What’s in Your Bag

A friend from church asked me last week how I was staying sane with all that was going on. I didn’t know how to reply at the time, but think at least part of the answer is in my messenger bag.

Last November, for our anniversary, my wife got me a really really nice messenger bag. Leather and ballistic nylon, with heavy duty hardware, magnetic closures and a really heavy duty strap. I really like it. I’ve been taking it to work with me every day since I got it.

Since we’ve been making frequent trips to hospitals and the in-laws, I’ve found a need to be prepared for just about anything. My current benchmark is to be prepared for a 48hr stay in a hospital waiting room. We’ve done the 48hr strait waiting game 3 times now, and each time I’m more and more prepared.

I thought perhaps it would be interesting to mention what I’ve got in my bag at the moment. Who knows, it could be enlightening.

Click for a larger image, with labels, but come back here for the explanations.


Design By Committee

I know a few of you are more than familiar with the concept, but it’s aggravation is all the more real when it’s happening to you. I’m working, right this moment, on what I would consider to be my 16th design for a website. Version #1 was nearly perfect. It had all the right elements, elegant use of white space and a nice user interface. Version #2 included a few minor changes from co-workers in my department, all with quality input. By version #5, we were “showing” the design to groups outside the department. That was 4 months ago. Since then, every week, we have a “tag-up” meeting between 2 directors of different departments, the designers (me and my people), the IT guys, the programmers and backend developers and a VP.

So far we’ve been able to establish that we: like buttons, would like the afore mentioned buttons to do things, and that the logo needs to be bigger. Beyond that, all concepts of good design have left the conversation. We actually had a meeting a little while back about what the search function should LOOK like when it displays results. A full blown, hour and a half long meeting, only to establish that, yes, we should have results in some sort of list.

I know many of you sympathize with me, and reading the article on Smashing Magazine today, I know I’m not alone.

What I can say though, is that this project is facing at least 8 of the 10 “harsh truths” of corporate web design. Especially #’s 4 and 6. Holy shit are we knee-deep in 4 and 6.

“The harsh truth is that if you build a website for everyone, it will appeal to no one.”

“Where some website managers want their website to appeal to everybody, others want it to appeal to themselves and their colleagues…. Too many designs are rejected because the boss doesn’t like green.”

MacBook Pro Review

You knew this was coming. The most up-to-date piece of technology in my personal arsenal just had to get reviewed. It’s not all sunshine and apple pies however. There are some serious issues that Apple HQ needs to address.


Glossy Exterior

The MacBook Pro arrived just after we finished our “end of the year” performance reviews. It was like getting candy after going to the doctor’s for a shot.

I’ll talk more about it later as I unwrap its delicious layers of goodness, but for now, here are my first impressions.

For starters, it’s glossy. REALLY glossy. Probably too glossy. This is not a laptop I’d want to watch a movie on, or have to do any serious color correcting of photos. It does however, like a plasma TV, have very rich colors and a deep black, which I’m sure was their intention in doing this. For me, I’m indifferent, I’ll have to have it longer than 5 minutes to give you an impression.

Second, there is a distinctive lack of accessories. As you may know, they’ve gotten rid of the DVI port and replaced it with some crazy new mini-multi-monitor jack that looks like a mini-USB port to be quite honest. That’s wonderful for the aesthetic look of the laptop, but NOTHING uses this port except the brand-new cinema displays. Given that 99% of their users don’t have one of those when they buy a new laptop, you’d figure that Apple would include a short converter cable, or at least a connector, or something. Nope. If you want to hook this laptop up to a $4000 display that you already have, you need to shell out another $30 for an adapter at the Apple store. Seriously? You’re launching new technology and not giving anyone a simple $2 cable? That’s lame. Also missing from the box is the extension portion of the power cable as well as the small Apple Remote that until now, came with nearly everything.

The laptop, the power brick and a cloth to clean the screen were LITERALLY the only things in the box.

I know I’ve never owned a Mac before, but to be quite honest, I was expecting something a little more, I dunno, complete feeling. Maybe it’s the PC in me, but where are the cables, the manuals, the warranty card, the piles of crap I don’t need? While useless, having a pile of crap was reassuring. Getting basically an empty box makes me FEEL like I’m missing something. I know I’m not. I know it’s all here, and the presentation is nice, but it’s like getting a giant heart shaped box of chocolates only to find out that there is only one single piece of candy in the box and the rest is simply packing material.

That said, it is a laptop. It’s not supposed to come with a whole library and a free Big Gulp. It’s fast, it’s silent, it’s got everything on there, ready to go. So, I’m happy. Hopefully this will be a good experience.

Now, pardon me, I have to go to the mall to buy an effing video cable.

Matt out.


Just upgraded to 2.7. It hosed my photos and archives. I’ll reupload tonight. Other than that, I’m diggin the new admin interface.

New Phones

So, I got sick of not having a cell phone and my wife got sick of having her AT&T phone die, drop calls and be generally a piece of crap, so we bit the bullet and went down to the T-Mobile store. It was pretty much a toss up between T-Mobile and Verizon. I know Verizon has a large network and works fine in New England, that’s what my relatives have and they have no major complaints. I’ve also personally experienced T-Mobile as a provider here, also with no major complaints. It was pretty much 50/50. What sealed the deal was the phone selection. I could find 6 phones with T-Mobile that I wouldn’t mind having. 2 with Verizon. Funny thing was that the two I wanted from Verizon were also offered at T-Mobile. That was pretty much the end of that.

Both of us got the Motorola W490, the mid-level phone that they added to fill the cap when they dropped the v1 RAZR to “entry level” and discontinued their mid-upper level KRZR.

My main motivation for the Motorola over the Nokia and Samsung equivalents was the mini-USB connector. I can charge it at my desk at work, manipulate the data on the phone via the data cable, add ringtones, all that good stuff. Plus I had a selection of accesories from my old KRZR which would also work. I also just liked the fact that it was a standard mini-USB cable and not some proprietary connector I’d have find a replacement and/or adaptor for later on down the road.

So, like all Motorola phones, it’s nearly completely unlocked. I had to find a different driver for it than my previous KRZR, but once I did I was able to view the phone like a regular USB drive, allowing me to add/replace/remove things at my leisure.

I’ve had it 4 days and it already has a whole host of MP3s, wallpapers and sound effects. Having the phone say “Bleep Bloop” every time I get a text message is friggin priceless.

If you guys would like the number, drop me an email and I’ll let everyone know what it is.