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!

Software: Day One Journal Gets A BIG Update!

Day One Update from the site dayoneapp.com

Hey all! As you you’ve already read here on this site I am a HUGE Day One journaling fan!

Well, they’ve just come out with a new version of their all of their apps and it’s a hugeone! Integration of photos, weather, locale, better mark down support, sharing options, social integration, better Dropbox and iCloud sync, seriously… it’s huge.

They even updated their site! So if you don’t have it already, definitely check it out. It’s taking daily journaling to a whole new level. I absolutely love it and this update makes an already great experience even better!

Collect them all!

  1. Day One Journal Site
  2. Day One Journal Mac App Store
  3. Day One Journal iOS

Software: Day One Journal

I’ve always been a huge fan of journaling. It’s you taking time out of your schedule, stepping out of the constant stream of everything that barrages us every second of every day, to simply acknowledge what you’ve seen and experienced. It’s an activity worthy of anyone’s energy and time.

This all said, I haven’t been able to stick to journaling at all in the past. My mind forms pages of prose WAY faster than my pen can race across any given page. So as much as I love the concept of it, I am not disciplined enough at doing it. There was always the option of opening up a text editor on a computer and creating entries that way, but that is disorganized, aesthetically lacking and it feels like any other activity you’d do in front of a computer. Not you taking time out for yourself.

But what if someone decided to create an application dedicated strictly to capturing the spirit of pen and paper journaling? Furthermore, what would be your stipulations for such an app? Here are mine:

  1. Like a notebook, it would have to be readily accessible. In my pocket and on my desk (on portable devices AND stationery computers).
  2. Because of the above, it would have to sync between said devices. Updating multiple instances of the same journal would get frustrating and old quite quickly.
  3. It would have to supply a user experience that somehow takes you out of the day to day work you do on a computer. So that when you opened it, you would think “it’s time to write in my journal!” not, “it’s time to journal, oh, let me check my Twitter feed first! Oh yeah, look, I’ve got new email. Should look at that now…”
  4. It should be simple to use and get out of the way of the user’s need to write, yet have powerful features that are there if you need them.

The good news? There is an app that supplies these things for me and it’s the new reason I journal and have been journalling (sometimes multiple entries a day!) every single day for the last year. So what’s this magical unicorn of an app? Enter “Day One Journal“!

Day One icon

From the outset, this app is no-nonsense! You open it for the first time and with a little initial one-time configuration, you can be writing your first entry in under five minutes. The app is available on OSX and iOS (universal), so it’s available on every tech device I have (Mac mini, iPhone and iPad) and because it syncs with iCloud (or Dropbox if you prefer and have an account) all of my entries are constantly in sync no matter what screen I am looking at.

Day One everywhere

The UI is quite elegant on all platforms, organizing your entries in a variety of ways (in a daily “stream-based” view, a in a calendar view, or in a section listing entries that you’ve favorited). You can even set up alarms to remind you to write in your journal (you can turn them off as well!).

Day One views

When you open a new entry, you are greeted with some inspiration in the form of famous quotes from people present and in the past (A nice touch, but thankfully you can disable these as well). The date and time is filled out for you and you are left with this wonderful white space to type in! Once you get your thoughts and memories down you click/tap the “Done” button and that’s it! It syncs instantaneously in the background, backing up our words as well as making them available anywhere that you have Day One installed. If you don’t wan’t your words in the cloud and just want them stored locally on your computer, you can do that as well (though you lose the syncing capability). Don’t want other people reading your words? No problem? You can password protect your entries!

Have you written something you’d like to share? That’s easy too! By clicking the share button on the entry you can get social in many different ways, email, Twitter (built in iOS integration), you can even export your entry if you feel the need.

Day One options

It sounds like a lot of options and it is, but I can’t express enough how much the developers of Day One made them all secondary and unobtrusive to the simple of act of writing in your journal. I haven’t even touched upon the quick entry window in OSX that’s nestled in your menu bar at the top of your screen, allowing you to add an entry without opening the app itself, or the different fonts you can use, or that it supports the highly readable markdown code… there’s a lot! But here’s the thing: it’s not overwhelming. Which is the point right? Writing in your journal should be easy! It should be a joy and not a chore!

That’s why it was crucial and wonderful that the developers of Day One nailed this experience.

When I am not writing lengthy entries, I actually use it to write Twitter-like observations in my day to day (leaving my actual Twitter stream more lean and curated). Little memories, anecdotes, ruminations or whimsies, all the little stuff that gets lost typically, is documented in my digital journal now! Also, I have to admit, once you’ve started, it’s amazing to go back and read what you were doing the same day last year.

It reminds you that you’ve lived and to me? That’s pretty damn precious!

Day One collage

There are a few improvements that could be made to the app (a lack of a search function, you can’t embed pictures into entries, iCloud sync is new and thus is a little buggy at times…) but they don’t detract from the experience and, in the case of the ones I listed above, they are all being addressed in future releases of Day One (which are free by the way). It’s also Mac only. Sorry Windows/Linux users.

So, to bring it all home, if you’ve been on the fence about keeping a journal or maybe you’ve been thinking of getting back into it but want a more modern twist on the act of keeping one, I can’t recommend the Day One Journal app enough. I’ve loved it immensely!

~Tad

Helpful links:

  1. Day One Journal Site
  2. Day One Journal Mac App Store
  3. Day One Journal iOS

PS: ALL pics in this post were snagged from Day One’s press kit found here on their site