Charlie’s Computer Gear

What kind of computer equipment do I use to go traipsing around the world? What about software? How do I carry everything? What about security? Read on, you would-be Runaway.

Take note that I’m just starting this trip. Things will change, and as they do, I’ll update this list which is altogether too long.

> Laptop Computer

My road warrior Laptop is a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion Notebook with Intel® Centrino™ Mobile Technology, Model dv4275nr. It’s got a bunch of stuff I rarely use, but the guts of the machine packs all the power and punch I need to be self-contained on the road. It's got all the basic, but I have to admit, the harddrive has a habit of crashing.

It weighs 5.3 lbs. and measures 1.2" thin for portability; lithium-ion battery and AC adapter. Yes, I wish it were lighter, but then again, can beggars be choosers?      

> Netbook

I am also partial to my little Acer netbook.  If I don't have to do any heavy lifting on the road, this is the one I take along.

By "heavy lifting" I actually mean two things. First, the netbook is a great carryalong when I don't need of a huge hard drive that carries lots of software.  Although the Acer doesn't have a disc drive, I bought an external one so I can load a limited amount of software I need on the road like an FTP uploader, PhotoShop, etc.

Second, I mean the network is truly light weight. When hyou carry around that 7-lb.+ HP laptop, it gets heavy. The 2-lb. Acer is really a blessing when you want to travel light.


> Smartphone

I've written many many times about my choice of smartphones. I chose the iPhone, but that's a decision that's bound to change over time. I am particularly happy with the stock trading platform iStockManager that syncs with my broker, Ameritrade. It works quite well and although there are some functions I wish it had (like an alert system), I'm content with this app for the time being.

One of my greatest complains about the iPhone, however, is that only one app is capable of being open at one time. Accordingly, if I'm using my trading platform and want to, quick, check on some news sources and double-check the indexes, I've got to bail out and reload. That's a waste of time. A computer, of course, can open a whole bunch of sites at the same time and avoid all that hassle.

Still, that's a problem which will soon be solved---probably when the next iPhone is released.

> Digital Camera

Canon PowerShot S1IS.  At first glance, the PowerShot S1 IS ($499) looks like just another ultra zoom camera, but it's got more than that. it's got a stabilized lens. This feature alone makes it one of only a handful of cameras with image stabilization (the others are from Minolta and Panasonic).

That's all very nice but the S1 unique is that it’s also a digital video camcorder. Not that you can throw out your camcorder just yet, but you can record video at 640 x 480 and 30 frames/second, with sound. At lower resolutions, you can record up to one hour. Yeah, that’s lower than a MiniDV camcorder, which offers at least 720 x 480, but it's still darn good for a digital camera. The S1 even has the same standby/record button (for recording video) as a camcorder would have.

Here’s what your $500 will get you:

  • The 3.2 effective Megapixel Canon PowerShot S1 IS camera
  • 32MB CompactFlash card
  • Four AA alkaline batteries
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions, ArcSoft Camera Suite, and drivers
  • 209 page camera manual + software manual (both printed)

 The S1 comes with a 32MB high speed CompactFlash card -- a good starting point. I’d recommend that you get a card of at least 1GB if you’re planning on shooting any video. It you’re shooting stills only, 256 mgs ought to be plenty.

Something you'll need to buy right away are rechargeable batteries, as Canon includes four AA alkalines that will quickly fade into the recycling bin (puhleeze, not the trash). I bought a couple of NiMH rechargeables, 2000 mAh and a fast charger. With NiMHs in the camera, Canon promises you can take 550 photos (with the LCD), or spend 7.5 hours in playback mode.

> Cordless Mouse

Logitech V200 Cordless Optical Notebook Mouse. Those screwy little touch pads you find on most laptop computers are fine for quick bouts of navigation and sending emails, but when you're betting tens of thousands of dollars in the market, you need a mouse that’s responsive, speedy and accurate. This little guy does the trick.

This cordless USB micro receiver with 2.4GHz technology provides 5x stronger connection than standard 27MHz devices; snaps into base for easy transport and turns mouse off.

