Cushioned laptop sleeves, water-resistant keyboard shields
and computer privacy screens may seem like Scrooge’s idea of a gift list, but the
December holidays are an excellent time to consider thoughtful yet practical
gifts that can help protect some of your loved ones’ most prized possessions. They’re
like the digital-era equivalent of socks, ties and other stocking stuffers –
and they really come in handy when travel mishaps happen.
I once got jostled as I climbed aboard a bus at Boston
airport and dropped my carry-on bag containing a Dell notebook, destroying the
machine. During a turbulent flight, I spilled a Coke on an Acer netbook, frying
the device’s insides. Given that travel tech tragedies can be quite painful –
both emotionally and financially – it’s worth considering the following products
to help protect your gear from rough handling on planes and trains.
need to cushion a laptop from falls
G-Form, a company that primarily makes athletics gear such
as knee pads for cyclists and skateboarders, offers the Extreme
Shield for Laptops, made from a flexible material called Poron XRD that
can absorb severe shocks. A reporter at the Boston Herald recently stuffed a laptop
inside one of these sleeves and dropped
it onto a concrete floor from waist height several times -- and the
computer survived. Models are available for 13in, 15in and 17in laptops.
keyboard is prone to spills
Many laptops don’t come with spill-proof keyboards,
which is unfortunate because liquid entering through the keys’ gaps is one of
the most common causes of computer malfunction. But silicone and plastic covers
– which are made for nearly every size and shape of laptop – slip over the
keyboard to shield entry points while still allowing you to type as normal,
though some people may need time to get accustomed to the feel. When shopping, keep
an eye out for well rated brands such as Softleaves,
tablet is your travel workhorse
Some travellers use an iPad as their mobile computer
instead of a full-featured laptop, but the iPad is a delicate device. Even Apple’s
Smart Cover, sold separately from the tablet, doesn’t shield the back of the
device. To protect a second, third or latest generation iPad, consider the dual-sided
SmartSuit3, which safeguards the iPad’s aluminium backing against
dents with its faux-leather cover, while a screen protector mimics Apple’s
three-part flap Smart Cover by also folding back into a Toblerone shape to
double as a support stand.
need to physically secure your laptop
Laptops and tablets won’t fit into standard hotel
safes, which is why it is sensible to secure it to a physical object in your
room using a cable lock. The electronic accessories company Kensington
sells cable locks that attach
to laptops and tablets (even those that lack the built-in security slots
for attaching these cable locks), and the cables can be looped around a rod in
a hotel wardrobe or fixed piece of furniture. Another company, Maclocks, has models for the MacBook Air
and the newest version of the MacBook Pro, both of which are too thin to
support built-in security slots.
When you’re using a laptop next to
the wandering eyes of strangers
Made for notebooks, tablets and smartphone screens, 3M Privacy Filters
use a thin plastic film
to hide your on-screen information from anyone looking at device from a side
angle, without interfering with its visibility as you look at it straight on.
Having been available for Windows-based laptops for a few years, versions for
Apple notebooks, tablets and smartphones became widely available this year.
you’re carrying secure information on your device
Earlier this year we wrote about password-management tools that let you use encrypted
passwords to prevent strangers from accessing your data. To make it impossible
for a thief to read your laptop data, you can also encrypt some or all of your
device’s files by downloading encryption software from companies like Check
Point. An alternative, or supplementary, protective measure is to only keep
important information -- or a copy of important information -- on a USB flash
drive, which you can keep on your person, making it harder for others to steal
or damage. Verbatim’s Tuff-‘N’-Tiny USB drive resists dust, liquids and
static charges as well as falls from great heights. For testing, I dropped one
in a mug of tea and later tossed it on the floor. It survived both calamities,
which is impressive for a device that works with all Windows and Mac USB ports.
Memory sizes range from two to 32 gigabytes, and prices vary correspondingly.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel