How To Turn Your Daypack Into A Traveling Office

No one is ever going to accuse me of being a tech junkie. But as a journalist, I’ve had to temper my Luddite proclivities so that I can earn a living while on the road.

Compounding the issue is my essential frugality and innate dirtbag tendencies. I only travel with a backpack, using a daypack in lieu of a purse. For low-maintenance or business/pleasure-combo travelers such as myself (although I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of ditching business attire and trappings; I’ve been known to stuff a nice computer bag and dress-to-impress items into my backpack), a daypack easily transforms into a portable office.

Because I also keep my passport, money, credit cards, camera, cellphone, adaptor, and other essential documents and items on my person at all times, it also means my netbook is never left behind. This serves the dual function of ensuring I have access to a computer should I need to edit a story or file a deadline, as well as alleviates theft concerns due to entrusting my valuables to my room or hotel safe. If you’re a budget traveler, I firmly believe it’s better to risk carrying anything of value on your person than entrusting them to the vagaries of youth hostels, dodgy guesthouses, or cheap hotels.

The key to creating a user-friendly portable office lies in choosing the right daypack. I’ve written before about my preference for using hydration packs, because if you remove the bladder, it creates a space to safely store documents. I’m 5’2′, so I also require a woman’s pack, and because most of my trips include some form of outdoor activity, I like having a hip belt (the zip pockets of which double as holders for my mouse and cellphone cord), and multiple exterior and interior pockets.

I highly recommend the hydration daypacks made by Osprey and Gregory. They’re incredibly durable, and have useful bells and whistles. I’m not a fan of CamelBak, as I’ve found they don’t hold up well. The brand and style are up to you, but do check to see if the pack you’re contemplating comes with a raincover. If not, it’s a wise investment, and will spare you the anguish of waterlogged gear and devices.

[Photo credit: Flickr user incase]

HP Mini 5102 netbook review

Last year, we reviewed the HP Mini 5101 – what I then considered to be one of the best netbook options on the market. Earlier this year, HP refreshed their lineup, and the 5101 became the 5102. Not that much has changed on the new version, but it is enough of an upgrade to warrant a fresh look.

First the basics – thankfully, the outside is the same, as is the the keyboard – which is just as well, because the “near full size” keyboard of the 5101 was quite simply the best on any netbook. As you can see in the photo above, the keys reach the entire width of the machine, making them a real pleasure to type on.
More power

The majority of changes are on the inside – the first major change is a new processor lineup. You can now order the Mini 5102 with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 or a beefier 1.83GHz Atom N470. New operating system options have also been added, and you can order the 5102 with Windows 7 starter (in addition to the previous options of Windows XP, SUSE Linux and FreeDOS).

I have to say that Windows 7 really does feel at home on the 5102 – the faster processor obviously makes a slight difference, but the entire experience just feels faster.

More options

The list of available options on the 5102 has increased considerably – the most notable being a touch panel display. This multi touch display supports a variety of gestures, including pinch and rotate. The touch option is an additional $51.

Other options include a GOBI enabled broadband adapter with GPS (additional $125), the Broadcom Crystal HD decoder ($45) and a really cool carrying handle ($30). I played with this carrying handle at the HP booth at CES earlier this year, and found it to be one of the coolest innovations I’ve seen on a computer in ages. The handle is primarily designed for the educational market, but travelers will really love it.

Sadly, the broadband adapter and HD decoder can’t both be added together – there is only one slot for add-on cards.

And finally – the Mini 5102 is now also available in red and blue, in addition to black (additional $28).

Same high end protection

When it comes to “never changing a winning team”, HP did well here. On the new Mini 5102, you still get the HP DriveGuard 3D hard drive protection system, spill resistant keyboard with DuraKey coating, which prevents the letters from rubbing off the keys after prolonged use.

Included software suite

The Mini 5102 comes with an impressive array of free software – including Corel Home Office, PDF Complete, Skype, HP QuickSync (for netbook to desktop data syncing), HP QuickLook 3 and QuickWeb (for instant data access without booting) as well as several trial versions of popular software packages (McAfeeTotal Protection and Microsoft Office Professional 2007).

On Windows 7, you also get the newest version of the HP Support Assistant, which helps with driver and OS updates as well as basic computer health checks. HP also added an array of security features, making the Mini 5102 a great choice for business users.

