Review: Waterfield Staad Backpack (Slim)

When I was in Chicago for MPU Live in March I took the opportunity to order a Waterfield Staad backpack to my hotel to bring back with me. I’d been intrigued by their bags for quite some time, but after seeing MacGenie with one of these at PodCon, and seeing MacSparky’s Sling bag at the same event, I was convinced I wanted the bag.

Let’s start with logistics: I realised only shortly before my trip that this would be a great time to get the bag, so I paid for premium shipping, contacted Gary through the contact address on their web page, and hoped for the best – and they delivered (with time to spare)! After collecting it from the Fedex in my hotel (still cheaper than international shipping I would note), I actually got my hands on it.

I picked the black ballistic with the chocolate leather, I’m a fan of the Indiana Jones look – but I like my bags to look pristine for as long as possible and knew the ballistic fabric would deliver that, however leather ages whatever you do – so the chocolate was an obvious choice to let me still see the wear on it! The inside of the flap is lined with smooth black leather, and this doesn’t mark easily so I suspect the completely black model wouldn’t have either.

Some background: I fly, a lot. I’m writing this review on my 5th flight this month, which happens to be my 3rd weekend on the road (or in the air) in a row. Next weekend I’m not going anywhere (at least that I know of), and then I’m off to WWDC which involves 4 flights. I fly carry on only whenever I can, because it’s cheaper, and it means I know my things will be with me when I land. However this means my backpack is restricted to some pretty small dimensions – unless I wanted to put everything in my backpack (which if you’ve queued in the immigration line at LAX before you will probably agree is not fun). So I need a small backpack, I also want to be able to get at everything pretty easily – without said items falling out of the bag if I open it up.

This bag is perfect for me as it has a laptop sleeve which fits my 13″ MacBook Air like it was made for it (it’s actually made for the 13″ MacBook Pro which is cuboid rather than wedge shaped), and another sleeve on the front of that for my 11″ iPad Pro in the smart folio with the Apple Pencil. On the inside of the bag at the top there are two vertical pockets which close with Velcro – I use one for my passport and one for my charger and USB C cables (to USB C and Lightning). On the front at the bottom you have two pockets as well – these are designed so that if you swing the bag up under your arm they face up (or completely down if you open the opposite side pocket), which is where my purse (American: wallet), AirPods, any medication I need, lip balm, tissues, etc., live. If I’m taking the bag to work my work ID/access card go in there too.

Everything else goes in the main compartment in front of my iPad Pro – this usually includes things like my Bose headphones in their case (I prefer to fly with the QC35s, but sometimes take the QC30s instead), Nintendo Switch, etc. Overfilling the bag isn’t an option because then the flap wouldn’t close – but this helps me limit what I’m carrying and I appreciate that.

I was impressed with this bag when I first got it in March, but 2 months later I can see it’s truly holding up as it ought to – it looks great, and it works. Because of the sleeves for my devices (which aren’t insanely large as they often are in bags) I can just slip my laptop and iPad in and out, the half zip on the front under the flap lets me get access to things inside if I need to, but keeps things securely in place. The clasp is very good too – it closes easily (unless you try to overstuff the bag), and it stays put. The fabric is also exactly wide enough that you can slip a pin on it for decoration without worrying about damage or impaired function. The bag also fits nicely on my frame – the Stout model is unsurprisingly larger, which is one reason why I didn’t order it (if I have space in a bag I will absolutely throw things in “just in case” and then end up regretting lugging said items around later) – and I’m 5’7″ as well as pretty slim. I’m also really pleased with the padding on the straps and the back of the bag (pictured below), they’re thick and comfortable, but not so thick that the bad becomes bulky.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if the iPad pocket will fit my iPad Pro with the Brydge keyboard attached – however that is something I’ll have to wait another week or so to try! I’m very pleased with my bag – and now I have to admit I’m very tempted to try out some of their other products like one of their cases for the Nintendo Switch!


Automators 17: Live at PodCon

Episode 17 of Automators comes to you live from PodCon!

TripIt – Automated Trip Itinerary

I personally use TripIt to create my itineraries – it actually automates everything for me. I could let it read my email inbox and auto create itineraries, but I prefer to choose which emails to forward to it. As I mentioned on the show I also have a filter in Gmail that marks and read and deletes all of the “Your TripIt Itinerary was imported” emails – I only need to do something if it didn’t work after all.

