Travel & Technology (Computer Edition)

                                My sparse but effective work station in my apartment in Italy.  

This is my first time traveling with my beloved Mac since I started grad school in 2007.  Last year, my computer started giving me the death wheeze and I knew that it was time to upgrade to something new if I was going to start writing my dissertation.  Right before I sailed with Semester at Sea in 2009, my hard drive crashed and everything was lost so knowing that I never ever want to live through that again (even the thought of that happening during the dissertation process makes me a little hysterical), I purchased a new 13 inch Macbook Pro with a few upgrades thrown in.

When I received my grants to research abroad this summer and fall semester, I was faced with the same problem.   Did I really want to take an expensive (expensive for me at least) computer containing all of my work from grad school, my dissertation and all of my work to Italy and Russia? Did I want it bumping around on planes, trains, buses? What about overnight trains in Russia? Even with online storage, a backup hard drive and travel insurance I still wasn’t in love with the idea of something happening to my computer or the hassle and expense of replacing it.

I knew I needed something to work on while I was abroad, so I purchased a Google Chrome Book by Samsung.  It seemed like a good fit for most of my needs. It’s inexpensive (I actually cheaped out and bought the Warehouse deal for $184 rather than paying full price), it automatically saves everything to Google Drive and it’s lightweight enough to not add too much weight to my bags.  I especially like that if something were to happen to it, everything I had was safely copied and saved in my Google accounts.  

After 7 weeks of working with the Chrome Book, I feel pretty aware of what it can and cannot do.  It’s relatively straightforward to use and adapting to using Google Docs exclusively was easier than I imagined.  The computer is fast and it’s easy to navigate through the various features and apps.  I also love that it’s small enough to use on a plane or train without bumping elbows with the person sitting next to me, yet it has a full sized keyboard so I’m not constantly hitting the wrong keys.  There are certainly a lot of quirks to it, and it can be endlessly annoying to get to a coffee shop with broken WiFI on a day I forgot to download a much needed document. Since everything online it means that without WiFI (or making sure you have saved everything offline if you know you’re going to be without internet) I’m not a huge fan of blogging with it because getting my pictures from the cameras to the computer is a challenge.

Overall, it does what I need it to do so I’m pretty happy with it.  I do have my iPad here as well and the combination of the two (the iPad for reading research documents) works exceedingly well for dissertation writing.  In fact I turned in 60 pages to my advisor last week.   I doubt that it will ever replace my Macbook permanently, but the Chrome Book is definitely going to be my travel computer both on this and future trips.


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