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Travis Cole

Review: Mission Workshop VX Rucksacks

As anyone who’s spent much time with me knows, I have a bit of an obsession with gear, and lately backpacks and bags have been high on the list. Fortunately (for my friends, who don’t have to listen to me talk about it anymore,) I’ve finally found almost the ideal day to day, and travel backpacks. I’d hoped I could find one bag to fill both roles, but the reality is, I want a much smaller day to day bag than I need for travel, so I had to find two good bags.

Day to day, I need to fit a MacBook Air or an iPad, maybe a change of clothes, a bike lock, and some other miscellaneous bits like sunglasses and a charger or two.

For Travel, I need to fit a weeks worth of clothes, various toiletries, and maybe even an extra set of shoes. This takes a much larger pack. But I still need it small enough to to be carry on baggage on a flight, because I prefer to never check anything.

I bought and used quite a number of backpacks and messenger bags over the past couple of years before I found the right fit. I wanted something that was highly functional, durable, and fashionable. Water proof would also be a big plus, since I walk to work, and it does occasionally rain in San Francisco.

While messenger bags are certainly popular, I find that they hurt too much and I was sick of the frequent neck and shoulder pain. I’ve used several over the years, and I’ll be talking about two of them, but ultimately I put them aside as soon as I could find a stylish and comfortable backpack.

The Mission Workshop VX Rucksacks

Day to Day Backpack - Mission Workshop AP Sanction Rucksack

The Mission Workshop AP Sanction is my go to daily bag. It’s small enough to take everywhere, but has enough room for a weekend away. I got mine in slate.

It has an internal zippered pouch that perfectly fits the 13” MacBook Air I use for work, so this is the bag I take on my walk to the office. On weekends I usually swap the 13” MacBook Air for my iPad and Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, maybe add a change of clothes. There is another pouch that perfectly fits my iPad, and two other zippered front pockets that easily fit other essentials like a charger and a few pens. Finally there is a front velcro pocket that’s perfect for easy access to sunglasses or what ever else you need.

The build quality of this backpack is fantastic, with a 1000 denier VX Cordura shell, and a PTFE waterproof membrane, it keeps my gear dry. While the fabrics on the standard Mission Workshop bags are also high quality, the VX fabric really looks and feels much nicer. It gives the bag a higher quality and more unique look. The Arkiv closure system is just cool, and works well. I always perfer metal to plastic when practical. This pack is also very comfortable on a bike. The straps secure together nicely with an adjustable buckle, so you don’t have to worry about the pack shifting while you ride.

Travel Backpack - Mission Workshop AP Fitzroy Rucksack

I recently returned from a 2 week trip to Europe, and the AP Fitzroy fit everything I needed. From the picture you can see that it’s quite a bit larger than the AP Sanction. The Sanction actually fits inside the Fitzroy! The Fitzroy has an internal volume of 36 liters, while the Sanction is less than half that at 16 liters. The larger Fitzroy has all the same features as the Sanction, it’s basically the same pack, only more than twice as large. Because of the flap top closure, you can open this bag up to access the huge compartment. It makes packing very easy. I was able to put a pair of shoes at the bottom, and roll up all my clothes packing them tightly on top. It’s quite a bit more bag than I’d want to use every day, but when I need a week or two worth of gear, this is perfect.

Other Bags I Tried

Daily or Weekend Messenger Bag - Chrome Mini-Metro Buckle Bag

I used the Chrome Mini-Metro Buckle Bag for around a year and it worked well, but it is a messenger bag, which pretty much rules it out. It’s also very popular in San Francisco, and I got to the point where I wanted something a bit more unique.

That said, it is a great bag, especially when combined with the Chrome Laptop Sleeve. The build quality is excellent, with tough fabric on the outside and a rubberized inner liner, it’s going to keep your gear safe and dry. However I ultimately replaced it the next bag on our list.

Daily or Weekend Messenger Bag - Rickshaw Zero Messenger

I used the Rickshaw Zero Messenger for at least a year. It’s made out of much lighter materials than than the Chrome messenger bag, so it’s not quite as bomb or water proof, but it is more affordably priced. I visited the Rickshaw store in San Francisco, which is also where they make all of their bags. I was there on a quiet Sunday, which was great because I got a tour of their factory. I picked up the limited edition silk screened messenger bag you see to the left, along with a Drop Pocket. I later had them make a custom Laptop Sleve to complete the setup. Their modular Zero bags are a great system, with velcro to add things like the drop pocket. I’d still be using my Zero Messenger bag if not for my issues with messenger bag comfort and how awesome the Mission Workshop backpacks are.

