• Traveling with Technology and Its Glitches

    March 1, 2008
    Airline rules continue to change regarding carry-on toiletries as well as carry-on laptop computers. Some airlines banned the batteries of some laptops

    Airline rules continue to change regarding carry-on toiletries as well as carry-on laptop computers. Some airlines banned the batteries of some laptops because of the risk they might explode mid-air. As of this writing, rules for each were easing.

    But other perils threaten those who travel with electronics. One company that offers rescue services to travelers whose laptops or PDAs conk out is Rescuecom, at www.rescuecom.com. The company tries to be helpful, and it offers general technology tips to make your trip successful.

    “Traveling can be stressful, and technology should make your trips easier, not add to that stress,” said David A. Milman, founder and CEO of Rescuecom.

    The company suggests the following:

    • Check the airline's rules. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Qantas and Korean Air banned certain Dell™ and Apple® laptop batteries on their flights because of concerns about overheating and potential explosions.
    • Load up. Don't get caught without a needed program. Particularly if yours is a company computer, make sure you have all of the programs you'll need installed and working properly.
    • Power up. Fully charge your laptop before traveling. Bring all of your chargers and adapters, not only for your laptop but also for your handheld, cell phone and other electronics you may be packing. It can be smart to have spare batteries, and make sure you charge and pack them as well.
    • Look for outlets. Save your battery power for when you need it. Some airplanes provide electrical outlets, accessible with an adapter. The same applies for some hotel lounges and coffee shops.
    • Check with your hotel. More and more provide high-speed or Wi-Fi Internet access, but not all do. Visit your hotel's website or phone to confirm.
    • Check with your wireless phone/PDA provider. You want to make sure you'll have voice and data access along your route. Several cellular phone providers, for instance, have come out with internationally compatible cell phones in recent years (most using the GSM standard), but many phones only work in the United States, so you may have to rent a phone if you're traveling abroad.
    • Protect your data. In case of theft, encrypting and password-protecting your sensitive files will ensure that your data is safe. Don't conduct confidential business over a Wi-Fi connection in the airport or at your hotel, which may not be secure. One option for conducting important business through e-mail while on the road is to have your IT department or computer support consultant set up a virtual private network.
    • Consider a USB “thumb drive.” These handy little drives, about the size of your thumb, are becoming more and more popular for storing and transporting presentations and other important files. If you'll have a laptop waiting for you at your destination, you can save space by traveling without one. Make sure that you also encrypt and password-protect sensitive data stored there.
    • Have fun. Movies, games and audio books can make a long flight or unexpected layover less stressful.
    • Respect others. Using noise-reducing headphones when tweaking a presentation or watching a movie in-flight will prevent you from disturbing others.

    If your laptop or BlackBerry® does act up while on the road, you can try to sleuth the problem yourself, call upon a tech-savvy colleague, access your company's IT department remotely or see if the hotel you're staying at has an IT person who can help.

    Another option is to use a computer repair company such as Rescuecom. Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Syracuse, NY, it has 95 franchises around the country. Those franchises are concentrated on the East Coast and in California, but it also has a fair number in the Midwest and Texas, and a sprinkling in larger cities elsewhere.

    The company provides 24/7 emergency on-site service, which you can access with a contract or without by phoning 1-800-RESCUE7. The company's main selling proposition is its fast response time. If you request and pay for it, Rescuecom will guarantee a one-hour response.

    A further option is to use an online repair service. Plum-Choice Online PC Services, at www.plumchoice.com, can solve computer problems remotely by viewing your computer screen through the Internet and controlling your keyboard and mouse, while you watch. To take advantage of it, of course, your computer and Internet connection can't be completely trashed.

    If you're working on a critical presentation and experience a computer glitch late at night, solving it quickly can mean the difference between a successful trip and a wash-out.

    Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. Contact him at [email protected] or http://members.home.net/reidgold.