Notes on the Chrome Pawn Rolltop Backpack (5 year review)

The Chrome Pawn backpack was a birthday present from my future wife. I have owned it for 5 years. It lives with me in Bozeman, Montana.

It has traveled with me inside Zion and Yellowstone National Parks, New York City, the west coast highway Washington to California, Washington D.C.,  British Columbia, Texas, Colorado, and Hawaii. Hundreds of places in Montana. From home to work every single day for 5 years.

After 5 years and thousands of miles there is not a single component broken or damaged. It is in wonderful condition.

I have thrown it from vehicles, fully packed, many times. I have dropped it from various heights. It has sat in puddles for hours. It has been on the bottom of 300 pounds of other luggage. I have crammed two 12-can cases of beer inside it. I have crashed on my bike wearing it.

The inside compartments are vinyl. The vinyl acts as a protective, waterproof, cocoon.

A good rolltop bag can change your mentality around the shape of what you can transport with a backpack. Projector screen and a bike helmet? Yup. Fifteen iPads in cases and two laptops? Yes. Clothing for two weeks? Absolutely.

The straps and padding provide support which allow you to carry more weight than a doctor would recommend.

I am searching for an excuse to buy another backpack. I love backpacks. But this thing has made me give up that idea.

The Pawn is no longer available. Its smaller sibling, the Orlov, is available alongside Chrome's fine selection of other backpacks.

Notes on the iPad Air 2 (first six hours of use)

It's a 2014 model, 64GB, Wi-Fi only, Space Gray. It's replacing a first-generation iPad I was gifted in 2011. While my first-generation iPad is only running iOS 5.1, I have been using the latest iOS on my iPhone 5s for a year.

The setup process was simple but felt administrative. It was not fun or delightful. It could be, given some imagination. 

It was setup as a new device but pulled down about 20GB from iCloud including an iOS system update, 40 apps, and 19k photo thumbnails. Everything was located, downloaded, setup, and ready to use in about an hour. It took overnight for all 19k photo thumbnails to appear.

It's thin and dense. After holding it, a friend remarked it was lighter than his first-generation iPad Mini (it's not, it's heavier by more than 100 grams).

At mid to loud volume the internal speakers vibrate the back of the iPad in a specific location, with force. It is reminiscent of Force Touch feedback from a haptic engine. It was literally alarming the first time I felt it.

The first-generation iPad feels like four joined pieces: aluminum back, glass front, buried LCD screen, and home button. The Air 2 feels like one solid piece.

The screen. THE SCREEN. The homescreen parallax effect paired with a retina display of this size creates real depth. It feels more alive than OS X on my retina MacBook, despite the MacBooks larger retina display.

I love four and five finger multi-tasking gestures. That you are still required to click the home button for some remaining OS functions feels broken (leaving "homescreen edit" mode, for example). Build a Force Touch + Touch ID layer into the whole display and remove the button entirely. No moving parts.

Being able to split-screen 1Password while setting up 40 new apps made the process immeasurably less painful.

It feels like the reference for peak iOS performance (and in some measurable tests, still is).

I was able to write and post this without pulling out my MacBook. Reducing the need for my MacBook to two remaining functions (storing my 300GB iTunes library and playing StarCraft).

The first-generation iPad feels like a proto-computer. It contains the most basic components and functions of a modern computer. The Air 2 comes alive as the mastery of those basic functions.

Split-screen apps and multi-tasking gestures, powered with real amounts of RAM, create a computing environment that feels limitless in a way the iPhone has never felt.

Notes on the Nest Protect 2.0

It's marketed as a smoke and carbon monoxide detector. In reality, like most modern gadgets, it's a tiny mobile computer. It is dense with sensors: Split-spectrum smoke, electrochemical carbon monoxide, heat, humidity, proximity, ambient light , and an omnidirectional microphone. It has a ring of colored LED lights, a loud speaker, horn,  WiFi, Bluetooth, and a single button.

