KW1101 The Knightwise Identities

Mar 05

We’re Back!

After a long winter’s nap the Knightwise.com podcast is back for another season of cross-platform goodness. Season 11 kicks off this week with Knightwise doing something he hasn’t done in a few years. Come along for the ride as our intrepid host talks about managing work, life and your multiple selves in the digital age.

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Things to consider when hunting for the perfect laptop bag.

Mar 03

Call it geek envy, but sometimes you see somebody walking around with a piece of gear and you think by yourself : I want this too. No matter if you need it, or even have a use for it, you want it. Just because the other geek has it to. I regularly get a case of the “geek envies” when I see people use cool smartphones, fancy laptops or … Laptop bags. Yes: My name is Knightwise and i’m a laptop bag junkie.

My wife regularly makes fun of me when I am relentlessly drawn towards the ‘bag’ section of some store, looking for the ‘ideal geek bag’. For some reason I’ve collected several messenger bags to lug around all my gear. Yet for some reason none of them is ‘perfect’ and I’m always on the look for that “ideal bag”.

So as you might have noticed: Laptop-bag-geek-envy struck me this week after watching a couple of episodes of Mr Robot, where the hero walks around with one of these giant “Tactical backpacks” that hold his laptop. It triggered me into an hour long Amazon click-fest researching which backpack Eliot was using and what the pro’s and cons were of using a setup like that. What it basically comes down to is that there is no ‘perfect’ laptopbag because every bag has its ups and downs

Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an  iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns

Tough but Rough

Picking up on the ‘Tactical Laptop bag’ that our hero uses in “Mr Robot” you run into your first problem. These rugged military grade laptop bags are very cool to cary around and basically indestructible. They make you look like a special ops member on his day off. Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an  iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns. As a result having a military grade laptop bag might not be the best choice if  you are in a corporate environment where a little elegance is required. So at come point you might need to choose between Rough & Tough or elegant and smart.

Roomie but bulky.

The other factor you might need to consider is the size of your laptop backpack. These things come in all shapes and sizes depending on what you want to tuck in there. Ranging from a size that can barely hold an adult tribble to a backpack that would allow you to cross the himalaya in a single go, there is a lot to choose from. Going for a backpack that is roomy might be  very convenient when you want to cram in your entire mobile office for the day: Laptop, Lunchbox, extra sweater, perhaps some  books, your tablet .. you name it. Some of these larger size backpacks eat it up like black holes eat stars .. the downside is that they also increase in mass. What you might end up with is a backpack that weighs  a ton and is very very hard on your back and  shoulders. The fact that you can keep cramming stuff in does not mean that its actually healthy to haul all of that around without the additional use of an antigrav unit or a pair or repulser lifts.

Slick but tight.

The one way to decrease the weight of your backpack is by going for something smaller. The less crap you can shove into your backpack, the better .. right ? Perhaps, but the downside here is that there is a ‘bare minimum’ of stuff you need to  carry with you. Having a small and slick backpack does increase the chance that your gear does not have enough protection because  there is hardly any room between the corner of your laptop and the edge of your backpack. One strategically placed ‘bump’ and you might end up with a cracked screen. The other thing that is also a risk here (or with any other backpack) is the fact that you cram in to much stuff and pressure is applied to the center of your laptop screen, making it bend as you walk around. Not something you want.

Thule EnRoute Escort 2 Daypack Review

Thule EnRoute Escort 2 Daypack Review

So I looked at all the pro and cons and went for something ‘in the middle’: Sufficiently geeky-and-tactical, not too big and not too small. I ended up going for the Thule Enroute 2 Blur. Like all products it is sufficiently rugged and durable to use on a daily bases. It has plenty of compartments to keep your stuff organised (I hate it when crap rattles around in my backpack) and going for the ‘Blur’ version meant it was roomy enough for my 15 inch laptop with some room to spare. The backpack has some nice adjustable straps that don’t cut into your shoulders. When it comes to size it hits the sweet spot between where I still have enough room for my gear, but am unable to pack up everything AND the kitchen sink before I leave the house. At about 99 euro’s online it was not  the cheapest backpack around, but it was the only one that ticked all the boxes I mentioned above. Geeky, Roomy, Safe and slick.  Its the perfect laptopbag .. until I go crave another one.

