KW1303 – Everyday Carry

Sep 14

A little more than a decade after Amazon introduced the Kindle and turned the eReader market on its head, Knightwise reminisces about some of the earlier reading experiences and provides recommendations for a bunch of great reads.

What’s in the bag…?

Links

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray

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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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“Whats in your bag week” Day 5 : Cody Cooper.

Oct 31

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What’s In My Bag? By Cody Cooper

I’ve always been a person to carry bag full of goodies. Looking back on my days as a boy scout isn’t a positive nostalgic experience for me as I was always the little fat kid that didn’t belong. The outcast among the athletes, put there by my parents in hopes that I would become more social and find new interests, which just didn’t happen.

BUT, the motto from that organization always stuck with me:

“Always prepared”

When I think of childhood heroes I, of course, have two people that come to mind: MacGyver and Pee-Wee Herman.

MacGuyver because, well, MacGyver, and Pee-Wee Herman because of his bike from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. If only MacGyver owned that bike! What he could have accomplished? I guess we will never know. Needless to say I was always drawn to creative problem solving and utility items. They seemed to go hand in hand.

The earliest time in my life I remember carrying a bag with a lot of stuff in it was in junior high. I came from a working class family and when it came to treats I was never given big candy bars or cans of soda, I had to settle for the bulk candy section at the grocery store. My mother would buy a couple pounds of this candy and keep it at the house, but one day I remember taking one with me to school, about half a pound of wrapped peppermint candy.

My fellow students would see me unwrapping the candy around school, popping one in my mouth and the look on my face as it slowly melted away over several minutes. I then starting making friends as I would comply with requests for a piece here and there. Then one day I had someone offer me one dollar for ten pieces and a little sound went off in my head:

“Cha-ching!”

After the success of this little enterprise I of course had to expand my catalog of products to include bubble gum, chocolates, pixie sticks, hot cinnamons, root beer barrels and the like. I was even taking special orders for other items such as beef jerky, Corn Nuts (Ranch and BBQ only), Funyuns, Doritos, etc.

After a while I actually needed to buy a bigger bag to accommodate the merchandise and my school books, so going to the store to buy a new bag to suit my day to day needs was always fun.

Which brings my to my first item on this list of things that I are in my bag: the bag itself.

IMG_20141028_215041_1

Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger

http://goo.gl/5nBwdY

Maxpedition is a great company that makes bags for all sorts of outdoor, EDC and military needs. Out of all the backpacks that I have owned in my day (quite a few) this is my favorite and the first that made me feel content in my choice knowing that I will stick with this thing until it dies, and if and when it does I will stick with the brand.

Check YouTube for all the neat hacks that other people have done with this pack.

NOTE – This is a slingpack, which I traditionally don’t like, but it has a “support strap” that comes from the back and under your ribs that attaches to the main strap which adds a lot of stability to the pack rather than flopping around as you move. Also, you have two different options (regular or S-Type) which will accommodate either left or right-handed people.

DEVICES

Acer Chromebook C710

http://goo.gl/ozhwQt

This little guy has been through a lot during our time together. Several Linux installs (every which way I could get it on there, I did it), many late nights being adorned with stickers and she even survived a viscous attack from a then 11 month old (my son tore off the bottom panel which is now held on by tape). Always faithful, always fast.

LG Google Nexus 5 32gb (Black)

http://goo.gl/dT0aoi

I love me some Nexus devices. Once you buy one off contract and don’t EVER have to wait for your manufacturer or carrier to approve Android updates, you simply will never go back.

Trust me.

Asus Google Nexus 7 (2012)

http://goo.gl/d72CN1

Great little tablet. I play the majority of my Android games on this device and she has served me well. I also consume many videos and ebooks with the help of this little gem.

HTC One M7

http://goo.gl/QLKgSl

But Cody, you already have a phone on this list! And a tablet! AND A CHROMEBOOK! Why the hell do you have carry a second phone?

For a pretty neat purpose, but you will have to follow me on social media (Cody Cooper on Google+ or @codycooper on Twitter) to find out the specifics). Who knows, I might even share the details in a future blog for knightwise.com.

