Hardware: What’s in my bag?

I’ve been reading a tech site called The Verge for about a year now (or since they launched at any rate) and one of my favorite features that they do is their “What’s in your bag…” series.

In these articles they take someone from their staff, or even guests, and ask them to write about the bag they carry everyday and what’s inside it typically. Not only do I find this topic oddly fascinating, but it’s also a great way to see what other folks in your field are using in their day to day to make whatever systems they have in their lives run smoothly. The writer in me also loves how it is a bit a character study as well.

Anyways, I’ve been meaning to do that here in this space for a while and finally found the time to take pictures this week. So, much thanks and credit goes to The Verge for the idea and I hope you enjoy!

So here is my bag and all of it’s contents:

My bag and everything inside it

A quick rundown is in order I think! Here’s the list of what you are looking at (starting top left and moving left to right):

A pair of over the ear Sennheiser HD280 pro’s

  • A 13in Retina MacBook Pro
  • REI Quantum Messenger Pack
  • Kobalt Brand Computer Screwdriver set
  • Leatherman Skeletool Multitool
  • Pair of Apple Ear Buds
  • Two thumbnail drives (One Ultra 2gig and another Sandisk 32gig)
  • USB adaptor for the 32 pin connector on my iOS devices
  • Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort to VGA monitor adaptor
  • 3ft 1/8″ Stereo to Dual Phono (RCA) Plug Y-cable
  • Square Credit Card Reader
  • Two small Moleskin Journals
  • My Mighty Wallet
  • My keys

Sure, there are other things that will sneak into my bag from time to time, but this is what I typically have in it everyday!

Now if you are already bored out of your skull, you might as well head back to your Twitter or Facebook feeds. But if you have that same curiosity that I have, stick around! Because I’d love to tell you about these things individually and show you why I carry around this stuff everyday.

Still here? Awesome. Let’s dive in shall we?

Sennheiser HD280 pro’s headphones

Sennheiser HD280 pro

I work in front of a computer for at least eight hours a day. During that time it’s mostly project-based work, so I find that listening to music is a wonderful escape from everything around me. Originally I used a crappy pair of cheap ear buds, then I tried the on-the-ear kind and in both cases after three straight hours of use, my ears were killing me. So it was around a year ago that I went on the hunt for a good (read: not super spendy), quality pair of over the ear headphones. I needed 4 things out of them:

  • Little to no noise bleed. I hate disrupting my neighbors.
  • Comfort. Good padding for prolonged use.
  • Above average sound quality. I am not an audiophile per say, but music is extremely important to me.
  • A long cord. I don’t want to take them off or have them yanked off my head when I reach for something behind me.

I already had a few folks that I trusted for reviews, chief amongst them Marco Arment, and when I found his comprehensive reviews of headphones last year like this one on his site, he frequently referred back to this pair of Sennheiser’s as his main pair for listening to anything hours on end.

I bought them from Amazon and have yet to think of buying another pair. They are very comfortable, have a long spiral, springy cord, emit very low noise bleed and the sound quality is exceptional.

A great buy!

13in Retina MacBook Pro

13in Retina MacBook Pro

As I’ve mentioned many, many times on this site; I am a Mac user. It’s nothing personal. I use PC’s and Macs all day at work and OSX is just fits my life and my daily workflows best. Both platforms have merit.

That all said, I spent around 8 months trying to live without a laptop, utilizing just my iPad and a bluetooth keyboard, and the gaps where a laptop could’ve really sped things up for me became too hard to traverse.

So I had to go back. I’ve been using the 13in MacBook Pro with Retina Display for everything about two months now and I can honestly say, without a single shred of doubt, that this is the finest computer I’ve ever owned.

And for those who are wondering if the screen is worth the extra cash: yes, it really is.

The bag itself

The bag I settled on is the REI Quantum Messenger Pack from REI. It’s nothing incredibly fancy but it’s got a padded sleeve for my computer, lots pockets for pens, notepads and all of my accessories, nice touches like a felt-lined pocket for your smart phone, mesh pockets for easy line of sight for anything you don’t want to dig around for, thickly padded shoulder straps… seriously, its a really great bag! What sold me on it though was the bag-length zipper on the side that unzips directly into the laptop sleeve so that it’s easy to take it out and put it back in while traveling.

It’s not all that expensive either if you can find it (it looks like it’s no longer on REI’s site).

Kobalt Brand Computer Screwdriver set

Kobalt Brand Computer Screwdriver set

I am, at times, a woefully impatient person. Especially when it comes gadgets and upgrades. If you have ever needed a computer screwdriver set in a pinch and didn’t have one on hand, you’ll know what I am talking about. If you have never needed a set, you probably view it as extra bulk.

I have needed them, several times in fact and after the last time, I stopped off at Lowes on the way home and snagged this set. I paid very little for it and I will definitely need a new set soon, as the heads are chipping and stripping from use over the years. My next set will be better quality for sure.

