Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Survival Laptop

It wasn't so long ago that I made a post about smartphones. I'm still loving mine. With the extended battery I can go all day without charging it as long as I don't play video games or watch movies. As cool as it is, though, it doesn't replace my laptop. They're faster. They have a better, more customizable user interface. They're easier to fix if they break. The screen is bigger and they're much better at multi-tasking. Some of the batteries last several hours. You just have a lot more options with a laptop.

So what should you think about when you're picking out your survival laptop? First of all it needs to be small enough to take with you. That's why I like netbooks. A netbook with a 6 cell battery (I think that they make them with 8 or 12 cell batteries now) will last several hours between charges. The screen is smaller and everything in the system is bare bones so they're energy sippers. They're powerful enough for the basic stuff that you'd need in an emergency situation. They're a lot cheaper than most regular laptops. Get a solar charger and you can keep it running indefinitely.

Make sure that you have a good case for it. Another nice thing about netbooks is that there are good cases available that are cheap, small and lightweight. All laptops are fragile. The weak points tend to be the keypads (especially if you're using it in the woods), the screen and the hard drive. I have a spare mouse and keyboard for mine. I hate laptop keyboards and the mouse pads that come standard are even worse. There isn't much you can do about the screen. Try not to drop it. Solid state hard drives are starting to get cheaper and easier to find. I've heard that they're a lot more durable than mechanical hard drives (no moving parts). They also use less power but I'm not sure if it's a noticeable difference. I have no personal experience with them. I'm still waiting for the price to come down a bit more. I plan on upgrading to one soon.

You also need to take into consideration what you're going to be using it for. The most practical uses are obvious. Rather than trying to bring along your huge collection of survival books, military manuals and foxfire magazines you can just download them all and have them at your fingertips. Having hard copies are better in a lot of ways but you can fit a lot more in a smaller space on a computer. It's also easier to navigate your library and find what you're looking for when it's on your computer. Keep everything backed up on a thumb drive. You can get them small enough to fit on a keychain. You can also install an operating system on a thumb drive that allows you to boot up the computer from the thumb drive just in case your hard drive dies. More on that in a future post. Most phones have a slot for a micro sd card. Keep a backup on that, too. Just be sure to keep an adapter card handy.

The internet is the ultimate resource. I don't think that there's a laptop produced today that doesn't have built in wi-fi. The problem will be finding a wi-fi connection. You can get a cellular modem. They're about the size of a thumb drive and they're pretty cheap. Unfortunately, they'll only work when you can get a cell phone signal. I have one. Even on normal days it can be dodgy and annoying. The internet will be an invaluable resource for news and information during a major disaster. If you're actually in an emergency situation you can count on it being spotty at best. Just expect it to be extremely difficult to access. To improve your chances of being able to access it you need to make as many options available to yourself as possible.

The entertainment value cannot be written off. You'll have plenty of space to save movies, mp3s and even instructional videos. You can also play a lot of games. It's easier to keep a journal on a computer. If I ever have to survive an extended emergency I'll want to document the experience. If nothing else you'll have all of your pictures and family videos at your fingertips.

So if you ever find yourself bugging out or otherwise on the move I believe that a laptop is one of the most important tools that you can have with you. Mine is an
Asus Eee Netbook
. I've been very happy with it for the year or so that I've had it. I suspect that it will hold up as well as any other laptop (except for maybe a Toshiba toughbook....low specs, expensive and a marketing gimick in my opinion).

As you can see from some of the links in this post and a couple of banners that I've added on the sidebar I'm now affiliated with Best Buy. I've been shopping there for years and I've always had great luck with their products and, especially, their service. Since Amazon seems to be more interested in cutting off ties with affiliates and closing down warehouses in states who threaten to make them collect sales tax I've had to find some new ways to make a buck off of my hobby. At least with Best Buy you can walk into the store and talk to someone face to face. Not that you need to do anything but call them. I've always had great experiences with Best Buy and their customer service. A few years ago a fridge that I'd bought from them died. They fixed it twice. On the third try they brought me a new one. No questions asked. No hassles. I've never used Geek Squad so I can't speak for them. The only thing that I hate about walking into their stores is that I'll probably be bothered by a Direct TV rep. The clerks can be a little overly helpful, too. If you get within ten feet of one you can expect them to ask what they can help you with. You can avoid all of that by using the site to store service. Just order whatever you want online (by clicking one of my links of course) and then pick it up at the store.

