Seven tech tips for travelling knowledge workers

This article brings together the best ideas offered by nearly two dozen readers who wrote to share tech tips from their international travels.

When Stranded, Consult Your Internet Tablet

“Last summer I spent a month traveling with my sister through Spain and Italy,” writes Philip Neumann from Los Angeles.

“I brought along the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet to access Internet sites on the go and stay up-to-date with relatives and friends.

I was happy to discover the tablet’s memory card slot could also access images stored on the memory card in my Canon camera.

“After traveling a week through Spain, I was able to upload dozens of images to my Yahoo, Gmail, and MySpace accounts, for friends and family to track our movements in real-time.

“But the tablet proved a lifesaver when my sister and I were stranded in the Pisa airport for about 12 hours. We needed to find an alternate way home. The airport had Wi-Fi but no computer terminals, so I whipped out the N800, paid the 12 euros for 90 minutes of access, scanned the airline Web sites for alternate flights, and ultimately saved the day by finding a discount flight home.

“I am definitely bringing the tablet with me to Europe this May when I return for a two-week trip. I highly recommend this device to anyone traveling through Europe or the U.S. or Canada and who wants to stay in touch without lugging a laptop or having to go to cyber cafes.”

The Nokia N800 tablet has a touch screen, a stylus, a built-in Webcam, Skype preinstalled, and full Web access. It earned a PCW Rating of 70 (good) when we reviewed it last February. Recent prices started at US$200 online.

A newer model, the N810, adds a slide-out QWERTY keyboard (the N800 has an on-screen keyboard). The N810 received a PCW Rating of 75 (good) in a December review. Prices begin at $400 online.

Leave the Adaptor at Home

Kim Saccio-Kent of San Francisco offers a tip from a recent trip to India:

“I purchased a new GSM phone before I left for India, an inexpensive Nokia 6126. My service plan allowed for reasonable international roaming, plus messaging. AT&T’s GSM coverage was amazing–I was making calls home from remote little villages in West Bengal, no problem. It was also good to keep in touch by exchanging pictures with family and friends. I turned on the phone only to use it, so had plenty of juice left after a two-week trip–didn’t bother bringing the adaptor.”

Don’t Look Like a Tourist

When traveling internationally, Lauren C. of Atlantic City, New Jersey says she hates “looking like a tourist.” One reason: Tourists are sometimes the targets of thieves.

She writes: “To prepare for my most recent trip to France, I downloaded maps, addresses, and a French-English dictionary into my Palm Z22 PDA. I didn’t have to pull out a map every time I needed to get somewhere. I looked like any other person on the go. The dictionary was particularly helpful when I came across something unfamiliar on a restaurant menu.”

The Palm Z22 was recently available online starting at $92.

Store Photos on a Hard Drive

“Being a photography nut, I take about 100 pictures to most people’s 25, always trying to get the best angle and lighting,” writes Heather Quinlan of Homewood, Illinois. “So my memory cards get filled up fast. I always take along my Jobo Giga Vu Pro Evolution, a portable hard drive with a screen.”

Quinlan inserts her memory card into the Giga Vu Pro, copies the image files onto the hard drive, and then deletes files from the memory card so it can be used to store new images. “It’s a really nice item to have when taking long trips,” she says. “It stays charged for a long time, especially if you’re only using it to transfer image files and turn it off again.”

A 40GB model costs $480 at Adorama, a photography equipment e-tailer.

Keep Your Important Documents Online

If you lose your passport or other important documents when traveling overseas, you’re in for a world of pain. One way to protect yourself is to make digital copies of your birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, and other important papers and store them securely online.

Alain Boutefeu of Oakland, California recommends using InYourSafe for this purpose. “It’s always accessible, ultra-safe, and encrypted. It’s invaluable,” he writes. “I also store other things on it such as my birth certificate and passwords, since no one else can access them. It even lets me upload and store photos from my digital camera’s memory card.”

InYourSafe charges $49 per year for 5GB of storage. The service promises “triple security” (SSL, secure login, and encryption). And as Boutefeu says, you can upload documents to the service via e-mail, and file uploads from a Web browser or even from a fax machine.

Plug In Just About Anywhere With Tumi’s Travel Adaptor

“Tumi makes a nice Electronics Electric Adaptor ($50),” writes Shean McMahon of Seal Beach, California. “It includes plug adaptors for nearly every country. What’s particularly nice is that it’s an all-in-one design, so you only have one thing to carry. It also has replaceable fuses. I recommend purchasing extra fuses from your local electronic store before you travel internationally. If you have a fuse blow, you won’t have to search around foreign countries for a replacement. Incidentally, Tumi makes an all-in-one electric adaptor kit ($95) that can double as a USB port for charging things like iPods.”

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

What Are the Top 10 MP3 Players?

If you think you know the answer, think again.

Landing atop our recent roundup of flash-based media players was the Creative Zen, which we love for its gorgeous display, FM tuner, built-in microphone, robust video- and photo-viewing capabilities, contact management, great audio, Secure Digital card slot–the list goes on. Prices online for the Zen range from $85 for 4GB to $270 for 32GB.

Turn Your Smart Phone Into a Hot Spot: TapRoot Systems announced software that will let you use your Wi-Fi- and mobile broadband-enabled smart phone to go online with a notebook. In essence, WalkingHotSpot turns your smart phone into a wireless router. TapRoot hopes to sell a full-featured version of the product to wireless carriers, which would offer it to customers, probably as a paid service. The software is available for Windows Mobile or Symbian Series 60 smart phones only.

Handheld Hot-Spot Finder: The Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter HS-20 ($60) lets you find nearby wireless networks without having to boot up your laptop. The handheld device provides a list of up to 20 detected wireless network signals, displaying the SSID (network name), signal strength, and encryption method. In a recent review we gave it a PCW Rating of 83 (very good).

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Suggestion Box

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I’ve missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I’m unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

Comment: [email protected]

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