Oh, and to address your "millions of times the surface area" remark - are you so sure you would want it? After all the surface is vulnerable to radiation, impact, radiant heat losses, etc. You could just as easily turn the whole planet into a honeycomb of underground colonies with ample resources available. A molten cores would be an issue, though a passive heating system might be worth the resource loss, but smaller planetoids such as the moon wouldn't offer than problem.
The primary benefits of an orbital colony are that it's more mobile than a planet, and you're not at the bottom of a substantial gravity well. I rather doubt either concern would be terribly significant to a race capable of flinging stars around.
Sure, planets are optional - stars however are kind of appealing - massive nuclear reactors bound together by the mass of their own fuel - sufficient fuel to continue generating energy unflaggingly for hundreds of billions of years, with nothing to break down and no maintenance required.
Of course, if you're orbiting one of those long-burning dwarf stars you need to worry about the fact that they're prone to not-infrequent superflares. Might be nice to have a big chunk of mass for radiation shielding, preferably something nice and stable that would have a fair chance to survive even if your civilization collapses several times sending everyone back to nearly the stone age - I would imagine such considerations would be relevant to journeys lasting tens or hundreds of times longer than our species has existed. Planets are handy for such things, even if you live deep underground the gravity will help keep atmosphere and resources from escaping.
(Some) RNA self-replicates from amino acids all the time, and is one of our current best guesses for the earliest forms of proto-life - it's can forma an amazingly versatile range of nanomachines. The question is whether it's more likely that a self-replicating strand forms spontaneously on a hospitable world or gets seeded from elsewhere. After that it's just a matter of evolution.
Hitchhikers *in* asteroids, not on. I agree any on the outer surface would be unlikely to last on an interstellar journey, but an asteroid hundreds of feet across is pretty tiny really,, and offers *far* more radiation shielding than we have on the surface of the Earth - the atmosphere offers only about 10-15 feet of rock equivalent, and the magnetosphere only protects us from charged particles that wouldn't make it far through solid rock anyway.
'm not affected by wifi or cellphones, but when I place my MacBook Pro on my lap and wait about 30 seconds I can begin to feel tingling deep inside my legs, like in the bone.
I have felt the same thing and since I have been electrocuted and know what that feels like I was able to figure it out pretty quick. Check to see if the circuit you have it plugged into is actually grounded. I have a similar issue with my work laptop when I am in Europe and have to use an adapter so my laptop isn't grounded. I have also had a similar experience in some hotels in the US where the socket isn't grounded as well.
The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both wins and losses. The Guru doesn't take sides; she welcomes both hackers and lusers.