Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

The Best Laptop for Traveling Is One You Can Afford to Lose

laptop_stolenA few years ago, I had an expensive laptop computer stolen from my locked automobile. The thief apparently used a large screwdriver or some similar object to pop open the trunk of my automobile that was in a parking garage. When I returned to the automobile, the trunk was open, the laptop was gone, and there were some new scratches in the paint near the latch of the trunk.

Not only did the thief get my laptop, he or she alo gained access to a lot of personal information stored in the laptop’s hard drive: bank account information, all my email messages, information about most of my friends, relatives, and business acquaintances, passwords to almost all my personal accounts and the services I used at my employer’s and more. It was a tough lesson.

I went out and purchased a replacement laptop and immediately encrypted the entire hard drive on it even before loading any programs or information. There is an old saying about closing the barn door after the horse escapes that seemed to fit my experience. Encrypting a hard drive AFTER a theft only reduces future problems; if didn’t help a bit for my recent theft.

However, there is a better solution, one that I have have adopted in the past year. Kevin Nguyen has also recently written about the same solution in the GQ web site: buy a Chromebook and use it as your traveling computer.

Kevin writes:

“But even if money isn’t an object, there’s something to be said about technology that feels basically disposable. That’s why the best travel laptop is the one I don’t have to care too much about. It’s the one I’m not afraid to lose or break. Because when I’m traveling—especially when I’m on vacation—I’m trying to minimize worrying. About anything. Especially about a piece of commodified hardware that I use primarily to check my email, which is a thing I also don’t want to do.

“So when I travel, I leave the MacBook Pro I love at home and instead take my Chromebook, a device I feel about as much affection for as my toothbrush. For the same reasons Amazon Kindles make better reading devices than iPads (price, durability), Chromebooks are better, ironically, because they do less. They’re powered by Chrome OS, an operating system based off the Google browser you probably already use—and where you do most of your work, whether that’s editing Word docs or distracting yourself with Twitter and Netflix. That’s the secret to these things: they do everything a browser can and nothing more. So unless you’re doing a heavy Photoshop user, you’re covered. And most importantly, Chromebooks are cheap. They’re as low as $150—which is, like, four drinks at the hotel bar.”

Kevin Nguyen’s article makes sense to me. However, he doesn’t mention that Chromebooks do not save information on its internal hard drive. Instead, data is typically saved in safe and secure (encrypted) space on servers in the cloud. Even if a thief does steal your Chromebook, he or she normally has no access to your personal information.

NOTE: It is possible to save information on a Chromebook’s internal hard drive, if you really want to. However, I would discourage anyone from doing so. I had my personal information stolen. I suspect you don’t want that to happen to you. Instead, store the information in the manner a Chromebook was designed to use: in an encrypted space elsewhere so that a thief cannot access it.

Having been ripped off once and also having used Chromebooks for some time now. I gave up carrying my expensive laptop some time ago. I now travel with a Chromebook. It performs about 99% of the tasks I need to do when traveling. For the other 1%, I simply wait until I return home.

Kevin Nguyen’s article then goes on to list his three favorite Chromebooks. (I have the Asus Flip, the second one on Kevin’s list.)

You can read Kevin Nguyen’s article, The Best Laptop for Traveling Is One You Can Afford to Lose, at

Categories: Hardware

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