Ebook Week Day 5 : Write your own eBook ! (By Daniel Messer)

Nov 14

Introduction : Writing is hard.

Writing a book is hard, but actually making and publishing an eBook doesn’t have to be. Here’s an easy way to take your finished text and turn it into eBooks for popular devices and Kindles using nothing but free and open source software! I can vouch that it works, because I’ve done this twice. I’ll do it a third time when this current book is finished.

Things You Need & Things You Need To Do

Let’s Download Things!

You’re going to need two free and open source applications and a free and open source plugin. The great thing is that all of them are platform independent, so no matter if you’re running Windows, OS X, or Linux; you’ll be able to make your eBook a reality.

First, you’ll need LibreOffice, a free and open source office suite similar to Microsoft Office. OpenOffice will do the job too, but I prefer LibreOffice. Pick the one that you like. Second, you’re going to need Calibre, which is also a free and open source application. Calibre is an eBook manager, database, content server, and more importantly, eBook format converter. The plug-in you’ll need is for LibreOffice and it’s called Writer2ePub and that’s an apt description of what it does.

Download and install LibreOffice and Calibre or snag them from your repositories. Once LibreOffice is installed, you should be able to double click and install Writer2ePub as your OS will recognize that as a LibreOffice plugin. Installation is quick and easy and soon you’ll be up and running with some prime software to make an eBook.

Styles

First, you’ll have to write that eBook, and I can’t give you help on that here. I do suggest that, when you’re formatting your book in LibreOffice, make use of the Heading 1 style for your chapter names. Formatting and design is a thing for another post but using the Heading 1 style for your chapter names will be important because Writer2ePub automatically builds a table of contents for you, based off those Heading 1 style calls. If you don’t have chapters then that’s fine. You don’t have to worry about the style selection at all, unless you want to!

Once you’re done organizing and setting your chapter styles, you’re ready to go! Obviously, make whatever edits you think you need for your finished book, but when you’re ready to pull the trigger click the Writer2ePub icon on your LibreOffice toolbar. You’ll actually see three of them. The first builds your eBook; the second handles your metadata which includes title, author, cover, and description; and the third is preferences. You can set preferences as you like, but for now, let’s set our metadata. So click the Writer2ePub icon with a little blue i on it and set up your metadata as appropriate.

Writer2ePub Metadata

You should add a cover because, as a professional librarian, I can tell you that people judge books by their covers, cliches notwithstanding. eBook design is a thing all its own, but your cover should be a high quality image, at least 500 x 800 and 72 pixels per inch. I use an image that’s 625 x 1,000 and 100 pixels per inch. The preferred maximum size for the longest side is usually 2,000. So edit your image accordingly. That stuff set, you can continue editing and tweaking as needed. If you save the file, your metadata saves with it.

Are you ready to make an eBook? Excellent! Time to click the Writer2ePub icon on the LibreOffice toolbar! You’ll have one more opportunity to edit your metadata and then click Ok. LibreOffice and Writer2ePub will work for a few moments and, at first, it looks like nothing happened. Ah! But check the folder where you’ve saved your original LibreOffice file and you will find an ePub there by the same name!

Congratulations! You just created an eBook!

Lets make a Kindle book too ! 

The eBook you just created using Writer2ePub and LibreOffice is in ePub format. That format will work on almost everything out there from tablets to eReaders. It will not, however, work on a Kindle eInk. If we’re talking about a Kindle Fire, then users of the Fire can get apps to open ePub files. That’s fine, but Kindle eInk users can’t get apps for their device, so let’s make sure they can read our eBook too, and that’s where Calibre comes in!

Open up Calibre and import your newly created ePub. Don’t worry, because Calibre copies all imported eBooks to the library folder you select. So your original remains untouched.

Importing Books in Calibre

Importing Books in Calibre Dialogue Box

Once it’s imported into Calibre, right click the item and select Convert Books – Convert Individually. You’ll get a screen with a bunch of options. Set those as you like but your interest probably lies near the top left of the screen where it says Output formateBook Conversion Options in Calibre

Select MOBI from that list and click Ok. Calibre will run the conversion and let you know when it’s finished.

eBook Conversion Formats in Calibre

If you click your book again and look over the right sidebar, you’ll see your cover, author, formats, and path. Next to path is a link that says Click to open. Do that, and you’ll get the directory with your imported ePub and newly created mobi file! That mobi file is perfectly compatible with Kindle eInk devices.
cover

And that’s it! You’ll have your eBook in the two most popular formats for devices and eReaders. If you’re looking to upload your book to a site like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, check to see which format they prefer, though Amazon will most certainly need the mobi format.