Patriot 32gb Supersonic Rage Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive x 3

http://goo.gl/gWDh04

One loaded with Kali Linux, one loaded with Ubuntu 14.04 and one loaded with media. I hate USB drives with caps (I always lose them) so this retractable model was very appealing. The fact that they are blazing fast helps.

Phone/Tablet Accessories

Meenova Dash Micro for Android

http://goo.gl/4cdjcT

We’ve heard it all before:

Billy

“I can’t buy this phone! It only has 32gb of internal storage! Which will be about 27 or less when I boot it for the first time after taking into account the OS and bloatware from my carrier that I can’t remove! THERE’S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!”

Smartphone Salesperson

“Who needs more than 32gb of data anyway? I only use, like, 4gb”

Billy

“Get away from me. Right. Now.”

Cody Cooper

“Well Billy, there is a better way! And what if I told you that there was a tiny device that would act as as a microSD card reader and that its compatible with most modern devices?”

Billy

“That sounds great, but seriously man, where did you come from?”

Cody Cooper

“Don’t worry about that Billy, just follow the link above to rememdy your mobile storage needs.”

Smartphone Salesperson

“So what is it going to take for you guys to switch your service to our company?”

Cody Cooper

“Unlimited Data or cash, lots of cash.”

END SCENE

MicroSD Card Holder from Sdcardholder.com

http://goo.gl/fZFQth

For storing all those SD/microSD/SIM cards on the go in a nice, safe and compact manner.

SanDisk 64GB Ultra Class 10 Micro SDXC x 2

http://goo.gl/ULao4a

Because I don’t have a give you a reason! Speed! Storage!

Samsung Galaxy Bluetooh Wireless Keyboard

http://goo.gl/cIuID6

I acquired this from a friend who didn’t like the fact that it came free with his awful tablet. His loss, my gain.

NOTE – get rechargeable batteries for this.

Cable Matters MHL 2.0 to HDMI Adapter

http://goo.gl/6UNREJ

+

Cable Matters Smlimport/MyDP to HDMI Adapter

http://goo.gl/6UNREJ

+

HDMI Cables x 2

For the above adapters

+

Second Screen

http://goo.gl/0G0TaK

For those times when you want to take over a large display and use your phone on a bigger screen. The hardware and software to do so. I carry both MHL and Slimport adapters so I can also show my friends with compatible phones how easy it is. It helps you make with the awesome. Who needs to carry a Chromecast when I just jack right into the display directly!

BONUS – works great with projectors!

Anker 2nd Gen Astro 3 12000maH Portable Battery

http://goo.gl/XQd9QD

This is a great portable charger that has PowerIQ technology, which is fancy talk for “it charges things as fast as they need to be, but no faster and no slower. With three USB ports, I have made many friends with this little device.

New Trent iCarrier 12000maH Portable Batter

http://goo.gl/WkwKRP

Now Cody, don’t you already have a portable battery on this list?

Yes, I do.

BUT, you have never have enough juice.

NEVER.

(Truth be told I lost this one for a time then bought the Anker above as a replacement, and wouldn’t you know it, I found it the day the replacement arrived? Don’t tell my wife!)

Anker 40W 5-Port Desktop USB Charger

http://goo.gl/ZjWX2D

We’ve all been there, several items to charge but only one free port in the wall socket! Don’t fret, you can charge five devices at the same time with this sucker. Also has PowerIQ technology.

Media

DVD-R x 8 (Ubuntu 14.04 x 4, Blank x4)

I carry these on me to help friends with their machines and I usually leave the disc with them along with a list of instructions for Live CD operation.

The blanks? Because you never know.

Tools

Gerber Shard Keychain Tool

http://goo.gl/AfG14Y

I have this on a keyring and attached to the little coiled cord in one section of my pack. Part crowbar, part screwdriver, part bottle opener and then some, this tool packs in the usefulness into a small form factor.

Stanley Screwdriver Pen Tool

http://goo.gl/Xbslsc

Four screwdrivers inside a pen? Yes please! Two phillips and two flathead screwdrivers in each “bit” makes this a handy little gadget.

Consumables

Contigo Stainless Steel Water Bottle

http://goo.gl/CPk0V9

Because hydration is important… assuming I ONLY have water in there. You’ll never know… trust me.

