Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/07/sftws_bags/

Emotional baggage

There's nothing quite like a well-packed lunch

By Alistair Dabbs

Posted in Hardware, 7th September 2012 11:02 GMT

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Two days before my teenage son was due to begin Sixth Form this week, the school phoned up to say that he's not allowed to study ICT at A-level.

This came as a bit of a shock since computing was going to be one of his principal subjects. He might not be one of those 'A-star' students that you read about on results day - jumping in the air, glimpse of naked midriff, masturbatory targets for Guardian readers - but we're talking about a kid who, for his eleventh birthday, asked for an ActionScript manual.

Were his GCSE results not good enough? Actually, they were fine. The reason he can't study ICT is that it would cause a timetabling problem at the school. “Can't be helped.” Can't be arsed, more like. “Would he like to study something else [ie, useless, boring and irrelevant] instead?”

getting on the right course is so important

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Imagine Hermann Einstein being told they’ve cancelled his son's Physics classes but there are free spaces in Synchronised Knitting. I mean, look what happened when they wouldn’t let Adolf Hitler on the right course.

My ranting and raving fell on deaf ears, and my son has graciously agreed to sacrifice his future career in order to make life easier for the bone-idle twats in the school's admin department. He has switched to the highly valuable academic path laid by a combination course of Drama and Applied Shanking. He has effectively turned a crisis into a drama, ha ha, I’m so fucking hilarious.

I suppose this will at least ensure he is qualified for a job in the school’s admin department. He has form too: only the day before school started, he told me his messenger bag was in tatters and he needed a new one.

Now, sod the A-levels, this is important. I take luggage very seriously indeed. As I may have mentioned once or twice before in every SFTWS column to date, I am an itinerant worker and so carrying lots of kit around with me is a necessary evil.

That very evening, my son was bequeathed my favourite laptop bag, one I used daily for four years. Its labels and logos have long since fallen off or worn away, and I can’t remember which company made it. This is a bit of a bugger for the company since it was a corporate gift I picked up at the 2008 Macworld Awards. Bang goes their publicity.

Its best feature was a shoulder strap so wide and strong that I’d trust it to hold me while abseiling down The Shard with Prince Airmiles. Its one problem, hastening my decision to donate it to my long-haired and shamelessly multi-talented offspring, is that it only holds one laptop.

Bear with me. Remember when I slagged off the iPad 3 new iPad? And then I trashed Apple for replacing useful components in the MacBook Pro with a less-than-essential Retina display?

Naturally, I ended up buying both products in turn. What can I do? It’s my job to use this stuff and it’s my disposition to be critical of expensive things I pay for with my own cash.

My point is that I do not fit the stereotype of any executive carrying around nothing more than a laptop and a thin wad of PowerPoint printouts. For my sins, of which there have been many - and lots of interesting ones to come, I hope - tablet content development work requires me to lug around a lot of stuff. What stuff? Well, let’s take a look at my current Targus rucksack.

Here’s my MacBook in its dedicated pocket, along with newspapers:

Inside Dabbsy's bag...

My partially broken Kindle just about squeezes in here, so I hope its replacement will fit too:

Inside Dabbsy's bag...

Backpack to the future

My two portable storage drives - one for backup, the other exclusively for running Windows and Ubuntu under Parallels - go here:

Inside Dabbsy's bag...

Add to this a shitload of cables and adapters, plus the external Blu-ray/DVD drive frustratingly missing from the MacBook and other things that I have found to be useful when you’re on the hoof, such as stationery, wet wipes and spare shoelaces. An umbrella is hidden in a side pocket.

Inside Dabbsy's bag...

The largest compartment is forced to contain two iPads (a ‘2’ and a ‘new’), books, two notebooks of the traditional paper-based variety, and my packed lunch. Last month, I was working double shifts, so had to cram in lunch and dinner.

Inside Dabbsy's bag...

I’d love something better designed but thorough in-store testing - much to the annoyance of staff at PC World - leads to disappointment. Judging from the bags currently on sale, I gather that practically no one else carries more than one computer device, nor do they need space in that bag for their power cables, let alone tuna, ham and tomatoes in an onion bagel.

HP does an extensive line of laptop luggage, from simple sleeves to suitcases, and there are some pretty rugged shoulder bags with wide straps in the range.

I also like the look of Wenger Swissgear rucksacks despite having to put up with unfunny Arsenal jokes from colleagues every morning.

Unfortunately, these bags only give you one padded pocket. Unless I squeeze everything together into this pocket, all jangling around, bashing and scraping each other, my tablets still have to rub metaphorical shoulders with my lunch.

One answer might be an overnight travel bag, which offers additional protected compartments for shirt, shreddies and deodorant right up until the latter’s confiscation by airport security. However, these ugly black cuboids are not comfortable to carry, and I’m worried that the ones with wheels will make me look prissy. I worked with someone who dragged her kit around in a Samsonite wheely case, and this bizarrely always made her look as if she was just about to leave the room – not a good look for a contractor.

As for Superdry laptop bags, don’t even bother. What a load of crap they are: thin material, lack of padding in the base and a hideously enormous logo to identify you as the office chav.

The most thoughtfully designed bags are produced by Crosskase. I tried out the Crosskase Fusion, which has lots of compartments, including separate - and perfectly sized - laptop and iPad pockets, both well-protected. Unfortunately, none of the other pockets are fat enough for your sandwiches unless you don’t mind them pancake thickness by lunchtime.

There’s a lot more space for my bananaguard in the Crosskase Solar 15, which incorporates a solar panel, battery pack and a zillion adapters for recharging your gadgets, but unfortunately again, there’s only one properly padded pocket.

One day, my ideal bag will come but it hasn’t yet… unless you know differently? ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He believes that one of the most valuable yet underrated perks of permanent employment is the provision of desk drawers with a lock. Imagine what it would be like if you had to carry the contents of these drawers to and from work every day...