Happy writing! Make your eBook happen!

Post by Daniel Messer.

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Ebook week Day 4 “The Kobo Aura ebook reader”

Nov 13
I hate paper books. I don’t know why. Some people love them, tell them they smell good, feel nice, love to put them on a shelf, stroke them, sniff  and do other deeds that I classify under “papyrus-porn.”  I have never been one of them. One of the reasons is that for the longest time I have been reading books that are hard to find (or just ‘not around’) in this part of the world. With Amazon these days its whole different thing. You can have your copy of Fifty Shades flown in by Drone overnight and your husband doesn’t even have to untie you to accept the delivery. But back in the late 90’s it was different. I loved sci-fi books.. I loved ENGLISH sci-fi books. I traveled all over the country to one or two obscure bookshops to pick up overpriced paperbacks of Star Trek Novels and all kinds of geeky stuff I liked to read. Behold my amazement when the internet came along and i could actually DOWNLOAD (perhaps not completely ‘legal’) copies of all kinds of wonderful stuff I loved to read. So when other people where tapping appointments with non-existing pens into their Palm pilots .. i was using the little buggers to read books on. Like some proto-geek I would walk around with this little PDA in front of my face .. reading.
hero
When Ereaders came along I was the first to hop on board. When other geeks were still trying to make fire .. i had my first Sony PRS505 and I loved it. I loaded up 700 Star Trek novels on it and kissed reality goodbye.  However the whole tablet rave broke the loving relationship between my Sony and me .. and I started reading books on my Tablet and .. my smartphone. “Why have a separate device to read books on, if you have tablet that can do books .. and the internet , and twitter, and Facebook, and porn .. ” (Kidding : i never said ‘Porn’!)  And that is where the problem is. (not with Porn of course) but with all the other stuff. The tablet might be ok for reading , but the urge to get distracted is enormous.
You can’t “hide in a book” when you are reading on your tablet. Its that simple. the amount of Dings, popups and temptations to quickly check Facebook are too damn high ! So this week I decided to get a Kobo for my birthday.
I went for the Kobo Aura because of 3 things. 1: Its small. 2: It has a backlight (so I can read in bed) and 3: it syncs with POCKET. The design is well done, the Kobo feels nice to hold and has a long battery life even though it has a wifi connection. This “should” enable you to buy books online and all that crap.. but what its awesome for is Syncing down all those articles you tagged for “i’ll read this stuff someday’ in Pocket.
 
The digital magazine.
So aside from reading the book I had put on the Kodo using Calibre (at night , with the nice backlight) I also have a little “digital magazine” in my hands. The Calibre articles sync down over the wifi connection and give me small byte-size reads when I don’t feel like diving into the next chapter of my book. The fact that there is hardly any other form of connectivity (there is a browser on the Kobo .. but come-on,) helps you stay focused and relaxed during your reading.
I am very happy with the Kobo. The form factor (and the fact it does not have a raised bezel around the reading area) make it enjoyable to use. Its big enough for reading, but small enough to carry around. The limited Wifi is an added bonus but its the Pocket integration that helps this baby shine. A perfect balance between connectivity with the grid .. while still offering the disconnected “seclusio

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Ebook Week Day 2 : Undrm your Ebooks.

Nov 11

If there is one thing that I hate with a passion, then it is DRM or  Digital Rights Management. To explain it as simple as possible DRM is the technology used to screw over a paying customer. It is a form of copy protection that should prevent piracy of digital content but instead creates a paradoxical situation where it is more annoying for somebody who PAYED for said content vs anyone who chooses to pirate it.