Beef Jerky

Because delicious and because good source of mobile protein/sodium to prevent me from eating chips. I hate chips, but sometimes I crave salt. WIN!

Ibuprofen Liqui-Gels (200mg)

For life’s little headaches.

NOTE – Must be liqui-gels. Not tablets, not caplets… LIQUI-GELS!

Entertainment

Sennheiser PMX 6XX Adidas Sports In-Ear Neckband Headphones

http://goo.gl/HJzJBo

For listening to music/podcasts when other people are around.

Beats Pill Portable Speaker (3.5mm cable included)

http://goo.gl/buE9uF

For listening to music/podcasts when other people aren’t around.

MISC

Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pen (Bold)

http://goo.gl/dL4QVL

The only pens I will ever use. Think your pen is nice? Well isn’t that cute?

5×8 Legal Pad x 2 + Mini Clipboard

For mind-dumping. I have always taken better notes on paper and this type of notepad with the perforated pages has always suited my writing style. I’m lost without these.

Assorted Zip Ties x MANY

I am the zip tie king. There will be no askew cables near any of my machines. I have found all sorts of cool uses for these over the years and I have become quite the zip tie snob.

Startech Self-Adhesive Cable Tie Mounts

http://goo.gl/O1ZxCR

To assist with the implementation of the above item.

Small Wire Cutters

http://goo.gl/lruJQ9

Ditto

6ft Ethernet Cable x 3

Because reasons.

Gorilla Tape

http://goo.gl/nd8EHc

When duct tape won’t cut it. AND, it secures the bottom panel of an aging Chromebook VERY well ;-).

Now some of you are probably wondering, “does he really carry all this stuff with him every day?”

The answer, is yes. For some, it’s overkill, for others it’s not nearly enough, but for me each of these items I have decided to put into this bag to fill a need that I once had. To prevent that moment of, “I sure do wish I had ______ right now” from happening again. Every mistake is a learning opportunity if you look at it just the right way. Carry with you what will suit your NEEDS, not your wants, and you will do fine.

And, most importantly, if you take the time to arrange such a collection of items into a bad, whatever you do, don’t leave it at home and then subsequently get stuck in a snow storm in your work town left with nothing but the technology of your family. What does that look like? Search my name on knightwise.com for a previous blog of mine.

Don’t forget the popcorn and tissues, it’s entertaining and sad.

Cody Cooper is a podcaster with the Podnutz network, co-hosting Linux for the Rest of Us with Stephen McLaughlin, the DoortoDoorGeek. Cody is a husband and father of two who enjoys all things tech. You can contact Cody at cody@podunutz.com or follow him on social media (Cody Cooper on Google+ or @codycooper on Twitter). Please drop him a line, he really does like talking to new people despite what you’ve heard.

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“Whats in your bag week” Day 4 : Knightwise.

Oct 30

kw

With all these amazing guest bloggers showing us what gear they use and what is “in their geekbags” I feel a little intimidated showing you what I drag around. My “Bag” is my daily companion for the days I work onsite as an IT consultant. It is focused on portability AND the ability to facilitate my creative and commercial activities while i’m out the door.

2014-10-27 16.39.27

The Bag : I have a thing for bags. I don’t have just one :  I have several. As my wife jokes from time to time “I’m like a woman” when it comes to computer bags. Perhaps she is right .. The thing is : I don’t believe in “one bag” for every occasion. Depending on where you are going, what you need to take with you and what kind of venture you are attending … a different bag  (or even a different setup of selected gear) might be required.

So in this case i’m showing you my “Day to day – on the road” bag (and its contents). The bag I carry around is a Thule Gauntlet 13. It was orignally designed for a 13 inch Macbook pro, but as I talked about it in the INITIAL REVIEW I did for Knightwise.com, it is a bit of a “Too tight fit” for the 13 inch Macbook but perfect for the setup I use it for. The bag is more of a ‘hard-case” then a messenger bag. This makes it compact AND keeps you from “over stuffing” your bag with things you don’t need. Like an old ‘attache’ case, it offers sturdy protection but also allows just  a finite amount of stuff you can cram in it. This is both a positive and a negative thing. The bag is stylish (important) rugged (it protects my gear) organised (it has pockets and compartments) and waterproof (I tested that by aiming a garden hose toward it.) You can go for a detailed review HERE .

