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January 25, 2010


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I've run into similar regional problems purchasing DVD's abroad. There have been a few times where I've wanted to get a UK or bi-lingual French DVD, they are clearly marked that they will not play outside the EU.

Ray Campbell

Amy, there are ways to play foreigh DVDs in the US (we lived in Spain for six years and acquired quite a few DVDs we wanted to keep). First, you can buy a DVD player that has been modified to play DVDs from anywhere around the world. They aren't available in most stores, but they are easy to find if you Google a bit. Second, if you have a computer that you aren't using to play US zone DVDs, you can set the regional preference on the computer's DVD player to the European zone so you can play European (but not US zone) DVDs on that player. Finally, I'm pretty sure there's software to bypass the zone limitation on your computer DVD player.

What's interesting is that there is no technical reason DVDs can't play worldwide. In the video era, there were different technical formats in Europe and the US that required different players; this arose more or less organically. In the DVD era, the zones were imposed by fiat as a way to prevent the flow of DVDs from one zone to another. I've always found it an interesting exercise in the prevention of a worldwide market.


Most new DVD players will play all DVDs.

rebecca bratspies

the "turn it off during take-off and landing" thing reallly threw me.

this winter, i graded all my exams via kindle. i loved not having to lug all the paper with me. (the trees liked it too . . .)

Mary Dudziak

To avoid the need for hotspots, if traveling a lot I highly recommend mobile broadband. I have a Sprint device that can plug into any computer via the USB port, so I can switch it between computers (as long as I download the Sprint software). It's not cheap, but I probably save money since I no longer have to pay for hotel internet access or for hotspot fees. And I can blog from just about anywhere.

Since I am doing a more serious commute this year (coast to coast), I finally got a smart phone, which means that for some trips I can completely avoid dragging a laptop along. Cutting down on weight is an important concern if you have back problems -- but anyone can benefit from this if you're lugging around a huge casebook. (I like the Palm Pre b/c it has a keyboard, and I don't care that much about apps.)

Natalie Zemon Davis famously had rules for commuting academics (have a real home in both cities, make a travel schedule and keep it, don't treat travel and phone as luxuries but necessities). I would add to that: investing in getting teched up makes commuting more seamless, and time on the road more productive. The most useful equipment: a computer in both cities, a smart phone, and a lightweight netbook for those times you need a laptop while on the road. Add to that a converter that you can plug into an outlet on the plane, at least when you have an upgrade.

Jeff Yates

This demonstrates my utter lack of familiarity with airline lounges and membership clubs, but can't you use them at the airport even if your flight is with another carrier? And can you use them with certain credit card programs (or was that Tina Fey commercial lying to me?)?

Also, as an aside. If you don't want to carry the laptop around, then you can use or similar Mac program to access your home computer. Of course this doesnt handle the expense factor Mary brings up. Another (less optimal but cheaper) way to handle this problem is to simply get a starbucks coffee card - they're essentially free (just a prepay debit card) and you get AT&T wifi access in starbucks - of course, many non-chains just have free wifi without the card.

Jacqueline Lipton

Yes, you can use your own airport lounge even if your flight is with another carrier. Problems I have run into with this are: (a) sometimes the airline you have a membership with doesn't have a lounge in the terminal you need to be in or even in the airport at all if they don't fly out of there; and, (b) sometimes there is a lounge, but its operating hours don't match with those of the airline you are using ie the Continental lounge may be closed at a time when Continental isn't running any flights while other airlines are running flights - although in this scenario sometimes they'll have agreements with other lounges for members to use the other lounges while they're closed. Also, sometimes the lounge I'm signed up with is just too darn far away in a large airport from the gate I'm flying out of to make it worthwhile going there, particularly if I only have an hour or so between flights.

You can get airport lounge membership with certain credit cards, but how many credit cards do you want to sign up for?

Jeff Yates


Thanks for the explanation on lounges - I was genuinely curious. Can these be purchased or how many miles do they usually go for? I ask this, b/c like you, I seem to find myself too often on very long layovers with nowhere quite to sit and no wifi. Sometimes I can use wine bars (i.e. quiet & nice tables), but then I have to keep ordering or they get angry.

Jacqueline Lipton

As I understand it, most airlines enter into arrangements with a particular credit card company so you sign up for the credit card, pay an annual fee, and part of what you get is membership in the frequent flyer program and airport lounge of the relevant airline. You see people hawking these credit card applications outside the service desks of most airlines at various airports. The Continental version - I use Continental because Cleveland is a Continental hub - is an OK deal and I've been happy with it so far. The only problem is that the trips I'm doing this semester mostly can't be done on Continental. Hence, my dilemma. I have seen people using the mobile broadband devices that Mary mentioned. More and more people seem to have them these days. But I've never investigated the cost. Having the device doesn't automatically get you a comfortable, quiet place to sit at an airport, but at least it gets you wireless access. Then again, one could always get an iPhone or a Blackberry!

Jeff Yates

I have an iphone and it works well for many purposes - I'm not sure how much real work you could really get done on it though - not with my feeble eyes. It's very handy though.

Ann Bartow

I fly through Charlotte a lot and I appreciate the free wifi, but fyi it is filtered/censored.

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