When I forked over 15 of my well spent dollars in the Google Play store for an Ebook a couple of weeks ago, I was under the assumption that, since Google has no E-Readers of its own, I would be able to read said book on whatever Ebook reader I purchased. Lets be honest : I bought the book, Payed for it and I bought the e-reader. No biggie .. right ? Wrong ! Turns out that when trying to read the ePub file on my recently purchased Kobo Aura , the thing would not open. “DRM Protected” was the error I got.  Possible solutions were : Reading the book on my android tablet (in the Play Books app) or buying it all over again in a DIFFERENT online bookstore (with DIFFERENT drm). Not gonna happen Google, Not Gonna Happen.
Alternatively I could download a piece of Adobe software, hook up my Ebook reader, Authorize my ebook reader online, make an account with Adobe and “transplant” the book. Meanwhile the guy at the Pirate Bay who got a pirated copy of the book has been reading it for the last 4 hours and is way past the second chapter. Yet as a paying customer I have to jump through adobe hoops ? No .. no thank you.
Enter “All DRM Removal” : a great app for Windows or the Mac that lets you strip the DRM of your favorite ePub file using a simple drag-and-drop application. The first three books you “strip” are free, but then you have to pay for the app. I dropped my “Drm infested” ePub into the app and sito-presto : I got a new ePub file back.. Drm free ! After dragging it over to the ebook reader it worked like a charm.
I would not use All DRM Removal to completely strip the DRM of an ebook collection you don’t own (thats piracy , remember ? ) but for the occasional book you buy in a DRM’d store .. This is the app to set them free. Happy ebook’in !
Link.
DRM removal by Epubor.com

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“Ebook week” Day 1: Calibrate my Pocket.

Nov 10

By McVries, Geek, Dad, Avid Reader, Open Source Enthusiast, @mcvries_ on twitter.

calibre

Calibre.

Distraction free reading, a bliss after a day of notifications, phone calls, co-workers with questions and the lot. Just kick them shoes off and put your feet up, maybe sippin’ a glass of Laphroaig. Lovely. And in the last four years or so the idea of me ploughing through a pile of books is no longer a reason to worry about our oxygen levels, paperless it is. An E reader, specifically a Kindle, is my way to protect the environment.
Using Calibre, a multiplatform Ebook management suite, to manage my ebooks gives me the freedom to use actually any format with the Kindle. Calibre reads any Ebook format I can think off and is able to convert them to about any other format. So the usual setup is something like this, I add an epub, txt or doc file to my collection and with a single click I tell calibre to email it to my Kindle. Calibre knows that that little device isn’t multilingual so it translates the whole book into the mobi dialect it does understand. Sweeps it out through port 25 and it lands on my nightstand.
So although I actually own a quite locked down device I don’t really notice it as such.

pocket-logo-icon

Pocket.

Throughout the week I tend to collect quite a few articles and blogposts which I all mean to read later. I save them to my Pocket account if they are a bit longer then usual and if I don’t have a direct need for the information. They wait patiently inside my pocket account and every time I have the time to read up at all the interesting stuff I didn’t get to in that week I can use the Pocket webapp on my laptop, or the application on a tablet. That is just fine and dandy, but the setting is not that of distraction free reading. Popups are still there, the screen is still a glowing display and it just doesn’t feel like reading the way it does on a Deadtree or Electronic book. Especially the well written informative and longer articles I like to read in a more Zen situation.  And here comes calibre to the rescue again.

Calibrate my Pocket.

Calibre contains some nifty tools and one of them is “Fetch News”, which comes with a trunkload of predefined scripts. One of them titled “Pocket”. And although there are some caveats, with sorting and archiving the downloaded articles and working with the correct tags it actually works pretty well for me. And while I was ironing out the forementioned caveats, all of a sudden I ended up creating an Ebook containing six months of weekly columns by a well known columnist here in the Netherlands. Neat.

The HowTo.

Presuming you have a Pocket account and have your credentials available and you have got a copy of calibre running on your preferred OS, here we go.

 

2

Summary: In calibre click Fetch news and select Add a custom news source.

3

 

Now choose to Customize a builtin recipe. In the next screen you want to select Pocket.

4

In the edit screen as below you can select the Script on the left en in the right panel scroll down to the “Settings people change” to finetune the recipe for your needs. The picture (click to enlarge) shows the defaults.

