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Old 06-28-2012, 01:37 PM   #1
Blaise W OP
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Location: Tucson, AZ
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Computers for Adventure Travel

What are suggestions for a small computer that will handle routing chores for Garmin, and not take up a lot of space on the bike. I also need to post pics from the trip, etc., along the way. Not being a computer guru I have no idea where to start. Cost is a factor. Guidance would be appreciated!
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Old 06-28-2012, 02:34 PM   #2
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Buy a small, cheap laptop. Since you said cost is a factor, the smallest (macbook air) isn't a great option.

SSD is cool, they are faster and more durable, but the capacity is lower. In reality, a "spinning" hard drive is fine, you won't be powering it up while moving anyhow; they are fantastically durable when the laptop is turned off.
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Old 06-28-2012, 03:45 PM   #3
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Prescott, Arizona, USA
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Been traveling with Asus eePC miniboook for 20,000 miles. Upgraded it to 2gb as it comes in 1gb. Great machine until my Missus killed it with heavy splash of hot StarBucks coffee.

Am using a Toshiba Protege-R705-P35..a bit bigger but not too bad. Fits nicely in the topcase of my GS or Micatech sidecases.
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Old 06-28-2012, 05:32 PM   #4
Bill Murray
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I also recommend using a Windows-based netbook or small laptop.

I have been using an HP netbook for about two years. I upgraded it from 1 Gb to 2 Gb of RAM. A while ago, I replaced the stock hard disk drive (120 Gb?) with a 96 Gb solid state drive (SSD) which I purchased on sale at (there are even better SSD deals now). The SSD significantly the boot time and general responsiveness of the system. The netbook includes a built-in webcam, allowing video chats to home. I can include music and videos for playback on the road.

I have installed most of the Microsoft Office 2010 suite (Word, Excel, Access, OneNote), along with Garmin Mapsource and BaseCamp, Google Chrome and Google Earth, and a number of GPS utilities. I also have the configuration software for my Cardo Scala Rider G4. I keep a short ethernet cable, a small laptop-type mouse, and micro- and min-USB cables with me.

This set up has served me very well.
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Old 06-29-2012, 02:45 PM   #5
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Location: Somewhere North of Charleston, SC
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Just finished a 21 day / 5,500 mile cross country trip. I took an (1) Acer Aspire One (Win7, AMD Dual Core C-60 processor, 4Gb RAM, 500Gb hard drive) 11.6" screen laptop (11" x 8" x 1"), a Kindle Fire and a HTC 4G smartphone and my Garmin Nuvi GPS.

I was reluctant to take the laptop, even though it packs small, has 8 hr+ battery life and it's power supply is more along the lines of a cell phone charger size wise than the normal "brick") but I did just so I could use it to generate routes (Google Maps or Basecamp, then transfered to my GPS), download my tracks from my GPS, and do a little faster photo manipulation that I could just with the smartphone.

Which is exactly what I used it for.

If my Kindle Fire was able to communicate directly with my GPS, I could have lived without the laptop. But for saving my GPS tracks for the entire trip and the Route generation, the laptop seemed the way to go.

Since I had backup paper maps, I could have lived without the electronic routing on the laptop and just hand jammed them into my Garmin (as I did on ocasion) but I would have lost half my GPS tracks as they overwrote internal memory in the Garmin as I found out on my first extended trip.

But since I also had a SPOT tracking me and my smartphone was doing GPS tracking (GPS Tracker and Lattitude when I had network coverabe) I probably had more redundancy than I needed. A good dedicated GPS program in the smartphone that saves tracks to the phone's SD card would have been sufficient in retrospect-as well as using a SPOT enabled site like SpotWalla-which somehow I overlooked activating for the trip).

Next trip would probably be that route: standalone GPS on the bike, smartphone with GPS tracking, SPOT as safety/backup device and a color eReader (my Fire) for a tablet/laptop standin.
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:33 PM   #6
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I've been traveling with a Panasonic semi rugged Toughbook since 2008 and it works great. Used it for traveling to business meetings and an Iron Butt Rally and other long distance events. It doesn't mind the desert heat or the constant rattling around in my zegas.
I decided not to pop for the fully rugged version because of the cost, but the semi rugged version I have is on it's 5th riding season. Although it's not the cheapest option, I believe it's the best value out there. Larry
"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." G.Harrison
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:58 PM   #7
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Never used one, but the panasonic toughbooks were the first to come to mind because of their ruggedness. That being said, you could use a tablet with a tough case like an otterbox as well.
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:38 PM   #8
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Lots of good info guys; thanks!
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:54 PM   #9
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I carry a Dell Latitude E4200 (New version is the Latitude E6320) with my on all my long-distance bike trips. It's small, light, fairly rugged, and for $60 you can get Dell's Auto/Air/AC power supply. It's a single power brick that will charge the laptop both from wall current, as well as from any 12v supply! It comes with cig lighter and airplane power outlet adapters.

