My Turn

PowerBooking in China

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2002.05.03

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I recently spent a month in China. My PowerBook 2400c came along for the ride. Here is a short guide about taking your PowerBook to a foreign country based on my experiences.

When I was away, the PowerBook was mostly used to save images from my Fuji 1400 Zoom digital camera. The problem with this was that the camera ordinarily attaches to a Mac via a USB cable, PowerBook 2400cbut my 2400 doesn't have USB. I invested in an inexpensive ($25) SmartMedia PCMCIA (or PC Card) adapter, which works well and doesn't need a driver. (CompactFlash adapters are even cheaper, about $10.) If your PowerBook has USB, it would be easier to just plug the camera into a USB port and transfer files that way.

The second problem with using the PowerBook is that the electrical outlets in China are a different shape. They look sort of like this: \/ instead of Edison plugs that look like this: ||. The friendly (or not-so-friendly) people at Radio Shack stock a ton of adapters. I got a travel kit for $20 that includes adapters for Japan, England, Europe, Australia, and China. They all work really well.

One thing you have to beware of is the voltage difference. Most of the rest of the world runs on 220v or 240v current. Almost all PowerBook AC adapters run fine on this higher voltage, but double check. On the bottom of the adapter is "Operating Voltage" followed by, for example, 90-240v. This tells you that the adapter will function with 90-240v current, meaning that you can travel anywhere in the world and use the adapter.

If you can, try to obtain an extra AC adapter, especially if you're going for an extended amount of time. Sometimes the outlets are a little flaky and can damage your adapter. Another good piece of advice is to use a surge protector. My original 36w Apple adapter was blown by a flaky outlet in Inner Mongolia, but I had a backup brick from my old 1400 that I switched to. If I hadn't had, I would have been stuck without power for two weeks.

AirPort cards must run on different channels in different countries. To avoid problems, if you have an AirPort card installed, turn it off using the AirPort Utility. If you have a third-party card, leave it at home or disable it using the driver software.

Other pitfalls include power rationing (not fun) and bad phone lines (if you're trying to use a modem). The information above should help you in case you go to another country with your trusty PowerBook.

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