How To Pick a Computer for Long Term Traveling
How the internet has changed our lives in the last 15 to 20 years is enormous. From time to time I try to imagine how life was without the internet. If you wanted to know something, you actually had to search for the right chapter of the Encyclopedia Britannica, browse it for a couple of minutes to find a summary that didn’t make you much wiser. So you had to take your bike and ride to the library, which was often closed so you had to wait to increase your wisdom until the day after.
Now you take your phone, enter the term in google, and you get thousands of explanations in all kinds of different languages and with difficulties ranging from brain surgeon to moron.
The internet also changed the way we travel. It has replaced our pay phone, postal service, map, dictionary, weather forecast and a lot more. Before we even leave home, we can already have a peak at the menu of any restaurant in Rio De Janeiro or Buenos Aires.
We have to admit, the internet made traveling a lot easier.
Do you really need your own computer?
The first question you need to ask yourself is why you want to take a computer with you. Because let’s face it, they will bite a heap out of your travel budget, they weigh, they can’t be wet and the chance that it gets broken or stolen is more realistic than that you bring it back home in one piece.
A couple of reasons could be:
"Mom and dad will be uneasy if you don’t send a daily mail". Peeeuuuut! Wrong answer! Even though they won’t admit it, they’ll survive a couple of days without a mail from you and they will understand that you can only use hostel computers and internet cafés. By taking a computer, you lose your best apology for not sending mails.
"I need to daily update my Facebook". Peeeuuut! Wrong answer for the same reasons as the previous one. Your Facebook friends really aren’t that interested in every step you take.
"It will keep me busy on times that I am lonely". Peeeuuut! Peeuuut! Peeeuuut!!!! Computers make you lonely, because they will always give you an excuse to not talk to people. If you don’t have one with you, you are more likely to start a conversation.
"I want to start a business". This could be a reason to bring a computer, as you will need a place to store data, a testing environment and a lot of computer hours.
"I am a (semi-) professional blogger/writer/photographer/...". Again a good reason to take a computer, you need safety for your data, a lot of storage, and a lot of work.
PC or Mac?
Once you decided that you really do need a computer, you need to decide between the big two.
Important is what you are used to, and how flexible you are. If you’ve been working with a PC all your life, a Mac will take a serious amount of time to adjust to. And even more vice versa.
What are you planning to do with it? if you want to get into graphical stuff like photo and video editing, animation or even web design, a Mac could be a smart choice because Macs have always been built around the idea of using them in a graphical way.
The PC was built around the idea of data processing and calculating, for anything not graphical, this could be a good choice.
A good example to see the difference is with computer programmers. Those who program the graphical part will be working on Macs. Those who program the backbone work with PC.
How many dineros are you willing to spend?
A Mac is terribly expensive. Really. Before you can see the prices on their web site, you are asked to sit down and told that Apple is not responsible for any accidents during exposure of the prices. Of course I made that last thing up, but it could be a good idea though.
Compare the Apple Macbook Air with a netbook with equal capacities, and the difference will easily be 500 - 700 $. Which is the cost of a month travel in more than half of the world.
On the other hand, look at them! Look at the Macbook Air, this is what makes computer nerds horny. You can really see that a whole team has spent a lot of time thinking about the design. Put any netbook next to it, and it’ll look like the ugly brother. Like someone had to design 2 computers, spent 95% of his time on the Macbook and then realised that he had to design another one too.
But is beauty worth 500$ ? Maybe if we’re talking about new boobs, but for a computer?
There is always a huge list of terms specifying a computer, but which ones are really important for the traveler?
Size: 10 inch is too small, more than 12 inch is too large.
Weight: More than 1.5kg is too heavy.
Battery: The longer it’ll take you, the better.
RAM-memory: at least 2 GB is advisable, if you’ll be running heavy photo/video editing or animation, take 4 GB.
Video-memory: Only important for photo/video editing, animation or gaming. Then the more the better.
Disk space: Is again dependent from what you are planning to do. Photographers often need a lot of space, and movie makers even more. But it’s never a good idea to have all your stuff on one disk. It’s better to have a medium size disk in your notebook (let’s say 500 GB or so), and take a couple of external devices, on which you can also place backups of the really important stuff.
Ports: These days, everything you connect to your computer happens via USB, so make sure you have a couple of those. Also an SD card reader is interesting.
Webcam: don’t pick the good ones, you don’t want people to see you’re still a little drunk from the day before.
What about a tablet?
Personally, I don’t see any advantage in taking a tablet. But I must be a minority, these days you see tablets everywhere.
If you read the section "Do you really need your own computer?" of this post again, you will see that none of the good reasons to take a computer can be applied to tablets. It can’t be used for quality photo- or video editing, you can’t type long texts on it or you can’t store huge amounts of data. face it, it’s a toy.
Yes, you can use apps to quickly find a hostel, to search for a bus schedule or to find your way back. But is that really what you want? Tablets suck the last bit of adventure out of independent traveling.
Do you really need a computer?
Now ask yourself this question again. For what purposes do you want to take a computer? If you decide to take one, stick to those purposes.
Spending your evening looking at Facebook photos of your friend’s pets and babies will rarely be more interesting than taking that Aussie out for a beer.
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