Links: Thule Enroute 2 Blur.

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When wanting is more pleasing then having : What drives YOU to buy new gear ?

May 22

“Wanting is more pleasing then having” : It’s not logical, but it is the truth. It’s a line Spock must have quoted in some long gone Star Trek episode somewhere (please don’t ask me, I can’t remember which one). For some reason it has stuck in my mind for the longest time. “It’s not logical but it’s the truth” is the follow up line .. completing the entire statement and lifting it to the realm of existence-pondering quotes out there.

spock crying

I’m reminded of the quote as I’m browsing through a similar quote (of the financial kind) of my current gadget-infatuation (or toy-crush) : The Dell XPS13 laptop. This sleek small 13 inch laptop has been on the market for quite a while and sports very cool specs in a very small form factor. I could go on telling you about how its innards, the software, the reviews and the hours of research I have been doing about it .. but that is a little beside the point. To sum it up : I’m infatuated with it at the moment. Because its a cool new toy and I want it !
There .. I said it : I want it ! I have read reviews, talked to people who own one, looked up insanely detailed technical documentation on how to take it apart should I ever need to. Adds for the laptop have been popping up in Facebook and Youtube is now convinced my only goal in life is to watch MORE review video’s about the XPS13. If the XPS13 was a girl, I would be considered a stalker. But since its only a laptop (and a gorgeous one at that) it’s called research and I’m called a Geek.
I don’t wear sandals and have a neck beard.
Mulling over this quote in my hands I took the time and step back a little, to the days before my gadgetary obsession with the device to ask myself the question : When did the XPS13 become the perfect laptop for me ? Was it after some long quest through the digital wastelands in search for the perfect portable laptop ? Was it after a life changing event that made me realize that in fact did not OWN any portable computer ? Am I to become a Linux Developer working for canonical in the morning (and hence need such a device ?)…. No. I in fact have a laptop (and multiple portable devices) and I don’t wear sandals and have a neck beard. I can’t even write a decent bash script so .. the developer option is out.  Somewhere along the line I must have just decided that I wanted to have it.
The journey is more important then the destination.
What is important to know is that the journey that took me towards the point where I decided I really WANTED it, has never really started at any point where I NEEDED it. I’m not ashamed to point this out. My “urge” to posses the Dell XPS13 started when I read some article about its existence and from that point out I have started to dream up reasons why I need it. Sure, there were issues with the current size of my Macbook pro (in combination with my mobile lifestyle) that gave me some problems : The Macbook Pro is a little bit too big (and too expensive) to carry around everywhere and it would be handy to own something smaller. Also I have been playing around with Linux for a while now and have always wondered what it would be like to buy a machine pre-installed with Linux .. but none of these reasons truly validate the purchase of a new machine.
When it comes to the small form factor I have an older Surface Pro 1 which is perfectly portable (I take it to all my business meetings) and although Linux runs on it (I’ve tried it) the experience isn’t quite flawless. In its defense it does run Ubuntu linux perfectly in a full screen VM having plenty of power left. So if my “reasons”‘ for buying a new machine are that I need a small portable linux running device .. why don’t I settle for the machine I already have ?
I’ve probably been marketed.
The answer is probably marketing. Subconsciously I’ve been influenced by the mega marketing machine that is the internet into believing I NEED the Dell XPS13. And because of that I”ve started to rationalize the purchase by telling myself all the things I can do with it. Falling for the marketing trick is not something we should be ashamed of our shy away from. For one our economy would collapse and we would all end up living in our own cabin in the woods like hermits .. but it IS a good thing to be AWARE of this.
I for one have been taking a close look at those reasons I came up with why I NEEDED this new device.
– I needed something that was smaller then my Macbook Pro.
– I needed something that was powerful and portable so I could take it with me everywhere without being afraid to break our bump it.
– I would LIKE to have a machine that runs Linux flawlessly.
– It would be great to have a little laptop that I could take with me te blog on and record podcast.
– I would be so much more productive if I had this ONE laptop that could kind of do anything..
….
So dp I need it ? 
There are plenty of more reasons where these came from if you query me long enough .. So I decided to take this shortlist and throw it at the hardware I already have. (In this case my I5 Surface pro) . Turns out that (aside from running Linux natively) it CAN do all the things I want to do (and then some) Add in the stylus and the transformable laptop-tablet form factor and it is actually a more versatile device then the XPS.
Then why do I want it ? 
The second thing I did was to take long look at the list and figured out what it really meant. When I read beyond the technical desires there are some creative desires there. What my subconcious is actually trying to tell me is that I want to have more time to be creative. My creative urges see the XPS13 as kind of a promised land to write more, podcast more .. have more time to myself. They also are urging to have a less complicated life. Those are the things I really WANT.
The bottom line is that what I really WANT is more time to unleash my creativity and a less complex and hectic life to do this. Thanks to clever marketing the XPS (and its specs) has been heralded as the enabler of these solutions. The fact is : it’s not true. If I want to be more creative , i CAN … I just need to do it on the hardware I already have. Instead of upgrading my machine I might need to upgrade the way I spend my time. Perhaps I need to upgrade the importance of listening to my creative urges. Perhaps what I really want is an XPS version of my own life at the moment.
Its funny how a cool gadget triggers thoughts about what you really want out of life .. but in the end THAT is what matters. So when you feel the urge coming up to get a cool new toy you don’t really “need”‘ .. figure out WHY you want it. It might uncover some hidden desires or frustration that you want to resolve.. Getting those sorted out might be harder then just buying a cool new toy in a shiny box .. But it will be much more rewarding. So you see 🙂 Wanting is not as pleasing as having .. It’s not logical : It’s the truth.

