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This chapter is from the book

Flying with Your Notebook

If you're flying to your destination, your life just got a bit more complex. That's because plane travel in the post-9/11 era involves heightened security procedures—which can complicate traveling with electronic devices, your notebook PC included.

That said, here are some tips that can help you get more quickly through the airport and onto the plane with your notebook:

  • Carry it on. Thinking of checking your notebook as normal luggage? Don't. Baggage handlers will not treat your notebook as a fragile object, and damage is likely. Instead, your notebook should go with you on the flight as carry-on baggage.
  • Be ready for security. Security personnel will inspect your notebook, along with the rest of your carry-on items. Be prepared; remove your notebook from its case and place it in a separate tray on the security conveyor belt. And make sure the battery has a bit of charge, as some security personnel may want to you to turn it on and demonstrate that it's actually a working notebook, and not something else.
  • Keep it in sight. The one place where your notebook is briefly out of your possession is on the security conveyor belt. Keep a close eye on your notebook as it passes down the line and as you pass through the metal detector. It's possible for canny thieves to take advantage of the momentary confusion and make off with your notebook as it comes off the conveyor belt. Don't let this happen.
  • Keep a low profile. If you want to use your notebook while in the terminal, go ahead—but be cautious. Pick an area where you'll have some privacy and won't have to worry about anyone looking over your shoulder. Whatever you do, don't flaunt your notebook, and don't leave your notebook unattended; you don't want to advertise to potential thieves that you have a notebook to steal.
  • Keep it locked. When your notebook is in its case, lock the case (if it locks). This not only prevents others from taking the notebook from the case when you're not looking, but it also keeps them from putting anything else (such as a bomb) into your case. Both in the terminal and on the plane, keep your case locked.
  • Keep it with you. When you're on the plane, don't be tempted to place your notebook in the overhead storage area; it can easily get knocked around or even stolen by your fellow travelers. Instead, store it under the seat in front of you, where it's always in sight.
  • Use it in flight—if you can. A lot of mobile professionals like to get a little work done on a long flight. Other travelers like to use their notebooks to watch DVD movies or listen to music. It's all good, if you have the room to open and use your notebook. If you're traveling first or business class, this shouldn't be a problem. But if you use a widescreen notebook in coach class, be prepared for some major ergonomic difficulties. In fact, I find it next to impossible to open the notebook enough to see the screen when flying, especially when the person in front of me reclines his seat more than a half-inch or so. The seatback tray table just isn't big enough and there's not enough vertical space to provide a comfortable viewing or typing arrangement. One possible solution to this is the Aviator Laptop Stand, shown in Figure 15.4, which positions your notebook at an angle to make the most of the available space. But even with that, some airlines simply don't allow enough space to use a notebook comfortably.
    Figure 15.4

    Figure 15.4 Keynamics' Aviator Laptop Stand, for computing in cramped cabins (www.keynamics.com).

  • Getting power in flight. In most instances, you'll have to run your notebook on battery power while flying. However, some long-haul flights—especially overseas flights—provide power ports that supply 15V direct current to power your notebook and other devices. (Your best bets for finding such power ports are on cross-country and international flights on American, Delta, United, and US Airways.) To use a power port, you'll need a compatible DC auto/air power adapter. These cords can be purchased at most electronics stores, at LaptopLane outlets (www.regus.com/files/html/laptoplane/), or from Targus and other power cord manufacturers. Keep in mind that power adapters are device and model specific—although you can always go with the iGo Juice power cord, shown in Figure 15.5, which is an all-in-one power adapter that connects your device to any AC or DC power source.
    Figure 15.5

    Figure 15.5 The iGo Juice power auto/air power adapter (www.igo.com).

  • Turn it off when asked. Frequent travelers are familiar with airline restrictions regarding the use of personal electronic devices, including notebook PCs. The concern is that electronic devices may cause electromagnetic interference with cockpit navigation or communications systems during ground operations and while the aircraft is flying below 10,000 feet. When the aircraft is above 10,000 feet, you can use your notebook and other devices.

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