Happy Labor Day

Here in the States, it’s a long holiday weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. Rather than try to throw some half-baked articles at you, I decided instead to give you the gift of time. In other words, we’re taking a break for the weekend, and we’ll be back to full speed on Tuesday. In the meantime? Have a happy Labor Day.

image via history.com / getty images


Toys ‘R’ Us returns as a zombie-like shell of its former self

Pop up shops are a common sight in today’s late-capitalist society and, by taking advantage of empty storefronts and cheap rents, online businesses are landing in physical places. That’s exactly what’s happening to the once-might Toys ‘R’ Us and it’s pretty sad.


Amazon’s FireHD tablet adopts USB-C and Dolby Atmos

Amazon has its hands in a huge number of things these days. They want to do it all, from the Everything Store to creating a huge public surveillance network. Sometimes, it’s as benign as just launching an updated device to read books and listen to music on. Like this Kindle FireHD. Sometimes, they curate the features enough that it kicks ass. This is hard to do, when Kindle Fire sort of lives in the shadow of Android as a whole. (I write this, fully getting the irony that there aren’t any successful Android tablets outside of FireHD.)


Huawei launches Harmony OS, or life after Android

Huawei has faced some challenges this year, to put things mildly. Google pulled Huawei’s license back on May 20, and Android was unavailable to them to ship on their smartphones. Just days ago, I mentioned Samsung’s Tizen plans and how they ship it on their watch, but haven’t shipped Tizen on a phone in 5 years. Today, Huawei announced their new smartphone OS.


What is Knapsack?

My kids get new backpacks every few years. They take them to school, beat them up, and in June – when the last school bell rings and they rush home – they dump the backpacks on the kitchen floor and roar into summer.

But something weird happens in the intervening days. The knapsacks, worn thin by use, gain a second life. Emptied of papers and books they become sleepover carriers, adventure packs, toy holders. My kids stuff them into overhead bins when we fly to see grandma and they drag them with us when we go on bike rides.

The backpacks live again, repurposed, at least for a while, to hold the things my kids love.

That’s the impetus behind Knapsack. The founders, me, Patrick, and Victor, saw room in the world for another gadget and gear blog. Why? Because we’ve come to learn what’s good and what deserves a spot in your knapsack. This site isn’t about speeds and feeds and it’s not about snarky commentary about bad products. It’s not a place to show off our knives, guns, and wallets. It’s not a shameless attempt to cage free stuff and grab advertising dollars (although we will run advertising.)

It’s a place to share the stuff we love, the stuff we’d stuff into our own backpacks for a long trip or stuff that takes a place of honor on our desks at work or at home.

We all have too much junk. We don’t want to add to your pile. We want to show you what’s good, what’s important, what’s useful.

So we made Knapsack. We’ll be posting news and commentary as well as reviews of gear we love. We don’t have an axe to grind, we aren’t hereto become influencers. We just want to share what we know.

Join us. Give your backpack new life and fill it with cool stuff that you know you’ll use as you walk the dusty trails of this wide world.

Adventure awaits. Thanks for reading.


The Librem 5 Smartphone is free as in freedom

Purism is an open source hardware company with the guts to produce hardware that essentially completely “free as in freedom.” Their laptops, which I’ve used in the past, feature open boot loaders and drivers and they run an “ethical” flavor of Linux.

Now the company is releasing a “free as in freedom” smartphone called the Librem 5. The phone runs a i.MX8M (Quad Core) processor at 1.5GHz and is loaded with PureOS, “a user friendly, secure and freedom respecting OS for your daily usage.” This version is aimed at mobile users and does not use Android or iOS, a very unique proposition in a FANG-infused world.

How much does this thing cost? Well, freedom isn’t free. At $649 for pre-orders you’re going to be shelling out quite a bit for a phone that is essentially incompatible with almost all app stores. But you get the added benefit of security including physical switches for:

  • WiFi / Bluetooth
  • Cellular Baseband
  • Cameras & microphone
  • All 3 off = additionally disable IMU+compass & GNSS, ambient light
    and proximity sensors

Purism is serious about open source and I love that about them. I’ve used a few of their products and come away happy and I look forward to seeing this handset when it ships next month.

You can pre-order the phone here.


These Field Notes x Wilco notebooks are not trying to break your heart

If you’re a fan of Americana-inspired mope rock and small paper notebooks, have we got something for you. Wilco, one of my favorite bands, and Field Notes, one of my favorite notebook makers, have teamed up to release something that can only be described as outtasite.

The notebooks were made in conjunction with members of the band. From the press release:

We paired each member of Wilco with an exceptional artist, handed them all the same limited palette of colors, and let them improvise. This ?Wilco x Field Notes? Box Set is the result of that collaboration. The six Memo Books reflect the craft and talent of the artists and the passions and personalities of the musicians, and they?re waiting for your lyrics, set-lists, and show notes ? or maybe your reminders, grocery lists, or meeting notes. Whatever it is, it?s always a good idea to write it down.

Field Notes is a great little business. They made their notebooks in America and I’ve used a few of them over the years. The artists in this special set include:

Jeff Tweedy &?Aaron Draplin
Mikael Jorgensnen &?John Gall
Glenn Kotche &?Cody Hudson
Pat Sansone &?Lauren Dickens
John Stirratt &?Brett Stenson
Nels Cline &?Lawrence Azerrad

I, for one, will use them to write notes for my heavy metal drummer. You can pick up the notebooks at WilcoWorld for $27.50.



Direct TV Now is now AT&T TV Now

In what amounts to a further bundling of data and entertainment, Direct TV Now will now be called AT&T TV Now. The companies began their merger in 2014.

The company reported the news in a press release.

What this means in practice isn’t much – if you use Direct TV Now, DTV’s streaming app, you will now be using AT&T Now. However, as The Verge notes, the two companies have competing streaming services and there is no confirmation whether AT&T steaming users will have DTV’s content and vice versa.

The Verge notes:

  • DirecTV Now is being rebranded to AT&T TV Now
  • AT&T TV, a separate streaming TV service, is coming soon
  • A single app called AT&T TV will be how users access both services

The bottom line? You’ll be seeing more AT&T and less Direct TV. I doubt anyone will be particularly upset by this barring DTV fanbois.

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