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“Whats in your bag week” Day 2 : Daniel Messer

Oct 28

daniel

I sometimes joke that I live online, but that’s not far from the truth. By profession, I’m a Web Content Manager for a public library district in Phoenix, Arizona. I create and manage online content for the library’s website and assorted web based properties and presences. Beyond that, I’m a podcaster and the host of Cyberpunk Librarian; a show about libraries and technology. I blog and write for websites. I’ve done online video and an online documentary series dealing with popular history. Im a digital illustrator and graphic designer. I’ve written two non-fiction eBooks you can find on Amazon and composed music you can find on Soundcloud

Sooner or later, almost everything I do ends up on the web.

It’s not just my job to create stuff and put it on the web, it’s my passion. On the librarian side of things, it’s crucial that the library’s web content work in as many places as possible, so I carry gear devoted to the life of a professional web guy who’s enthusiastic about online content.

What's In Dan's Bag

  1. My bag is very simple, a basic Merona messenger bag I picked up at Target maybe a year ago. It’s got a big space for stuff, a smaller zipper pouch for smaller stuff, and two big pockets on the front for whatever else. It’s not as feature rich as a Timbuk2 bag, but it does the job well.
  2. Magazines – Yes, words and images printed on dead trees and I’m fortunate to have a job where Rolling Stone is considered a “professional periodical.” I love magazines and frequently read them on my tablet.
  3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 – This is a step up from a basic point and shoot, but it’s not as feature filled as a DSLR. I’m an image junky, so I take pictures occasionally and I’m trying to take more of them more often.
  4. Albuterol inhaler – “Sucks to your ass-mar!” Ralph. Lord of the Flies (A literary reference from a librarian. Go figure!)
  5. Yak Pak disc headphones – These things don’t have sound like Sennheiser headphones or anything. However I also won’t freak out if they get lost or broken. If I carried Sennheisers and they were lost or stolen, I’d cry myself to sleep that night.
  6. Wallet – No cash, so don’t bother. I don’t carry cash all that often but I do need someplace to put my driver’s license, debit and credit cards, and medical insurance stuff. Truth be told, I hate wallets. This is just easier than carrying the stuff loosely.
  7. Business cards – Daniel Messer. Web Content Manager. Maricopa County Library District. Can I help you?
  8. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Running Kit Kat on the Verizon network. I carried an iPhone 4s for two and a half years before moving up to this. I can’t go back, I love my big phone. This is the computer I take everywhere and the thing that keeps me connected 24/7.
  9. iPad 3 – Okay, I know this is weird, but when it comes to tablets I prefer iOS over Android. I just haven’t found an Android tablet as nice as an iPad that does all of the things an iPad does for me. This is my daily driver as far as tablets go and it goes with me almost everywhere.
  10. Old prescription bottle – Unfortunately, there’s nothing stronger than ibuprofen and some antacid tablets. I have a bad back so the ibuprofen gets a fair bit of use.
  11. MagSafe charger for my….
  12. Mid 2013, 11 inch MacBook Air – This is my digital baby. I love this laptop and take it to work every day. Sure, I tell people that I use it to test website changes on Safari. The truth is, this is my primary computer. I produce video and audio on it. I use it for digital illustration. It’s my writing platform and my podcasting production system. I call her Angelique.
