Monday, September 25, 2006

Laptop robustness

One of the issues with traveling light the way I do means that there are not many backups for equipment in case of failure. I have mentioned that bringing only one radio tempts fate. Even a small QRP rig like the FT-817 is a better alternative than no working rig at all. (Actually, I'm kind of a QRP nut so running flea power doesn't seem like much of a handicap to me, but I understand that attitude isn't the norm.)
With just one hundred pounds, you can't bring two of everything. There are some things, even key things, that you'll just bring one of, and hope it doesn't break. An example of this is your logging computer. Sure, big DXpeditions will bring spare computers just in case a hard drive crashes or a power spike eats one, but with the kinds of weight limits contemplated here, spare laptops are likely not part of the plan. Yet, computers are probably one of the most fragile items you would take!
I've know this, of course, but the point was driven home for me tonight when I received a call from my niece. Katie, now a senior in high school, had been lent an iBook I had bought for Sandy. This particular model was ordered the very day it was announced (May 1, 2001) and had given six plus years of faithful service until tonight, when the backlight failed. The machine boots and works properly; the display simply remains dark. To think that I'd considered bringing that computer with me to Montserrat!
So, tonight we bought Katie a new computer, one promised to her for college, just a little early. If she has as much good luck with this new one as we did with that old iBook, she'll do very well indeed.
I guess I knew this, but I needed a poke from reality to finally clear my head on the matter: if you are already skimping on weight, you can't skimp on the quality of the things you're bringing, too. I've been careful to pick out the most robust radio equipment, antenna systems, and other pieces, bringing an old laptop would be no savings if it failed on the trip. So, no hamfest-specials and no ancient and semiretired boxes on their last legs. I don't want to be someplace special, exciting, and faraway trying to log with a pencil and paper because my computer died.
I've said that these trips aren't about the equipment, and I still mean that. You don't need to run out and buy all new stuff to do this. But, the things you bring should be solid and reliable, right down to the computer.


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