Battery life

With the basic 4 cell battery, the Mini 5102 will stay powered for up to 4 hours and 30 minutes – an upgrade to the 6 cell pack brings that up to ten hours, though it will add a little bulk. With the 4 cell pack, HP’s Fast Charge system can recharge the battery to 90% in just 90 minutes – perfect for those short layovers at the airport.


A good computer does not come cheap, but with a starting price of $415, you do get a lot of computer for your money. The price does go up quickly once you start adding options, and a fully spec’d HP Mini 5102 can easily climb to $770 – but for that money, you essentially get a broadband enabled touch-screen computer – and the final price is still lower than the top of the line iPad…

The HP Mini 5102 for travelers

For travel, the advantages of the Mini 5102 over other netbooks are easy to spot:

  • A near full size keyboard
  • Spill protection on the keyboard
  • Optional worldwide compatible mobile broadband
  • Optional carrying handle (making it very easy to lift the machine out of a bag at the checkpoint)
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent array of pre-loaded software
  • Drop protection on the hard drive
  • The Mini 5102 uses the same charger found on almost every HP – making it easy to shop for a replacement or spare charger

The bottom line…

With its all metal frame, drive and keyboard protection and extensive options, this is not a budget computer. But if you travel, and need a computer that won’t let you down, the extra investment won’t disappoint you.

Personally, I find the extra options to add a little too much to the price, especially once you start adding Bluetooth, the touch screen and HD video decoder – I would have preferred to see some of those features included in the base price.

But you can’t argue with the quality – I have several netbooks here, and the HP is by far the best built, and most sturdy. There are no squeaks or creaks, and the keyboard doesn’t have the “flex” you’ll often find on cheaper machines.

Justifying the investment is as simple as answering a question – how inconvenient will it be if your computer breaks in the middle of a trip?

You’ll find the lineup of ready-to-ship HP Mini 5102 models here, where you can also start customizing your own machine.

Create the ultimate lightweight mobile office with this trio of HP gear

With a little over three pounds of electronics, you can create the perfect mobile office for living the “Up In The Air” lifestyle. The kit we will be reviewing next week consists of the new HP Mini 5102 netbook, the HP Notebook Projection Companion and the HP slim travel adapter.

We’ll be taking this trio on a real business trip to determine whether it really can replace your bulky laptop and massive video projector – and whether you’ll actually be able to show up at an office and fire all the staff without them laughing at you.

So, check back next week to see if this good looking kit can become your new office, and whether lighter really is better when it comes to mobile electronics.

The Nokia Booklet 3G – Sexy and well connected – the Gadling review

Yes – Gadling may be a little late to the party (Engadget reviewed this machine last year), but the Nokia Booklet is still important enough to warrant its own review here on Gadling.

For those that missed all the other reviews – the Nokia Booklet 3G is the first netbook designed by Nokia – the world’s largest producer of mobile phones. Needless to say, when a company like Nokia sits down to develop a netbook, the end result has to be pretty damn good.

On paper, the Nokia Booklet 3G is like most machines on the market – a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of memory, a 120GB hard drive and a 10″ screen. Thankfully, that is where the similarities with other machines ends. The Booklet 3G has a glass frame high-definition screen (running at 1280×768, unlike the weak 1024×600 pixels on most other machines), GPS, Bluetooth, worldwide 3G support and a battery capable of keeping the machine running for up to 12 hours.

The design is also unlike any other netbook on the market – forget cheap flimsy plastic, the Booklet 3G is designed around a single aluminum frame, and the end result is quite simply stunning. The one poor design choice is in the lid – instead of making that in the same finish as the rest, Nokia picked a glossy plastic cover – making the machine one big fingerprint magnet. I tried keeping it clean for the first couple of days, then just gave up.


This one is simple – the Booklet 3G performs like any other Atom powered netbook. Don’t purchase one of these if you plan to do any heavy lifting in your applications.

The combination of the slow processor, 1GB of memory and a sluggish 4200RPM hard drive makes the machine feel a bit underpowered. Web and email work won’t scare it, but you won’t be watching any HD videos on the Booklet 3G.

Thankfully, gaming and videos are not something its target audience wants anyway – the Booklet 3G is the perfect business machine. All work and no play. But thankfully, the work portion is something it excels at.

Keyboard / trackpad

I could keep this portion really short – the keyboard and trackpad are just right. Normally, most computers I review have something I hate. But Nokia got this just right.

The Booklet 3G keyboard is “chiclet style”, with a bit of spacing between the keys. Typing is a pleasure on it, obviously helped by its bright hi-res screen. The trackpad is just the right size, and its buttons are easy to press, unlike some others on the market.