It's a great little unit. 12" screen, great battery, enough power to actually do stuff (Not like those anemic little netbooks with their Atom chips) backlit keyboard, and built-in mobile broadband if you want it. Very durable as well, it's not a fully ruggedized/outdoor system but it's FAR more sturdy than most consumer laptops.

The downside is that as they're designed for professionals and business people, they're kind of spendy. Start at ~$1000, although if you go to Dell's outlet store ( you can often get INSANE deals on scratch-n-dents.
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by forrestlaw View Post
Never used one, but the panasonic toughbooks were the first to come to mind because of their ruggedness. That being said, you could use a tablet with a tough case like an otterbox as well.
We have a few of them at work. They're great, but they're UNGODLY expensive! The fully ruggudized ones are in the $3,000-$5,000 price range.
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Old 06-30-2012, 11:04 AM   #11
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I use a big 15" Apple Macbook Pro. It is expensive, so to meet your cost criteria you would have to get a used one. It is heavy, and I have a protective hard shell on it to protect the cover and a neoprene cover to cushion it. it travels in my right side aluminum adventure case, slipped in vertically and surrounded by my sleeping bag, air mattress and towels rolls, and a ton of other camping stuff. I just completed 4000 miles through Europe on paved roads, never missed a beat. I've been using it like that for 2 years now, no issues.

You would have to want to be a Mac OSX user to like it. I love it for web surfing, email, blogging, google mapping, Mapsource for Garmin stuff, picture and video editing and uploading, porn in the tent:)

It is so heavy (probably 6-7 pounds with cases and power brick and big that I am going to bring my crappy little Asus EEEPC 1001P 10 inch netbook on next trip to save weight and space, as the Uber-Pig is getting too heavy to lift.
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
2009 R1200GS A, 2008 K1200GT
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Old 07-10-2012, 09:01 AM   #12
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I use an Acer Aspire 4810 - has a 1.3GHZ intel processor and 3 GB RAM. My second Acer I've had to carry on my bike.
It has been with me for over 2 years and probably over 40,000 miles. Pavement, gravel roads, rocky roads - months in Mexico being bounced over topes. Keeps on ticking. I bury it in my drybag surrounded by clothes.

Durability has been great. Its abiltiy to function as my main communication device (internet, email, Skype, etc) has been great. Does all my planning with Garmin Mapsource and Google Maps. Have MS Office and able to conduct any business needed while on the road.

My bitches?
Hard drive is 200 GB - storing photos and videos taxed this to the point I stopped taking videos in the last of the trip. Would like a larger hard drive.
The computers ability to process videos is limited. All my cameras take MPEG-4 format videos which have to be converted to another format for this computer to handle. Pain in the ass! And, even then it is slow.
Customer service - Acer's is virtually non-existant. Mine came with Win 7 but it was so new they still had Vista pre-loaded and included an upgrade disk. Trying to get them to help with a couple of glitches was like asking a wall. Still am still using Vista.

Will likely be upgrading to a faster laptop soon with more memory. Strangely, still gravitating to Acers but will see what I end up with.
__________________ - RexBuck's Latin America
Information on travelling in Latin America.
Includes links to ride reports to Mexico and to South America
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Old 07-10-2012, 09:24 AM   #13
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I bought a Dell Mini 9 back when Sam's had a sale for $249...

Small storage but usb drives are so cheap I'm not worried about it.

wifi is great and unlike tablet or pads it will run anything XP will run.

Main use is mapping, transferring pics, and email.
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Old 07-10-2012, 12:20 PM   #14
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Any netbook would probably do what you need it to.

Other option is a refurb'd corporate upgrade... is where I've bought cheap laptops before. Not newest-latest-greatest, but cheap and good condition. Maybe replace the drive with an SSD, load whatever software you need, and go for it.
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Old 07-10-2012, 12:31 PM   #15
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Replace the internal drive with an SSD and you're set.
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