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'Ruggedising' an off-the-shelf laptop

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A lot of people who travel the world on top of a motorcycle carry laptops with them. Some do it so they can work on the road, but many do it simply because they want to keep a journal and have a way of a managing photographs and videos taken during their travels. With such people, I've noticed the EEEPC is popular. It's small. It's light. It's reasonably solid. It's cheap, too--a bonus if you're on a limited budget and/or have more important expenses (tickets, carnets, vaccinations, etc).

 

Anyway, lurking on a forum dedicated to people interested in the afore-mentioned, I've come to wonder--just how difficult would it be to 'ruggedise' a regular laptop? I'm talking your average Dell or HP jobbie you can purchase at OfficeWorks or Harvey Norman. Not specialist kit. Just how can you protect a hard drive (which, I'm guessing, would be the most difficult part of the whole task)? Is it possible to do much for a regular laptop? What options are there--aside from praying and keeping one's fingers crossed--for those who'd be tooling around shitty, third world roads in a bus or on a motorcycle?

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I'd just go with an SSD based laptop and try and keep it dust free, that's probably the best you can do short of one of those Army laptops designed to work anywhere.

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I'd just go with an SSD based laptop and try and keep it dust free, that's probably the best you can do short of one of those Army laptops designed to work anywhere.

+ 1.

 

Also, you can get membrane overlays for the keyboards of some models which will give protection against dust/dirty hands/light spills, though it does make them rather nasty to type on. A slot loading CD/DVD drive is going to be slightly more durable as well (no tray that can be broken off, smaller entry hole for dust).

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Having actually used semi-rugged Dell lappy and real super-rugged Panasonic Toughbook, there is no way one can really turn an office notebook into one those.

Oh yes, those semi-rugged and rugged lappies are really heavy - and not exactly uber-fast either.

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Is the requirement to operate in shitty conditions or transport through them. Huge differences in the design and requirements.

 

If only transport, then buy a model with a good solid chassis (especially the screen/lid), swap out any moving HDD for a SSD, don't plan on using optical drives, and keep the sucker well wrapped (or in a ziplock bag) when transporting through dusty environments.

 

Operation under harsh environments - expect to pay more for a properly built harsh environments laptop. It's not so much the bounce proof, but avoiding dust into the cooling of the CPU etc.

 

Even some parts of the defence forces don't bother with the expensive ruggedised laptops, they just buy three times as many consumer laptops for less $s and expect a failure rate - obviously not an option if you're in a situation where swapping over is a problem, but a legitimate cost management option - for the blogging traveller, $299 eeepcs are pretty cheap to churn through - especially if all your data is nicely on SD cards that can be moved from device to device.

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For the most part, unless you using it at a beach, in the rain or in a dust storm a well enclosed notebook will generally be ok.

 

I would say for the most part, photographers would spin these up in a relatively normal place or at the very least inside a tent.

 

A well padded weather proof bag would suffice for the most part and a solid state disk (as has been mentioned) would also go a long way.

 

The bouncy nature of a motorbike and the potential slap as your bag comes down ontop of racking would still be ok with good protection a decent bag/ case can offer.

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Tell the laptop to HTFU?

 

I screamed it at my EEE tonight when it started acting funny.

 

All of a sudden, it was working properly and people at work were looking at me strangely.

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