The real “unique selling point” of the Booklet 3G is of course the “3G” part of its name. Inside the Booklet 3G is a 3G HSDPA modem capable of working on 850/1900/2100 bands. This makes it compatible with AT&T in the US, and most foreign operators.

The lack of AWS/1700MHz support rules out using it on the T-Mobile 3G network, and in my tests, I could not get it to find the T-Mobile EDGE network. This is either because the machine is SIM-locked to AT&T, or because the EDGE frequencies are locked out of the modem.

Other connectivity options inside the machine include Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/n Wi-Fi and GPS.

Connectivity through ports is somewhat limited – you get an SD memory card slot, 3 USB ports, HDMI and a combined audio in/out jack. Hidden behind the SD card panel is the SIM card slot. Above the screen is a bog standard 1.3 megapixel webcam.

The lack of Ethernet is a tricky one – not everyone will still need Ethernet, but some hotels insist on offering their Internet service wired only, so you may need to invest in a small USB to Ethernet adapter. Slightly trickier is the choice to offer an HDMI port. Even though HDMI is becoming more popular, picking HDMI instead of VGA means you may need to invest in another adapter if you plan to use the Booklet 3G on a projector.

Thankfully, the Nokia assortment of accessories for their Booklet 3G includes a USB Ethernet adapter and an HDMI to DVI plug (though no HDMI to VGA).

Included software

The Booklet 3G comes with Windows 7 starter, a much better choice than the old XP installations on most netbooks. Windows 7 feels at home on the Nokia, and things run quit smooth (unless you open too many applications).

Nokia also pre-installs applications from their Ovi suite – including Ovi maps and a social networking application that supports Twitter. The desktop software also lets you send and receive text messages, but you’ll need to be sure that text messaging is bundled in your plan, or these messages could cost a fortune.

To make using the Booklet 3G easier with a Nokia smartphone, the box also includes a special dual USB charge/sync cable (because Nokia still doesn’t believe in charging over USB).

Purchase options

The Nokia Booklet 3G is only available from or your local Best Buy retail store. Out the door from Nokia, you’ll pay $599.99 for the Booklet – which is about $200 more than a similarly spec’d machine from other brands. Thankfully, a cheaper option is to order one combined with a 2 year AT&T wireless mobile broadband subscription.

This 2 year contract drops the price of the machine down to a more manageable $199.99. $149.99. Service is $59.99/month, so you’ll need to do some math to determine whether this makes sense for your specific connectivity needs.

Update: I noticed that Best Buy is now selling these for $149.99 when purchased on a two year AT&T plan.

The Nokia Booklet 3G for travelers

On paper, the Nokia Booklet 3G looks like the perfect netbook for travelers – you get fantastic battery life, a hi-res screen, decent keyboard and mouse, 3G, Bluetooth and GPS all in a gorgeous machine that weighs a little over 2 lbs, 10 ounces.

And to be honest, it really is the perfect machine for the roadwarrior – the only downside to the Booklet 3G is its price – unless you already have a need for an AT&T mobile data subscription, that $600 price tag is going to hurt a lot. Especially when a more powerful machine can be found for at least $100 less.

That said – there is something awesome about a machine this well built. I hate to draw comparisons with Apple, but if you don’t mind paying a premium for a machine that isn’t carved out of 20 pieces of plastic, you will love the Nokia Booklet 3G.

Final thoughts

Pricing aside, the Nokia Booklet 3G is a brilliant little machine – though a lot of that brilliance is in its design, the connectivity options, great display and long battery life do help complete the package.

PROS: design, connectivity, long battery life, great screen

CONS: price, slow hard drive, non-upgradeable memory

It is hard for me to tell someone that this is a “must buy”, because that price tag is a tough one – but if you are already budgeting for 3G access, then the investment in the Booklet 3G suddenly becomes much easier to justify.

$200 for a netbook is a no-brainer when you already need 3G access. Best of all, you are not stuck with the 3G inside the Booklet 3G – you could always buy a (used) AT&T 3G modem, and swap the sim around when you need it, especially if you need your mobile broadband on more than one computer.

The Nokia Booklet 3G is available directly from Nokia, or from your local Best Buy. Call your store for availability, only Best Buy stores with an in-store Mobile department stock the Booklet 3G.

Gadling gear review – HP Mini 5101 netbook

In this review I’m going to introduce you to one of the newest netbook computers from HP. The Mini 5101 is a very compact machine designed with the business traveler in mind. When building a computer for business use, HP obviously put a lot of time into making the machine able to stand up to the rough environment.