The combination of tech inside enables really important (but not always obvious) advantages. For example, it not only tests it's alarm noises but knows if the speaker and horn are actually working, because it has a microphone. It can listen to itself.

The setup process felt very J.A.R.V.I.S. I wish my whole house gave me vocal status updates like this.

The combination of hardware components and imaginative uses begs for an SDK or API. For obvious reasons, you do not want either for a smoke detector.

It's rounded-square design is a nightmare if you are particular about things on your walls being straight. Thankfully the mounting plate allows 90 degrees of free adjustment.

The LED light ring is smooth, calming, and bright. The colors are beautiful and light spins and transitions around the ring perfectly.

It's voice is loud, clear, and calm. It's a female voice and comes with pre-installed language options, based on region. It's alarm sounds are deafening.

The "Pathlight" is a great feature. Utilizing existing proximity sensors and LEDs, to act as a motion-triggered nightlight.

The "Nightly Promise" self-check feels very personal and now a part of our bedtime routine.

The iPhone app allows me to check the Protect's status from anywhere in the world I have a network connection. This combined with the push notifications provide a new peace of mind, when our dogs are home alone (especially with a wood burning stove). This feeling alone justifies the investment.

In 10 years, all smoke detectors will be modeled on the Protect. They probably won't look as nice.

Hot Sugar Makes Music Out Of Anything And Everything

"Instruments were made when we didn't have amplification. People invented the drum so that they could communicate to an entire village. That's why a drum is considered an instrument but if I were to rip a kleenex, its not referred to as an instrument. But I can make the tearing of this kleenex, louder than any drum could be and that changes everything." - Nick Koenig

Notes on My Manifesto

In early summer of 2010, I was lost. I had just graduated with my bachelors, had been turned down for the single job I applied for, and was living in a dorm room for one more month. One afternoon that June, sitting in my 10th story dorm room, I wrote the below personal manifesto.

The best way for me to tell if something I write might actually be good, is how well I can stand to read it years later. I can’t stand to read most of what I wrote five to ten years ago.

But every once in a while, I write something that I can stomach years later. This is how I know it might actually be good. I am lucky that this manifesto is one of those pieces. As I write in the first paragraph, very little of this is original. It is copied, cut, and manipulated. But I have made it my own.

 

The Manifesto

This is a manifesto. It is not a declaration of what I have done. Rather, it is a declaration of what I hope to do and how I hope to live my life. I have gathered all of this for many years, from many sources. Very little of it is original but I hope to make all of it my own.

First and foremost, get the important things done. Find what is important to you and who is important to you and focus all your energy on those people and things, the rest can go to hell.

It is pointless to write about how you feel or what you believe. You have to be the message. There is no other way. Live what you believe, make your life the message.

Allow events to change you. That is the definition of growth. Don’t be afraid of it. 

Forget about good. Good is a known and boring value. Instead, focus on your own criteria, whatever it may be.

Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly, explore tangents, lack judgment, postpone criticism. 

Listen carefully to everybody, everything, and everywhere. This is the most effective way to learn.

Don’t judge. Let things be what they are. Find your own value in them and move on.

Take the time to truly thank people, with real letters and notes. Focus on the select few and make them realize what they have done for you.

Think with your mind. Not your computer.

Live in the present. Focus on what is happening right now with all the energy you have.

Get work done in the morning, enjoy the afternoon.

Don’t rely on software or norms. Make your own tools if nothing else is available. Sometimes the tool may become the end product.

Focus on one thing at a time. Write this thing down and work on it until it’s completely done. Ignore everything else while working.

Take the time to study. This can take many forms. Studying will benefit everything else in your life, so take as much time as needed.

Harvest ideas and take notes. Make libraries of everything you think.

When working, follow your natural rhythms. Work when you feel like it, don’t force yourself. This will only produce work you can’t be proud of.

Take care of your body, it is the most useful tool you have. Eat simple foods and exercise it.

Take the time to think and meditate in silence. Explore your own mind. You will be surprised at what you find.