Why affiliate with Best Buy on a survival site? Well, first of all this is an urban survival site. We city folk like our electronics. Besides, what better way to practice surviving the apocalypse than by picking up a
Microsoft Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect
or a
Sony PlayStation 3 (320GB) with PlayStation Move Bundle
Fallout New Vegas
? With games like
Killzone 3 - PlayStation 3
you can practice blowing people away to your heart's content without even leaving your living room! They also sell some stuff that's actually relevant to the topic. From time to time I'll post something up. In the meantime, if you're planning on buying something there, anyway, I encourage you to do it through this site.


Anonymous said...

about $40 will get you a 16 GB stick at WALMARTS enough to load helva lot of material in PDF format.

such a stick could carry also your favorite choice of PDF reader program, fit in your wallet size survival kit for fast E & E in any emergency...

live long, stay free always..


The Urban Survivalist said...

Yes....the .pdf reader on the stick. I forgot to mention that. Every memory card backup should be able to install adobe.

Morghan said...

If you have the money I'd recommend a Panasonic, be it a fully rugged Toughbook or one of their newer tablets.

I have a CF-27 that's getting close to 20 years old and it still works perfectly despite being repeatedly put through the wringer.

It has been rained on countless times, fallen out of a jeep, used to crack a mugger upside the head, and most amazingly it has also survived a preschooler playing with it.

They will take a trickle charge where some others will not, and have the option to include a very nice GPS unit and an upgraded WiFi device that can be hooked up to massive antennas for free internet in all but the most remote locations.

They also have the option for a WWAN unit, but I'm not a fan of their price:reliability ratio so I stick to tethering it to my phone, and the new phones can tether via wifi so you can keep the doors sealed while browsing rather than needing to open them to run a USB or serial cable.

Adventures in Self Reliance said...

I'm looking to buy a bit more than just a netbook. But I agree with all of the reasons you have mentioned.
I would also recommend the software like Skype and Google voice, to add to your communication options.
It's time to get those jump drives with what's going on in Japan may cause the price to go up. A couple of 4 Gb drives will hold a lot of data and I've seen 32 GB for under $60.00 at internet PC stores.
Don't forget to backup! LOL

James Sorick said...

If money isn't an option, the Getac V100 is a great choice. It costs almost 4.5 Grand, but is built tougher than even the Panasonic's. It is encased in a magnesium alloy armor that comes complete with shock-absorbing rubber bumpers.

It is built to meet the MIL-STD 810G and Ingress Protection IP65 standards of durability.

That means it can withstand storage extremes of -60F to 160F, and operating temperatures of -4F to 140F, and blowing dust gusting up to 40 mph. It can also withstand up to 3.3 gallons of water per minute, which equates to 5.8 inches of rain per hour at winds of 70 mph.

All of this in a machine with a i7 processor and a solid state drive. As a bonus, the notebook also converts into a tablet. WOW! Check out this YouTube:

Arsenius the Hermit said...

I live in a very rural setting, but was interested in your posting. I have grid power here, and a 6 KW diesel generator. I use desk top computers, but have a lap top as a fall back. After having read "Lights Out" I am giving thought to purchasing some kind of solar power panel that I can simply hook my lap top, cell phone, etc into to recharge the equipment. I looked at but it got confusing pretty quickly. I am not technically oriented to any extent. Do you have any ideas on something I might buy to meet this requirement?
I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

its sad that people are not prepared when disaster hits i grabbed a 2 person kit for me and my girlfriend at i feel that the price these cost is worth much more than not being prepared for the worst lol.

millenniumfly said...

That's an interesting use of technology, however, nothing beats hard copy information in a grid-down scenario... except what I already know, of course.

Tim Gray said...

IF you want to go super cheap, then dont expect it to work when things go sideways. I have a Panasonic Toughbook with the full waterproof keyboard that can be typed on with gloves. It will survive a SHTF far better than anything else listed here.

Pack a second hard drive that is loaded and ready to go as well as a $19.99 car charger for it to run it off the vehicle or your portable solar setup. Some guys freak out at the price, but they are the same guys that freak out about buying a real AR or real survival gear and expect to live off of $0.29 lighters and $0.50 survival knives.

Brandon Hudson said...

I like your style of writing. You break it down nicely. Very informative post. Keep up the good work.

Dell - Inspiron 17.3" Geek Squad Certified Refurbished Laptop - 8GB Memory - 1TB Hard Drive

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