My Luggage Fetish Part 4 – Some New Bags I’m Coveting


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I’ve already written a lot about my addiction to buying bags. My reviews of laptop style gadget bags is here, and various Duffel Bags and their ilk are here. I also looked at some different backpacks here.

This is an update… I need to confess my sins. I haven’t dropped any cash on these yet, but here are my current favorites at the moment.

Apart from being a fan, I have no financial interest in any of these companies (just take my money please).

The Defy Bags Ultimate Overnighter in Rogue Camo

This is the bad boy in the image at the top of the page. My other Defy Weekender became a gear bag when I joined a martial arts gym earlier this year. This means I don’t have a regular overnight bag.

I mean, I have a good backpack, but another overnighter would rock too, right? More images here.

The Defy Bags Cargo Hold Tote in Rogue Camo

Cargo_Hold_Rogue1v2__75454.1433009063.1280.1280

I don’t have a use for this bag. Yet. But it matches the one above. ‘Nuff said right? I’m sure I could find a use for it. Just. Not. Sure. What.

The Goruck GR Echo

GR Echo

Once again, I already have a great backpack. But it’s my current briefcase. So… when I want to just use it as a backpack I have to unload it. Annoying.

I’m figuring that this little number would be a useful addition for the odd hike or day trip. It’s plain, but this gear is indestructible. Decisions, decisions.

How To Improve Your Writing? Use the Hemingway App


ErnestHemingway

My daughter told me she’s just started using an app called Hemingway to help her edit her writing.

I’d heard of it before, but never tried it. It sounded like a glorified spell checker.

And it turns out it is.

But it’s cool and I like it. A lot.

I used the free online version to to edit my last blog post. And now I’ve downloaded the desktop app which costs $9.99 and I used it to write this post.

If I was still teaching academic writing, I could think of a dozen applications for this in a computer lab.

What a great little application and I’d encourage you to have a play with it here. There’s also more info available here.

You can toggle the editing functions on and off for a distraction free environment if you want.

I’ve posted in a couple of screen shots below so you can see how it works. The first shot is of this post, which you can see is plain English.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 13.47.10

The second screen shot shows an earlier blog post of mine. You can see  my long winded writing style highlighted in various colours.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 13.50.20

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with this company

What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 3: Tools


basecamp1

Tools for your (mostly) digital toolbox

The other day I outlined some of the ideas, approaches, and tools that I’ve started using in my work in education that have made my life easier and more manageable.

Mostly, I’ve borrowed these concepts and tools from the world of start ups, entrepreneurship, and design.

Then I suggested a short self assessment activity that you could do if you were interested in pursuing this direction yourself. The purpose here is just self awareness.

If you’re perfectly happy doing what you’ve always done, then please carry on. In fact, click away now and look at some more cat videos.

However, if you think that there might be better ways of working and you’re curious about what some of the tools might be to help you with this, then please read on.

Project and task management

Basecamp

basecamp2

  • What is it? Basecamp is a web-based project management tool.
  • How do I use it? You create projects that are based around groups of tasks that you can assign to different people and dates. You can also use it to store emails, attachments, and documents. It’s simple to use and extremely powerful.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I haven’t tried it but it looks like you can get basecamp free as a teacher if you have a look here. There are many other different kinds of project management applications available.

Moleskin Notebook

moleskin1

  • What is it? It’s an overpriced, but very durable hard cover notebook with an elastic band around it to hold it together.
  • How do I use it? Because I do so much work online, this is my attempt to make sure I keep using paper. I use my notebook for managing smaller day to day to-do lists and tasks as well as for ideas and taking notes.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Of course. Any notebook will work, or make your own out of scrap paper.

Cloud-based productivity tools

Google Apps for Work

google_for_work

  • What is it? Custom email, cloud-based file storage, shared calenders, word processing, spreadsheets and more online from my phone, laptop, and iPad. Basically, this is Gmail, Drive, gDocs, and gSheets.
  • How do I use it? 4 dedicated ALEC email addresses used by my team, Drive for shared documents, gDocs and gSheets for collaborating and writing.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Your basic gmail account is free and includes most of this, but you have to pay if you want to deploy across and organisation.