Travel Backpack - Chrome Soyuz

My first attempt at finding a travel backpack was the Chrome Soyuz which has as nice easy access zippered laptop compartment on the side. This is really convenient for airport security, and was the primary reason I bought it. The pack has a lot of pockets, but ultimately I felt the layout was a bit clumsy. It has two side by side narrow and deep pockets that open under the top front flap. I found them awkward and often difficult to get things in and out of. The Soyuz also wasn’t quite large enough for longer trips. Chrome says it’s internal volume is 26 liters, so that puts it in the middle between my two favorite Mission Workshop bags. For me, that’s too big for a day to day bag, and too small for a serious travel bag. That combined with the awkward pockets and compartments had me giving up on this bag after a few months of use.

Travel Backpack - Mission Workshop Vandal

Finally, the Mission Workshop Vandal which is a large expandable bag. I was leaving for a week long trip to Europe and I knew the Soyuz wasn’t big enough. This seemed like the perfect thing, because it’s actually two sized bags in one. When zipped up, it’s a respectable 29 liters, but then you can expand it to a huge 65 liter bag. For the picture to the left, I actually put the Sanction, Zero Messenger, and Mini-Metro inside the Vandal to fill it out. You really can fit a ton of stuff in there. Unfortunately, when it’s expanded and full, it’s a heavy huge bag, that’s just hard to carry. I also find that having that much room encourages me to over-pack. When it’s not expanded it’s actually slightly too small, and a little awkward to get things in and out of.

It has a few flaps that you can see on the left hand side of the picture. Those are actually pockets that can hold quite a lot of stuff, but I found them functionally awkward. It also has two small pockets on the bottom front, that were also awkward to use. I wanted more, easier to access pockets, so I could quickly get at my sunglasses, chargers, and other accessories. This bag didn’t really deliver that, it’s trying to do too much and ends up too complicated and awkward to use.

Conclusion

The Mission Workshop Advanced Projects Rucksacks are both fantastic bags. High quality combine with great design and a very solid build make an excellent product. They also look great. These are simply the best bags I’ve ever owned, and clearly I’ve tried a few. For this post I didn’t even bother to dig up The North Face bags I also have hiding in my closet.

A Blog Here Again

In an attempt to blog again, I’m setting up Octopress. It seems to have the right kind of simplicity and should be fairly futureproof. It generates static HTML from Markdown documents. No more worry of SQL injection attacks, performance issues, or having to keep up with upgrades.

Nginx Ubuntu Packages With the Fair Balancer Module

I’ve updated the Ubuntu Nginx package to version 0.6.32 and added the Upstream Fair Balancer module. We’re testing this for use at iLike and I figured this would be useful for others.

If you’d like to give my package a try, must add these lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list, or to their own file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/

  deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/calmkelp/ubuntu hardy main
  deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/calmkelp/ubuntu hardy main

As of this writing these packages have the latest version of the Upstream Fair Balancer module.

Choppy Full Screen Video on Hulu, and the Fix

I’ve been using Hulu to catch up on the premiers I’ve missed. Their new higher definition (still only 480p, but it’s a huge improvement) is nice, but almost unbearably choppy in full screen. This is on Windows XP (yeah, I know… I’ve been playing a lot of games lately and Cedgea is too much work) with the flash plugin or ActiveX control. My CPU has both cores pegged. This is a Core 2 Duo E6600, yeah a couple of revs old, but still pretty recent hardware.

The fix is just installing the Flash Player 10 beta. Now my CPU sits at 50% and video is smooth!

Moved Back to plek.org

I’ve decided to run my own blog software again, so I’m moving from blogger back to plek.org. Any new content will be posted there. I’ve pointed feedburner at the new site, so the handful of people subscribing that way will just pickup the new site. This site will remain since some pages do get a few hits every now and then. I may import all my content into my new site, but that will take some work.

I intend to post more, but intentions mean nothign without actions. We’ll see if how it really turns out. :)

The new site runs on my Slicehost slice, using Chyrp, a fairly new and lightweight blog engine. So far I’m quite happy with out. I still have a bunch of layout tweaks to do, so there will be subtle weirdness along the way. It’s not like I actually get real traffic, so I just edit the live sites templates and CSS.

IPv6 With Tunnlebroker and Ubuntu 8.04.x

I’ve setup IPv6 on my 512MB VPS at Slicehost, using Hurricane Electric’s free Tunnelbroker service. I’m running Ubuntu 8.04.1, and the setup was pretty straight forward.

