I just got home from three glorious weeks in France. This was a vacation, and since my laptop weighs a ton, I decided to leave it at home and rely on Internet cafes. Bad idea. It began well enough–we stayed at a very cushy hotel on the Champs in Paris where I had access to the business center where I could check my email everyday, work on a proposal and do some uploads. The trouble began when we left the big city.
I’ve used Internet cafes in both Central and South America, and it’s been easy to find them and use them. I also found them in Morocco and Egypt, but ran into trouble when I sat down and stared at a keyboard in Arabic.
In France, I found a compendium of problems. The big one was the French keyboard. It’s just different enough to make it painful to try to key something. They hide things like the @ sign and period. The A, M and W keys are in strange places, and you need to use the number pad rather than the number keys at the top of the keyboard. It may not sound like much, but collectively these things make it extremely unproductive. Something that would normally take me five minutes took an hour.
Other problems included different versions of MSOffice and ability to access files. Opening Facebook on another computer sends a message to the FB mothership, which generates an email informing me that someone has tried to log in from another computer. This creates a series of annoying validation exercises. In general, all connections were slow and on some of the computers, I wasn’t able to access my flash drive.
The bottom line? I will never again travel without my computer. The reality is that I do need to check my email and do a minimum amount of work on a daily basis, and I learned the hard way that I can’t count on computers in other environments. I’m thinking iPad….