Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Go Bag

My Go Bag
by Richard White

A “Go Bag” is that bag you keep by the door, and grab on the way out in case of emergency, disaster, etc. Spies might keep weapons and a passport for a new identity in their Go Bag, a pregnant woman might keep a change of clothes and a flashlight in her Go Bag… you get the idea. Some urban “warriors” (commuters, really), looking to pump up their street cred, have adopted the Go Bag term for their own use, and use it to refer to any daypack or shoulder bag that contains essential items for a day in the wild: in the car, on the bus, at work.

So what’s in your Go Bag? What do you find essential for your day in the classroom, as a teacher, as a technologist?

People tend to fall into two camps in this matter: some adopt a “everything but the kitchen sink” attitude with an eye towards hauling around everything from multiple power supplies, screwdriver sets, and water purification tablets—because you never know when you might need to purify some water, right?—and others go for the fast-and-light approach, carrying a minimum of gear and hoping that any unplanned for emergencies will be resolved by relying on the kindness of strangers.

Me, I tend to go fast-and-light.

I think it started when I was preparing to move to France for an extended period of time. I would only be carrying a single bag for the trip, so space was at a premium, and I made some difficult decisions about what to carry. Since then, I’ve embraced carrying a minimum of gear in my travels, including my commute to and from work.

So without further ado, here’s my list, with comments. Trust me, this is going to take long.

  1. Daypack
    My personal favorite right now is a Mountain Tools Stealth pack, 21.3 Liters worth of black ballistic cloth badness. It’s a simple, one-compartment, zip-open number, and so slim it’ll make you wonder how you’re going to fit all your stuff into it. Surprise answer: you can’t. You’ll have to pare down your essentials a bit, eh?
  2. Wallet bag
    I have a very thin wallet—just driver’s license, credit card, ATM card, and health care info—but even so I don’t ordinarily carry it in my jeans. I keep the wallet in a zippered pouch that also holds a ballpoint pen, and contacts solution. The pouch just keeps these other items from rattling around too much in the pack.
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Laptop
    Of course. The 15″ MacBook Pro that I use for just about everything slips into a snug Waterfield Designs Laptop Sleeve Case (, which itself slips nicely into the pack.
  5. Cellphone
    It’s often in my pocket, but sometimes it’ll be in here.
  6. Keys
    Clipped to a carabiner attached to the top of the pack.
  7. Papers
    The day’s paperwork is nicely contained and protected by a thin plastic folder.

That’s it.


What more do you need?

Okay, okay, the bag’s not full yet, and maybe the weather’s looking a little shaky for the next couple of days. You can add:

  1. Umbrella
    … and/or a light sweater or jacket
  2. Power brick
    for laptop
  3. USB cable
    to charge the phone with the laptop.
  4. PowerBar?
  5. Swiss army knife?
  6. Bottle of water?

Yeah, sure you can bring all those things. Just don’t start getting carried away, right? Fast-and-light is the way to go.

“What do you have in your backpack?”
– Ryan Bingham in “Up in the Air”

The End is Nigh

The End is Nigh


by Richard White

“The End is Nigh!” For your optical drive, that is.

CDs and DVDs are still here for the moment, but not for long. Depending on how much you love your archives and content, it may be time to start thinking about a migration process that will allow you to convert your CDs and DVDs to a hard drive.

It’s an easy, if tedious, process. I did it with my documents and data last year: buy a couple of 1-terabyte external hard drives, plug one of them into your computer, plug in the nearly endless succession of CDs and DVDs that you’ve been burning data on all these years, and click-drag over to the terabyte archive.

Once you’ve spent a day or two doing that, plug in both terabyte drives and click-drag all the contents from one drive to the other, which will act as a backup of the archive.

At that point you’ll have at least three copies of your data: the original CD or DVD (which you might want to tuck away, should something catastrophic happen to both hard drives), and two copies of your data on the Archive and Backup external drives.

There are fancier ways to do this that you may already have built. rsync works magic in a shell script, and you can spend hours and days developing a system there that you can use to manage it all.

In the absence of anything fancy, though, at least get your data off those optical drives. In another three years or so, many computers—and certainly the most popular ones, including iPads and Macbook Airs—won’t have an optical drive, and you’ll have easy way to access that data. Let’s face it, the data storage on CDs and DVDs is time-sensitive anyway. Like that old slide film that your father shot just thirty years ago, that medium decays with age. If you think that Apple is wrong about that, you don’t have to look too far back to find another decision they made regarding media that was very controversial at the time. The 1998 iMac G3 came without a floppy disk slot in anticipation of what would happen throughout the industry in the years to come. By 2003, Dell was no longer including floppy disk drives as standard on their machines, and by 2007, only 2% of computers sold included floppy drives.

So, yeah. I’m not saying you need to run out right now and take care of this. But you might want to put it on your ToDo.txt list. I mean, come on. When’s the last time you bought a music CD?

Yup. That’s what I thought.

Do yourself a favor and get a couple of 1-terabyte archive drives. You’ll be glad you did.