Travel laptop for couples

We often travel as a couple, and of course both have the same e-mail and web addictions that all of you probably have. Indeed, these days if you don’t get to your e-mail and other stuff for a long period, it becomes unmanageable when you return. For this reason, we bring at least one, and often two laptops on trips.

When we bring one, it becomes a time-waster. Frankly, our goal is to spend as little time in our hotel room on the net as possible, but it’s still very useful not just for e-mail but also travel bookings and research, where to eat etc. When we have only one computer — or when we have two but the hotel only provides a connection for one — it means we have to spend much more time in the hotel room.

It would be nice to see a laptop adopted for couple’s use. In many cases, this could be just a little software. Many laptops already can go “dual head”, putting out a different screen on their VGA connector than goes to the built-in panel. So a USB keyboard and a super-thin laptop sized flat panel would be all you need, along with power for the panel. In the future, as more and more hotel rooms adopt HDTVs, one could use that instead of the display.

Of course desktop flat panels are bigger than laptops, this would need to be a modified version of the same panels put into laptops, which are readily available. A special connector for it, with power, would make this even better. The goal is something not much larger than a clipboard and mini-keyboard. It could even be put in an ultrathin laptop case (with no motherboard, drives or even battery.)

Now, as to software. In Linux, having two users on two screens is already pretty easy. It’s just a bit of configuration. I would hope the BSD based Mac is the same. Windows is more trouble, since it really doesn’t have as much of a concept of two desktops with two users logged in. (Indeed, I have wondered why we haven’t seen a push for dual-user desktop computers, since it’s not at all uncommon to see an home office with two computers in it for two members of the family, but for which both are used together only rarely.)

On Windows, you would probably need to just have one user logged in, and both people would be that user to Windows. However, you would have different instances of Firefox/Mozilla, for example, which can use different profiles so each person has their own browser settings and bookmarks, their own e-mail settings etc. It would be harder to have both people run their own MS Word, but it might be doable.

Some variants of the idea include making a “thin client” box that plugs into the main computer via USB or even talks bluetooth to it, and has its own power supply. It might do something as simple as VNC to a virtual screen on the main box. Or of course it could plug into ethernet but that’s often taken on the main box to talk to the hotel network if the hotel has a wired connection. (More often they have wireless now.) The thin client could also act as a hub to fix this.

If you want to bring two laptops, you can make things work by using internet connection sharing over wired or wireless ad-hoc network, though it’s much more work than it should be to set up. But my goal is to avoid the weight, size and price of a 2nd laptop, though price is not that big an issue because I am presuming one has other uses for it.

Seems to me that by the time

Seems to me that by the time you add the keyboard and the "small thin display," you are a tiny step away from "another laptop."

Why not bring a small router and cat5 cables to simply hook up and split the limited network connection? That way you both can access the hotel net and if needed, share data between devices.

Yes, you can bring two

Of course you can bring two. Though the 2nd unit I describe is probably half the weight and size of a typical laptop, if not less. Hell, there are fullblown thin laptops that are close to half the weight and size of ordinary laptops, they just don't have CDs or floppies or much battery.

I'm talking about removing the motherboard, drives, memory, battery and possibly power supply from the package. It's a lot of the weight.

As for a small router, you can do that, but that's another box (and wall wart) to bring, and cables to bring, and it may not be so easy to set up depending on the login system. Connection sharing and a single cable (or no cable at all) makes more sense.

In hotels with wireless that charge for access, you only get one computer MAC per charge. Hotels that give it free are not a problem. Of course I prefer that -- it seems the fancier the hotel the more likely they are to charge you for internet -- but you don't always get it. I've been in some hotels that give you access based on room number. I have not tried these to see if they will let two computers on in the same room.

As noted, a longer term vision is that hotel rooms start to become equipped with computer displays. Probably the HDTV they'll all soon have as those drop in price, but even a cheap $200 flat panel would be handy to have in hotels. Both for couples as I describe, and even for those who want to have two screens, as modern laptops will mostly do.

They could also have a simple web surfing appliance, with real screen and keyboard. Many hotel rooms offer web surfing on the TV, at a ridiculously low resolution and often for a ridiculously high price. It may be that the hotel HDTVs all have a web-surf appliance mode in them, since that's cheap to do. Sadly it will probably be high priced.

Wi-Fi

I stayed (solo) at a hotel for ISPCON that had Wayport. The Ethernet modem died, but the company had also installed a Wayport AP in the room, which I was then forced to use. If Wayport installs an AP as well as a modem in all its locations, and if both your laptops have Wi-Fi, wireless in general and Wayport in particular could be the solution to your problem.

Well, to share an internet

Well, to share an internet connection between two computers is rather easy if that's what you're looking for in a hotel room. I know on my mac I can forward my internet connection through an extra ethernet card, wireless card, or bluetooth dongle. So you could just set up a bluetooth dongle at the hotel room and set up passwords, and the girlfriend/wife/mistress is all set up to get on the internet.

It seems a lot easier than messing with software, especially since you obviously have two laptops already, and another monitor and keyboard take up roughly the same amount of space.

Cheers,
Rich

Two laptops

Yes, sharing should not be that hard, but then you don't use windows.

Again, this is a way to bring 1.5 laptops, not 2.

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