Lighten Your Load: Leave The Laptop Behind - InformationWeek
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Lighten Your Load: Leave The Laptop Behind

It's getting harder and harder to get electronics through airport security, but don't fret: Take advantage of technologies that let you leave your laptop behind and still be productive on the road. We show you how.

Each time there's a security incident affecting air travel, it becomes harder to get electronics through airport security. Last week's terrorism alert, for instance, raises the possibility that laptops, video projectors, and DVD players — devices big enough to conceal a couple pounds of explosives — will soon be banned from carry-on luggage. There's further speculation that any computing device capable of serving as a timer or detonator — which includes cell phones, iPods, basically anything with a battery — may eventually be excluded as well.

Leave The Laptop Behind

•  Thinking Smaller

•  Data As Luggage

•  Apps On Removable Storage

•  The Internet Is The Computer

Nothing is certain, but the mere possibility of being forced to put precious electronics into checked luggage or leave them behind was enough to upset the road warrior crowd and send IT support people scrambling for options.

Fortunately, there are tools available today that let you leave your laptop at home and still stay in touch and productive on the road — and most of them have the pleasant side effect of lightening your luggage considerably. Whether you're doing it because of security restrictions or just to spare your aching back and shoulders, isn't it time you tried leaving your laptop at home?

Thinking Smaller
If you carry a laptop when you travel primarily so you can read e-mail and perhaps review documents created in Office applications, you can do those tasks on a handheld device.

A Palm LifeDrive weighs about 8 ounces, and its folding full-size keyboard and AC charger add another 11 ounces. The LifeDrive with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity handles e-mail and attachments, and includes document viewers and editors compatible with Word and Excel. (There's also a PowerPoint viewer, but it's read-only.) BlackBerrys and some smartphones offer similar capabilities. The LifeDrive also offers 6GB of hard-disk space for storing files, and an SD card slot.

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The drawback is security. If you use a laptop to connect to a corporate network through a proprietary VPN, you may find that the same capabilities are not be available for smaller devices. But if you can get to your e-mail through a Web interface (by auto-forwarding whatever comes into your inbox to a Google Mobile Gmail account, for example), a handheld might work for you.

Not only are handhelds smaller to carry than laptops, they're smaller to pack. If it necessary, you can put a handheld and accessories into your checked luggage more easily, and have more hope of it arriving in working order, than a laptop.

Data As Luggage
If you lug a laptop on the road primarily to use as a presentation device at your destination, you may be able to dispense with computing devices altogether: Just carry your data on a flash drive and plug it into any computer at your destination. Flash drives with 2GB of storage are getting cheaper practically by the day, and pocket hard drives with USB interfaces and 8GB of capacity are almost as inexpensive.

Security isn't a problem with flash drives — as long as you buy a drive with password protection, encryption, and/or biometric authorization built in. Kingston's DataTraveler Elite - Privacy Edition offers 128-bit hardware-based AES encryption and password protection, so if you leave your flash drive in a Paris bistro, your company's financials won't leave the flash drive. Even higher-tech is the Trek ThumbDrive Swipe. This biometric device works without a driver, so you can plug this flash drive into just about any PC (it works with Windows versions since 98, Mac OS 10.2 and up, and Linux 2.4 and up) and run the executable on the public part of the drive. You're prompted to authenticate by swiping your finger over the built-in reader, which gives you access to the protected area of the drive.

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