I went on a business trip to Tel Aviv, Israel, last week, which let me spend some final quality time with my old Toshiba laptop. As you might recall from an earlier column, I ordered a ThinkPad T20 in July—but I ended up canceling the order because the model I wanted wouldn't ship until September. As if to add insult to injury, IBM sent all the laptop accessories I had ordered—such as the extra battery, UltraPort camera, and CDRW—ahead of time to guard against being out of stock when the unit shipped. Somehow, having those parts but not the machine itself was more painful than having nothing at all. I've now ordered a Compaq Presario 1700, which seems to offer features similar to those of the ThinkPad at a significantly lower cost. We'll see.
For this final go-round with the Toshiba, however, I reinstalled Windows 2000 so that I could take advantage of its superior power management features on the agonizingly long flight. I wasn't disappointed: Together, the two standard batteries lasted a good 5 hours, and I actually had a third battery through a quirk of fate (I thought one of the batteries had died and ordered another; the extra battery finally came in handy). I used the flight to catch up on email: I answered more than 110 email messages on the 10-hour flight to Tel Aviv and cleared out hundreds more that were more than a month old. (If you've written me in the past and not gotten a reply yet, I apologize. My email is sometimes a black hole.)
Our plane was a 777, which offers tremendous seating space and some interesting electronics, including power jacks for laptops (although you need to buy a special adapter beforehand, which I didn't have) and personal TV sets on retractable arms that are controlled by a Nintendo-like remote control. The programming included movies, TV shows, and a variety of video games. But the most interesting thing was an in-flight display showing the current location of the plane on a map, the ground and air speed, the altitude, the distance and time remaining in the flight, and a variety of times related to the flight, such as the local time at origin and destination. It's fascinating to track the very plane you're on in realtime. I had to stop myself from staring at the display for extended periods.
International travel involves a few other computing considerations, of course. I purchased a set of international power supply adapters ahead of time, for example. Because Israel uses the same telephone jacks as the United States, modem access wasn't an issue. But I never used the modem anyway because the company I visited was online and had ample network connections. Once I arrived, I was online in seconds using DHCP, accessing the Web and getting email.
Throughout the trip, to be honest, I was pretty happy with Win2K's performance. The Offline Folders feature kept the My Documents folder synched up nicely, although a moment of faith was required when I got back and reconnected the machine to my home network. No need to worry: Synchronization appeared to work flawlessly. One odd little glitch involved Win2K's Date/Time settings: The system didn't list Tel Aviv, but it did list Jerusalem, which was close enough. But according to Win2K, Jerusalem is 6 hours ahead of Boston, when it's actually 7 hours ahead. The incorrect interval caused a bit of a headache, mostly for scheduling phone calls home. I'm a little concerned that the Date/Time feature wasn't correct, however: Perhaps it's a daylight-saving time issue.
Regardless, I was again reminded of Win2K's mobile prowess, which left me itching even more for a modern laptop. Hopefully, my Compaq buying experience won't be as painful as the IBM one was. I'm not optimistic.