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I changed some options for my needs. My version reads:

 

 

  • #Settings people change
  • max_articles_per_feed = 50
  • minimum_articles = 1
  • mark_as_read_after_dl = False # Set this to False for testing
  • sort_method = ‘newest’ # MUST be either ‘oldest’ or ‘newest’
  • # To filter by tag this needs to be a single tag in quotes; IE ‘calibre’
  • only_pull_tag = None

If you don’t meet the required minimum_articles, the script fails with an error. And since I push that button, I want those articles, even if there are just a few. So I lowered this to 1. The mark_as_read_after_dl. I changed this to false, since I want to use my webapp for managing my pocket account. And the sort_method I changed to newest, so if I fail to manage my pocket account I get the latest articles first instead of wading through a whole lot of stuff I have forgotten to clean out. The “only_pul_tag = None creates the situation that only untagged articles are pulled down. So if you would like to create a dedicated stream to your ereader the tag “calibre” or “ebook” would be approriate to use. Just don’t forget to tag them correctly when tagging to pocket!

And don’t forget to save your script (Add/update recipe on the left) and click close. Some loose ends here, even if you saved it it will still warn you you might lose the changes. Take a risk for once and click close. On we go:

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Under Fetch news, schedule news downloads will tie your freshly editted script to your pocket account. Just pick the Pocket script under custom, create a schedule and fill in the credentials.

7

 

Now to go out and build your own ebook for your reading pleasure. Under Fetch news click “Download all scheduled news sources”8

Allright, after this the actual building of your ebook will take about 2 minutes, tops. Done, you now own an Ebook with all the needs to reads you collected throught the week. And the next time it will only take about a minute. Transfer it to your E reader and discover it is menu driven, with smart links within the ebook for navigation and enjoy your distraction free quality time with the interesting stuff you harvested.

Get Calibre here and join Pocket here.

 

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TGIF : How about a slice of Turkish bootleg Star Wars ?

Nov 07

What do you do if your name is  Çetin İnanç , its 1982 and you are running out of idea’s for your next movie ?  Simple : You start directing the epic adventure flick called : Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam  (The Man Who Saved the World). A wonderful B-movie full of horrible sets, bad acting, shaky storylines and Star Wars scenes.  Wait .. WHAT ? Indeed , you read that right. To “dress up” his production of “The man who saved the world” (a movie that has a story line that does not even bother to be better then a 70’s pornflick) he used stock footage from Star Wars “A new hope”. For tunes he stole the theme songs from Battlestar Galactica and Indiana Jones to liven up the movie and apparently had no idea that something like “copyright” ever existed. Funny enough the movie became an instant cult classic , so who are we to keep you from its amazing trailer .. Enjoy and try not to ruin your shirt when your eyes and ears start bleeding.

Link :  Here is the terrible truth about the movie on Wikipedia.

BONUS : It appears you are still conscious after watching the trailer, so we will give you this little easter egg : How about a full TURKISH STAR TREK movie ?   Have a nice weekend !

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Zen week : Sleep onboard a starship with these great soundscapes.

Nov 06

The sound of a waterfall, an untuned TV set, or a fan in the background : All of these are examples of ‘White noise’ that help you concentrate or get to sleep. They have one thing in common : They are BO-RING .. How about spending 12 hours inside a Starfleet shuttlecraft. Or lounging around in Deckers aapartmentin the movie Bladerunner ? How about falling asleep to the sounds of Dave Bowmans shuttlepod in 2001 a space odyssey  ? Crynsknife007 has got just the thing for you. On his Youtube channel he has collected an impressive set of geeky 12 hour sound loops that really help you space out .. or focus. So have a slice of sci-fi inspired white noise and spend your day in the ambient sounds of the Battlestar Galactica engine room or fall asleep to the echoes of the death star. Plenty to choose from. Here is an example.

 

 

Link : Enjoy his entire collection here.

Tip : If you want to download these sounds for your phone or your favorite MP3 player (do people still have these  ?) take a peek at our YOUTUBE-DL show to quickly learn how 

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Zen week : Work on your ‘chicken neck’ posture with this simple video.

Nov 05

” Sit up straight” , “Don’t hunch like that” , “Pull your neck back” . You might have all gotten these remarks at some time in the past. The fact is : the people who told us are probably right. We hunch over our screens , our tablets our smartphones. We tilt our necks forward and “bog down” while we are raving away on the digital plain. One of the ways this affects our posture is by growing a “chicken neck” where our head it tilted forward relevant to our shoulders. Its bad for you, it gives you headaches, affects your health and by the time you are 60 you will look like a one of these scowering trolls from the lord of the rings movie.
The good news is : You can fix it : With just a couple of exercises explained in the video below you can work on your posture, improve your health and look REGAL while you are doing it.