First register for a Tunnelbroker account, and create a new tunnel by clicking “Create Regular Tunnel” on the left side of the page. You’ll need to enter the IP of your server and chose the closest tunnel server. I pinged the different servers, and found the Chicago server is very close to my host, with 7 - 8 ms ping times. I run another host in a different Slicehost data center and it seems the Ashburn server is closer in that case.

I didn’t bother allocating the routed /48 since I only have one system. I /64 should be plenty. :)

After you’ve entered your tunnel endpoint IP and hit “Submit” you can click “Tunnel Details” to find the necessary info for configuring your end. I added something like this to my /etc/network/interfaces:

auto he-ipv6
iface he-ipv6 inet6 v4tunnel
    address 2001:470:1f10:14f::2 # Client IPv6 address
    netmask 64
    endpoint 208.77.188.166      # Server IPv6 address
    local 208.75.85.208          # Client IPv4 address
    gateway 2001:470:1f10:14f::1 # Server IPv6 address
    ttl 64

Please note, any time your editing network settings on a remote host, be sure you have an alternate means of accessing that host should things go wrong. With Slicehost they provide a very nice web based serial console that’s saved me from many mistakes.

Now bring your tunnel up and test it:

$ ping6 ipv6.google.com

Hopefully you’re now up and running! If not make sure you’ve input all the IPs correctly, and make sure the ipv6 module is loaded by running:

$ modprobe ipv6

If everything’s working you could call it a day and assign an AAAA record to your “Client IPv6” address. Instead I wanted to have another IP setup for my services rather than running everything on the tunnel end point. This also lets me add more IPs in the future. It’s just a little more work to set that up, and the first step is figuring out your interfaces IPv6 address.

You need to combine the network address with the MAC address of the interface you are using. I ran this:

$ ifconfig eth0 | grep Scope:Link
        inet6 addr: fe80::4240:d0ff:fe4b:55d0/64 Scope:Link

Now take the last 4 groups of the inet6 addr and combine them with the “Routed /64” address provided by Tunnelbroker (on the “Tunnel Details” page used in the last example). The result should look something like this:

2001:470:1f10:14f:4240:d0ff:fe4b:55d0

Again edit /etc/network/interfaces and add something like:

iface eth0 inet6 static
  address 2001:470:1f10:14f:4240:d0ff:fe4b:55d0
  netmask 64
  ttl 64

Then restart networking to bring up the IP:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

Last, you may wish to add an AAAA record for your host to make it easier to access over IPv6. If you’re using Slicehost you just use the DNS tab of the SliceManger to add that record type to your host. The host serving this page is IPv6 accessible:

$ host plek.org
plek.org has address 208.75.85.208
plek.org has IPv6 address 2001:470:1f10:14f:4240:d0ff:fe4b:55d0

You’ll probably have to restart services like apache to have them listen on your new IPv6 address. Then you should be set! Now your server can connect to IPv6 hosts, and your system and is acessable over IPv6!

Be aware that some non-zero percentage of users have miss-configured IPv6 and just don’t realize it because so few hosts are IPv6 accessible. If you enable IPv6 on your main site, these users will see a long delay as they fail to connect to your IPv6 address and fall back to the IPv4 address. This is why Google only enables IPv6 on http://ipv6.google.com and not any of their main sites. I’ve run into this my self when miss-configuring IPv6 on my home network.

I hop this was helpful for someone, and let me know if you have any questions.

One of the Biggest Problems With the Bush Administration…

From this week’s Economist

One of the biggest problems with the Bush administration is that it appointed so many incompetents because they were sound on Roe v Wade. Mrs Palin’s elevation suggests that, far from breaking with Mr Bush, Mr McCain is repeating his mistakes.

It’s terrible that this one issue so rules American politics, to the detriment of the entire world.

Poverty, Not Sex Ed, Key Factor in Teen Pregnancy

Poverty, not sex ed, key factor in teen pregnancy

Very interesting. According to this article, abstinence-only education doesn’t work at all, and is a huge waste of money. Also “explicit sex-ed” programs don’t reduce teen pregnancy, though they do make teens more informed. Furthermore, teenage mothers don’t lose out on education, jobs, etc.

It’s the poor teenagers who get pregnant. It’s most closely linked to poverty, which is the real problem.

Trying Out Chyrp

Obligatory first post discussing yet another change of blog software. I don’t even blog that much, yet every few years I search around for the new coolest software and switch everything to it. Thus breaking all my old URLs. Awesome. This time I’m trying out Chyrp, a newish and very nice looking blog engine. I’m always a sucker for good clean design, I just wish I had some talent in that area.