By Dan Allen.
I like handy, well made gadgets. 440 stainless steel, aircraft aluminum, titanium: things
made out of these materials rank high on my list of neat stuff. Nice firm rubber, not hard
plastic (especially for grips)... well, you get the picture. Here are a few of my favorite things...
June 2007 Update
- An Apple PowerBook G4 15" is my main Mac laptop and is the single piece of gear I would grab if
the house was burning down. When I travel on an airplane I carry an Apple PowerBook G4 12" laptop
instead. (Apple needs another small laptop.)
- An Apple iMac 20" with a 2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo chip and a 500 GB drive became my main desktop
machine. Very low power usage (65 W). I like the all-in-one form factor.
- A Toshiba Satellite U205 has replaced my Dell Latitude D600 as my main PC laptop.
It runs FreeBSD 6.2 most of the time, but occasionally runs Windows XP Professional SP2.
This is a nice Intel Core Duo machine that is very fast, yet compact and full-featured.
(It needs more pixels.)
- I upgraded to an Apple 80 GB iPod Video, black. I still use my 40 GB iPod Photo and 40 GB 3rd
generation iPods in cars.
- I use a 2 GB SanDisk USB memory stick on my keychain, and a LaCie 8 GB Orange micro hard drive
often to move files around. A Western Digital 150 GB portable 2.5" hard drive backs up most of my
important files, while a 300 GB 3.5" USB desktop external drive backs up everything.
- A Nikon D200 has replaced my D70, along with a Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DX VR lens that
is a 28-300mm equivalent. A large, fast nice camera. I still use my Canon Powershot G3 as my more
- A nice Sportsman's Warehouse 1 watt LED flashlight is my tiny low-end flashlight. The Surefire E2E
remains my midrange flashlight with its Xenon 60 lumens of light. A Cabelas four cell 200 lumen light
has filled out the top end of my flashights - and is a great buy. (Surefire has not innovated enough
to get my high-end business any more.)
- My main desktop machine became an Apple iMac 20" with a 2 GHz Intel Core Duo chip.
- I traded in my Chevrolet truck on a 2006 Mercedes E 320 CDI diesel, an unbelievably great car
with 34-44 MPG, great iPod integration and my first built-in GPS system.
- A TomTom Go910 GPS was added to try something other than Garmin. It has good Mac integration but
needs work in many other areas.
- My main desktop machine became a Power Macintosh G5 for a while, but due to high power consumption
I moved to an Apple iMac G5 20" with a 500 GB drive.
- I added a pair of Macintosh PowerBooks, a 12" and a 15". They have a much better aluminum finish
than the titanium predecessors and the lighted keyboard on the 15" is brillant.
- I added a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado Z71 Extended Cab Standard Bed truck for farm work. Nice engine.
June 2004 Update
- A Dell Latitude D600 has replaced my PowerBook G4.
- A Dell OptiPlex GX270 has replaced my Power Macintosh G4.
- A Surefire E2E has replaced my Streamlight flashlights.
- A Nikon D70 has augmented my Canon Powershot G3.
- I have upgraded to a 40 GB Apple iPod, but there are many things that can be improved with iPods.
They are no longer an essential piece of gear.
- I have added a Cruzer Mini 256 MB USB memory stick to my list of cool handy equipment.
- I have finally broken down and got a cell phone, a Motorola V120e.
- I have added a Brunton Sherpa weather monitor.
- I have added a Citizen's Skyhawk titanium watch for its time zone handling and circular slide rule.
- My main vehicle is a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon TDI, a 53 mpg diesel.
- My main GPS is a Garmin GPSMAP 276C with a gorgeous color display, but you have to download maps and
data to the unit (only from PCs) when it should all be built-in.
- Laptop (Dell Latitude D600 or Apple PowerBook G4)
- Calculator (HP-48GX)
- GPS (Garmin GPSmap76)
- Weather monitor (Brunton Sherpa)
- Digital camera (Canon PowerShot G3, Nikon D70)
- USB memory for backup (Cruzer Mini 256 MB)
- Hard disk for backup (Apple 40 GB iPod)
- Cell phone (Motorola V120e)
- Ethernet cables
- CD-RW, CD-R blanks
- Knife (Myerchin)
- Multi-tool (Leatherman SuperTool)
- Flashlights (Surefire E2E, Princeton Tec Aurora headlamp)
- Survival kit (Doug Ritter / Adventure Medical Pocket Survival Pak)
- Binoculars (Leica 7x42 or Leica 8x30)
- Sunglasses (polarized)
- Pencil (0.3 mm mechanical, Alvin or Staedtler)
- Pen (retractable blue fine ballpoint, Parker or Lamy or Pilot)
- Paper (graph and 3x5 cards)
- Reading (LDS Quad)
- Atlas (Rand McNally pocket USA)
- Sextant (Astra IIIb, Francis Barker & Son Pocket sextant)
- Slide rule (8" Pickett)
- Water (Diet Pepsi)
- Food (Gorp, California dried apricots, Pemmican beef jerkey, pretzels)
- Candy (Sweet Tarts, chocolate bars, Nutri-Grain cereal bars)
- Medicine (asprin, vitamins)
- Batteries (AA, AAA, CR123, CR2025)
I love laptops. My latest in a long string of Macs is an
Apple Macintosh PowerBook G4, Titanium. It has an 800 MHz Power PC G4 (7455) chip, 512 MB of RAM, a 60 GB
hard disk, DVD/CD-RW Combo drive, 2 USB ports, 2 firewire ports, built-in Airport 802.11b wireless 10 Mbit and
built-in 10/100/1000 Mbit Ethernet, a 56K modem, and a 15 inch 1280x960 LCD display. It is very fast, very well made,
and in my opinion is the best computer ever made. I am running Mac OS X 10.2.8 on it, but I still use the MPW Shell all
the time! I am booting to Mac OS 9 more and more these days.
