I find posts from other hackers on their equipment to be rather interesting and figured I should share my latest Minimum Equipment List. Lately I haven’t been traveling, but I tend to move around Santa Rosa and the greater Bay Area with a fairly standard set of equipment regardless of the distance I’m traveling. My international trips usually necessitate a larger wardrobe, but the bag on my back remains very consistent.
- Dell XPS 13” (9060): Since throwing out my Thinkpad X1 Carbon, which was the final nail in Lenovo pounded into the Thinkpad’s coffin as far as I am concerned, I have been pretty happy with this XPS from Dell. Presently I’m running Debian testing which includes a newer kernel and some other tools which alleviate some of the suspend and power consumption usage issues reported by other XPS users. I have also been trying to work exclusively from the XPS for the past couple of months, it has taken some time to get comfortable with the keyboard, which certainly isn’t as good as a mechanical keyboard, but the payoff has been increased mobility.
- USB-C to HDMI/VGA/Ethernet/USB 3.0 adapter: Like many laptops out there these days, the XPS doesn’t come with a proper network port. This adapter kills a few birds with one stone, but regrettably doesn’t support full resolution on the HDMI output under Linux. The laptop screen is 4K but external monitors cannot be driven at 4K, which is most unfortunate. Nonetheless, this little adapter is small and easy to fit into the a pocket next to some business cards.
- Galaxy J5: My cell phone serves only a few purposes: wifi tethering, Signal, and camera. When it came time to upgrade this year, I picked the J5 because it was basically the flagship phone from two years ago at a very reasonable price tag. If I need a full powered device, I have my laptop with me, the phone is a device to get me connected, little more.
- External USB battery pack: I was given this nice external battery pack as a piece of Azure swag last year and it has been a perfectly sized travel companion. Roughly the dimensions of a cell phone, I typically use it keep my phone charged during long conference expo days or long flights. Regardless of the model, I strongly recommend having a slim USB capable battery pack in your bag.
- Hands-free headphones/microphone: While I’m not super pleased with my current pair a simple hands-free wired set of headphones is really useful to have always around. Whether for video or phone calls, I’ve had more mobile or travel meetings in the past year than ever before thanks to these.
- USB cables: Always handy to have a small mini and micro USB cable handy for device charging or data transfer. I typically only carry one of each, and no more than a few inches, just enough to connect my laptop to the device. I have considered carrying around a USB-C or Thunderbolt cable as well, for my Mac wielding friends who never can seem to carry the right cables and dongles for their computing environment.
- Leatherman Multitool: When I’m not traveling by plane, I always have a multitool handy. Sometimes you just need a knife, a pair of pliers, or a screwdriver.
- Paper notebooks: I need my own scratchpad for my thoughts, but I’m always bemused to find colleagues searching around for a piece of paper to jot a note down onto. A single little notebook goes a long way.
- Writing utensils
- Business cards: My business cards usually only come out during events, but they’re a very helpful way to ensure that I can help route somebody’s random Jenkins question to the right person. A number of people have gotten friendly personalized support by kindly asking for help when we run into one another at a conference or pub.
- Baseball hat: As I have gotten older, I have managed to get a couple of sunburns on the top of my head. A hat is a bit easier to keep folded up and a bit more durable than a nice pair of sunglasses too.
- Screen cloth: inevitably I’ll find myself on a plane at sunrise or outside at a pub and suddenly notice all the dust on the screen of my laptop. Always good to have one of those little silken cloths handy.
- Floss: It’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to get something stuck in your teeth during a conference or any other event where you have to go mingle with loads of other people. Best to be prepared for the inevitable broccoli, bean sprouts, or garlic dishes that may come your way.
When I’m traveling for greater distances I’ll add a little bit more to my bag:
- A book: that laptop battery isn’t going to last the whole flight ot Europe :)
- Ibuprofen: whether it’s post-flight soreness, or a morning hangover, a coffee and ibuprofen goes a long way to make the most weary of traveler camera-ready. It’s certainly cheaper to carry some from home than buy a little single-use package when you’re “there.”
- Tissue packs: somehow Europe always makes my nose run; there’s rarely a tissue handy, so best to bring your own.
When I’m traveling for a short distance or time, say to Seattle and back over a weekend, I will throw a couple extra pairs of socks, underwear, and roll up an extra t-shirt or two and travel entirely off my back. That feeling of “I could go anyway” preparedness is exciting, even when my destination is much more mundane.
Knowing what I need to be happy and productive, regardless of where I am, has turned out to be quite empowering and allowed me to be far more mobile than I have at any point in my career.
It’s a big, bright world out there. If you can do remote work, I encourage you to throw your kit into a bag, put on a good pair of shoes, and work remotely!