Bear Notes for Trips

David rolls his own travel schedule system – with Bear. The advantage of Bear is you can easily add attachments and text to a document, meaning everything is in the same place. You can even use a nice Shortcut to allow you to append a document or text to a specific Bear note: Append to Bear

Zapier Turning New Trips into OmniFocus Projects

This is an automation I mentioned that is a little hacky, but it works well for me. TripIt creates a calendar, or you can use any of your own calendars for this if you don’t want to use TripIt – you just need to get that calendar into Google Calendar. What we do is we watch this calendar for new events, then we filter – continuing if the length of the event is more than 23 hours. Then I use the text action to write up the TaskPaper I want to be added to OmniFocus, and URL encode it. The final step is to add a task to OmniFocus – this is accomplished via the MailDrop, and it has a URL scheme which looks something like omnifocus:///paste?target=/folder/Travel&content= -%202019/09%20-%20Amsterdam%0A%09-%20Organise%20Travel in the body – so when this task arrives in my inbox and I process it, I just tap on the URL to add the project. You can even run a Shortcut via a URL scheme (which I usually do!). The Zapier steps are:

  1. New Event
    • Watch the specific calendar in Google Calendar
  2. Only Continue If
    • Duration (hours) Greater than 23
  3. Text (Formatter)
    • I typed my TaskPaper in here, and URL encoded it, if you already have the URL encoded text, or another URL you want to appear in the body of the task ready you can skip this step.
  4. Create Task
    • The title is “Set up project for trip Event Name“, which I also include in the Text action above. The body is the URL I will tap on when I process the task.

This series of steps is a pretty solid way to add projects and tasks to OmniFocus based on other events happening, I use it for lots of automations.

Rose’s Packing List Shortcut

I use a modular approach to create my packing list – along with an extra list of devices to charge! While I save this to OmniFocus you could easily modify this to work in any task management system, or just to create a PDF to print if that’s what you prefer to do.

Naming Documents with Scanner Pro


Scanner Pro is an app David and I both use to scan documents on the go – as well as when we’re on the road. It has built-in OCR, and Workflows which allow you to chain multiple actions together. Most of the time I use a Workflow called “Simple Scan” which formats the name to Scan YearMonthDay, Time and saves the document as a PDF to Dropbox. I usually save to a specific folder in Dropbox which Hazel then watches and automatically files certain things or me.

Airmail Custom Actions for a Trip

Airmail is a mail app for power users, especially with its custom actions. I have a custom action which forwards the email to TripIt and then moves it to my Gmail account’s Travel tag, this allows me to find all my travel email quickly if I need it, and gets it into TripIt without me needing to remember to forward it as well.

Quickly Add Travel to your Calendar with Shortcuts

This Shortcut isn’t really generic, but hopefully, it will inspire some of you. To get to the airport I take a tram and then a train (at least most of the time). The tram normally takes 11 minutes to get to the train station, and then the train should take 16 minutes to get to the airport. While I could use the public transit API to get all of the information to figure out my route to the airport I prefer to look at the available times in the app and choose which one I would prefer to take – before adding this to my calendar. This Shortcut asks me for the departure and arrival time for each mode of transport (and automatically suggests the arrival time based on the departure time) allowing me to just input 2 dates and times most of the time. You can grab it here: Airport Travel.

If you haven’t already listened, make sure to check out episode 17: Live at PodCon!

Chapters:

  • 00:54: Automating Travel
  • 01:04: TripIt
  • 01:57: David’s Homegrown TripIt
  • 03:57: TripIt to OmniFocus Project
  • 04:51: Packing Lists
  • 06:11: Rose’s Packing Shortcut
  • 08:55: Scanning on the road
  • 11:21: Project Templates for Travel
  • 11:34: Airmail Travel Action
  • 12:21: Dealing with Email on the Road
  • 14:47: Rose’s Travel Task Management
  • 16:22: Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • 17:06: “Here I Am”
  • 19:38: Sponsor: Express VPN
  • 21:44: Welcome Back from Seattle
  • 23:59: Feedback Time
  • 24:25: Forums
  • 25:21: iBeacons
  • 28:11: David tries to convince Rose to be Jane Bond
  • 30:15: Filing Feedback
  • 35:57: Creating a Contract
  • 36:43: List all the applications on your Mac
  • 38:39: Launch Center Pro NFC Stickers
  • 39:56: David’s Break from Time Tracking
  • 41:43: Chapter 25
  • 42:18: Our Favourite Feedback

Thank you to our sponsor this week: Express VPN.


My Raspberry Pi Zero W Portable Development Server

I love my iPad, it’s a great, very portable device that I can use for almost everything. Unfortunately the almost for most people is a deal breaker – but I’m stubborn and see these things as a problem to be solved rather than a reason to use another device!

