should read as cheap as 49c for 128MB. [vendio.com] You can of course get 1GB for $5 from Newegg also.
    • by bartle (447377)

      I purchased an n810 recently. The device generally lives up to its promise, I find it very useable around town, but there are a few points that disappoint me when I consider relying on it for a long trip.

      The internal GPS is nearly worthless. If you plan to rely on it at all buy an external bluetooth module.

      Though the device uses a standard Nokia plug, it can only be charged that way, not through USB.

      The included cable only runs the n810 as a USB client. The n810 can run as a host but no one (in the U

  • Panasonic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aeron65432 (805385) <agiamba@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:08PM (#22326900) Homepage
    The industry standard for what it seems you're looking for is the Panasonic Toughbook. [wikipedia.org] 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!" [gadgetshow.five.tv]


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

  • ... 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
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Less is better. Nothing is a good ideal. As Ryszard Kapuscinski pointed out, to have things is to die. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryszard_Kapuscinski [wikipedia.org] 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.
  • by gatkinso (15975) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:12PM (#22326940)
    ...so 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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by insanechemist (323218)
    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.
  • Your choice is a small form factor or a DVD R/W media bay.

    MR-1 [gd-itronix.com]
    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 [gd-itronix.com]
    Media Bay: DVD-RW/CD-RW

    Cost?
    MR-1: starting at $4,295 [groupmobile.com]
    XR-1: starting at $3,908 [l-trondirect.com]

    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
  • 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 w
  • 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
  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:20PM (#22327034) Journal
    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!

  • 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 cas
  • 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.
  • I'd say the chance of at least an attempted theft is 100%.
  • 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 [repair4laptop.org] 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 inte
  • Why not give an AlphaSmart [alphasmart.com] a try for your writing? Runs PalmOS (though the wide-screen aspect ratio will royally confuse apps that make poor assumptions about resolution) and lasts darn near forever on 3x AAA alkalines. I don't work for the makers, but I do know several professional writers who love the little machines.

    Sadly, this won't help you with your photo conundrum, but you might consider one of those hard-drive based photo wallets (perhaps something like this [coolest-gadgets.com]) and visit an internet cafe periodicall
  • ...you bring a pad of paper and a polaroid camera?
  • In a survival situation you may well need a quick camp-fire, so a Dell Laptop would make perfect sense :)
  • I would get a plain MacBook. They're small, have a really durable casing, good battery life, dvd burner (unlike the macbook air), built-in camera and microphone so you can post videos (if you're into video blogging), or call home via skype.
  • WiFi, Solid state, liquid crystal

    The Everest base camps have WiFi; 802.11b, to be specific, so anything that can do 802.11b should be OK.

    At that altitude, or anywhere else about 3000m (10,000 ft), you will want something that has solid state storage.

    But that's probably not worth worrying about, since cheap liquid crystal typically freezes at about -10C (14F), and the best at about-40C (-40F). It also stops phase-changing at about 80C (176F), so you probably don't have to worry about the deserts.

    -- Terry
  • Old deserts like Namibia are evil, very evil. At that point, it's not sand, it's dust. If you ever tried to take a picture with a camera there, you probably know the evilness of these places. A small jolt of sand in these, and you can kiss your precious camera goodbye. Same for laptops, times 10.

    Personally, I would go with semi ruggerized / fully ruggerized, like some old ToughBook. Look them up in EBay, you can get them for maybe $500. They look so bulky no one will want to steal that. The other possibilit
  • Dell's All Terrain Grade models are MILSPECed against harsh environments. Personally I've never used the ATG stuff, but I do own a non-hardened Dell D630 as my main machine and couldn't be happier. It's light, portable, powerful and runs Ubuntu fine.

