Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 Notebook Tools While On The Go

For many these days, a notebook computer is an essential travel companion. But the computer itself is usually just the first tech tool you'll need in order to get your work done or to stay connected while you're away. What else is essential? Read on for some answers.

Adapters and chargers
No matter how long your notebook's battery lasts, you'll have to charge it at some point. So don't forget your power cable. Beyond that, though, you'll need a power plug adapter if you're traveling to a country that uses a different power plug than the one you use at home.

Most power bricks that come with notebook computers can automatically sense the voltage necessary to run the machine, regardless of where you are in the world. But, if you're traveling abroad, you may still need a simple adapter to convert your plug into the one used in your destination.

If you're also taking along your smartphone, you'll need to charge it frequently, probably every day. You can probably charge it directly from your notebook by obtaining a simple USB cable that goes from your phone's power jack to a USB port in your notebook. Be sure to pack the cord -- it'll save you from having to take or purchase a more expensive power adapter for the phone.

Remote control account
If your notebook computer is not your main machine, chances are that you'll leave some essential file or email message at home. That's where a remote access service like Logmein.com can be a life-saver.

Logmein is free, and with it you can use your internet-connected notebook to access your main computer just as if you were sitting in front of it. Before you leave, use your main machine to create a Logmein account, install the unobtrusive client software, and practice accessing your machine from your notebook.

Once logged in, you'll be able to use your main machine's email program to send yourself a file or some other information you may have forgotten. Just remember to leave your main computer turned on. And if you live in an area that experiences power outages, buy an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) for your home machine to keep it running in case the power goes out briefly.

Communication tools
Don't forget to load your notebook up with any software you need to stay connected. For aggregating instant messaging and social networking accounts, you can't go wrong with Digsby (http://www.digsby.com), which will keep you connected with friends or colleagues through AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, Windows Live, Twitter, and many other social networking services -- all through one interface.

Skype can also be essential, especially if you find yourself unable or, because of cost, unwilling to use your mobile or smartphone in your destination. Get a Skype account that allows you to call conventional landline or cell phones as well as other users of Skype. The cost is minimal.

To use Skype, you will need a microphone -- and a webcam if you wish to perform video calls. Many notebook computers today have a microphone built in, and some have a webcam. If yours does not, you can purchase an inexpensive but adequate USB-based headset microphone from most electronics or computer stores.

Or, if you wish to be able to make video calls, get a webcam with a built-in microphone. Test Skype out before you leave. The service will often automatically detect any microphone or webcam on your notebook, so configuration is typically a snap.

Sending photos
If a digital camera is one of your travel accessories, be sure to take along any cable necessary to connect it to your notebook. With some cameras, that cable will also act as a charger, so with it you may be able to lighten up on extra batteries.

If you transfer your travel photos to your notebook, wouldn't it be nice to be able to send them to friends or family back home? There are a few ways to do this. One is to use a free blogging service like Blogger. Create your blog in a couple of clicks, upload photos as you create them, and simply share the link with friends and family.

Or you could create a photo gallery on a popular photo sharing site such as Flickr and, again, simply share the link to your gallery. If you'd rather share your photographs by email, consider a program that automates the the job of resizing and attractively displaying your photos in the body of your message. SendPhotos (http://www.sendphotos.com) is perfect for this.

External devices
An external USB stick or thumb drive -- or an external hard disk -- can be essential for a number of reasons. You might run out of space on your notebook, so you can use the external drive to offload files. You could -- and probably should -- also have an external drive to back up your computer each day. After all, on the road, your notebook is more susceptible to misfortune -- including theft. It's one thing to lose your notebook but quite another to lose the data on it.

If you're a music lover and want to use your notebook to play beautiful music as you enjoy a pleasant evening, a portable, USB-based external speaker such as Altec Lansing's Orbit will transform your machine into a decent-sounding stereo - just the thing to turn those nights away from home into something enjoyable and relaxing.


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