For once I now have the state-of-the-art Apple desktop system. I bought a
Apple Power Macintosh G4 dual CPU tower, with two 1 GHz G4 chips, 512 MB of RAM,
a 120 GB 7200 RPM hard disk, a DVD-RW burner, and the same set of ports and Gigabit Ethernet as the laptop. With it I
have a 22" Apple Cinema display (1600x1024) which is simply gorgeous. Mac OS X 10.2.1 is the OS.
I also have an Apple iPod, a 10 GB model. We use it in the car to carry and play over 2,000 songs. What a nice
piece of engineering. It is a great backup tool for my Macs. The FireWire interface makes copying
large amounts of data very fast.
The navigation tool of choice is a Garmin GPSMap 76. They have built-in
maps and more detailed maps and info can be downloaded from a PC.
It uses 2 AA batteries and has a terrific display.
One must always have accurate time. A great deal is this Seiko SLL033
Perpetual Calendar watch, which is about ten times more accurate than most quartz watches.
I was given a new Citizen BL1020-55H Perpetual Calendar watch,
which runs on solar power. It is great: since I got it I haven't worn anything else!
CalculationThe best calculator around is the HP-48GX, or its slightly less expensive
cousin the HP-48G+. The newer HP-49G is neat for symbolics, but just doesn't cut it
as a calculator. The HP-48G+ can be had for under $100, and it has Reverse Polish
Notation (RPN), the only way to go in a calculator.
Before calculators there were slide rules, now almost impossible to find. This
circular Pickett slide rule was a gift when I was young. I've always treasured it. It
is only 3" in diameter, and it has the trig scales on the reverse.
My latest camera is the Canon PowerShot G3 digital camera. It is a 4 megapixel camera
with USB and a 35-105mm f/2-4 zoom lens. It has an intervalometer and includes software for
creating 360° panoramas and virtual reality tours. It has a particularly strong built-in
flash and great manual override controls like a professional camera. A bit pricey ($800), it is
Before my Canon, I had a Kodak DC-3400 Digital Camera. It is a 3 megapixel camera,
with USB, a relatively long-life lithium chargable battery, and a great 28-84mm zoom range. It can
fit into a pant's pocket. Highly recommended, it is a best buy for digital cameras but unfortunately
Kodak has discontinued it without a good successor. If you can find one, buy it.
For binoculars, my favorites are a pair of Leica 7x42 Marine binoculars. They
are center focus, rubberized, waterproof, and incredibly brillant, with gorgeous
colors. They are expensive, but worth it.
I love my Ray Ban Outdoorsman Ambermatics. They no longer make the Ambermatic
lenses which automatically lighten in darker conditions, or darken in very bright light,
which is a shame. Classic styling, well made eye protection.
Notice the lack of cell phones. I had one and when it broke I never replaced it. They are
an electronic leash. Free yourself and get rid of your cell phone: it will liberate you!
This new Victorinox CyberTool 34 is great! It has a full complement of
Torx, Phillips, and normal screwdrivers, as well as scissors, pliers, etc. Very
handy when dealing with computers and other nifty gadgets.
The must have in your pocket at all times tool is the Leatherman Micra. This
fine tool has scissors, a knife, a ruler, screwdrivers, and is so compact and small
it is never a problem. Also available in colors, but they scratch easily so I
recommend the chrome/silver finish because it holds up better.
Good quality rope is a great tool for many things.
On a boat, you need a Myerchin L377P. This knife has a locking serrated blade,
a marlinespike for taking out knots, and an LED flashlight. It is made in Japan
of 440 stainless steel. Very nice.
Victorinox now has a nautical knife with a marlinespike and a locking serrated
blade. It is called the Skipper, or the Mariner or Helmsman if it does not have the pliers.
I have a Victorinox Helmsman model and it is very nice, and for $30 at West Marine you cannot beat it!
For serious pocket tools, the king is the Leatherman Super Tool. It has an
unbelievably serious and beefy feel to it. The Super Tool recently has been slightly upgraded with
rounder ends. The pliers feel like real pliers, far
stronger than the Victorinox CyberTool. The ruler feature is great and is not
present on the newer Leatherman Wave. Get one.
A handy light made of nice aircraft aluminum is the Mag-Lite 2 AA flashlight
unit, available in many colors. It has a great feel to it, is small, and does the
basic job of lighting up whatever you are working on up close.
I have begun to carry in my shirt-pocket a Mag-Lite 2 AAA
flashlight that seems just about as bright as the larger 2 AA Mag-Lite. Very nice.
Do you want a bright flashlight that is small? Look no further than the
rechargable Streamlight Stinger. It is not cheap, but police use these
all the time. They are serious. If your car's headlights aren't working, you
could almost use one of these to drive with! Available in black or yellow.
Another great flashlight is this neat Streamlight Syclone, which uses 4 AA
batteries and has a rotating head. The white light is pretty decent, and it
also has a neat orange LED light that will go for 72 hours straight!
My latest flashlight is the C. Crane Expedition, which uses 7 white
LED lights. It has a beautiful blue-white light, very even, and runs for 50 hours
at full brightness on 3 C-cell batteries, but continues to run for another 100 hours
at reduced brightness. Amazing! Available here.
Back to Dan Allen's home page.
Created: 13 Jun 2001
Modified: 30 May 2007