    I would imagine the ATGs would be slightly heavier, but if I were looking for a tough laptop with all the trimmings (including DVD burner), I'd check out the D630ATG [dell.com].
  • Don't take electronics like a laptop into the Namibian desert. The sand there is some of the finest in the world since it is so old. So far I've lost two film cameras and one digital one to Namibian dust. Some people are having better luck keeping their equipment in a sealed, dust proof case and only removing it at night in a calm setting. The dust there is so fine it is almost invisible. It gets into everything. Have some fun, go up to the Kunene River and sneak into Angola for a day. Or stalk the desert r
  • by AaronPSU777 (938553) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:45PM (#22327296)
    I have many friends that have done extensive traveling in third world countries and have done some myself and neither I, nor no one that I know, has taken a laptop with them. It sounds great in theory but the reality is that it's simply more trouble than it's worth. I realize that this is slashdot and it's a unique demographic so if you HAVE to take one I would look for a very rugged ultraportable or umpc. Also a solid state drive would be a requirement for the high altitudes at everest.

    But again, take some time to see if you can really justify the need for a laptop. If you are going to be sending daily blog updates maybe then you need one, if you are going to be taking LOTS of pictures, then maybe you could justify it. But for probably 99% of travelers, even slashdoters, you don't need one. You just have to get over that first hump of accepting life without a computer at your fingertips 24/7.

    Take a notebook to write in, they're better than computers anyway. You don't need any power, plus you you can draw pictures and diagrams. When you can get to an internet cafe transcribe it. If you're worried about losing it make photocopies when you can and mail them home. 4 gb memory cards are going for 17 bucks on newegg. Assuming 2 mb per picture 2 of those cards could hold 4000 pictures, which would come out to an average of 22 pictures a day. Buy some storage space on picasa and upload pictures from there when you have a chance. If there are any documents you need access too just carry a memory stick, or email them to yourself so you can get to them from any internet cafe, or upload them to google web apps.

    If you're carrying a laptop you're going to have to constantly baby it, especially if you're living out of a backpack. What happens when you drop your pack? What happens when your pack gets wet. What happens when you're on a bus with a bunch of locals, are you going to want to pull it out and risk it getting stolen? My advice is to simply cut the cord. When you're traveling like that it's much better to enjoy the experience than to be hunched over a keyboard half the day every day.
    • Cafes and Smoke. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Malkin (133793)
      One thing to be aware of, if you take the 'net cafe route, is that in some countries, you need a high cigarette smoke tolerance. This is improving in many countries, but not everywhere. They don't smoke wussy American cigarettes everywhere, either. A lot of places prefer much harsher stuff. If you have allergies, or other problems with smoke, definitely check out the situation wherever you're going, first.
  • I have actually spent the past year backpacking across Asia : China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon.
    Prior to this, I did a "test trip" and went to Bolivia and Peru. While I did initially consider bringing a laptop with me, my test trip told me that a notepad, internet cafes to burn DVDs and the local post office were more than enough. In particular, the notepad has an extra advantage, which is that you can stick things in it, from bus tickets to fl
  • No No No. Serously (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Angostura (703910)
    Get an old SLR and take plenty of film with you. Mail back the rolls of film as you go. You'll still be able to get 35mm film no trouble all over the world.

    Buy yourself a nice little fat black hardback notebook with good quality paper and buy yourself a nice pen. Write in it at night around the camp fire and by candle light. Make sketches and stick things into it while you travel. Enjoy it as an artifact of your travel. Thumb through it and show it to the kids in 20 years time.
  • by kroyd (29866) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:50PM (#22327350)
    On my travels I usually bring an old Fujitsu Biblo B2160 where I've replaced the internal drive with a 120gb disk, and a couple of backup hard drives (2.5" externals which run of usb power), one which I always keep in a "secret" compartment in my shoulder bag. The thinking behind this is that it doesn't really matter if I lose the notebook as long as I keep the pictures. Of course, if I was really worried I would probably bring a 20 pack of 9gb DVDs and burn copies of the pictures on those, then email them back. (You can pay to have your pictures written to DVD, or use an internet cafe somewhere)

    I've used that computer in 5000m+ altitudes (16000 feet and more) - not at any of the basecamps to Everest, but then you'll probably be so dead tired from the altitude that you won't think of it, besides, I wouldn't trust the generators in the tent villages you stay in. (Going Lhasa -> Kathmandu is a great trip btw)

    You should also look into having a zip lock bag of some kind for your notebook, that will keep the moisture out and might even keep the ants out if you go the rain forest.. I would also use a bit of padding around it, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, heavy bubble wrap and gaffer tape is good enough.