Tilt wheel for up-and-down and side-to-side scrolling, plus zoom; ideal for viewing large photos and spreadsheets. Up to 1 year battery life (includes 2 AA batteries); battery indicator light alerts you when power is low. And it’s compatible with Mac or PC.

> Cables and stuff

JiWire SpotLock. When no hardwire system is available and a hotspot is my only alternative, I use JiWire SpotLock. Spotlock automatically encrypts my inbound and outbound Internet traffic (emails, Web, IM, VoIP calls, FTP, etc.) as it's sent “through the air” via Wi-Fi.

The promise is that it keeps my personal information safe and anonymous from wireless hackers who can otherwise steal my stuff right out of the air---including trading passwords, bank account numbers, you know, all the good stuff.

Spotlock claims it provides the same level of industrial-strength security protection normally found in large enterprise VPNs, but without the complexity or cost of these solutions. That’s a quote.

In any event, nobody (as far as I know) has hacked my Wi-Fi communications or burglarized my bank and trading accounts. I carry the standard power adaptors and connector cables for my equipment, plus a set of headphones so I can watch a movie or listen to music.

Incidentally when you buy Spotlock, it includes handy, upgradeable software to locate hot spots all over the world.

The one noteworthy item from this group is a global plug adaptor called the Road Warrior. It's the most compact plug adaptor I've ever seen, and the design is elegant. I'm not sure who makes it, but if you dig around on you'll find it.

I also use a small Belkin surge protector called the Master Cube.

> Security and Protection

Whenever possible, I adhere to the all-time number one rule of traveling with expensive goods: I carry my expensive stuff with me and never let them out of my sight. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why: electronic gear is the target of choice for pretty thieves and potheads since you can transmute these goods into ready cash practically anywhere. And the bad guys are everywhere; nearly 1,000 notebook computers are stolen everyday. So, my first line of defense is the security cable.

They’re all pretty good. I happen to use the DEFCON CL. The Targus DEFCON Combo Lock (CL) is 6.5 feet of cut-resistant, galvanized steel cable that loops around any secure object and easily attaches to your notebook's lock slot. A five-digit combination lock protects against easy swipes.

Obviously, cables can be cut but at least it can help eliminate the theft of opportunity. For greater safety, I also use the Targus DEFCON 1 Ultra. You can now relax in airports, restaurants, and other public places with the DEFCON 1 on guard. This system combines the stainless steel cable, motion sensor technology, and a piercing 95dB alarm to create a combination locking alarm system that easily attaches to your notebook or carrying case in any setting.

PacSafe – another key security item is the PacSafe, which is a wire-mesh sack that you can secure to a piece of furniture or a hotel radiator (yeah, sure) and then lock your stuff inside. Whenever I'm not using the DV camera or the computer they're secured inside of this baby. While a determined crook could easily hack her way through this contraption, it goes a long way in preventing opportunistic theft.

PacSafe – another key security item is the PacSafe, which is a wire-mesh sack that you can secure to a piece of furniture or a hotel radiator (yeah, sure) and then lock your stuff inside. Whenever I'm not using the DV camera or the computer they're secured inside of this baby. While a determined crook could easily hack her way through this contraption, it goes a long way in preventing opportunistic theft.

Insurance with Safeware—the laptop and cameras are insured with Safeware, which is, best as I can determine, about the best protection that I can get.  Keep in mind that few traditional insurance companies offer any kind of protection (insurance companies are no dummies; they're privy to the potential  loss factor.  Anyway, check out Safeware. Tell them some runaway told you about them.

> Software

WordPress Blogging Software – WordPress is the content management engine that drives RunawayTrader blog although it's been modified with plugins. I've added the Cutlilne theme and the whole system automates the publishing and archiving process; it has literally saved me hundreds of hours in the field.

Adobe Premiere – I will use Premiere to capture digital video, edit the movies you see on this site, and export them as medium-resolution files.

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 – I use Photoshop to tweak and resize photos and export them for the Web.

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