Saturday, December 1, 2001

Mick’s travel tricks


By Mick Moignard

Being a Notes and Domino consultant in the UK and Western Europe, I spend a lot of time on the road, or rather, in the air, which means carrying everything I need and doing it in as small and light a package as I can to save time and effort at airports. Post 9-11, I need to do it in one bag, to ensure that I get to carry it on the plane as hand baggage and not have to check it with the baggage gorillas. Keeping it all as light and practical as possible also reduces the wear and tear on my body; hiking around airports and train stations with 15 kilos of luggage is not my idea of fun.

This means being organized, thinking ahead, and employing a little personal discipline. Being organized so that I don't carry stuff I won't actually use is the most important part of this. So let's start by looking at the tools I carry around with me.

Tool 1: the laptop

This is my key working tool. I've always been a fan of IBM's ThinkPads (at, having abused quite a few over the years, and they've stood up to me quite well. I currently use a ThinkPad T20, having moved up from a 770 a year or so ago -- mainly because the 770 was just too heavy. Using a conventional laptop bag with the 770, I had started to walk leaning sideways, which implied I needed a lighter machine. This made me think about what I actually wanted in a traveling laptop, one that will be my only computer. I concluded that the most important thing is the keyboard. If you don't like the keyboard, you just won't ever get on with the machine. Next in importance is the screen. If you plan on any serious use, particularly any development work, you must have a 1024 x 768 screen.

Now neither of those attributes is specific to the nomadic user. However, the next two are. Here I'm talking about disk space and battery life.

Disk space

You need disk space, because you should carry as much as possible on disk where it weighs nothing, rather than on paper, which has bulk and weight. I carry as much as I can in Notes databases, including file attachments. That way I can easily replicate with other servers both at home and at customer sites, and I can always lay my hands on the information I need. You need at least 10GB on your laptop, and more is not only better, but also no heavier.

Battery life

Battery life is critical too. You must be able to get two hours of decent performance. You should also plan to get to know how to juggle the power management regimes to get even more life when you need it.

Ethernet and modem

Having built-in Ethernet and modem saves carrying lots of extra bits and pieces. Ethernet is becoming the standard, so you may be able to get away with no other network adapter, and with an RJ45 socket you shouldn't need to carry a cable. You might even get away with no modem cable if the machine has an RJ11 socket. Look at the phone on your desk--or rather, underneath it. Chances are the line cord is plugged in to the phone with an RJ11. If it is, and I can get it out of the handset, I can plug into my laptop directly.