    A suitable notebook shouldn't cost more than a couple of hundred usd used, buy two or three extra hard drives, and stock up on memory cards for places without power - it should be a lot less expensive than a more high-tech solution. (Some hostels in remote Tibetan villages might lack easily accessible power, but power is more common than running water in such places)

    The only problem with cheap used computers is that they might not have usb2.0. That means emptying a 8gb memory card might take 2+ hours, even more if you take backups as you copy (you should do that). This has not been a problem for me, I just let it run overnight if necessary, but you might want to pay the extra money for usb2.0.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rindeee (530084) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:51PM (#22327362)
    ...having carried a laptop around the world (literally) for 16 months, I can tell you that a Panasonic Toughbook is worth every penny. Granted, mine was for expeditionary military purposes, but it (along with numerous other laptops we had ranging from Mac Books, Think Pads, Dells, etc.) was probably no more or less abusive than what yours will see. Toughbook's are very expensive, but they're purpose built (get one with a touch screen...you'll thank yourself). If your purpose is met by that, then cough up the bucks. Also, for the record, the Dell's are junk (including the ruggedized version they've started producing). My two cents, but two cents based on experience.
  • by luckytroll (68214) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:56PM (#22327402) Homepage
    I wouldn't worry too much about using the laptop on Base camp or above.

    I designed a wireless network and configured a number of HP rugged laptops and tablet PCs as part of the Egan/University research expedition a few years back. The idea was for the laptops to be used by the researchers and to relay data back to the universities. By the end of a couple days at base camp, everyone was mostly too oxygen-starved to use the machines to a degree that would have justified all the extra stuff. I think up there a simple digital camera with large capacity and simple controls is a good idea. And a pad of paper.

    For the record, we had HP rugged notebooks - and the heated hard disk units survived. I also had a backup USB drive loaded with PuppyLinux, but they never needed it, the drives survived the trip. Actually, the only major faults were cables being destroyed by Yaks or windstorms. Bring extra cables. A thuraya phone works well there too.

  • by Red Storm (4772) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @09:05PM (#22328152)
    I just returned from Uganda with mine and it was pretty good. The keyboard is a little on the small side and the processor isn't the most powerful but it worked well for me and the touchscreen was quite nice. It had an SD and CF slot which made importing pictures onto it for viewing quite nice. The biggest limitation was the lack of USB ports, it only has one. Overall I was quite impressed with the battery and the size/weight. I purchased the padded case from Fujitsu and it was a life saver, dropped it in a mud puddle, fortunately the puddle wasn't too deep, but the case now has a fresh layer of Ugandan mud. I've also dropped it from about 3' without the padded case onto concrete and it did ok, just a few new character marks. I lost the right arrow key, but I can still press it and it still works. I have no idea now what other two functions are on that key, but they weren't important as I didn't seem to miss them.

    The touchscreen was very nice to have. It made going through pictures easier and overall I found the Vista basic that came with it usable if you don't mind working a little slower. I would suggest getting a surge suppressor that works world wide. I found one at the airport that worked quite well and it provided USB power. Had I know about this device I would have brought my Plextor external DVD-RW.
  • by Tom Womack (8005) <tom@womack.net> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @06:27AM (#22331598) Homepage
    I don't think you need a laptop.

    There are Internet cafes in the nine corners of the Earth, almost all of whom will burn the contents of your camera's memory cards to DVD, and all of whom will happily let you sit blogging or writing to your heart's content for some princely sum in local currency equivalent to eleven cents the hour. OK, you will be surrounded by local teenagers playing World of Warcraft and smoking like chimneys, but this is not hard to endure.

    Bring Moleskine notebooks and a reasonable supply of pens; it's not worth lugging even an Eee up to Everest Base Camp just to take notes that you could take on paper with a pen.

    I've done round-the-world, I do copious backpacking in Europe; I've a couple of inches of Moleskines on a shelf, and whilst from time to time I've wished for a flashlight, and occasionally I've had to figure out where to buy a 4GB compact-flash card in Belgrade, I've never felt that what I needed was a laptop.

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