Computers abroad

Dean Ab-Hugh asked about carrying personal data in a flash/jump/thumb (take your pick; I use thumb) drive for reading in a foreign computer (July ’06, pg. 88). Good idea, but don’t rely on it.

The files a thumb drive carries must be opened using a program in the foreign computer. If it can’t open the files and print from them, you are stuck. I understand that some thumb drives can hold application programs, but I wouldn’t count on compatibility with the foreign computer.

How about keeping your files at your home and interrogating them remotely? If they were saved in your e-mail files, you could forward a copy to yourself or have them available to a friend to be sent on request.
Personally, I would prefer hard copy in hand to having to search for a computer, not to mention difficulties such as the following.

At a hotel in France this June, I used the hotel’s loaner, a Dell made for use there, and was faced with an unfamiliar interface and a partially qwerty keyboard. It took quite a while to figure out how to produce the “@,” without which e-mailing is impossible. I was able to inspect my Verizon and ispWest e-mail accounts, but sending was so awkward that I gave up. A plug-in U.S.-style keyboard would have helped.

New York, NY