The whole set, when zipped closed, is quite light and takes up very little room. I just tuck them in, down at the bottom of my bag.

To this day, I am still shocked at how much I reach for these little guys.

Leatherman Skeletool Multitool

Leatherman Skeletool Multitool

Like the screwdriver set above, I am shocked at how many times I need a good pair of needle nose pliers, or a good knife, or philips head, or a wire cutter, or a bottle opener, or a… well, you get the point.

I use the Skeletool both for hiking/camping, as well as my day-to-day. It’s light for what it is, but also incredibly well built.

Again, when I’ve needed it, I’ve been so psyched that I had it in my bag. It’s incredibly adept at solving problems.

A Pair of Apple Ear Buds

A Pair of Apple Ear Buds

These poor bastards have been through the wringer and are also hands down my least favorite Apple product. But, that all said, I keep them in my bag for when they are spatially more appropriate or when I am only sitting down for a few hours of work. The cord is too short, the sound is ok and, as you can tell from the glue on the ear pieces, they are falling apart. I basically keep them in my bag because they get the job done, but also I wouldn’t be bummed if I left them somewhere.

Two thumbnail drives

Two thumbnail drives

I move files around from computer to another a lot. I also like sharing. So in the case where items are too big to attach to an email or you aren’t networked directly to your needed destination: thumbnails drives are still pretty damn convenient.

Mine were cheap and the only reason why I keep to 2gig one around is because it still works like a champ. Mostly I always go for my 32gig one.

USB adaptor for the 32 pin connector on my iOS devices and a Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort to VGA monitor adaptor

USB adaptor for the 32 pin connector on my iOS devices

Incredibly handy when you need to offload pictures from a USB device to your iOS device. Also an amazing adapter to add to your travel kit.

The Thunderbolt to VGA adaptor is solely for work purposes. Because you’d be shocked at how many office projectors/monitors still use the old-school VGA connections.

3ft 1/8″ Stereo to Dual Phono (RCA) Plug Y-cable

3ft 1/8" Stereo to Dual Phono (RCA) Plug Y-cable

If you ever are traveling and have wanted to plug your MP3 player into a stereo wherever you hang your hat for the evening, this cheap little cableis a must! Just plug it into the head phone jack of your player and connect the red to red and the white to white on the back of any stereo you encounter.

After a long day on the road, I am always relieved when I get to listen to my tunes through speakers. It’s not possible without this little travel companion. You can find them in almost any store in town, including most grocery stores (I bought this one at a local RadioShack on our last vacation).

Square Credit Card Reader

Square Credit Card Reader

I could seriously write an entire separate post on this tiny wonderful gadget (and I most likely will) , but this post alone is getting pretty epic so I will keep it short.

Square is basically an online service that allows you take credit card payments with your phone or tablet device. Just plug this card reader into the headphone jack of your phone, download Square’s app and you are ready to take payments from anyone. If you do freelance work or even run a full-fledged business, this little piece of plastic is a godsend.

Read more about Square here. You get the card reader free when you set up an account.

Two Small Moleskin Journals

Two Moleskin Journals

Though I do almost all of my journaling digitally now, I still run into the occasional instance where it’s just quicker to snag some pen and paper and scribble ideas and thoughts down.  These journals from Moleskin are cheap, take up very little space and the paper inside writes quite smoothly with any pen that’s nearby.  They come in lined and blank versions. I almost always use blank books because my note taking is a little unstructured.

My Wallet and Keys…

My Wallet and Keys

Yeah… so, this is my wallet and these are my keys….

I don’t like a lot of things in my pockets so I keep them in the zippered back pocket of my bag.

A lot of people ask about my wallet, I got it from “Mighty Wallet by Dynomighty Designs”. If you are looking for a thin (and I mean literally paper thin) wallet that can hold a lot and can take a beating (they are all made of Tyvek) that is super affordable. Give these guys a try! I got mine for the design and have kept it because it hasn’t given up on me or my lifestyle. Not yet anyways.

Wow… You Made It This Far! I’m Impressed!

If you made it this far, I am guessing you found some use or odd entertainment in it all, just like I often do. I know it’s weird but I just love reading how other people do the exact same things I do, but differently!

So what do you use in your day to day? Do you have some better suggestions for me?If so, leave them in the comments below! I’d love hear about them!

As always, thanks for coming by!

Tips: Deleting Your Entire Music Library Off Of Your iOS Device Sans iTunes

I was fortunate to be part of the groggy masses that woke up at 3AM Eastern last Friday to secure the delivery of a new iPhone 5 this Friday. Yes, I know, that is really friggin early, but I am a fan of Apple’s stuff and I am huge non-fan of lines and über busy retail stores so, if I wanted the latest on the day it went on sale, it was worth the 15 sleepy minutes it took to pre-order one.

Actually, I should really do a post on how that pre-order went. It was quite the Apple commercial really. Another time.

What I really wanted to do was post up a pretty handy tip I found today!

