Technology Journalist Survival Kit

Being a world-class technology journalist, people often ask what’s in my bag.  For some reason most of these requests are from people in uniform when I’m near schools or playgrounds.  I guess those that find themselves in public service want to make it big in online journalism. 

Because you asked for it, here’s what I carry around every day.

Acer V5-561P 17-inch laptop

A good laptop with a good keyboard is essential for doing tech journalism.  A lot of journalists I know prefer Macbook Airs, but the cheapest of them is $900, and barely has an 11” screen.  I prefer having a larger keyboard to do writing with a large trackpad, and the aluminum keyboard plate makes it sturdier than other laptops in its price range.

It has an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, touchscreen, aluminum construction and cost only $450.  Apple can’t touch that.

Acer V5 P561P Keyboard Angle Samsung-GALAXY-Note-10.1-2014-Edition

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Android Tablet

I’m a graphic artist in addition to a journalist.  I use this best-of-class Android tablet because it has a true Wacom digitizer in addition to currently having the best specs of any Android device.  The pressure-sensitive S-pen lets me take handwritten notes, edit photos, draw logos, sketch, and pretty much anything else a digital artist needs.

I have the 64 gigabyte version, and expanded this with a 64 gigabyte SanDisk Ultra micro SD card.

Why do I have two separate devices instead of just getting a Windows tablet?  That’s the topic for another article

LG F7 Android phone (Boost Mobile)

I use the LG F7 phone because it was one of the better premier phones on the Boost Mobile network and features 4G.  I was fed up with getting charged out the ass for cell phone service, especially when I rarely use the phone portion of it.  Boost offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $40… well smartphone plans start at $55 but are reduced every 6 months until it bottoms out at $40.

Boost is starting to place restrictions on data prioritization and throttling, and the Sprint network they use has spotty 4G coverage, but since it’s not AT&T or Verizon, I can get a signal in the crowded technology conventions while all the Apple fanboys are clogging their overpriced networks.

Oh, and smartphones are the tech equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.  They function as a music and video player, voice recorder and wireless access point.  Oh, and I think you can make phone calls on them or something.

LG-F7 Namiki Carbonesque Fountain Pen on Carbon pad

Namiki/Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen

True journalists find joy in writing.  The advent of ball-point pens has passively taught nearly every school child how to write incorrectly.  Fountain pens enforce proper hand posture and are much more fluid and expressive.  It’s the same dynamic as comparing a crappy membrane keyboard to a professional mechanical keyboard.  There’s just no going back once you’ve experienced it.

I own several fountain pens, but the Nakimi Vanishing Point has a unique mechanism that hides the nib into the shaft, much like many ball-point click pens.  I use an Extra-Fine point, which produces an extremely thin 0.3mm line suitable for technical drawings.  It also has a 14k gold nib so it will last many generations.


I also have a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen as a backup and is cheap enough that I won’t care if it gets messed up.  I also carry around an ultra-fine-point Sharpie for when I have to mark things that a fountain pen is unsuitable.

Patriot 64 GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

I picked up this 64-gigabyte flash drive for $30.  It has more than enough capacity to copy lots of large files, even an entire Virtual Machine should the need arise.  USB 3.0 speed means that it won’t take half a day to fill up, either.  I usually keep this empty for copy emergencies.

Patriot Supersonic 64GB USB 3 Flash Drive Lexar 32GB Flash Drive

Lexar 32GB Flash drive

I got this cheap plastic 32 gigabyte flash drive for $10.  It actually has a decent write speed (faster than drives from several years ago), and I use this mostly to have necessary programs and drivers close at hand without eating up space on my other devices.  I pretty much fill it up and then use it as a read-only drive.  Of course, lots of small individual files have really slow read and write speeds, so everything is in a ZIP or RAR archive for quick transfer.

Mouse, keyboard and power supplies

I may not carry these everywhere with me, but if I’m going to the same spot for a few days then I’ll carry around a good full-sized wireless mouse and mechanical keyboard.

Sometimes you have to charge up your laptop, especially if you’re writing all day.  This universal laptop power supply has lots of nibs and power settings to work with just about every laptop out there (except Apple).  It also has a USB charging port which delivers a full 5V of power, so phones, tablets, and game devices charge up faster than if charged by the laptop.  It is rather light, too, so it doesn’t add too much weight to my backpack.

bose-quietcomfort-15-4

Bose QC3 over-the-ear Noise-cancelling headphones

Noise cancelling headphones are almost a necessity when you’re around people all day, especially if you have to take public transportation.  I’ve tried several brands and none of them can match the padded-room-cell quiet of the Bose QC3.

These active headphones require a single AA battery, hence why alkalines are also in my kit.

Extra Batteries

I have an Energizer rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack with two USB ports.  It can output a full 5 volts on each line, so it charges phones and tablets faster than a typical PC’s USB port.  The battery can last for several months while retaining most of its charged capacity.

I also have several AAA and AA alkaline batteries in my pack for the wireless mouse and Bose QC3 headphones.

Miscellaneous

Sometimes tech journalists even have to talk with people, which is why I also pack personal hygiene products.  I include facial tissues, deodorant, a comb, and chewing gum so the people I talk to don’t mind an oversized nerd invading their space as much.

I also have a micro fiber cleaning cloth, so I can get rid of all the greasy fingerprints on my reading glasses, devices and monitors without having to resort to harsh solvents (which leave streaks anyway).

I also have a good collapsible umbrella, Leatherman pocket tool and an assortment of USB charging cables for all sorts of devices.  You’d be surprised how often you’ll have to use these.

 

So that’s what I carry with me when I’m on tech adventures.  If you can think of any other useful items, list them in the comments below!

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.

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