My computer is a 2008 MacBook... and it's a ticking time bomb.
About six months after I bought this beautiful laptop, a tablespoon of water was spilt on the table next to/against the computer. I had a hard time getting the computer to wake up, but after that everything seemed fine. After a while though, the battery died. Being the procrastinator that I am, it was about six months before I took it into the Apple Store to be looked at. They replaced the battery and sent me on my way. Two months later, I had another dead battery. Apple gave me another battery and it was dead in a week. The next time I took it in, the techs took my computer apart to find out what was going on. Unfortunately for me, that little bit of water that had been spilt had started to corrode all the important parts, especially the parts that deal with the battery. Pretty much, my laptop is now a desktop because the battery can't be read. On top of that, the insides are slowly corroding away.
So for me, 'data backup day' is a weekly event. I have no idea if my computer will last another few months or another few years. According to the Apple techs, my screen will probably go first, which might be a warning sign. Or maybe it'll do like my last one did and start making crazy grinding noises first (and thank goodness for those noises which alerted me to a problem and I was able to back up my data). Either way, I plan to be prepared.
I'm backing up my data onto a set of three flash drives (two 8 gig and a 2 gig). This holds all of my genealogy research, with my gedcom saved to each one just in case one gets damaged. I also have my photos and scanned documents uploaded to my online flickr account. I'm very much considering trying out another online repository for my non-image documents.
Aside from data backup, it kills me that my laptop isn't mobile unless there's an electrical outlet nearby. I'm very much looking forward to the Atlanta Family History Expo in November, and would hate not to have full access to my computer during the events (btw, is there usually wifi at these events?). I cannot afford another computer right now, and would hate to replace this one, which works aside from battery issues. Instead, I've started considering a netbook.
If I save up a month or two I could afford a netbook. It would allow me to access the internet and basic software on the go. I am concerned about the whole Mac vs PC thing. I'm very much a Mac person, which is based on experience, not fandom. I don't have any software for PC, so I would be starting fresh there. I'm specifically worried about access to my gedcom. I use Reunion, which is only for Mac. I haven't had a lot of luck transferring sources from my Reunion created gedcom into other Mac software, so I have no idea how it will react to PC software. I'd also want to use this computer when I visit family so that I can show them my research, so it would need to hold at least part of my research.
I don't know... I'm a splurge spender and I love to buy new things. I don't want to rush to buy a computer that I don't really need. For those who have attended family history expos: did you use your computer a lot? Though I know each location is different, were there lots of places to plug them in at your event? For those that own netbooks: do they have enough power and space for part-time genealogy work? Does the compact size make them hard to use at all? Any tips on buying and using them?
I think I've gotten a little off topic from where I started. Data back-up day is important. You never know when your computer might die (but watch out for hints!), so make sure to back up your computer often. It's saved me in the past and I know it'll save me in the future.