Evernote

Screenshot 2015-07-02 13.44.37

  • What is it? Online storage and notes.
  • How do I use it? I use Evernote like a virtual filing cabinet, particularly for things that I’ve finished with that I don’t want to delete, but I don’t need paper copies lying around for. It’s also a great task manager and place for compiling research or notes for projects. I also use it for clipping documents from websites that I want to save for reading later. Evernote is massively powerful and I like it, but I have run into issues trying to use it which I’ve written about here and elsewhere.
  • Anything free or cheaper? It’s already free, unless you go premium for more storage.

Dropbox

dropbox-box-leaking-sensitive-user-data

  • What is it? Online file storage.
  • How do I use it? I use Dropbox as an alternative to Google Drive and for file sharing with others that I’m collaborating with. It’s also my archive for lots of old course materials and hard drives dating back about 10 years.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Basic account is free but you’ll need to pay if you want increased storage. I pay US$100 per year for a TB of online storage.

Other digital creative tools

USB Microphone

Yeti mic

  • What is it? It’s a microphone that is designed to connect directly to my computer via a USB cable. I like the Yeti Blue USB mic shown here which I’ve reviewed before. But I’ve also been coveting this one for a while now as well.
  • How do I use it? I use the mic for recording audio for podcast style recordings and for laying audio tracks over slideshows that I can then upload to YouTube.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Chances are that the computer you are using already has a mic built in. Also, so does your phone. The quality on these may vary as well. Have a look online – there are plenty of USB mics cheaper than the Yeti.

Audio editing software

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  • What is it? Here I’m referring to software applications that allow you to record, mix, and master digital audio.
  • How do I use it? I use this kind of software to create podcast style audio tracks like these for the training I do and for this blog.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Yes. I also use and really like a free piece of software called Audacity. It doesn’t look quite as racy as Gargeband, but It’s very powerful and as good as anything you can buy. You can download it here for free.

Tablet and stylus

tablet and stylus

  • What is it? It’s a drawing tablet and pen made by a company called Wacom. It’s expensive, but it’s fantastic to draw with.
  • How do I use it? I use it to draw illustrations for slides, blog posts, and other print or digital content.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have an iPad or other tablet there are all sorts of cheap or free drawing apps you can download and use with just your finger or a cheap stylus. If you want to buy a stylus you can get one for around $20 from an office supply or computer shop.

Drawing software

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  • What is it? A software application that you use with the tablet and stylus. I’ve just made the shift to Adobe Illustrator which is now a subscription-based service as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • How do I use it? I use it for creating and editing vector-based graphics and illustrations. It has been, and still is, a steep learning curve.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I started with a free drawing and digital mark up app that I still use called Skitch that you can download on your computer, ipad or phone and that integrates with Evernote. From there I went to a free, open source Illustrator equivalent called Inkscape which I used for a long time.

Video and image capture

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  • What is it? Currently, I just use my iPhone for any and all images. I’ve used a much older Sony HandyCam for video work, but my iPhone can do this pretty well also, I’m at the stage where I need to probably upgrade. Currently, I’d like to get something like the camera below which would do high quality video capture as well as take excellent photographs. I’m also considering getting a dedicated video shotgun microphone to use this with. This is a significant investment and I’ve been putting it off.
  • How do I use it? I use the camera on my iPhone all the time. I don’t like using the Sony HandyCam as it doesn’t play nicely with the video editing software.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Most people have a built in video camera on their smartphone. These can be cheap and cheerful, but it’s a simple way to get started creating multimedia content. Using a good mic is probably more important. People will suffer through poor video content as long as they can hear what’s going on.

Image editing software

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  • What is it? Software and apps for editing your photographs and digital images. I use an app on my iPhone called Camera+ and I also occasionally use iPhone which comes preinstalled on my Mac.
  • How do I use it? I use Camera plus for cropping and editing photos. It also comes with some nice filters which I also use. For example, the sepia tinged photo of my desktop with the Yeti microphone further up the screen was shot on my iPhone and edited in Camera+
  • Anything free or cheaper? iPhoto is free as long as you have a Mac. There are plenty of cheap photo editing apps for your smartphone.

