The Travel Notebook Computer that I Carry on my International
What kind of laptop computer would you buy if you
were planning on living in a tent?
Most people are surprised to hear that I am carrying a
laptop computer on a bike tour. After all, space is limited and
computers weigh a lot. There are cycle tourist
who consider it very bad form to carry anything but the bare essentials.
They really get upset to hear that I bring such a big heavy luxury thing on
bicycle tour. It is like I am breaking some kind of cosmic cycle
tourist rule in their eyes. I believe that a person should bring
whatever makes them happy on a bicycle tour. I have seen many cyclist
with things like dogs in trailers or electric guitars and plug in
amplifiers with them. I even met a man who was pulling a trailer with his
mountain and road bikes aboard just in case there was some good single track
or a big group road ride on his route. I say again, bring what makes
you smile because smiling is what itis all about.
Why do U bring a computer? Because I like
it and use it almost every day. The computer entertains me and helps me think
and be creative. It
is my connection to the world, my music jukebox, the DVD cinema,
the language learning tool, encyclopedia, and it
lights up the tent.
My Search for a Durable Tough Rugged Laptop Computer
Before I left on my world bike tour I spent hours looking for the perfect
digital companion. I cruised the internet looking into every option
that I could find. Several things factored into this decision.
Price, durability, battery life, music clarity,
capacity to edit and store video, and weight. I was sure that this
thing would see rainstorms and get dropped, crashed, and sat
I am not a
computer expert and it is safe to say that computer hardware is my weakest
area in this large topic. I have always been much more interest in the
things that you can do with a computer like software and internet
applications than the size of the processor or hard drive.
My main concern
was how long the batteries would last and how I would charge them.
I expected to be in hotel rooms occasionally and in my tent the rest of the time
and that is exactly how this bicycle tour is unfolding. There are even those 24 hour
rainstorms when I am stuck in the tent and the computer is a great source of
I was also concerned with size and weight. I would
not just be carrying it to the office; I was going to be carrying it over
mountains and across deserts on a bicycle. Every extra ounce would add
up over the months. Also, my bags have limited space and the
smaller the computer the more space I'll have for something else.
My First Computer (for the trip) and the
Problems I Had With It.
During the first two years I used a Dell laptop. I
initially chose Dell because it was a name I knew well. I had owned
several Dells over the years. Unfortunately my Dell held up poorly and
was not a good value.
When the Dell laptop arrived in the mail I was shocked at
how large and heavy it was. It weighed 10 pounds (5 kilos) which felt
like a brick in my rear pannier. I thought it would be smaller
and lighter even though the size and weight were listed on the website when
I bought it.
My Dell also slowly developed several problems during my
second year in South America. These problems needed to be repaired before
I went on to
China and South East Asia. These major problems included:
Defective Power Cord
The power cord slowly developed a short and quit working
in the mountains of Ecuador. This caused me to panic because if the
computer cannot receive power it is rendered useless. We arrived in a
large city of Cuenca, Ecuador with its many high tech computer stores.
I thought it would be easy to find a Dell replacement power cord but instead, I found out that I could find power cords
for most major makers of computers except Dell. I resorted to
having the cord repaired by an electrician but it broke again in a different place
in Bolivia. I searched again for Dell replacement parts in Bolivia's
capital city of La Paz but again found everything except a Dell power cord.
I resorted to another electrician who did a good job. I started
wondering how smart it was to travel with a computer that does not have
parts available in all foreign countries.
Cracks in the Shell
After 18 months of use, my Dell Laptop started developing
little cracks in the plastic shell. I had never had
a laptop computer do this before. These cracks grew as time passed.
When I sent the computer back
to Dell for warrantee service they accused me of dropping the computer and
refused to fix it.
CD / DVD Drive
Out of the blue my CD / DVD drive stopped functioning.
Because I could not find Dell replacement parts abroad I just had to do
without. This should not have happened with a product that is as
expensive as a Dell notebook computer. Dell blamed the problem on me
and refused to replace it.
During my travels, the keyboard permanently scratched the screen.
This is very irritating and caused headaches during extended use. This
was clearly a manufactures defect. Dell gave no excuse for this but
refused to warrantee it.
Through time and use, the screen on my Dell notebook
computer developed some play in the attachment system. This
seemed easy to repair with most likely only a screw needing to be tightened. When
I sent the computer in to Dell they did not fix this problem either.
There is no excuse for this lack of backing of their products and I began
wondering why they were losing interest in their customers.
Dell's Terrible Outsourced Service
When I bought my Dell Laptop I paid an extra US$300 for an
extended 3 year mail in warrantee. I sent Dell my laptop computer
while it was still under this warrantee. I expected them to warrantee the defective
components but they refused to repair anything. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
They blamed me for the defective computer, accused me of dropping it and
spilling liquids on the keyboard, and sent it back without repairing a thing.
I know that Dell used to have excellent customer service and a well
deserved reputation for backing their product and taking care of their
valued customers. I wondered what had changed in their attitudes and
customer service department. I believe that the answer can be summed
up in one word, "OUTSOURCE!"
Dell Outsourced Their
I have owned several Dell computers and contacted Dell's
service department several times over the past decade. They had always
been excellent to deal with until now. Something had changed. I
received my first clue of this change when I called Dell's toll free number
and after surfing through a phone tree and waiting on hold for an hour I
found myself talking to a man in New Delhi, India. I often heard "I am
sorry sir I am not trained in this topic but I will happily transfer you to
another department." I sat on hold for another hour. It seems
Dell's quest to improve the bottom line came at the expense of the customer.
After that I learned that warrantee claims are no longer handled in house by
Dell. This was outsourced to a third party company which was not
interested in my satisfaction. Still, I explained my situation as best
I could given the language difficulties.
When they refused to repair anything under my US$300 three
year extended warrantee I asked to speak with a manager. I explained that I have been a faithful
Dell customer over the
past decade and freely endorsed their products on my busy web site and even sold dozens
of Dells from our web site through the affiliate program. This manager
pulled up my site and found the page explaining how much I liked Dell and
how good their service is (was). He could care less and coldly told me
that Dell was not going to repair anything because nothing was covered under
my US$300 three year extended warrantee. I immediately removed my endorsement
from our site and all buttons that link to Dell. I can no longer
endorse Dell or even say that their computers are suitable for travel.
Please do not reward this company for building computers that fall apart on
the road and a service department that could care less about customer
We Switched to a Small Lightweight
I always try to look on the bright side of
any situation. It was good that my Dell prematurely died and their
service department was bad. It caused me to open my eyes to other
manufacturers. This time, when looking for a computer, I
focused on what matters to a bicycle tourist: size and weight.
I set my sights on computers with the same or better capabilities, as my
previous computer, but much smaller.
While I was traveling I met other
foreigners traveling with computers and they usually had a much
smaller Sony Laptop. (See link below.) I was envious of the
small size and weight. Sony kept coming up in my searches in
Amazon.com and then I found one that was even considered small and light by
today's standards I bought it. Amazon has very good prices for these
computers. The jury is still out on the dependability of this
machine but it is amazingly small and light. Keep checking back on
this page to find out how everything works out.
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