 

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Zen Week : Calm down .. with Calm.

Nov 04

Mindfulness , Meditation, tranquility . These are all things we should consider , which are important, which have one thing in common : Most of us have absolutely no idea how to do any of them. Whenever some free floating new age person dressed in an outfit that looks like a  a Jedi knight in a wedding gown tells me to ‘put down my phone and meditate’ , I can only respond with a blank stare and the suggestion I might look up how to meditate on the internet. This is not an approved method of getting these floaty people to agree with you.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-13-at-4.19.28-PM

So enter CALM : A free floating fairy that lives in your phone and tells you how to be mindful and meditate. In seven steps a soothing voice explains you how to meditate by minding your posture, mindset, your body , your breath and your patience. You can also choose from several guided meditations ranging from 2 tot 30 minutes or just get a selection of white noises to “freestyle your medi-cycle”

Calm is free and available for Android and IOS.

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Zen week : Guard your sleep cycle with f.lux

Nov 03

Its “Zen” week on Knightwise.com where we are going to give you some tips on turning you hyper connected lifestyle a little more towards the “pool of tranquility” that is a state of Zen.
Lets start out with a cool little app called F.LUX.

The screens on our devices (laptops , tablets, phones) are designed to mimic the blue hue of daylight as much as possible so we can enjoy a clear an crisp image and be “productive”. However, our brains and our sleep cycle are triggered by the presence or absence of daylight. As the sun sets it gets darker in the evening, our brain tells our body to get ready for bed and once we lie down we hopefully doze off. But RIGHT before you go to bed you quickly check your Facebook feed on the  super-daylight-bright display of your laptop. Your eyes notice the “Daylight color” and your brain thinks .. ” F*ck ! It’s noon ! ” and completely resets your bio clock. Result : You have a hard time getting to sleep ! And this is BAD for you !

F.lux_App_Review

So enter F.lux.  F.lux will adjust the color temperature of your screen according to the time of day.  In the morning your screen will have a much “warmer” color to match the rising sun. As the day progresses F.lux will adjust the brightness and color tone to “daytime” only to “wind it down” back to a warm tone in the evening. This puts less strain on your eyes and makes your laptop much more sleep-cycle friendly.

You can disable flux from the menu-bar icon for an hour or until the next day to prevent it messing up your colors when you are doing video editing or photoshop.

F.lux is free and is available for : 

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“Whats in your bag week” Day 6: Keith Murray

Nov 01

Keith Murray

I deal with technology every day. As a software architect in my day job and an amateur developer, photographer and delinquent podcaster & blogger in my off time I deal with technology seemingly constantly.

Until very recently this would have been a typically geeky post. For years I’ve been the kind of person who always has a laptop or two, often a tablet, and an untold number of USB thumb drives for various purposes stashed somewhere in my bag. Recently, however, that changed.

This week I sold my laptop. I won’t get into all the reasons why I parted ways with my daily companion, but suffice to say I’m making some adjustments to my computing habits and this was the first major step towards this particular technological goal.

My bag is very analogue these days. There’s some technology in there, to be sure, it would be very difficult to do my software-focused job without some of it. But I have learned over the past year that I prefer a bit more minimalist approach. I use the term advisedly because I know there are people out there far more minimalist than I am, but I have cut down on the number of machines I own and the amount of gear I carry around with me quite significantly.

Enough preamble, let’s get started.

Contents of Keith Murray's Bag

Work Laptop – Elitebook Folio 9470m
This is the machine supplied by my employer for my day-to-day work activities. Being a fairly large company we don’t have the freedom to select our own machines and have to go with what we’re given for the most part. In my case I have just had mine replaced with this new HP “ultrabook”. It’s a 13″ Core i5 laptop with 4GB of memory running Windows 7. It’s enough to get me through my day, but isn’t anything particularly special.