Video editing software

FCP

  • What is it? This is a specific software application that I use to record, edit, mix and master my video files. I purchased Apple’s Final Cut Pro last year. It’s easier to use than the audio software and I like it a lot.
  • How do I use it? I use this for editing and mastering video footage which I can then upload to YouTube. The quality depends on the quality of the video footage captured. I’ve been a bit disappointed with what I got from the Sony HandyCam, but you can have a look at some video footage that I edited with this software here. Like with any of these applications, I’m not an expert and I tend to work out how to do things “just in time”.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have a device that can record video, you probably already have some built in video editing capability. There are plenty of apps you can download that will help with this for a reasonably low cost.

What’s the best pop filter for my Yeti Blue Mic?


I’ve got a fantastic Yeti Blue USB mic which I’ve written about before. I’ve also been coveting the Rode Podcaster Mic that pro blogger and podcaster James Altucher uses. However, I don’t think I can really justify buying when my Yeti mic is so great.

In any case, I’m planing on doing some more recording again shortly for the course that I teach as well as some other podcasting projects, so I’ve just ordered the thing in the picture above.

It’s a Auphonix Blue Yeti Pop Filter. This attaches to my mic and I’m hoping that it will cut out some of the nasty pops and sizzles that happen when I’m recording. The reviews were pretty positive on this, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyone got any advice on pop filters? Please let me know in the comments.

What kind of microphone does James Altucher use for podcasting?


I know… this is the question that you’ve been asking yourself for weeks, right? Well, you can stop losing sleep over it right now…

James Altucher is a kind of podcasting god now with daily daily podcasts coming out as well as his normal high quality and much longer weekly podcasts.

Anyway, I have this obsession with getting the right tools to do the job. I already have a great Yeti Blue Mic which I bought when I was trying to figure out what Mic and software Sal Khan used to create his videocasts and YouTube clips.

RODE podcaster Mic

But lately, I’ve been thinking about podcasting a lot. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to set up, the software and editing seems easier to deal with, and I think it just takes less time. Plus the output is more portable, as in people can download much smaller audio files to their phones, rather than having to stream much larger video files which use up their mobile data.

So I messaged James today on twitter ()  since he was doing his weekly twitter Q & A session and asked him what his podcasting Mic set up was. I thought he might be using a headset, but he’s not. He replied immediately and he’s using this:

You can buy it on Amazon if you click on the link above or in the image at the top.

I haven’t ordered it, but I’d like to. I think I really need two good mics so I can do high quality interview-style podcasts. That, in turn, might require another whole level of gear in order to mix the two mics if I’m recording simultaneously…

I think I need an entire recording studio.

Charging my iPhone on the go – Mophie Juice Pack


I get crappy battery time out of my iPhone. Usually, it’s pretty much run down before I get to the end of the day. Other people seem to be having a similar experience. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s an iPhone 4 or 5 or 5S… it just runs down.

I mean, it’s not like I have unrealistic expectations right? For example, right now my iPhone is not plugged in but I’m using it as my personal hotspot to connect my Macbook to the internet wirelessly. I’ve also been skimming Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter while I’m noodling away on this post or generally procrastinating.

Oh… and I might cyberstalk my wife and kids on Find My Friends to see where they are at the moment so it’s drawing GPS data as well as doing all these other things. And I’ve got Viber and iMessages running in the background so I can message family and colleagues.

No wonder it starts to heat up…?

Anyway, last year I had the unpleasant experience of being stuck in a rental car in the middle of Christchurch in the middle of roadworks relying on my phones GPS via the TomTom navigation app at the end of the day with daylight disappearing and my battery on about 10%. And I need to drive about 35 mins out of the city to Rangiora for the next day’s training.

I had no map and it was rush hour. I had to wing it. I would switch the phone on for a minute and check my directions then switch it off and drive a bit further. I didn’t know the area at all so I was starting to feel anxious that my phone would die and I’d get lost. And probably die. Alone.

But it turned out OK. I found my way to my accommodation with a combination of dumb luck and GPS directions.

However, at that point I started looking at charging options. And recently I bought the shiny red gadget in the photo above.

