What's in my bag

Behind every great craftsman is a great toolkit... or so they say. I’ve attempted to accumulate some super useful tools over the past couple years, and if you allow me, I’d love to geek out a bit and share them with you! While the Mac Instructor provides at-home training for lovers of all things Apple, I often find myself troubleshooting various issues. The tools listed below help me troubleshoot, record notes, and train proficiently.

Mac of choice


For starters, my field Mac is an 11” MacBook Air, which I adore. It’s simply perfect for what I do. Lightweight, quick, and powerful enough for the task at hand. More on software later. Right now, I will mention that I have a user account created solely for the sake of training people. Its iPhoto, Address Book, iCal, etc is filled with fake, demo content. Great for letting clients mess around without fear of messing up.



Here’s the truth, these items are geek flare. The most functional of the bunch is the Square card reader, allowing me to accept credit card payments anywhere. It’s being held by a lovely SquareSnare. Also on the keychain is a SIM removal tool, not just used for its namesake, but for resetting AirPorts and opening packaging. A Piolo is great for holding up my iPhone when it’s being used as a clock or showing my Things to do list. One nice bonus is the fact that having these things on my keychain pretty much gets me into all the dorkiest places in town.



This guy is my best friend and probably gets used even more than the MacBook Air. First of all, it houses a bootable partition of Snow Leopard which contains many utility apps for removing iTunes duplicatesiPhoto duplicates, language files, system optimization, etc. My new favorite utility apps are used to clean up Address Book and iCal calendars. There’s even one that will nuke all data stored on MobileMe called Sync Tune-Up. Why Apple Retail never uses these apps to fix all the crazy MobileMe issues is a mystery to me. Thanks to my friend Matthew Bookspan for introducing me to Spanning Tools.

Also on this G-Drive are partitions for Mac OS X installs of Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard, along with installer files for OS X combo updates, latest version of iTunes & iPhoto, and popular third party apps (such as CleanMyMac, Evernote, 1Password, & Dropbox). Having these installers is super helpful when the client has slow or no internet connection. Yay, G-Drive!

I do have major software utilities like Data Rescue and TechTool Pro, but if it ever comes to that, I usually refer folks to a friend who is way more qualified than me.




I have the standard FireWire and USB cables so I can plug my external into anything, but also carry along a USB to Ethernet adaptor and mini-iPhone cable as well. Both get used way more than I originally thought.

Tom Bihn Bag

Lordy, I love my bag. I did a little video tour awhile ago. Here, I’ll just say that I love that it fits everything listed above with room for more, yet still feels sleek and comfortable.


Apps I always have open during an appointment are Things, Byword, and 1Password. I have a project for each client in Things, keeping a list of all we need to accomplish. Byword combined withTextexpander is how I keep all client notes1Password is where sensitive client information is stored, thanks to its secure notes feature.


As I've said before, if you've made it this far, you're either bored or deep in geekdom yourself.   :-)

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.