Fly By the Seat of Your Pants

by Jonathan Plutchok

Your Tool Bar & Grill chef is grumpier than usual this week. Dour at the best of times, I was subjected to long-distance travel, which I dislike even more than pop musicians pretending to go country. So hello from Down Undah, home of Keith Urban, who somehow does sound sort of like the real thang.

Pardon Me, Stewardess, But I Can’t Feel My Legs

My trip was made bearable in large part thanks to SeatGuru , a life-saving Web site that every flier should know about. SeatGuru tells you almost everything you need to know about your plane and your seat: from the seat width and pitch (distance between rows), to the entertainment system, to whether there’s a power outlet for your computer.

At, pick your airline, then pick the type of plane used for your flight (the airline can tell you). A map of the plane’s interior is displayed. Mouse over a seat and a pop-up window gives you more detail (see the extreme example below). You can even click Video and Food icons to get an idea of what you’ll watch and eat.

The only thing SeatGuru can’t tell you is whether the person next to you will be next year’s Miss Universe or last year’s Ukrainian women’s sumo champion. And because airlines frequently change their offerings, SeatGuru’s information might not be perfectly up to date. Finally, not all airlines are represented in SeatGuru’s list.

The advantages are many and the shortcomings few, and it’s free, so visit SeatGuru before you visit anywhere else.

Hey, Who Took My Computer?

Any sensible traveler’s worst fear is not the wing ripping off, but the computer getting ripped off. I know from heart-stopping experience how the gut churns when the laptop is stolen. Make backups; set up password-protected accounts; use mechanical locks; encrypt sensitive data (watch this blog for a future review of encryption software) – and now, use The Laptop Lock too.

Download TheLaptopLock utility from, install and configure it, and register your computer on the Web site. Then, every time you connect to the Internet, the utility calls out to its home site on the Internet.

If your computer is stolen, notify immediately. The next time your computer phones home, TheLaptopLock will discover the theft and take the action you specified when you set it up, such as delete or encrypt files. TheLaptopLock also will try to record the IP address the computer is calling from, which might help locate it. You can even set it up to verify your identity from time to time, thus protecting the hard disk from thieves who don’t use the Internet.

TheLaptopLock is compatible with all versions of Windows, including Vista. This program and service are “free for now,” according to the Web site, but donations are welcomed. As always, I encourage you to contribute to freeware authors whose products you use regularly.

Be sure to drop into Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill every Sunday for valuable recommendations of great free and cheap software and Web sites. If you have any opinions to share, please email See you next week!