The laptop : I have a 15 inch Macbook Pro I use for just about everything. But I also held on to my 11 inch Macbook air that I got last year. Partly for sentimental reasons (its just a great device) but also for practical reasons : I would be terrified taking my 15 inch Macbook Pro on the road with me every day. Its too valuable for me  (and also a little bit too bulky). The Macbook Air  is also my ‘experimental machine’ to run Linux distro’s and stuff. It is encased in a clear plastic hardcase I bought on Ebay (i’m also a little bit of a case-afficionado) and on its 128Gig ssd drive I’ve dual booted Osx Mavericks and Elementary OS Linux.

Headphones : My wife bought me a pair of Philips Headphones (I don’t know the type, threw away the box) that sit snugly ON my ears (not one of those sets that goes AROUND your ears). I like them because they are still quite discrete and stylish to use on the road, yet offer good sound quality. I also carry around a pair of apple in-ear earbuds. (not in the picture). These are great for recording audio, listening to podcasts while walking outside .. and they are just plain indestructible. (I have had my pair since Christmas 2012 and they have been through the washing machine 5 times now…) What IS in the picture is a pair of el-cheapo Samsung earbuds I keep in my bag as a spare. Yeah .. triple redundant headphone/earbud setup.. i’m a geek.

Cables : Very few. A charger for the Macbook Air and a micro usb cable to charge my phone, the blue thing is one of those adapters that lets you transfer files from a usb stick TO your phone. I have no idea why I keep carrying it around since its a little redundant .. but I haven’t taken it out yet.

“Writing utensils”  : Pens : As few as possible. A highlighter, a black and a blue pen (a blue STAR WARS pen !) and a couple of small post it notes I use religiously to keep tabs on whatever paperwork i’m dragging around.  I also carry around a manila folder (the red one) for every slip of paper I need to handle. It keeps the paperwork free from creases and prevents me from losing any document/piece of important paperwork that is smaller in size then a sheet of wallpaper. I don’t carry around a notebook or one of those snobby Moleskin books. I don’t believe in paper.

Harddrive : A one terabyte Western Digital Hard drive (usb powered) for those situations where I need to carry stuff around that does not fit on the drive of my laptop. It is pre-packed with some movies, some music and some tv shows to  watch, should I get stuck on an airport or a train station. I NEVER plug this drive into a foreign computer and have thought about encrypting it too.

Usb sticks : 2 Usb sticks , one 8 gigabyte ‘Darth Vader’ one that sports a Live usb version of TAILS (the super secure privacy oriented linux distro that Snowden used) whenever I need to work on a computer that is “not trusted”. There are also some portable apps on there when I’m working on a foreign Windows machine. The other 16 gigabyte stick is just there to “sneakernet” data across.

Box of business cards : Running your own company means carrying around business cards. My super geeky wife found out that these little plastic “wallets” are perfect for doing just that.

Not in the picture.
My phone  :  I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on a daily basis, combined with a 1st generation Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The Note3 takes care of many of my entertainment and communication needs. The Note3 is also the main “connectivity device” when I’m unable to smooch off some free wifi.

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“Whats in your bag week” Day 3 : Matt McGraw

Oct 29

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Matt McGraw is a full time, at home dad in Northern California, USA. He has 3 awesome kids and the most beautiful wife in the world. In his free time… never mind, he doesn’t have free time. When his kids are sleeping he writes at g33kdad.thestrangeland.net and tries to put out 2 episodes of his podcast, The G33k Dad Show! each month. You can follow him on twitter @sahg33kdad and on Google+ at google.com/+MattMcGraw.

