Travelling with Laptop
September 27, 2004 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be travelling/out in public with my notebook computer a lot in the next month. Any tips? [more inside]

I'm going to LA for five weeks from the middle of October and have decided to take my iBook with me. I've never travelled with a notebook before, so does anyone have any tips about getting it through the trip? I'm going to keep it in my carry-on luggage, obviously, but have a stopover at Atlanta on route, so it's going to be a busy journey.

Also, I will be moving around LA a bit. I'll try to keep my iBook indoors as much as possible, but I might need to move around with it. As such, I'm considering removing/backing up all sensitive data onto CDs to store at home. Or is there a better way to secure the data?

I know Mac OS X has some sort of file vault/protection system. I've not used this before, as I don't need security at home. Is it safe to enable this on a home directory that has >20GB of mail, MP3s, and important documents? If someone stole my notebook would this be effective security? What other security measures can I take to protect my computer and its contents while on my trip?

All suggestions appreciated! (And if anyone wants an LA MeFi meet between mid-October and mid-November.. ;-))
posted by wackybrit to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
FileVault was so buggy when it first came out that I was always too wary to use it.

Bring your OS system disks, DiskWarrior (or your rescue utility of choice), and an ordinary firewire cable. The first two will be helpful if anything goes wrong and the last one will let you do FireWire Disk Mode with another Mac if you need to rescue data in case of some kind of catastrophe.

Normally I'd recommend a little Kensington lock for those moments when you want to be more than 3 feet away from the computer, but now that we all know they can be picked with a Bic pen... well, maybe they're not so useful.

What else... Oh, make sure your computer bag doesn't look like a computer bag. No one will even notice it.
posted by bcwinters at 2:53 PM on September 27, 2004

I've spent a lot of time lugging an iBook round the world and my best investment was a Firelight 80Gb external hard drive. A 28Gb partition to backup my hard drive every few days and the rest for music.

I got into the habit of keeping the iBook and the hard drive apart (as much as possible) and had no worries. [In fact at the moment my laptop is undergoing a logic board replacement and I'm running off my FireLight using my Mum's new eMac b4 she collects it.]

I use the excellent & free Carbon Copy Cloner to make an exact, bootable copy of my hard drive. I wrap the iBook in a Tucano Second Skin case which slips into an anonymous rucksac or a Crumpler shoulder bag.

I use a Kensington lock because it will make any insurance (GBP 80 per year for worldwide) claim a lot easier.
posted by i_cola at 3:31 PM on September 27, 2004

Kensington also has a laptop lock model with a combination lock instead of a tubular lock. I can't say that this is necessarily more secure, unless your threat model is a bic pen, in which case it definitely is.

posted by Caviar at 4:17 PM on September 27, 2004

Don't leave it out where people can see it unless you're using it, and don't carry it in an obvious computer bag.

Seems to me that because people interested in stealing your computer for purposes of accessing personal information would probably have a fair amount of technical know-how, the best method of protecting yourself is just to keep an eyeball on it all the time.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 5:07 PM on September 27, 2004

If it isn't insured, get it insured. A good idea whether you're out and about or not.
posted by raaka at 5:20 PM on September 27, 2004

Roadwired has some great stuff for travelling with a laptop. I had a similar trip to LA, for about a month in June (AskMe was a huge help then -- thanks!) and I bought myself some of their "Wrapz" and two of their keycard locks, which are really great. Give them a shot for sure.

And go to Ameoba Music, it's awesome.
posted by josh at 6:32 PM on September 27, 2004

I second the Kensington combination lock. As far as backups go, I've found SuperDuper to be quicker and more reliable than CCC, but in its free incarnation it's only useful for full-disk copies.

When backing up sensitive data, try for redundancy. Sure, burn a good-quality CD or DVD. But you can also send your stuff (encrypted) to a Gmail or Yahoo! account.

As far as hard-core "you can't have my data" security goes... if you trust your memory, the best thing to do is to set an open firmware password. This is not glitchy, like VileFault, nor is it by-passable, like a standard OS X password.
posted by stonerose at 8:47 PM on September 27, 2004

stonerose: Didn't know you could do that! I'll be doing that. I have to remember long combinations of server passwords all the time so I should be okay :-) I know it won't protect the hard drive if they removed it, but it's definitely a start.

Thanks for all the suggestions guys. I don't have enough (sensitive) data to warrant getting an external hard drive, so I'm buying a 256MB Flash USB thingie which will cover the main bases (I don't care about losing my MP3s or photos, I have those backed up at home!)

Also, I don't think I'll need a Kensington lock. My security issue isn't where I'll be using the machine, but more about carrying it around with me. I guess there isn't anything I can do to avoid someone stealing my stuff from me anyway, although the firmware password will help, and I guess I'll remove the most sensitive stuff before I go.

I'm also looking into computer insurance. I've found a provider that'll do me a year for £40 (about $75) which doesn't seem too bad..
posted by wackybrit at 12:26 AM on September 28, 2004

Oh, and I'll definitely go to Amoeba. Perhaps I should start a thread asking what I should do while in LA (I've been a few times before, but stuck to areas I got to know).
posted by wackybrit at 12:29 AM on September 28, 2004

The Disney Theatre downtown is an amazing building. Don't bother with the La Brea Tar Pits unless you're passing.
posted by i_cola at 3:20 AM on September 28, 2004 has a series of articles on Mac OS X for the Traveler (Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4) with lots of tips.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:48 AM on September 28, 2004

kirkaracha: That's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
posted by wackybrit at 10:01 PM on September 28, 2004

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