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Keep your laptops on lockdown

I am an impatient technophile, and even I wouldn't bust out my laptop at a baseball game.

First of all, think of the disaster potential. Spillable beer in the hands of rowdy fans, hot dogs slathered in condiments, not to mention the possibility of catching a line drive to the face because you're checking your e-mail.

But that didn't stop AT&T Park from turning the stadium into a WiFi hotspot earlier this month.

Starbucks and McDonald's have boasted their connectivity for years, that way you can more easily work pastry crumbs and burger grease into your (expensive) laptop keypads.

You want irony though? In my own experiences and through discussions with my friends, I've found out that in places where you need and expect WiFi, like hotels for example, there isn't any, or the cost is prohibitive.

I just stayed in a hotel in Times Square, New York, and despite the fact that the room alone probably cost my firstborn and my left kidney, wireless access was another $18 a day. I had a friend who stayed in an Embassy Suites in Tahoe and nary a WiFi signal was to be found.

Also, what about places you get stuck, like airline terminals and train stations? I'm not saying I've lost the ability to amuse myself, but I am saying it is easier to amuse myself with Yahoo Games and a buddylist full of annoyable people.

Harassing friends may become easier for the denizens of the city by the bay, as the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services has already chosen Google and Earthlink to provide the city with free WiFi access. Some will say this will narrow the "digital divide" between those with access to information and those without, but you tell me how many homeless people have laptops. See? Simple availability doesn't even the playing field.

I can think of a lot of better ways to spend that money.

And while we're talking about money, let's remember that laptops are expensive. How wise is it to put your thousand-dollar gadget on an outdoor cafe table while you're sipping your latte? A San Francisco man was stabbed in the chest in March for his $2,500 Apple Powerbook.

Stabbed. In. The. Chest.

Think about it. Most laptop users don't do much to hide the fact that they're carrying expensive equipment, just like most iPod users are easily identifiable by the white earbuds. Chances are if you're carrying a Targus or Timbuk2 bag, usually messenger-style, you have something you want to protect. Or perhaps the giant Jansport backpacks-hell, many laptop bags, especially the ones that are sometimes given with the laptop, have HP or Dell or Compaq emblazoned on the side of them.

Gee, I wonder what's in there.

I'm not saying to toss your digital payload into any old crappy padding-less bag, I'm saying don't give thieves any help. You can buy a laptop sleeve (they're usually neoprene and zip all the way around) and put that in your backpack. Or you can find a bag or a purse that doesn't look like someone would put a laptop in it-I picked one up at Target for $10, it has short straps and fits right under my arm.

So, to round this all off, I want to reiterate that just because there's WiFi access doesn't mean you should use it, that retailers and venues should be a little smarter about its availability and that consumers need to keep their eyes open and their bags shut.

And as we're all preparing for the summer, I offer this advice:

For the love of God do not take your laptop to the beach.