My backpack (with bonus car trunk action)

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tags: · personal · tech ·

My backpack is heavy. Every time a colleague tries to pick it up, they’re surprised and dismayed by the weight of the thing. I tend to be overprepared, and my backpack is the natural extension of that mindset. I decided to crack it open to catalog its contents.

I won my very sturdy OGIO backpack in a company contest during my first few months. It’s about 6 years old, has tons of pockets, and includes the very old “Juniper Your Net” logo from Juniper Networks.


I’ll have to see if Bill Kelly can get me an updated version.


Sorry for the awful picture quality. Well, not sorry enough to get some more lamps or ask my wife to use her Nikon D7000, but sorry enough to apologize here on my blog.

  1. Two NetApp DB9-to-RJ45 console adapters.

  2. A classic “baby blue” Cisco DB9-to-RJ45 console cable.

  3. My kneepads, which have saved me thousands of dollars worth of pain and discomfort on datacenter floors. $10 on Amazon.

  4. Some really, really sharp scissors.

  5. A hex screwdrive, a flexy-neck ratchet screwdriver, and a regular orange screwdriver. The orange one came from my first Riverbed install. It used to have Riverbed branding all over it, but it’s been so well-used that the logos have worn off. What a great tool.

  6. A boxknife. Because I open lots and lots of boxes.

  7. My laptop’s power supply.

  8. A Logitech G400 (the MX518 successor)

  9. An extra battery pack for my laptop. My aging HP laptop (5+ years old now) only gets about 30m of charge by itself, this pack adds another 45m.

  10. Two cheap Bic pens from the 100-pack on my desk, a Logitech pen (red), and a random clicky pen I must’ve picked up.

  11. My small screwdriver set. The only standard-issue item in my pack, CIO gives a pack of these to every new engineer.

  12. A pair of nail clippers.

  13. A Cisco USB-to-ethernet adapter, gigabit. Yes, I know gigabit is overkill for a USB2 adapter, so sue me.

  14. A Cisco USB-to-wifi adapter, with N capabilities.

  15. An Apple USB-to-lightning cable, which I have on reserve in case I need to charge my phone.

  16. Exactly three RJ11 heads that somehow got lost.

  17. A roll of yellow electrical tape, which I use for impromptu labeling and marking.

  18. A collection of Sharpies.

  19. Two null-modem serial adapters.

  20. A Juniper-style DB9-to-RJ45 (female) adapater.

  21. A serial gender changer.

  22. My USB serial port, which is attached to my official Extreme Networks-branded serial cable.

  23. My null modem serial cable, clearly marked “NM” on both sides of both ends.

  24. My straight-through serial cable, clearly marked “ST” on both sides of both ends. This was a replacement cable. My original ST came from a former engineer, who gave me her prized ST cable when she left. I had to leave it in Madison, WI for many unfortunate reasons. I still use it (remotely) from time to time.

  25. A very long NetApp serial cable.

  26. A pack of CAT5E cables: a 1” yellow cable, a 3” white cable, a 10” black cable, and a 12” black cable.

I also have a pouch on top that holds my business cards and a few misc items: my Square, a NetApp flash drive loaded with software, and a 16GB flash drive.


Why stop at my backpack? I also keep several “go bags” ready for specific tasks. My phone bag is one of my favorites. When I’m not designing a complex enterprise virtualization/networking/storage environment, I’m running and punching analog lines and making test calls to 911.


  1. The “go bag” itself, a dual-sized zippy bag.

  2. Exactly four RJ45 heads. I hate making RJ45 cables, since they transfer a digital signal and are heavily relied upon.

  3. Exactly forty-five RJ11 heads (I counted). Yes, these are just jiggling around loosely.

  4. My favorite wire strippers.

  5. A handful of jumpers for 66 blocks. These particular ones are nice because you can grab them with your fingers since they have a little handle.

  6. A regular RJ11 cable.

  7. Miscellaneous pieces of wire/RJ11 for patching in analog lines and the like. Took about 100’ off of a spool somewhere, and I’ve been using it ever since.

  8. A set of RJ11 splices, to put two pieces of RJ11 together. Sort of like wire nuts, but better.

  9. My basic punch-down tool.

  10. My cable crimper, with a fuzzy velcro lock. Why the velcro? Because I once cut my index finger bad enough on its razor and bled all over my backpack while rummaging around for a pen.

  11. A wire stripper/cutter.

  12. No clue, came with the set.

  13. My Fluke punch-down tool.

  14. My Fluke butt set. Phone guys are drooling at this point.

There are a few more trick items in my phone gear repertoire…


This is a spare ShoreTel amphenol + patch-panel combo, often called a “harmonica” cable.


This is my EnGenius PoE injector. Key fact: it’s gigabit. Usually paired with:



This is my secret sauce. It’s a gigabit switch with a mirrored port -and- PoE passthrough. I am able to easily Wireshark the traffic from a PoE VoIP phone!!!!! Seriously this is one of the most baller tools in my kit. Took me a long, long time to find a reasonably priced device that allowed me to do mirroring and PoE passthrough, both at gigabit speeds.

Here are some bonus picks of the stuff in the trunk of my car. A big tangle of cables:


My crossover and T1 and special cable converters.


My secret weapons at company picnics.


My power driver/drill.


My awesome wire snips.


My fake USB CD-ROM / HDD enclosure. So great. It emulates a CD-ROM and presents the ISO you preloaded into the _ISOs folder.


Some more miscellaneous stuff.


  1. Over ten regular (C13) power cables.

  2. Some of the C14 power cables.

  3. My “every possible option” screwdriver set.

  4. A really awful label maker that I never use.

  5. A traditional SATA/IDE to USB kit.

  6. Lots of Fry’s brand AA batters.

  7. Another regular phone cable.

  8. Some cage screws

  9. A book.

  10. My needle-nose pliers for phone work.

  11. Another well-marked ST serial cable.

  12. A well-marked NM serial cable.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this trip through a lot of my stuff. I didn’t even get to show you my 300’ ethernet cable (used for when someone forgets to put a drop in the CEO’s new office).