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Off to Dallas (Almost!)

Dear Friend,

Tonight I was supposed to be posting from 38,000 feet. My family and I were scheduled to be in the air, on our way to Dallas, Texas, home to the largest concentration of new and used RV inventories in the United States (at least I think it is).

However, flight schedules being the unpredictable things that they are, our flight was delayed, practically indefinitely, due to weather at it’s original location.

Things actually worked out for the best. The small airport where we were departing from got us the information quickly, and were were able to reschedule an early morning flight, cancel our reservations at the Hyatt Regency DFW (after 6 PM with no questions asked!), and delay the time we are scheduled to pick up our rental car.

The bottom line is that we saved hundreds of dollars on a now unneeded hotel room, will arrive in Dallas at about the same time in the AM that we would have departed the hotel, and I get to sleep in my own (free) bed for one more night. Everything is packed and in the car so there is nothing more to do but relax, and write this post. Ahhhhh. ;-))

The kids are excited, of course. And so is my wife. She just printed out a sheet with a listing of hundreds of RV dealers in a triangular area between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. This could come in handy on the road as we visit these places looking for the perfect rolling home for our little army.

Weather reports for the Dallas area this week are for sunny skies, with temperatures a pleasant 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be interesting to see how well we hold up walking from hot RV to hot RV all day through open asphalt parking lots. One dealer advertises that they place bottles of cold water in every RV on their lot for their customers’ benefit. I have a feeling that we will be partaking of their hospitality.

When you live a highly mobile lifestyle, the way in which you leverage technology can make a big difference in the quality of your life.

Lately I have favored small, “netbook” PC computers. Netbooks are rather tiny laptop computers that sell from about $250 to $400 each, and can handle just about all but heavy graphics applications such as 3D gaming. They are light, sleek, compact, and have all the power that I need without all of the bulk and heat given off by my old laptop PC.

The term “netbook” is not a brand, but is rather a description of the typically small size and configuration of these mini-laptops. The big players in the netbook marketplace include Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett Packard, and Samsung. The best selling model is the Acer Aspire One, which also happened to be my first netbook ever, purchased at Costco for $299. Other than a terrible touchpad that acted irratically, it was a great machine.

Unfortunately, my Acre Aspire One got damaged last week when I picked it up by the screen and cracked the interior of the LCD. The result was that there is now no discernible image on the computer screen. I have been using it with an external monitor, which works fine at home, but which is of course useless on the road.

Today, and just in time, my new replacement netbook arrived. It’s an Asus Eee PC netbook, Model 1000HE. It’s a bit bigger, with a ten inch screen, and it has a cool blue color. I bought this model because it received the top rating from CNet UK in a survey review of netbooks available today. The 1000HE’s most impressive feature is supposed to be its battery life. My three month old Acer got a little over two hours of battery life before it needed a recharge. This new Asus is supposed to get eight to nine hours of battery life – almost unheard of performance. We’ll see if it’s true soon enough, as I am typing this post on it right now.

The new Asus set me back about $400 US with $4 overnight shipping from Amazon.com. The keyboard feels smooth, and is a bit bigger for my fat fingers to get around than was the Acer.

If you and your family intend to lead a more mobile life, the mobilitty of the technology that you use will be an important factor for you to consider. I just love these new netbooks. They are light and easy to handle. I have even played some networked games on the Acer with my kids, so the power of these new Intel Atom processors is quite impressive. Also, the Atom does not get so hot, meaning it’s more comfortable on your lap over longer periods and it isn’t waisting so much energy through heat loss.

If gaming or better graphics performance is important to you (you can’t miss out on World of Warcraft!) then keep your eye out for new netbooks with the new Ion GPU (graphics processing unit, paired with the Atom CPU. Without getting all techy on you, the Ion should substantially increase performance while perhaps adding $100-$150 to the total price. Some industry insiders doubt that people will pay the extra bucks for this capability. However, if Call of Duty 4 keeps you sane at night, you might want to get one of these new little gems (yes, COD4 will run on a Atom/Ion netbook PC – amazing!).

I have also found that using a 3G wireless modem (in my case from Verizon Wireless), is the best option for staying connected while traveling. They work anywhere cell phones work, and the download speed isn’t bad at all. My wife and I had a fancy cell phone with Internet capability, but we found that we kept hitting the wrong buttons and it was just too complex to do any one thing right. So we traded up for two basic flip phones that are great for phoning and snapping the odd photo, and a single USB stick modem that we share between us. The modem was about $50 I think and the service is $50 per month with 5 Gigabytes of data transfer allowed. We only use the service when needed, but we have never seriously approached the 5 Gig usage limit. An unlimited plan is available from Verizon for a pricey $100 per month. Also, on the 5 Gig plan, if you go over your limit for the month, you pay 5 cents a megabyte I believe for each megabyte of data transfer overage. This 5 cent price is down from 25 cents per minute for overages when we signed up for this plan just a few months ago. Our total cost per month for our current plan is about the same as we were paying for the old super phone and, when paired with new netbooks and simple phones, we are really as well equipped on the road as we are at home.

Tomorrow looks to be a very busy day. I have to catch some sleep now, so I hope to talk with you then.

All the best!

Hugh

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