The next time we travel we’re going to leave our laptop at home. Why carry around $2,000 worth of theft appeal and have to deal with airport security on top of it? In fact, we’re thinking, why have a laptop at all?
What started us on this heretical path was the new Titanium Cruzer thumb-sized flash drive from SanDisk. It holds 2 gigabytes of any kind of data, and you can drive a car over it with no effects.
It lists for $110 (all prices U.S.) at www.sandisk.com and comes with U3 and CruzerSync on board. U3 is neither a rock group nor a spy plane, but a program that lets you load other, portable programs. CruzerSync synchronizes the thumb with data you might have on different computers. So you can take off with the little gizmo, carrying not only the information you need to do your work, but the programs as well.
You can take the tiny thumb thingy to any Windows computer, wherever it may be. Plug it into a USB port and the Cruzer will want you to first install some of its own software, such as anti-virus. From then on, you can just suck your thumb, so to speak.
Since Windows PCs are everywhere and cheap, this raises the question: Why carry a laptop computer at all? They’re much more expensive than desktop versions and very vulnerable to theft and dead batteries. The keyboard is cramped too. You can buy two or three good desktop machines for the cost of one good laptop. Stash them along your usual path. You can also use public machines in libraries and cafes, or borrow from a friend or colleague.
The U3 icon appears when you first plug in the Cruzer. Clicking that opens a menu that looks much like Windows. You can click on pre-selected Web sites where you can download lots of useful programs. You can even add Linux.
We chose Open Office (free) and then used it to edit this column. We also elected to pay $15 to download XoftSpySE from www.paretologic.com. This is a portable application that removes spyware from an unfamiliar computer you’re plugging into.
There are lots of portable drives available now for less than $100, not all of them flash drives. We have a tiny 4 gigabyte hard drive from Verbatim that comes with Ceedo software. Ceedo is like U3, and you can download it for $30 from www.ceedo.com. It offers a free trial.
Finally, if you go to www.gizmodo.com, you can watch some guy drive his car back and forth over a Titanium Cruzer.
BOOKS IN BUNCHES
Starting just a couple of weeks ago, Google made the full text of many books free online. You may have read about this some months ago when a number of stories were written about criticism and pending lawsuits from book publishers. (Whose ox is being gored here, etc.)
You can start by going to Books.Google.com. If you check off a box titled “Full view books” and then your search request, you get results that contain the full book. If you search on “Inferno,” for example, you get the full text of Dante’s “Inferno,” in either Italian or English. You also get books about that book.
Often it’s more fun to just go to the site and enter a search term without checking off “Full view.” Then you get what they call “limited previews.” If you type “love” as your search term, for example, you’ll get a book of quotations, fables, meditations, etc., and even a book of “Cathy” cartoons. On another search, we learned that P.G. Wodehouse liked to act as if he were his main character, the hapless Bertie Wooster, when being interviewed by journalists.
WHERE AND WHAT TO SEE AND DO
The founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has begun a similar project for travelers. World Wikia is a free and fully editable guide of places to go and things to do. The idea is that people who know a place well have more information about what to see and do than your travel agent does. Makes sense to us.
It just started in August and anyone can enter information. Suggested early examples to browse are Vancouver, Tokyo, Prague and Newport Beach, Calif. To go directly to any of them, use the search button. Other entries on the home page recommend travel guides, hotel recommendations, vacation homes for rent, stories, where you can fly a Russian jet fighter, etc.
You can get to all of this from the main site: Worldwikia.com. This is a jumping-off point for a world (sorry about that) of information. The article about Vancouver, for example, is a community effort by many contributors and currently has 1,200 entries. Other information about cities and towns can be found in the original Wikipedia.com site.
Another Nancy Drew mystery is out, and this one contains an online book titled “How to Be a Detective,” with tips that help you solve the case. The case in question is “Danger by Design,” a tale of intrigue and suspense set in the high-fashion world of Paris. We love these Nancy Drew mysteries, though we’ve never been able to solve one. We can barely navigate the Paris Metro (map is in the game). Lots of fun and humor here; the game is $20, for Windows, from HerInteractive.com.