Greetings Wisegirls and Wiseguys!  This is Matt, the Stay at Home G33k Dad from Northern California, USA. Knightwise has committed a grave error and asked me to contribute a guest post for What’s In My Bag week, so here is my contribution. There is a photo of my stuff laid out on the floor which accompanies this article, so I’ll just go through it now.

wimb_cropped

First off, the bag itself. It is a messenger-style bag with a zippered main compartment, a zippered, exterior compartment at each end, and 4 large pockets surrounding the main pocket inside the bag. As I am the Geek Dad, this bag is, in fact, a repurposed diaper bag. We got several diaper bags with our two kids and this particular one was never used, so I decided to use it for my tech bag. As an added bonus, one of the end pockets is designed to transport a bottle, so it is insulated! You will most often find either a bottle of water or a bottle of Diet Mtn. Dew in this pocket.

Moving on to gear, you will notice I am a mobile type of guy. Front and center is my mobile phone, an LG G3 on the Sprint network. We recently (last week at the time of writing this) switched from Verizon to Sprint. I left my Galaxy S3 behind and moved on to the G3. I love the phone, the only downside is battery life. To combat this, I turn the brightness way down and I have associated my calendar and contacts with my ownCloud server running on Digital Ocean. Using calDav and cardDav, I have all the functionality I need and, for some reason, the fewer Google services I use, the longer my battery lasts! Along with my phone are a pair of earbuds which I use to listen to music and podcasts while driving or on the treadmill, and a micro-fiber cleaning cloth for all my devices (and my sunglasses)

The item at center left, is my kindle. I am an avid reader and I love my ebooks. I have the kindle app on my phone, too. With the kindle are a micro usb cable along with a 110 volt wall charger and a 12 volt car charger. These will charge both my phone and my kindle.

Continuing clockwise, you will see a small tripod and a mount that holds a cell phone. I keep this so I have a place to set up my phone if I want to watch a video or if I want to use skype or google hangouts for a video call.

Next to that is a notebook with a mechanical pencil for those rare occasions when I want to jot down an “analog” note. Above this is a collection of cables including a usb extension cable, a 1/8″ stereo patch cable and a full size HDMI cable. I use these along with my…

Acer C720 Chromebook which you see in the middle of the photo, sitting on top of a Case Logic sleave-style case. You may also notice, sitting on the chromebook, is a stack of business cards. These are for my website and podcast. (http://g33kdad.thestrangeland.net) I love my chromebook. In fact, I am writing this blog post on it right now. Just about everything I do, I do on the web so I live in a browser; this includes writing, social networks, managing websites, and general organisation of my disorganised life. My friend and co-guest blogger, Daniel Messer, The Cyberpunk Librarian, says his favourite operating system is Firefox. In keeping with the slider ethos, he runs firefox on Mac, Linux, and Windows and is able to keep all his data synced and sliding. I feel the same way about Chrome. I run it on my linux laptops and of course, on my chromebook. I do run Chrome OS on my chromebook, by the way. Many people suggest that the best use for a chromebook is installing an open source bios and running linux on it; someday I may do that. However, I like keeping this machine lean and nimble. And with 2 minor exceptions, it does everything I want it to do. Those exceptions are Skype and audio recording/editing. When I record my podcast or an episode for Hacker Public Radio, I use Ubuntu and run Audacity.

Rounding out my bag is a stack of USB flash drives and a 300GB Western Digital USB hard drive. I have LOTS of USB sticks. I have one that simply runs TAILS linux, so I can boot into an anonymous OS. Another is set up with Multiboot so I can carry clonezilla, system rescue cd, super grub disk, as well as a couple of Linux distribution ISOs. I have one stick that just contains media; like music and movies. I also have a couple just for whatever. I subscribe to the theory of redundancy which states, if it doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist. To that end, I always have plenty of storage media with me.

So, that wraps up “what’s in my bag.” I carry this bag almost every day. It is very comfortable and it serves my purposes quite well. I do swap some things out… or add in my waterproof, digital point and shoot camera from time to time. But, for the most part, what you see is what I carry. You may notice I do not carry a charging rig for the chromebook. That is mainly because this machine gets days of battery life. If I am traveling extendedly out of town, it is easy to slip the charger into the mix.

Thanks for checking out my post. If you want to find more of me, visit my website at http://g33kdad.thestrangeland.net. There you will find articles on the intersection of technology and parenting and also my fledgling podcast, The G33k Dad Show! Take care all, and I’ll see you in cyberspace.

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