Since I spend about half my working days working from my home office I don’t have a permanent space in our building which necessitates me carrying around not only the laptop, but also the power supply. When I’m at home I have a good monitor, keyboard and mouse, but in the office I end up using the laptop keyboard a tiny little 17″ LCD screen and a stock little optical mouse. Suffice to say I prefer to work in my own office most of the time.

Work Phone – LG Nexus 5
I carry two phones, one for work and one for everything else. The work phone doesn’t get a ton of use, but it’s my only mobile method of checking my work calendar and my work email. The main reason for carrying two phones instead of one to rule them all is the restrictions required for the work phone. My employer’s device management software places some significant restrictions on the types of apps and data synchronization tools that can be installed on the phone. Lack of ability to have some pretty basic data-sharing tools like Dropbox makes using this as my primary phone a non-starter.

Personal Phone – iPhone 5s
I have just ended a year of going Android-only for my mobile phones. The Nexus 5 I just mentioned above was my personal phone and I had used a Samsung Galaxy S3 for work. When the S3 broke, I decided to split my mobile phone platform life and switch to an iPhone 5s for my personal phone. No slight against Android but I just felt like I wanted to go back to an iPhone after a year away from the Apple fold.

This is the phone that gets used for *everything* including all my social media and personal email. It’s basically my lifeline to the outside world. It’s also the last of the technology in my bag.

Notebook – BlueLine NotePro Hardcover
I go through these notebooks like crazy. I take them to every meeting, use them during every conference call and use them to jot notes, diagrams and whatever else may cross my mind throughout the day. Essentially the book is an outboard extension to my brain and a scratch pad/draft area for lots of things that will eventually end up as notes on my computer, emails, diagrams or any number of other things.

These books have a coiled binding that allows them to lay flat or fold the front cover in behind so that I can use it pretty well anywhere. As much as I love all my tech gear, there’s something simple about being able to pick up a writing stick and make notes appear on paper.

Pencils – Staedtler Norica HB Pencils
Yes. Pencils. HB pencils. Just like you used to use back in elementary school. They don’t run out of ink, they don’t smudge all over my hands, they write on any angle, and they’re pressure sensitive — I can get various shades of gray and black by varying pressure.

I’ve really liked having pencils in my bag for the past couple of years and while I do have a pen as well, I don’t know that I’ll go back to using a pen as my primary method of documenting ideas on paper.

Eraser – Papermate Speederase
I have this in my bag. But I don’t use it. Proof? It’s still in the plastic. Erasing slows down the process of documenting and notation. Paper is a transient, ephemeral platform for me, it need not be permanent. No sense wasting time with an eraser when a simple scribble will do.

Pen – Zebra Z-Grip Gel Pen
Once in a while I like to use a pen. Most often I only use it when I need to sign something (which is blessedly rare these days). Most of the time the person most likely to use the pen is my daughter. As least lately.

Whiteboard Pens – Staedtler Lumocolor Pens
I like these pens. I’ve had them for a few years and end up using them a couple of times a week when I get into a conference room with a whiteboard and all of the pens are either broken, dried out or just plain missing. I like these pens for a few reasons. They are fairly easy on the nose compared to other dry-erase markers I’ve used. So far they have always worked and never dried out on me. One other neat feature is that the box they come in converts into a stand-up shape so that you can park in on the table and have easy access to them. It’s totally a gimmick, but I like it.

The Bag – Leather Messenger Bag
The bag itself is a nice brown leather messenger bag by Roots (no idea what the model is). It has three large compartments inside, as well as a few smaller pockets on the front. Everything I need to transport fits very easily in the bag, and I’m even able to fit an extra laptop or an iPad plus a keyboard if I need to take them somewhere.

The only downside is that there’s no padded compartment for the laptop, so for some extra protection the laptop needs a sleeve (or sometimes just some paper in the bottom of the middle section to provide some drop protection (or protection from putting the bag down a bit too hard).

 

So that’s pretty much it. I’m sure the contents of my bag will change next week or next month if I decide to try out something new. Maybe I’ll find a new use for my iPad. Who knows? Ultimately the contents of our daily carry bags evolve as our needs and knowledge evolve. I’ve gotten some great ideas from the other guest bloggers this week and will definitely be adapting my workflow to incorporate some of these ideas. What will you adapt?

 

You can follow Keith on Twitter @kdmurray or on his blog at kdmurray.net.

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