General Computing Tips: Computing on the Road

If you are traveling overseas, Carly has some useful links on her Foreign Language Technologies pages that we recommend travelers look at before leaving. If you are looking for the correct power adapter for your computer or other charging devices, try, where you will find images of all the different types of plugs, where they are used, and more information than you ever wanted to know about power in foreign countries.

Securing Your Data

Laptops are stolen all the time while on campus or traveling abroad. We don't always think about it, but our laptops hold an incredible amount of personal information—your address book, internet history with all those financial websites you go to (online banking, credit cards, phone services, insurance companies, etc.), any method of storing passwords, documents that contain confidential information... the list goes on. Take a few extra precautions with your equipment, even if it means extra hassle when you start up your computer or wake it up from sleep. 

  • Set your computer to ask for a password to log in. Do not have it log in automatically.
  • Change the sleep and screen saver settings to also require a password or log out or shut down every time you leave your computer for any amount of time.
  • if you must have them with you, keep confidential files and files with personal information stored on a flash drive rather than on your laptop.
  • Secure the files that are confidential, so you have a password to even view all those important numbers and passwords.
  • If you are using a public computer in a business, keep in mind that these computers are monitored, but that it is still easy for people to get information from the computers about previous users.
  • Consider getting a theft tracking program for your computer. Most aren't terribly expensive, and a lot of people swear by them.  
  • Consider also getting a physical lock of some sort. Most laptops have a slot for a locking mechanism, and a simple online search provides a number of possible locks. Though these are not guarantees against theft, they are deterrents and can cause a potential thief to pass your equipment over in favor of someone else's.

Many of these apply to mobile phones, external hard drives, mp3 players, and other electronics.

Wireless Tips

As more and more people travel with their computers, it is important to know about common wireless practices, particularly because of the ways in which wireless can hinder checking email. Here are a few tips and reminders to take with you on the road.

  • Most free wireless is not secure—be very careful where you log in and what files are on your computer. (Don’t know why this is important? See “Why Secure Matters” below.)
  • Commercial establishments (airports, hotels, coffee shops, etc) require you to check in and agree to their terms and conditions. Ask at the front desk or the employees for how to register if you are not redirected to the gateway page.
  • You must open the browser first and register or agree to the terms and conditions before any other program  (such as mail programs, chat programs, online help resources for Word and other programs, etc.) will be able to connect to the internet.
  • You will probably have to register every day in hotels, etc., because they traditionally reset everything once a day. (In the case of hotels, it's usually in the afternoon because checkout is typically late morning.)
  • Need to access your Home, Courses, or Collab folders? You still can access them using GlobalProtect VPN
  • When free wireless is advertised, make sure that there is a named provider and that it isn’t always listed as free wi-fi. Recently, there have been a rash of businesses that are providing free wireless, and the provider is monitoring all that occurs on the network. Big name wireless providers are still the most trustworthy.

Why Secure Matters

These days, wireless is one of the easiest ways to get confidential information from someone else’s computer. Insecure wireless can very easily be hacked—what you do online can be monitored and replicated, files on your computer can be copied and read, and other information can be taken from your computer. If you have a file that you would prefer not to be public, it is recommended that you do not have it on your laptop when traveling and using wireless. (For example, store it on a flash drive and use the file when you aren’t online.) Be particularly mindful of documents of any type that list your usernames and passwords for specific sites. Even a small bit of personal information in the hands of a skilled hacker can reveal far too much information about you and allow this person to steal your identity and cause all sorts of problems.