Packing away a notebook

In my mind the personification of separation anxiety is having to check my notebook with my luggage while traveling. Not only am I separated from my work and my stuff, but I’m also entrusting a $2,000 machine to the kindness of baggage handlers. 

Recent news reports about lost or stolen notebooks containing sensitive data – especially customer and personal identity information – has pushed the issue of security to the forefront for a lot of users. While passwords and encryption may be an annoyance, imagine the consequences to you and your business if your notebook were to wind up in the wrong hands.

We’ve designed the most sophisticated suite of security functions available in the market. We’ve shipped more notebooks with biometric security devices than any other PC manufacturer (fingerprint readers). Our ThinkVantage Client Security application is a powerful tool for managing not only your passwords, but for encrypting data on the hard disk via Ultimatico’s SafeGuard™ PrivateDisk tool.

If you are very concerned about the security of your notebook’s data while traveling, I suggest enabling the Power On/Hard disk password option. This will require an extra security step and insure that your machine can’t be powered on without your fingerprint.

How does the fingerprint reader work? It’s a small transparent rectangle embedded in the palmrest of the notebook and in the screen bezel of our tablets. During set-up the user “trains” as many fingers as they want, teaching the system to recognize the patterns of their fingerprints. I generally train my notebook to identify my thumbs, index, and middle fingers of both hands.

When the notebook prompts for a password you just slide your finger slowly and squarely across the reader. The scanner reads the print and if a match is made, the notebook will power on, Windows XP will load, or, you can even store password for commonly used applications or websites such as your online banking account. Chief Security Officers like biometric security for the simple reason that it doesn’t require their users to memorize increasingly complex passwords – which leads to the unfortunate human behavior of writing them down so they can be remembered. This phenomenon has been pointed out by one of my favorite security experts, Bruce Schneier.

Before I end, let me offer a couple other tips for checking your laptop with your luggage, something travelers are now faced in the wake of the recent terrorist plot in the United Kingdom.

  1. Invest in a padded sleeve. I use one made by EMS, an outdoors outfitter that offers some protection and is a very convenient way to store spare Ethernet cables, power adapters, and other necessities. 
  2. Don’t cram your notebook into an overloaded backpack or briefcase. Don’t store hard objects next to the screen where they can press against the screen and crack it.
  3. If you like to suspend your notebook’s power, please make sure it is fully suspended and the “moon” icon is lit on the power indicator. A laptop can build up a lot of heat if the fan is obscured, and while Thinkpads are designed to shut down if their temperature climbs too high, you don’t want to risk damaging the system because you were too quick to pack it away.
  4. Consider investing in a ThinkPad Protection plan. This is a great form of “no questions asked” insurance against accidents such as cracked screens, spills, and other mishaps.

Tom Wailgum, blogging at, has some good tips as well.

Safe travels to all. I’m interested in hearing any tricks and tips from the road.

 David Churbuck