One of my most frequently used “tools” are servers – if you can call a server a tool. This blog runs on one, as does Automation Orchard, as well as a lot of little scripts which make my life easier. Unfortunately having an entire server running locally on an iPad isn’t quite possible yet – apps like DraftCode Offline PHP IDE are fabulous and can even run WordPress – but sometimes needs must, and you need something that is less restricted. This is where my Raspberry Pi Zero W comes into play.

The Raspberry Pi Zero W, for those of you not familiar with it, is an extremely small headless computer – it doesn’t have a screen – indeed when you buy it you just get the board, that’s it! The hard drive is a micro SD card, and it sports a few ports – 2 micro USB (one for power), and a mini HDMI. How on earth can you connect to that with an iPad?

The answer is not the shortest or easiest, but it does sound simple: wifi. I have set my Raspberry Pi up so that when it boots up it creates a wifi network, of course this doesn’t create an internet connection, but that’s not what we’re after here. I won’t go into the steps of setting this up here, instead I recommend you follow this guide: Setting Up a Raspberry Pi as an Access Point in a Standalone Network (NAT)

The other part I needed to do was to make sure the Pi would always have the same IP address. This allows me to use use Workflow to control it via SSH, and connect to it with Coda which lets me hook right into the device and has great syntax highlighting. As I mostly program for the web with PHP I use Coda in split screen with Safari which I can refresh to see the results of what I’m doing.

I use a CMS called Grav, and they have a nice little guide to help you set up the Raspberry Pi to run it – there are guides to set up most CMS on a Pi if you look.

Why would I do all of this over using something like Linode or Digital Ocean, you might ask. It’s a very simple answer: internet isn’t always a given. I travel a lot, and most of my flights do not have wifi (and those that do charge a fortune for it). Even trains go through tunnels where you lose your connection. If you always have wifi or cellular data then you can avoid carrying a tiny computer, cable and battery pack along with your iPad, but if you don’t then this is a very small combination that gives you a lot of power.

Hardware in use:


Workflow: OmniFocus Travel Plans

Another Workflow workflow I demonstrated in my Learn OmniFocus Video was one to generate a project for travel. I travel a fair amount, and often to more than one destination so this is built around that.

The first thing I do is decide where I’m going and when I’ll go there. Then the Workflow puts together the start of a “before I go” list – including entries such as booking time off work, booking flights, charging battery packs, etc. The next step is to choose if this is a one or a multiple destination trip, if it’s just one location then I add a few entries for that – planning travel to and from the airport, things to do, and so on. If it’s a multi destination trip then I have to tell the app which places I’m going and in what order, and it generates a series of tasks based on that. The last thing the template does is to add packing categories to my project, I keep my actual packing lists in TripList as it has a wizard which generates a list for me (I could replicate that in Workflow of course!) – and syncs things to my TripIt plans.

The taskpaper result for a one destination trip looks like this:

2018/08 - Belgium:
    - Book time off work 11/08/2018 - 14/08/2018
    - Book flights to Belgium
    - Plan travel to the airport for 11/08/2018
    - Plan travel home from the airport for 14/08/2018
    - Make a packing list
    - Pack
    - Charge battery pack
    - Charge headphones
    - Put films & TV shows on iPad
    - Book accommodation for Belgium
    - Plan travel from the airport to accommodation (11/08/2018)
    - Plan travel from the accommodation to the airport (14/08/2018)
    - Plan things to do in Belgium
    - Packing
        - Clothing
        - Documents
        - Electronics
        - Miscellaneous
        - Hand luggage

And for a multiple destination trip you end up with this:

2018/08 - Belgium / Netherlands:
    - Book time off work 11/08/2018 - 18/08/2018
    - Book flights to Belgium
    - Plan travel to the airport for 11/08/2018
    - Plan travel home from the airport for 18/08/2018
    - Make a packing list
    - Pack
    - Charge battery pack
    - Charge headphones
    - Put films & TV shows on iPad
    - Belgium @autodone(true) @parallel(true)
        - Book accommodation for Belgium
        - Plan travel from the airport to accommodation
        - Plan things to do in Belgium
    - Netherlands @autodone(true) @parallel(true)
        - Plan travel from Belgium to Netherlands (14/08/2018)
        - Book accommodation for Netherlands
        - Plan things to do in Netherlands
    - Packing
        - Clothing
        - Documents
        - Electronics
        - Miscellaneous
        - Hand luggage

As you can see there’s not much of a difference – just the division and repetition of some tasks.

You can get the workflow here: OmniFocus Travel Plans

If you look at that Workflow and think that it’s too complicated and I’m crazy (possible), then I also have a simple version for one destination which you can get here: OmniFocus Travel Plans – Simple


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