Previously, while I'd taken a computer on conference trips we'd never bothered to on our own trips but this time we did.
The Eee was invaluable for checking email, museum websites for opening times, airline company websites for flight changs and confirmations, and online banking to track expenditure and move money about.
All of this proved how much of life is lived online these days, and how dependent we are on the internet. Throw in a skype client for long distance calls and some basic photo manager software and we were sold. The inbuilt sd-card reader and hence the ability to back up the sd cards from the cameras was a lifesaver when we got back to Canberra and found one of the cards was corrupt, as was the intelligent auto mounting of dos format thumb drives.
Our travel kit consisted of
- Eee PC 701SD - no moving parts
- Generic travel mouse - mine was a conference giveaway from Echo360
- $20 pair of headphones for Skype
- $4 Australian 4-way power board
- 2m ethernet cable
- European 2 pin (France and Spain) plug adapter
- UK 3 pin (England, Scotland and Singapore) plug adapter
Taking the $4 powerboard mean we could recharge cameras. cell phones and the Eee all at the same time. In retrospect we should have added a couple of thumb drives for backup to the travel kit and will do so next time.
I found the Eee keyboard fine for typing on, but J found it a bit cramped. If we'd been planning on doing any serious writing we might have bought one of these rollup full size keyboards as well.
Of course all of this technology requires connectivity. Everywhere we stayed in Europe, be it hotels, motels or rented apartments, with the exception of the York Novotel and the airport hotel in Paris, provided free wifi. (The Novotel had an Orange hotspot which meant buying 2h of time for EUR10 resuable at any Orange hotspot. I'd expected to do this in Paris CDG but the gods were against me, and incredibly the Millenium at Paris CDG didn't, although every other hotel at the airport did).
In Luarca, the hotel's wifi crashed but I found a cafe with free wifi in return for a cup of coffee. In fact we also found a couple of servos on the freeway across Asturias doing the same thing. Just sit in the coffee shop, sip and connect.
In Singapore we stayed at the Copthorne King's (also part of the Millenium group) and it must have been the only hotel in Singapore without wifi, although you could pay, and I did, for a wired connection at a fairly extortionate price to check and confirm flights.
Free airport wifi was a bit of a joke. All I could get in Sydney was paid for hotspot access, CDG and Biarritz were Orange, and I didn't try Edinburgh, Luton or Stansted. Singapore had free wifi but you had to line up and get a temporary account (Hello, I just want to check my email and I have to line up and fill in forms?),
Very few. One time the Eee didn't shut down properly and I ended up having to pull the battery to get it to power off fully. Other than that the major frustration was printing things. Now that everything in the travel world has become self service and web based airlines expect you to print your own boarding passes with barcodes. This is fine at home but not when you're travelling. Taking a really small portable bubblejet printer with you to do this seems overkill, not to mention the extra weight that implies, and possible security implications of printer ink cartridges in your hand luggage.
In fact all the airline check in people we dealt with were fine when we explained the problem but it was still a hassle.
Weight was the other problem, and it's part of the digital lifestyle. I might have a lightweight netbook and small compact camera, but the chargers double the weight. Throw in a mobile phone charger (and I took my 5 year old basic Nokia with me - small, half the size of an iPhone, makes and receives calls anywhere there's a GSM service, and with Skype and a netbook what more do you need?) and you're lugging over a kilo in chargers and batteries.
Other than that it was fine. No problems with airport security and no performance problems to speak of. Like the $83 home machine I built out of bits and the old ppc imac running ubuntu one really does have to ask how much computing power does one really need for a satisfactory user experience?