Things to consider when hunting for the perfect laptop bag.

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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Its not what you add .. its what you leave out . Practical pointers in simplicty.

Does your office look like a Borg hive ? 

 One of the biggest challenges in the daily life of a cyber-citizen must be .. Simplicity. Simplicity in using technology , simplicity in integrating technology , simplicity in hardware and software .. and most importantly : Simplicity in thought.
Just think of the classic example. Somewhere along the way it happened. Your ever so tidy laptop bag seams to have been impregnated by the lords of chaos them selves. What started out as a slim shiny Dell laptop-bag has now become an atrocity. Like a grotesque pregnant elephant its innards have now swollen up with meters of cables , extra floppy drives, cd’s, extension cords , paper, books and so forth. As you watch the heaving husk that , due to being terribly overweight, drags your left shoulder to the ground and makes you look like Quasimodo, you think .. Where did it all start ?
But when you look at the mess that is your office , you see a reoccurring pattern, Your office, once setup with the help of your girlfriend to be a place of fen shue , now has the characteristics of a Borg cube after a high speed collision with a scrap barge. Cables , monitors, paper , books, post it notes.. keyboards overlapping keyboards, mouse-cables in suffocating deadlocks, flashing hubs and switches.. and loads of empty coffee-cups.
The big drawback of being on the edge of real an cyberspace is that you learn a lot of new things everyday. There is so much to see, to find out, to try , to test, to use .. Everyday something comes along that takes your fancy and you add it to the list .. stick it in your bag , add it to your start menu. And pretty soon you have an immense collection of tools and toys that by no means contribute to your effectivity.

 Techno-Reset.

What i regularly do is a ‘technological reset” where I look at all the things I have and think about ways to work more effective. For example : My 4 old test computers that served as my loyal test-battery (and drove my fiancé AND our electrical bill up the walls) have now been replaced by 4 virtual machines running on one computer, My entire collection of Windows versions have been scaled down to fit on one single dvd. My overweight software collection bag has been reduced to one portable USB hard drive and so on. Its very important to find the balance between keeping up with what is new , and being overwhelmed by hardware, software, information and more. The challenge is to analise what you have , and try to distill it into a workable simple concept. This means letting some things go , or combining tools, hardware or work-methods, but this is the only way to let technology work for you .. instead of the other way around. Take for example my current podcasting setup. It started out with one computer and a microphone , but due to the demands of my podcast, has grown into : A microphone stand , A microphone, A pop screen , headphones, a Mixer , My Macbook for show-notes and skype conversations , a second computer to play music or background tracks (using a USB DJ console) and finally a Linux system to record everything on.  I must say its very versatile BUT also very complex. I am momentarily contemplating how to simplify the whole project. This will not only get me a cleaner office , it must also give me a cleaner way to do my thing : thus simplifying technology.  The “how to record skype conversation” issue has been solved as I found this little gem for my macbook  and as a replacement (or quite probably an “addition” to my studio setup I was looking at the Samson C01u microphone with a table stand .  Together with my Macbook it will give me a portable high quality studio, that can be put away at a moments notice. Using Garageband and open source software like Audacity this wil greatly simplify my podcast production.

So you see my friends, Living with technology is not about what you add .. but what you leave out in order to be as effective as possible. This will help you in working faster, thinking clearer, have more time to think and respond to creative challenges. Downloading tool after tool , installing pc after pc is easy , its looking THROUGH the technology in order to see how you can destil it, simplify it .. and tune it into your way of life. 

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