Now this won’t pertain to all of you, but often, when I get a new i-device I like to start fresh. I used to redownload everything! Apps, music, resetting up all of my settings…

For apps now, it’s a little different. With Apple’s iCloud back ups it’s way too easy to get all of your apps back with out havng to redownload and configure them again (which, frankly, is a royal pain in the ass). It puts them back where you remember too. Easy peasy.

But with music, I do enjoy picking and choosing the songs that will take up all of those beloved new gigs of space.

So today I was really puzzled on what the easiest way to delete just the music from an iDevice was. Yes, I already knew the “swipe left and tap delete” method but, even on an artist level, that can take a good amount of time.

I just wanted to nuke it all.

I waded into all of settings menus for about 20 minutes before I folded and hit the omnibar to find if anything existed that could do exactly what I needed. Sure enough! There is!

Here’s the direct link to the tip on OSX Daily. It’s four brilliant and easy steps. It certainly isn’t obvious and I wondered just how many people knew about it, so I thought I’d share it here.

If this is something you want to do before you load up your new phone, it doesn’t get much easier than this! Just delete the music, make a back up, and restore your phone when it comes in the mail!

Writing: 750words.com

What is it?:

750words.com is a site dedicated to writing, yep, you guessed it, seven hundred and fifty words a day. The concept behind it all comes from “The Artist’s Way” and the act is referred to as “morning pages”. The idea being that if you can type out at least 750 words during the day, it will clear out the cobwebs and get you ready to approach anything with a clear head (or at least a clearer one than you had before). The service itself is entirely online and private. It provides an online editor (that is spartan, but surprisingly configurable) that gives you a word count as it auto-saves your work while typing and that’s about it.

There is a community aspect to it all, but it’s not forced on you. It is simply there if you need it. There are also merit badges you can receive as well for reaching personal benchmarks in your daily practice (because that is purely what it is: practice). They give you nothing really, but it is nice/fun to have something to shoot for other than the personal satisfaction of reaching a certain typing speed, or that illustrious moment when you completed your daily entry for the thirtieth day in a row!

If this all sounds pretty simple, it is. That is the aim after all! The service’s entire function is to provide you a nonjudgmental forum for you to brain dump ideas. There are no rules, no structure and no limitations. It’s not blogging. It’s not supposed to be. No one will read this except you (though there are opportunities to share if you choose to).

How I use it:

I fire up an external editor, separate from the 750words site. Preferable one with a word count that has a distraction free, full screen mode available.

Here are some favorites of mine that cater to many different writing setups:

  1. iA Writer (iPhone/iPad, Mac)
  2. Elements (iPhone/iPad)
  3. Scrivener (Mac, Windows)
  4. Omm Writer (iPad, Mac, Windows)

After I’ve followed my writing idea to it’s inevitable completion, I stop, see how many words I’ve written and if I have over the coveted 750, I highlight it all and it paste into the editor on 750words.com. I quickly verify the site saved my words and then log out and go on with my day.

I used to try to make this a morning ritual but, to be honest, I am not much of a morning person. So I often write my words whenever I find a block of time. It doesn’t really matter when you do it, just that you do it.

Why I like it:

The idea behind the entire site is to get you to write every single day and, hopefully, make it a daily ritual. It might sound like a lot (it is actually about three pages), and somedays it totally is, but if you can do it and stick with it, it becomes an immensely rewarding experience. I am currently on my forty eighth consecutive day!

The way I always aim to start, is to come to the keyboard with an idea ahead of time. If I don’t have one (hey, it happens) I pick the first thing that floats into my head. Literally. Once I have the idea, I write and let the idea take me where ever it decides to. Sometimes it ends up veering WAY off topic. Sometimes a beautiful short story comes out of it! Sometimes it takes the form of more of a diary entry. But, at least for me anyways, it’s always an exploration. The fleshing out of an idea. It’s me taking a concept/topic and thinking it through entirely.

And, most importantly, it’s me giving myself permission to.

Our days are filling to the brim with time suckers, diversions and stupid, menial distractions. It’s gotten to the point where I often need to stop the world, unplug and do what I love to do: simply write. I shouldn’t need a reason, but having one helps.

If I don’t have my 750 words? And I promise you, this will definitely happen. I stop, take a breath and see if there is anything else I have to say. Maybe there’s another angle, or something different entirely that weaves into the topic. Point being, the act of stopping and listening to yourself is always precious, both in writing and in life.

In Closing…

The tag line of 750words.com is perfect. “Private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily”…

I have honestly been shocked at how much those aspects of this site have benefited me. I’ve had some great ideas shake out of it and, in a lot of ways, it’s been an unexpected kind of therapy for me. Add the frequency to all of this and the fact that you are simply writing WAY more than you were before and it becomes an invaluable task to my day to day. I no longer look at it as “one more thing I have to do”. I actually look forward to it.

So if you are looking to kick start your writing into action again or for the first time,sign up for 750words account. It is literally a definitive “win-win” and will never steer you wrong. I can’t recommend it enough.

And if you end up loving it, support it!