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It’s vacation time, and the image of a hard-working lawyer on the beach using a laptop should stay that way – just an image. For one thing, you’re on vacation, so relax and forget about the office. And if you want a practice to come back to, keep sand as far away from a laptop as possible. Electronic components vital to your practice, such as a laptop, PDA or cell phone, can be rendered useless by micro-particles of sand and saltwater. The same thing can be said about many digital cameras and portable video or audio devices. But if you do need to stay connected, or are in extreme conditions during the course of your practice, some manufacturers build what they claim are waterproof computers. One of those companies is Dolch Computers in Fremont, Calif., with its NotePAC line of laptops. These rugged models are designed to perform in rough environments, such as rotary-winged aircraft and off-road vehicles. They also feature a sealed rubber keyboard to prevent sand and water from harming the machine, and are also as powerful as their counterparts from more traditional manufacturers. Another manufacturer is Rugged Notebooks, and its Rough Rider series. Designed to meet military standards, the Rough Rider features “hot-swappable” hard drives so that different users can use different hard drives. Panasonic also has its Toughbook series, which – while not claiming to be waterproof – is not very susceptible to the three leading causes of laptop damage – spills, drops and falling objects. The costs of these machines can easily exceed $5,000, so you may reconsider whether the benefit is really worth the cost. Even if you aren’t taking your laptop on the beach, you might still want to consider a waterproof case, for those rainy or snowy days. Models from Pelican purport to be watertight, airtight, dust-proof and crush-proof, as well as unbreakable and unsinkable. Other manufacturers of similar models include Seahorse and Stormcase. Costs range from $75 to $150 for these rugged cases. If you still need to keep in touch while sunning or boating, you might want to consider a waterproof case for your cell phone. Aquapac makes a waterproof cell phone case listing at $24.95 that allows callers to speak through the case with little loss of signal, and claims to work up to 30 feet underwater. Who would actually want to talk on a cell phone 30 feet underwater, I’m not sure, but this water-resistance will keep the phone from being destroyed from a rising tide that washes up on your beach blanket a little more rapidly than expected. Computers, of course, are not just for work, and while on vacation the joys of music and photography are two of the many hobbies that should be pursued. But the same adversaries to laptops can harm digital camcorders, cameras and portable music devices as well. Fortunately, and for a lot less expense, water-resistant solutions have been made for these areas. iPod enthusiasts can feel safer bringing their equipment onto the beach or out on the lake thanks to H20 Audio’s Audio SV-iMini, an underwater housing for the mini iPod that prevents damage under sever conditions, such as those caused by swimming or snowboarding. The unit features a waterproof housing with easy-to-access controls and a waterproof headset as well. The suggested price is $149.95, but can usually be found online for $10 to $15 less. For photography enthusiasts who don’t wish to risk their high-end equipment to get some lake shots of the family, a lower-cost alternative is the ruggedly constructed Bushnell 3.2 megapixel digital camera with a sealed weather resistant design, which can usually be found for less than $200. Another low-cost alternative is the Canon Elph Sport APS Camera, which runs less than $130. Canon claims that this unit can work underwater at depths of up to 16 feet. This, however, is not a digital camera, so you will still need to get your photos processed onto a CD if you want to load them onto your computer. An even less expensive option is the 35 mm film SeaLife Sharkdiver single-use underwater camera, listing for $19.99. Refills are also available. So while vacationing in the mountains, by the lake or on the beach, the best way to protect your electronic equipment is to leave it back at the cabana and bring along a book to read instead. But if you really must bring it along, take measures to protect it from the elements to assure everyone a happy vacation. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor-in-chief ofThe Legal Intelligencer . Harris can be contacted at [email protected].

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