Travel Survival Tips

If you own a PowerBook, you probably like to travel (or at least roam around your home or apartment). PowerBook ownership implies that you're independent, mobile, and always on the move. That may not always be the case -- but let's face it, you're much more likely to take a PowerBook on a trip to Las Vegas than to lug along a desktop machine.

That said, follow a few rules of the road when you're preparing for a trip -- they'll save you a lot of hassle while you're traveling. First, do not overpack. Some people have a tendency to bring the kitchen sink on a weekend to the Jersey shore, and then don't so much as break the safety seal on the PowerBook bag throughout the whole trip. Be realistic and know your limitations. Are you really going to work on that project or balance your accounts on the flight? Or are you more likely to watch the DVD Old School?

What to Bring

If you expect to need all of your electronic devices, having the right batteries, cables, and AC adapters is paramount -- forget one, and you may be out of luck. The well-stocked PowerBook bag should contain these items:

AC Adapter An AC adapter is easily the most overlooked accessory for mobile technologists. Rather than disconnecting your power supply, invest in a portable AC adapter from MadsonLine ( www.madsonline.com ) or MacResQ (www.macresq.com) . These AC adapters (about $75) are smaller and lighter than the usual power supply, and you can keep one permanently located in your bag, thus avoiding the horror of arriving at a meeting with no juice.

You should also consider bringing a cigarette-lighter adapter and/or an airline EmPower adapter (which plugs into a new form of electrical outlet found in business-class seats on almost 40 airlines), depending on your method of transportation. MCE Technologies ( www.mcetech.com ) offers cigarette-lighter adapters for around $25, and MadsonLine offers EmPower adapters for around $30.

A Bootable System CD/DVD Make sure that you have a current bootable CD or DVD and that it starts up your specific PowerBook. Keep it in a safe place. Newer PowerBook G4s ship with the system software, Apple Hardware Test, and the Software Install and Restore images on a single DVD, replacing up to five CD-ROMs. Be careful, though -- these DVDs cannot be used to boot any machine that has only a CD-ROM drive.

Cables Here are the cables you'll want to pack:

• Two RJ-11 (telephone) cables and an RJ-11 coupler. Why two RJ-11 cables? Although a 6-foot cable is sufficient for most locations, you'll probably need a 12- to 25-foot cable in your hotel room. You don't want to be chained to the desk when you could be surfing the Web while watching Monday Night Football in bed. The coupler is useful for times when you need both cables or when the phone line is hardwired to the wall.

• RJ-45 (Ethernet) and crossover cables. Most PowerBooks support Ethernet, which provides a great way to share files with someone else quickly. Bring both cables if you have a PowerBook G3 or earlier; users of iBooks and PowerBook G4s with two USB ports need only a regular (or "straight") Ethernet cable, because those machines will automatically sense whether they are connected to another machine or to a hub.

• FireWire (1394) cables. You should always bring a 6-pin-to-6-pin (standard) FireWire cable if your machine has a FireWire port. You can use this cable to connect two Macs for transferring files much faster than over Ethernet -- 400 Mbps versus 10 or 100 Mbps (depending on the speed of your network).

A Mouse A mouse will increase your efficiency if you plan to work for an extended period of time. Most optical mice will work on any available surface -- even on your pant leg!

Avoid infrared and Bluetooth mice when traveling. They too easily get powered on when something in your bag accidentally presses one of the buttons. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself unexpectedly out of battery life because of an infrared mouse that was accidentally triggered.

Earphones or Headphones Nothing is worse for your fellow travelers than having to listen to every ping and boing your computer makes -- not to mention your blaring Audioslave MP3s. Do everyone a favor and bring a pair of earphones. If you're traveling with a loved one, bring a second pair of earphones and a 1⁄8-inch headphone splitter so that you can both watch a DVD (or listen to iTunes) together.

The Boostaroo ($30; www.boostaroo.com ) is a nice addition to your bag if you travel with a buddy. In addition to splitting your audio output into three so that you can plug in three sets of headphones, it also provides a 40 percent increase in volume.

Tools Pack miniature Torx #8 and Torx #10 screwdrivers D, a Phillips screwdriver, and a small pocketknife in your checked luggage. You can often mitigate PowerBook accidents that happen while you're traveling -- for example, spilling a soda on your keyboard -- by taking the keyboard and battery out, wiping them off, and letting the machine dry open and upside down overnight.

Moving On

• Back up all your data before you go on a trip. For extra piece of mind, drop a copy of your presentation (or report or resume or whatever) on an FTP server or an Apple iDisk before you depart -- that way, you should be able to access your important data even in the worst possible scenario. Traveling is risky, and anything can happen -- your computer can get lost, stolen, or damaged easily while you're on the road. Replacing your PowerBook or iBook is simple, but replacing your data is not. You have been warned.

• For blazing-fast instant networking, bypass the Sharing pane in System Preferences and instead use Target Disk Mode. It's much easier than setting up a new user and privileges: simply connect two FireWire Macs and restart one of them while holding down the T key. The Mac that you're restarting becomes a FireWire hard drive mounted on the desktop of the other Mac.

• If you're flying, pack as much of your electronics as possible in your checked luggage -- you probably don't need your hot-sync cradle and a bunch of wallwarts in your carry-on bag.

Case of the Month

Audiophile Attaché

Audiophiles often use separate headphone amplifiers with their iPods. But how do you transport such a portable system? HeadRoom's $59 GigaBag (800/828-8184, www.headphone.com ) lets you carry an iPod and a portable amplifier (such as HeadRoom's own AirHead) in a unique bag that allows you to control the iPod via its clear plastic front. Openings in each corner of the bag let in headphone cables, and a pouch on the back can hold earbuds or other small items. You can carry the GigaBag on a shoulder strap or belt clip. The GigaBag works with all iPod models and comes in black or charcoal. -- dan frakes

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