Road Test: Checkpoint-Friendly Bags

How much would you spend to reduce the hassle of going through an airport security checkpoint?

That's the question laptop-carrying fliers now face, since the Transportation Security Administration began allowing checkpoint-friendly computer bags as of August 16. These new bags are designed to let travelers pass through airport security checkpoints without having to remove their laptops.

During a mid-August trip from San Francisco to Boston, I had the opportunity to road-test what was reportedly the first commercially available checkpoint-friendly laptop bag. The bag that I tried, from a small company called Aerovation, lists for $130 (a leather version is $280).

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Time-Management Tips for Mobile Professionals

As a topic, time management is about as exciting as watching flies buzz around a no-pest strip. But would you be interested in learning about time management from someone with only months to live?

The time management expert in this case was Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who passed away on July 25 at age 47 from pancreatic cancer. Along with his now-famous "last lecture" about achieving your childhood dreams, Pausch also delivered a lively, inspiring speech on time management to the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science in November 2007. You can watch a video of the lecture or read the transcript.

Pausch's comments weren't revolutionary, and he admitted to adapting some of his points from Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson's The One Minute Manager.

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Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bags

Some words seem destined to go together, like "Marco" and "Polo," "Uma" and "Oprah," "rock" and "lobster." Until recently, however, I would never have thought to conjoin the words "checkpoint" and "friendly." But these days, the two seemingly disparate words are locked in a brazen embrace, showing up all over the media and the Internet, in relation to new laptop bags.

Checkpoint-friendly laptop bags promise to make running the airport security gauntlet a bit easier for travelers with laptops. But should you set aside your perfectly good laptop bag and buy one of these new models? Read on.

The Back Story

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iPhone Apps for Travelers

How do you say "no MSG" in Mandarin? You might not have a clue, but your Apple iPhone can help.

Downloadable applications from Apple's iTunes App Store can turn your iPhone into a helpful traveling companion. As of this writing (early August, 2008), the App Store's Travel category includes foreign language translators, currency and weight/measure converters, a smattering of guides to municipal transportation (such as one for London's Tube), and Frommer's city guides for New York and San Francisco.

I tested two programs I thought might interest travelers: Urbanspoon, a free restaurant guide/recommendation program, and TravelTracker, a $30 program designed to help you keep tabs on your itineraries, expenses, and such. Urbanspoon is a useful tool, if imperfect, but TravelTracker doesn't seem worth the money n its current version.

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Clever iPhone Tricks

I'm now the owner of an Apple iPhone 3G, after waiting out the first-generation model.

Overall, I'm thrilled with the smart phone. My first week with the iPhone 3G wasn't trouble free, however. For more on that, see my blog.

This week I'd like to share with you three benefits to iPhone ownership you might not have considered. Trick number one can be performed with any e-mail-enabled cell phone, but it's especially useful with first-generation iPhone and the 3G models. Number two works with any iPhone. Number three works with iPhones and iPod Touches with the iPhone 2.0 software installed.

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Essential Gear for the Business Traveler, Part 2

When it comes to packing sensibly for a trip, I don't have a lot of credibility among my friends. Some still shake their heads over the time I took a piñata to Mexico. And the guy who lugged an espresso machine from California to the British Virgin Islands? That would be me.

But those were the good old days in the 80s and 90s, when airlines didn't charge for most checked baggage and there wasn't as much competition for overhead bin space. In response to these and other developments, I'm striving to streamline wherever possible when it comes to packing for air travel. For example, I've reduced the amount of gadgets I take on most trips, as well as cutting down on clothes, shoes, toiletries, and reading materials. As far as electronics, I almost always travel with a laptop (MacBook Air) and a smart phone (iPhone 3G). Everything else gets a serious review before it makes into a bag.

Last week I mentioned two accessories I routinely pack in my carry-on: the Belkin Mini Surge Protector and the StarTech WiFi Detective. This week I've got two more essential items, plus a cool laptop bag and a gadget that's just for fun.

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Essential Gear for the Business Traveler, Part 1

As I mentioned last week, I recently tried limiting myself to just one carry-on bag when flying. I couldn't do it--and frankly, I don't recommend the practice. However, the exercise prompted me to re-evaluate all the gear and related accessories I normally pack. Here are two items that will continue to make the cut. Next week: three more, plus one just-for-fun accessory.

1. Belkin's Mini Surge Protector With USB Charger

Hotel-room power outlets can be difficult to reach. The outlets you want to use may already be spoken for by the TV, lamp, or bedside alarm clock. Finding an available power outlet in an airport departure gate can also be a challenge.

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