From the July 1999 issue of Startups

Productive business travel requires more than bringing along the sleekest laptop computer. A truly successful road warrior comes prepared for just about any contingency, be it a badly wired telephone jack in your hotel room or a laptop battery that dies halfway through a six-hour flight. We asked Ken Hawk, frequent business traveler, founder and CEO (Chief Energizing Officer) of mobile computing equipment retailer 1-800-Batteries in Reno, Nevada, for tips on taking your show on the road:


G. David Doran is a former staff writer for Business Start-Ups.

Be Prepared

Many hotels cater to business travelers, offering data ports, convenient power outlets and other laptop-friendly amenities, but what if you find yourself in a hotel that doesn't? Hawk advises carrying a road warrior survival kit that includes a long, two-headed RJ-11 telephone cord; a grounded, three-prong electrical plug adaptor for ungrounded outlets with only two prongs; and a digital line tester and conversion adaptor (available at electronics superstores and computer retailers).

Power Up

Laptop batteries require special treatment. Nickel cadmium batteries are prone to the "memory effect," which means the battery only charges to the level at which it was last charged. (That means you have to drain the battery completely before recharging.)

While nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries don't suffer from memory effect, both will slowly lose the ability to hold a charge if they're left dormant for long periods of time. Use them every so often to slow this degradation.

To conserve battery power on long trips, use the conservation mode, which can be activated through the power setting feature in the Control Panel window of Windows 95/98. This allows you to put the laptop's screen, hard drive and processor to "sleep" when idle. Other battery-drain culprits include PC cards, which draw power even when not in use, and autosave features like the one in Microsoft Word (which can be turned off in the Options section of the Tools bar).

Safe and Sound

Portable, valuable and easily concealed, laptops are magnets for thieves. According to Safeware Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, more than 300,000 laptop computers were stolen in 1997--a 17 percent increase over the year before. Before leaving your unattended laptop in a hotel room, Hawk suggests, "Lock [your] laptop roller bag to a chair, then lock the bag itself closed so nobody even knows you have a laptop. Don't leave out AC adaptors or related devices that give thieves a clue."

Try password protection to prevent unauthorized access to your laptop, or register it with a computer security company like CompuTrace (http://www.computrace.com), which installs software in a hidden directory of a laptop's hard drive. If stolen, the laptop calls the company's hotline and gives its location through Caller ID whenever the modem is hooked up to an open phone line.

Smart move

See The Sites

For more road warrior products and advice, check out the following resources:

  • At the 1-800-Batteries Web site (http://www.1800batteries.com), you can read about the latest road warrior gadgets and trends, and purchase gear for your cell phone, notebook computer, PDA and more.
  • Norton Mobile Essentials software ($79.95 street) from Symantec helps you troubleshoot common modem connection problems and configure communications equipment from any location. Download a 30-day trial version at http://www.symantec.com/nme
  • Road Warrior International (http://warrior.com) boasts a wide selection of products for business travelers from Road Warrior Outpost and a free e-mail newsletter, Road Warrior News.