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Chuck Ludlam ( -
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 4:02 pm:   

My wife and I are RPCVs from the 60s and about to apply again! We're interested to hear tips on how to take laptop computers to our post. We might well have no electricity. What types of laptops are the most rugged? What features are the most useful? Can you charge a laptop from a car battery? Any other practical tips on how to do this? Thanks.
1990s RPCV ( -
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2003 - 1:10 am:   

I would get a cheap, used one that you would not mind getting dusty. At my post (cameroon) dust got every where during the dry season. You can duct tape foam padding (from a backpacking sleeping pad) around the outside to protect it from getting bumped--this will also make it ugly and unattractive to potential thieves. If you get a power inverter, you can rig it up easily (with small jumper type cable clips) to a car battery. You can even recharge the car battery with a solar charger (available at Autozone, or Manny Moe Jacks auto stores). I ran a Nigerian boom-box off my spare motorcycle battery with wires running from the battery terminals to the radio battery compartment. **Remember: if you have electricity at post it's most likely a different current from USA, so you will need a converter/adapter or you will fry your computer. Good luck.
Admin1 (admin) ( -
Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - 6:49 pm:   

Mr. Roboto
by Brendan I. Koerner
Over Hill? Over Dell.
A Guide to Rugged Laptops
November 24th, 2003 6:15 PM

(illustration: Insu Lee)

Q: I'm planning this long trip through Southeast Asia, and I'd like to haul a laptop along for journal keeping, digital photos, and the occasional e-mail. I'd take my Dell Inspiron, but I'm worried it won't survive the bumps and bruises. Can you recommend a machine that's up to the task?

The downside of today's cheapo laptops is that they're not built to lastólots of flimsy latches and ill-protected screens. There are some specialty models around, known as rugged laptops, that are designed to weather the worst. But if you'd rather not pay too dear a price, you can probably make out OK with a mainstream option that's built more like a brick than a wafer.

If the phrase "ruggedized laptop" rings a bell, that's because a zillion newspaper stories paid homage to such computers during the invasion of Iraq. Our soldiers need the hardiest laptops imaginable, and they zoomed toward Baghdad carrying hardware that's tougher than month-old Tater Tots. Military laptops must conform to a certain set of specs, known in Pentagonese as MIL-STD-810F. Basically, if it can't survive being frozen, dropped, broiled, and soaked, it can't go in G.I. Joe's knapsack.

You needn't be an enlisted man to own such a robust laptop, though you will need a healthier-than-average checking account. One military favorite is Itronix's GoBook (, especially the "ultra-rugged" GoBook Max. Unless you're planning to wade into pools of caustic chemicals, however, the Max is probably overkill, and a plain ol' Go-Book will suit you fine. Regardless of how low-end a GoBook you settle for, though, it's going to set you back over $4,000.

A more reasonable ruggedized pick is Panasonic's ToughBook ( Try scrounging around the online shops for the ToughBook T1, which weighs less than 2.5 pounds yet can survive the worst that the Laotian jungle has to offer. Ten minutes of surfing was all it took for Mr. Roboto to stumble upon a sub-$1,300 gem from

OK, let's get super-geeky for a sec here, a'ight? If you're really serious about toting around a troop-worthy computer, the number to look for on the specs list is the IP rating. Short for "ingress protection," this is the number that tells you how well the laptop handles being inundated with dust (the first digit, on a scale of 1 to 6) and liquids (the second digit, 1 to 8). So an IP rating of 68's as hard as they come, while an 11 is the digital equivalent of the 98-pound weakling.

But know what? You needn't necessarily go the ruggedized route. Believe it or not, there are plenty of mainstream buys out there that'll likely survive your exotic quest, especially some secondhand models. Given your modest computing requirements while on the road, an older laptop could suit you fine. An older machine might even be built a tad more sturdily than its present-day kin, which put an accent on price and sleekness rather than stoutness.

