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Secrets of the electronic road warriors.

"Look at that. It's a little hammer," the trainee said to the technician looking over her shoulder as they scanned my briefcase at the airport security point.

The technician shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "No big deal; she's not going to use a three-inch hammer to hijack a plane." I suspect she was used to electronic road warriors.

After all, powerful laptop computers cost less than U.S. $1,000. And some people cease to function without computer power while traveling. Increasingly, business travelers tote computers -- and miniature tool kits and extra telephone line and other secrets you're about to learn.

Pete Shinbach, president of The Birmingham Group, consultant to public relations professionals on computer matters, describes the contents of his computer "survival kit":

1) a bootable disk,

2) a rescue disk (it has all his Windows *.ini, *. grp, and other necessary files),

3) a list of technical support phone numbers for all hardware and software he's carrying -- along with customer ID or invoice numbers,

4) a female-female RJ-11 connector for the modem, and

5) a few formatted disks.

Craig Jolley, customer service manager for Mead Data Central, has his own list:

1) the user manual for his laptop,

2) extra telephone line (RJ-11),

3) telephone line connector, so he can connect two phone lines together if the jack is across the room from an outlet or table,

4) an extra connection cord for his PCMCIA modem card, since his laptop (NCR 3181) requires a special connection cord, and

5) an adapter.

That's a lot of cords and adapters, but experienced travelers insist it's worth it. Kaye Vivian, a marketing communication consultant, related this experience about a well-known hotel in Atlanta:

"All the plugs were filled with multiplugs that were all full with the refrigerator, lamps, TV, clock, etc. Engineering had to run an extension around the room so I could have a plug close enough to the phone to use it."

Road warriors insist on staying at hotels with in-room phones that allow modem connections. "My profile with my travel agent lists that I need to be able to connect a computer from my room, so the agent always alerts the hotel to this requirement," Jolley said.

Some hotels go overboard to please the business client, and that pleases Vivian. "Some have business rooms with private in-room fax machines and a printer available for use 24 hours in the lobby area, and a second line on the phone, so you can talk and be on the modem at the same time. Very handy. I use business rooms if I'm really going to be logging some long hours and every minute counts. They cost U.S. $10 to $30 per night more."

Bill Lutholtz, ABC, assistant sysop for the IABC/Hyperspace section of the PR & Marketing Forum on CompuServe, reveals a less expensive secret for getting a simple print-out: "Use the hotel fax machine as your printer on the road," he advised. "Just send your work as a fax from your laptop to the hotel fax machine. That's a cool trick that still leaves a few folks with jaws hanging open."

Jim Samuel, a public relations consultant based in Philadelphia, is prepared to use any printer he comes across. "I always travel with a flat ribbon printer cable and have pre-installed printer drivers for all popular printers," he said. "Several times I have convinced hotel desk clerks to let me connect my notebook computer to their laser printer. They don't seem to mind if I can disconnect the cable at the printer, but if I start to reach toward the back of their PC, they get nervous."

A few more tips from the experienced crew:

* "Don't carry your laptop around in the briefcase it came with. That's like walking around with an advertisement that screams: 'This is a real expensive computer. Take me!'" Shinbach said.

* "I carry a three-outlet surge protector that doubles as a wall adapter. It's available at your local hardware store for less than $10. I can't vouch for the protective value; I'm sure it won't take a large hit. But it might save your equipment from a small fluctuation. And it comes in handy when you've got one too many things to plug in," said Lutholtz.

* "You might also want to purchase one of those foam wrist board things that extend under your PC to support your wrists if your computer doesn't have support designed in. Mine fits in my case with my PC," Vivian said. "It's incredibly useful for working on your lap while seated on the floor or in a reclining chair or sprawled out on a bed. Hey, whoever said creativity had to be done at a desk?"

Road warriors know: Creativity is an integral part of computing on-the-go.

Sheri Rosen, ABC, is senior employee communication specialist at USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio.
COPYRIGHT 1994 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Digital Knowledge
Author:Rosen, Sheri
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 1, 1994
Words:815
Previous Article:The map helps.
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