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Tag: tools

Everyday Carry

Always Carry

There are a couple of things I find invaluable to my work and I keep with me everyday.


The first thing is I carry a pen, usually two. I prefer Pilot G2 pens. Everyday, I have a black one with a .38″ tip and a red one with a .07″ tip in my pocket. If you’re less picky, just keeping one with you will prevent the always having to ask to borrow one or to scramble to find one when needing to make a note for yourself or leaving a note for your customer.


Second is something to write on. I like to keep a small notebook in my pocket. I prefer the Field Notes books because they hold up well to the daily use and they’re small enough to be weightless and they can get bent up and have pages ripped out without losing their binding.

I also rely on Post-It notes. I keep a few in the inside of my notebook but I’ve known other techs to carry a couple in their pockets. They are perfect to making or leaving notes. They’re easy to replace and I keeping them inside a notebook keeps them in good shape.

I never leave my desk without pen and paper because of the number of people I see everyday combined with my terrible memory, I would never remember to do half the things I agreed to do or remember what I did to fix an issue by the time I got back to my desk to document it and make notes in the ticket.


I carry a couple of USB keys with me as well. I have a larger capacity drive for utilities and software to install. In addition to documentation and space for backing up files, saving screenshots and other storage needs.

I have a second smaller capacity USB key I keep with bootable tools on it. There is a wide choice of portable applications that are perfect to keep with you and can be used to boot into or run from the drive.

Working in customer service has reinforced the only certainty is uncertainty. I never know what I will see from day-to-day. I never know what challenges will be thrown at me and what tools I will need to do my job, so I try to keep a variety of tools at the ready.

Simple Tools

I spend my days repairing computers for the federal government. I support the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. I support Macs, PCs, iPhone, Blackberries, iPads and a host of scientific equipment I don’t pretend to begin to understand their function.

Day in and day out I scratch my head, Google obscure error codes, and reach deeply into my brain for the acquired knowledge I’ve accumulated over the near-decade I’ve been doing this work.

My home is an extension of my geekiness. I have a small armada of computers. Some run all the time performing menial functions. Others are test beds for my random whims. Some are the work horses I turn to day in and day out. And some, I honestly no longer have any real use for and need to sell.

My primary machine was a little white MacBook which served me dutifully for years until a fan replacement gone wrong fried the logic board and the cost to replace it was just too great.

Today, it is a PC laptop that I bought thinking it was what I wanted. These days, I find it looking a little long in the tooth and never quite matching up to the Mac’s speed and stability. ((And I’m not going to get into Windows 8 here…)) More and more, when I get home I reach for the simplest tools in my arsenal.

I have a 1st Generation iPad and a prototype Google CR-48 Chromebook.

When I get home, all I want to do is dive into a book-in-progress. When I get home, I reach for my iPad, open the Kindle app, sync it if I’ve read at all on my iPhone during the day, and pickup my story where I left off. There is something very calming and peaceful about reading. After a long day of diagnosing, repairing and explaining I want to get lost inside a story.

After putting down the book, I’ll dig into my RSS feeds on the iPad, stick my toe into Twitter and then open Instapaper and thumb through the articles waiting for me there. I’ll do some filing since Instapaper is my catch-all for any interesting article or story that catches my attention throughout the day.

Once I’ve moved the items for safe keeping or for reference later, I read what is left. I love reading and I post the things I’ve read and liked to Twitter at @CarlLikes.

After I do my reading I’ll move to the CR-48 for some writing. Sometimes there is an article that has sparked my interest or an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. Often times I reach for it to evict thoughts from my head into 750 Words where I make an effort to put 750 new words on the page every single day.

The CR-48 is ideal for its light weight and relative slowness so it combats my wish to open countless tabs in Chrome. Where I will usually keep 5 tabs open in Chrome always, I always quit every tab on the CR-48 and start fresh every time I open the lid.

I find starting fresh on the small machine lends itself to not getting sidetracked into a social network or a forgotten story I’d left half-read when I closed the lid. When I sit down to write, I want to sit down and make the clackity noise.

In addition to being small, the laptop runs very cool and has great battery life. As I sit here, I have 46% battery left which afford me nearly 3 hours of time to clack along.

There are so many great apps to put words into and the web apps are not lagging behind in quality.

I am typing this entry into Dillinger. Though more and more I have been writing in Draft which deserves a post of its own. When I’m offline I will open Pillarbox which is free from the Chrome Web Store and a great, simple writing app that will auto-save your work and works even if the Chromebook doesn’t have a network connection.