Because of this, the entire machine is built around a magnesium frame, it also features an aluminum screen lid, near full size keyboard, hard drive drop protection, a special keyboard coating and an easy to upgrade memory bay.
The basics

Lets start with the basics – inside the entry level HP Mini 5101 is an Intel Atom N280 1.6G6Hz processor, 1GB of ram and a 7200RPM 160GB hard drive. These specifications are nothing special, and are what you’ll find in almost any netbook nowadays.


The design of the 5101 is where you start to notice major differences between most other netbook computers. As soon as you pick the 5101 up, you know that it isn’t just another all plastic computer. A metal screen lid, rubberized bottom, and not a squeak to be found (many cheap machines squeak a bit due to all the poorly joined plastic pieces).

On the bottom of the unit is a memory slot and the battery compartment. One the left side is the power port, a VGA D-SUB monitor connector and 2 USB ports. On the right is where you’ll find the Kensington lock port, 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, a high power USB port (for devices like a DVD drive), audio in/out and an SD memory card reader.

Once you open the Mini 5101, you find the real treat this machine has to offer – a 95% full size keyboard. For the first time (as far as I can tell), the HP designers were smart enough to design the keyboard without any bezel around the edges. This means all the keys come up right to the edge of the machine. Typing on this thing is absolutely amazing, and I can honestly say that it has the best keyboard I have ever used on a laptop. Not just on a netbook, but the best on any laptop.

The trackpad is equally well designed – for some reason, many manufacturers manage to screw up the trackpad design (I’m talking to you Dell). The Mini 5101 has the perfect trackpad – not too big, not too small, buttons on the bottom with a nice click. Seriously – the combination of the great keyboard with the well designed trackpad means you can actually get some work done on this machine. Above the display is a 2MP camera, which is also a step above the crappy low res webcams found on many other machines.

Software and OS

Because the Mini 5101 is targeted towards business users, it is only available with Windows XP Home or SUSE Linux. A third option delivers the machine with nothing but the FreeDOS operating system, which is great if you want to put your own operating system on it.

In addition to XP, the machine I reviewed also came complete with Corel Home Office (a very decent word/spreadsheet/presentation package) with full Microsoft Office compatibility. This package normally retails for $69.99, so it really does provide a good value for your money.

Also included is the HP 3D Driveguard monitor software. This application works alongside the built in accelerometer to protect your hard drive in the event the Mini 5101 falls.

And finally, the Mini 5101 also comes with a file syncing application, designed to help keep the files on your netbook in sync with those on your (home) office desktop PC.

Battery life

On my Mini 5101 review unit, a 29Wh 4-cell lithium-ion battery was included – when running the machine as normally as possible (WiFi on, browser open), I reached 3 hours 25 minutes before it shut itself down. This is very normal for a battery with those specifications. The 6 cell battery increases power to 55Wh (and just over 5 hours of use).

The battery has a small status button and a couple of LED’s to show its current power level.

Expansions and optional extras

In its basic form, the Mini 5101 features a 1024×600 matte display, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and 1GB of memory. Once you start thinking about getting one, you can order it from the HP site with a whole host of extra features.

The following are some of the options available when you pick a customized Mini 5101:

  • HD display (+$25) – increases the screen resolution to 1366×768
  • HP Mobile Broadband adapter – (+$125) powered by GOBI – allows for 3G (GSM and CDMA) connections
  • Bluetooth adapter (+$18) – integrated inside the machine
  • 6 cell lithium-ion battery (+$25)

Of course, the site also lets you order a variety of additional software, chargers and cases. The only memory configuration available from HP is 1GB, but you can upgrade that memory module to 2GB in a matter of seconds, thanks to the easy-access memory port. Unlike other machines, you do not need a screwdriver to access the memory bay on the 5101.

Final thoughts

The HP Mini 5101 starts at $399. This will get you a machine with Windows XP Home, 160GB hard drive, Bluetooth and a 4 cell battery. This is surprisingly cheap, as machines with these specifications, (but without all the extras HP includes) are normally around $350. You obviously pay a premium for the rugged design and other features, but considering how well this thing is built, I’m convinced that it is well worth it. Especially if you travel a lot, you’ll need a machine that can survive the airport. Design aside, what makes this machine well worth its price is the keyboard.

Of course, once you start configuring the Mini 5101 just how you like it, you’ll creep towards $750. This will add mobile broadband , the 6 cell battery and the HD display.