Long time mountain biker looking to get a few more miles in (60+ hour weeks make it hard to get a post-work ride in!), so I'm looking at picking up a commuter bike this winter and starting once the sun is out a little later (I don't trust Boston drivers further than they can throw me with their car). I'm still deciding exactly which bike to get on my <$1000 budget (likely a 'cross bike, but steel or aluminum? canti or disc? Either way, will likely be a BD/Nashbar special if I can't find used), and also how to carry my stuff to/from work.
I plan on commuting about 3 days a week, 14 miles each way. Driving twice a week will let me bring clothes and new towels and the like in, but it's not uncommon for me to have to lug my 15" engineering computer home with me. Is my best bet to keep it in my backpack, or are there rack top bags/panniers that will safely carry my big hunk of electronics? Even if there are, is it still better to deal with the sweat of carrying it in a backpack?