  13. Wired, USB mouse – I love the trackpad on the MacBook, but when I’m writing, I need a mouse. It’s just easier for me to write prose, emails, and code with a mouse nearby. I don’t use the mouse at all most of the time, but when I need to get the cursor between two letters, the mouse wins. Yes, it’s a simple USB, wired mouse. While I like Bluetooth mice, I’ve never had a connection issue with a wired mouse.
  14. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, 7 inch – My eReader for eBooks. I’m a librarian, I read a lot. I guess it kind of makes sense that, as a technologically minded librarian, I read a lot on several different devices.
  15. Grid-It organizer by Cocoon – It’s like lots and lots of runner bands! It holds the various charging cables for the various devices. It has a zippered pocket on the back for…
  16. Various plugs – Well, yeah. You have to have something to plug those cables into.
  17. Battery charger for the Lumix DMC-FZ8 – It’s an older camera and the battery is still good, but it certainly doesn’t last as long as it used to.
  18. Merkury Innovations Power Bank – Merkury is a decent supplier of inexpensive tech. They make Bluetooth keyboards which aren’t bad at all and this little power pack will charge my phone from dead to 60%. I don’t use it often, but when I need it, it’s a life saver. It’s also much cheaper than a Mophie Pack.
  19. Refillable spray sanitizer – Just a little spritz and you’ll kill most of the germs on anything. Basically, it’s just rubbing alcohol in a sprayer. I’m not a germaphobe at all, but sometimes, yeah, you need to clean your hands.
  20. Assorted pens – Oddly enough, I don’t have a single thing to write on.
  21. Apple BlueTooth Keyboard  – When you write as much as I do, this thing is a must have. Sure there are other keyboards for the iPad out there, but I’ve yet to find anything as good as this. My iPad is my daily computer and I use it as much as my MacBook Air. It’s great for work, for my own projects, for writing, for blogging, and almost anything else. When I leave the house with my bag, you can guarantee that this keyboard and my iPad are in it.

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Essential week : How much do you really need ?

Jul 29

We are back on the blogging wagon this week trying to bring you a short article on a daily basis around a certain theme. This week its ‘essentials’ week. What gear do we REALLY need when we are on the road and how much of our mobile tech kit is plain dead wheight. Its time to ‘slender’ down’ our digital carry-all and go for the bare essentials.

donkey_2

What do i carry ?

During the week I normally carry around my laptop (1 Macbook pro, my ‘dual booting daily driver’) a Galaxy tab Pro 8.4 tablet , A galaxy note 3 smartphone and an E-reader (since I love to read outside these days the glare from the sun renders any reflective device like a smartphone or a tablet, useless). Sprinkle in some cables and a couple of thumbdrives and my lunch .. and I have quite a hefty bag to lug around.

I carry too much ?

In all honesty, I don’t need all of it. Much of what I carry around, I carry around “In Case I need it”. My Smartphone (the Note3) sees a lot of action being my main source of connectivity, communication and entertainment .. but the laptop and the tablet don’t see any use on some days. I’ve been terming my “lugging around of non-used electronics” as “digital daipering”. Taking stuff along just in case …

What do I need ?

Well in essence I need Communications (I need to send out emails for my company) Creativity (I need to be able to write up a small blogpost) Connectivity (I need to have internet access since there are not nice hotspots when i’m out and about) and Entertainment (Something to read and something to listen to.

So how do I go about this ?
Every day in the coming week i’ll be picking one digital solution that I pack in my bag and I see how good I can manage these four “requirements”. What works, what doesn’t and what I have learned. Stay tuned.

 

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