Magazine article Computers in Libraries

An International Traveler's E-Mail Survival Kit; Have Modem, Will Travel

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

An International Traveler's E-Mail Survival Kit; Have Modem, Will Travel

Article excerpt

Arleen Cannata is the president of LINKNET International, Inc., a consulting firm that deals with the United Nations and governments. She can be reached at P.O. Box 1941, New York, NY 10163-1941.

If you are the type who uses electronic mail at your home or office, no doubt you will want to connect when you travel. Not only will you be unwilling to be "out of touch," you might enjoy the challenge of trying to making a connection from an obscure location.

I have traveled to twenty-eight Third World countries over the past four years and am happy to report that connections to computers in the United States and Europe were possible from every one.

This article outlines a list of computer hardware, tools, manuals, and telephone numbers that allow the experienced e-mail user to connect from virtually any location. It also gives advice on traveling with a PC and how to get through customs unscathed. Finally, there is a section on making connections from hotel rooms even when modular plugs are not available.


There are a few guidelines that will make your trip easier. First of all, do as much research on the telecommunication situation as possible before you leave. Nevertheless, remember this important caveat: virtually all the information you have gathered may be incorrect ! Don't expect the names or the numbers you have obtained from TELENET or TYMNET to be accurate. People often change jobs in developing countries and procedures also change with alarming frequency. Sign-on procedures from adjacent countries to the same host and carrier may differ considerably even though the basic methods are similar.

Still, you can prepare yourself by following a few guidelines:

Is there a TELENET or TYMNET packet-switching node? If so, then call TELENETs international number (800TELENET) for a contact name in the country you are traveling to and try to get the 300- or 1200-baud connection number.

If there is no TELENET or TYMNET node, is there a TymUSA, DASnet, or INFONET connection? If so, then get the latest information from these sources.

If you are still without a connection option i.e., no data network), determine if International Direct Dial (IDD) exists.

In some countries, such as Chad or Paraguay, IDD is not yet established and you will probably not be able to make the connection unless you have a very sympathetic operator who is willing to work with you. If IDD does exist, you have a few options:

Call long distance into the nearest node. Some of the best nodes are in Hong Kong, Bahrain, and Santiago, for Asia, the Middle East, and South America, respectively.

Call long distance directly into the carrier or the host computer. For example from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, you can try the node in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but you are better off dialing long distance into a host in the United States, or via Miami's TELENET node.

Find someone who has a dedicated line to an international carrier and ask to piggyback on it.

Connect your computer to a telex line, switch to half-duplex, and twiddle your thumbs at 50 baud.

Abandon the project.

As soon as you do figure out how to log on from a particular location, try a dry run and set up your software. Write everything down because you will undoubtedly need it later.

I rarely use script files. Not only do they give you a false sense of security, but they also help you to forget essential steps and codes! Then you wrack your brains - was it 311030100341 or 311020100341, or was it 311050100341?

Bag of Tricks

What is in my bag of tricks when I'm sent to developing countries to install modems and make connections to host services? Here's what I bring.

Computer equipment. A light laptop with built-in modem (300 baud). I swear by the Tandy 100. Since the internal modem is only Bell 212A, I also bring a Worldport modem, operating on battery power. …

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