Here I am in Ireland after realising that I had been almost seven years without leave and deciding it was high time I had a proper break.
One of the most important things I had to do before packing my bag was to outfit myself with a laptop so I could keep in touch with customers via e-mail and up-to-date with my most pressing chores.
I had a look at most of the entry-level models available but found that many were either not supported overseas or didn’t have an international guarantee included in the basic price.
Others disqualified themselves because they didn’t have built-in CD-ROM and floppy drives or the manufacturers had cut corners and hadn’t provided what I consider to be the full quota of ports; one, for example, had a single USB port and no printer port.
The choice eventually came down to Toshiba’s Satellite 1800-100 notebook with a Celeron 800 CPU, a 15Gb hard drive, 128Mb of RAM, CD-ROM, floppy drive, 56kbps modem, and enough ports to connect it to any peripheral known to man.
The Satellite 1800-100 is really a very impressive package if you need to compute on the move at an entry level. Toshiba really seems to have covered all the bases but, at a price of around R15000, including bag, so they bloody well should have.
I had a few reservations because the machine didn’t have one of those touchpad-mouse thingies but I am getting used to using the mini-joystick built into the keyboard although I’ll always plug in a proper mouse if I can.
In an inspired moment I chose one of those Microsoft mice which works with a light and sensor instead of a ball. It works on any surface I have encountered including my leg or even the bedclothes when I’m working in bed.
After adding a PCMCIA network card, a length of network cable, a UK power adapter, a selection of CD-ROMs, and couple of screwdrivers to my kit, I reckoned I was ready for any computing challenge.
My first requirement on reaching Dublin would be to arrange access to the Internet and a bit of research on the Web revealed that I had a couple of options including a number of Internet Cafes and a number of free dial-up services.
I was encouraged to think that there wouldn’t be a problem and, for once, I was right when I headed in to O’Connell Street the day after landing and found a selection of well-equipped Internet Cafes to choose from.
For between three and four Irish Punt (R30-R40) an hour, you can plug in your laptop or get the use of a PC with a flat panel LCD screen connected to the Internet and loaded with just about all the software you might need including Web browsers, Microsoft Word and CorelDraw.
The cafes generally also have facilities for scanning and printing in black and white or colour and I even noticed one offering users a weekend special; all night for 10 Punt (R100). Come to that, it’s about the cheapest way you’re going to spend the night in anywhere in Dublin.
It didn’t take me long to get behind a PC and sign on to local ISP Eircom’s free dial-up service so now I can check my e-mail whenever I pass an Internet Café or wherever I can find a telephone line.