A perfect example is the Toshiba Satellite line, circa 1997-2000. Yes, there were some problems with the floppy drives, though they can be fixed with a freely downloadable firmware upgrade. But the hard plastic casing is tough to crack, let alone scratch, and the screens are bordered by similarly durable material. Mr. Roboto lugged a Toshiba Satellite Pro 445CDT to Greenland in 2000, and it lived to tell the tale. He'd be loath to attempt the same feat with his beloved Sony VAIO PCG-GR390, which lacks the Toshiba's squat build.

WinBook's laptops ( are renowned for resilience, having passed several of PC Computing's "Notebook Torture Tests" with flying colors; the X4, in particular, is known as a silicon soldier. The IBM ThinkPad T23 was tops last year, and it's a Mr. Roboto pick if only for its classic "eraserhead" mouse.

Remember, all the armor plating in the world ain't worth a rat's patoot if you lose the thing on the Plain of Jars. So the advice here is to bring along some backup CDs, and e-mail your journal entries to yourself or a loved one whenever possible. That way, should a computing disaster strike, all those precious memories of bumming around will be preserved. Oh, and send Mr. Roboto a nice souvenir. Preferably something made of tungsten.

Input questions at
Admin1 (admin) ( -
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 9:38 pm:   


Dec 15, 2003 - The Harrisburg Patriot

Author(s): J.D. Biersdorfer

Q: My wife and I hope to rejoin the Peace Corps in Africa, and we are wondering what type of laptop would be tough enough to take with us. And is it possible to power a laptop with a car battery?

A: Several companies offer rugged laptop computers that have been tested to make sure they can withstand environmental and physical mishaps, including shaking, bouncing and dropping.

Most rugged laptops, which are usually available with the Windows or the Linux operating system, also are conditioned to work despite liquid spills on the keyboard, extreme heat or humidity, salt spray or severe cold.

Many computers designed for outdoor or marine use have been tested and certified to military standards for environmental endurance. These notebooks have waterproof keyboards, reinforced disk-drive mounts, plastic-protected display screens and hard, durable cases.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $6,000 for a rugged laptop, depending on the system components and the level of endurance certification. Panasonic has several sturdy laptops in its Toughbook line ( with a range of prices.

Other companies that sell rugged laptops include Amrel (, Argonaut ( and Gorilla Systems (

Several companies make inverter cables and devices that enable you to run the laptop computer from a car's 12-volt power outlet. These adapters usually cost about $50.
--jim ( -
Posted on Sunday, April 11, 2004 - 12:37 am:   

I've got and am quite happy with my Apple Macintosh "iBook" which is designed and marketed to students -- what could be worse? (Oh sure, military or industrial, but PC is not in that class.)

Frankly I can't imagen having to guard a many-thousand dollar computer while living many places I've been. However, many PC sites would be no problem; Where are YOU going, is the question.

I know of many PC's literally hauled through swamps and jungles, you want high quality - in basically a throw-away device you can loose.

Many lap-tops now come close to meeting that spec.

Look today at huge quantities of back-up capacity, using CD's, solid-state photo storage chips, and iPod-type memory devices. They're so much better than the old floppies and zip-type drives.

They're marketing PC's to the entire world, the problem may not be as difficult as you suspect.
larry abioudn (
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2005 - 12:58 pm:   

i am selling laptop accessories,my mode of payment is by credit card and check.

coulin tomas (
Posted on Friday, January 14, 2005 - 1:05 pm:   

i have mobile phone in my store my mode of accpting payment is by western union money transfer/cheque.

Anonymous ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - 8:14 am:   

Linda Ayre ( -
Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - 7:35 pm:   

I am planning a trip to the Ecuadorian jungle where I hope to work with children in education. I was wondering about satelite phone and how I would get information re which ones would work in the middle of the jungle. Are there computers that can work via a satelite to send emails in that neck of the woods?

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