It’s a Mophie Juice Pack PowerStation – Red. It looks really cool and fits in my pocket if necessary.  I can charge it up in advance and it’s supposed to carry around 3 to 4 charges for an iPhone. Size-wise, it’s slightly smaller than my iPhone 5S if I sit it on top of the phone.

I walked into Whangarei city centre tonight for dinner (you know… for fitness), and because I knew my phone was about to die, I took the Mophie along in my pocket.

Once I’d ordered the Fajitas at the local TexMex restaurant I was on about 25% battery. I plugged it in and by the time I left (after about an hour and a half) it was up to around 75% again.

So it’s not super fast, but it’s fast enough. I’m not convinced yet that it really does hold 4 charges, but even it it holds just one or two that is enough to get me through an emergency situation, where I need the GPS for example.

Also, I’m not planning on being in a disaster, but I know from a close friend who was in the first big Christchurch earthquake, that being able to charge a cell phone would have been very desirable (still no good if it’s buried in the rubble though…).

I really like the design of this gadget. And shiny red too… What I don’t like is that I need one cable for charging the Mophie and a different cable for then charging my iPhone. To charge up the Mophie you use a USB to Mini USB cable. Then to charge my iPhone I need to use the USB to Lightening connector cable.

I think a superior design would be to allow me to just reverse the one cable depending on what I was doing. That would mean the Mophie would need to include a lightening dock, which of course might mean problems from Apple.

Still… I’m happy over all. Can’t remember the price. Click the image below to see the latest on Amazon. Anything better out there? Let me know in the comments.

My luggage fetish part 3: Backpacks


I’ve written recently about my problems with luggage addiction. I started with laptop bags, moved on to duffle bags and weekenders, and now I want to have a look at backpacks.

Goruck GR1

GR1 Coyote_14

I absolutely love this military-inspired pack. It’s unbelievably tough and well made. This backpack is just large enough to take on an overnighter and makes for an easy carry on with a really well protected laptop sleeve.

This bag is my main carry at the moment. In fact, it’s replaced my beloved Waterfield Cargo laptop bag on most of my trips in the last 6 months or so. The reason for that is that I just really enjoy having hands free when I’m getting on and off planes and around the place.

  • Made of 1000Denier CORDURA® – the preferred material for Special Forces rucks due to its strength to weight ratio and durability. High stress points are strength tested at over 400 lbs.
  • YKK zippers with silent, glove friendly zipper pulls constructed from gutted parachute 550 cord (gutted to reduce bulk).
  • Holds up to a 17″ MacBook Pro or 3 liter hydration bladder (not included) with hydration tube exit port found under the top handle of the ruck.
  • Volume: 26 litres.
  • Weight: 3.20 pounds (1.45 kilograms).

Goruck GR2

gr2-rucksack

This is what I’m coveting next. This is the bigger brother to the GR1 that I’ve got at the moment. It would be perfect for longer trips. I think it’s still optimised for carry on, but it could handle pretty much anything. This is the kind of pack that I could travel the world with. And black… I’ve no idea what the carabiner is for, but I need one of those too. Currently, I stuff pens in the military MOLLE webbing in my GR1.

Specs are as above, with the following differences:

  • 12.5″W x 22”H x 9”D
  • Volume is 40 litres
  • Weighs in at 5.30 pounds (2.40 kilograms)

Defy – Bucktown Pack

defy pack 2

I don’t own this pack, I just like it. You’ve got to love the gorgeous interior… like an expensive sports car… It looks great and I know it will be high quality if it’s anything like the other Defy bags that I own.

defy pack1

 

  • Fits 17″ & 15″ MACBOOK PRO and most other PC’s
  • Made of ballistic strength Cordura Fabric and light weight vinyl truck tarp
  • Padding is closed cell foam technology on entirety of computer section, bottom of bag, & back.
  • Comfortable thick padded straps.
  • 2″ seatbelt strapping
  • Solid matte black steel gun clip and D rings Water resistant YKK Zippers
  • 12 wide x 19 tall x 6 deep

Tom Bihn – Synapse 25

This is another one I don’t own, but I’d like to. It looks like an extremely well thought out and serviceable carry on backpack.

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There’s a long list of the specs here on their website or you can read the Carryology review here when it won an award earlier this year. And yes, there are entire websites dedicated to reviewing luggage…