At the higher levels of scorekeeping, it’s common for scorekeepers to bring their own equipment with them, instead of using what the organizer has with them. This is primarily an advantage in familiarity: you can have your machine setup in the way that you want it, with the style of hotkeys that you prefer, and you’re entering in results on the same-sized, same-feeling keypad at every event.
When you are traveling with your own equipment, you need to balance your computing needs with the space and weight allowances inherent in travel. (especially plane travel) This tends to lead to compromises and price increases, as you balance your equipment’s weight, size, and cost. You also need to worry about the wear-and-tear of your equipment, and make sure that your hardware is sturdy enough to last through airplanes and cabs.
I tend to go through a decent amount of equipment in this regard, just because I work around computers normally, and will spend for shiny new tech if I think it’ll help me out at events.
My computing needs are a little more complicated than the average scorekeeper, for two reasons:
- I am also a software developer by-trade, so any machine that I work with tends to need to be able to deal with development needs at the same time as scorekeeper needs.
- I’ve been known for going a bit off-the-deep-end with displays, when I have a projector or display available to me. When I do this, I’m generally utilizing similar compositing/broadcasting software as Twitch streamers, and that software is pretty resource-intensive.
So, with that in mind, I’m currently using a pair of laptops:
- Macbook Pro 15″ 2018
- Dell XPS 13 9360
So, with those in mind, my current machines are a pair of Dell XPS 15 9560 laptops. This machine (and it’s XPS 13 cousin) is becoming very common amongst scorekeepers, and it is a very portable laptop, while having specs approaching a gaming laptop.
Wait, a pair?
The short-ish version is that one is my personal laptop, and the other comes from my job as a work laptop. When I started scorekeeping more frequently on large events, I used the Late 2011 MacBook Pro. That machine was plagued with a graphics card solder issue, which caused me to buy a backup machine and bring it with me to every event, just in case. That backup machine in the last several years has been filled by a pair of Surfaces, along with a 13″ Macbook Pro.
The backup XPS 15 came from a hardware upgrade at work, where they wanted me to be able to better help in an emergency when remote. While it’s somewhat common for people to use work laptops for some personal use, I have to airgap my computers, in order to ensure that my personal development and work development are never on the same computer. (for IP reasons) Because of this, my work computer has a folder on it with every installer I would need for scorekeeping, and I bring it with, ready to push it into service when needed. (which has actually happened once, but for logistical reasons, not technical)
As that upgrade was happening at work, I was about a year into scorekeeping on a Razer Blade. That machine was good, but I was beginning to have some hardware concerns about it, and was losing trust that it would be able to withstand the travel-stress I was placing on it. I liked the XPS 15 from work to the point that I found a nice refurb, and purchased that one as my new primary, and relegated my Blade to be my main at-home machine. (which turned out to be good, as the battery died in it about a month later, and that took a while to fix)
In a perfect world, I would still be on a mac laptop. Unfortunately, the ‘16 chassis upgrade introduced a tolerance issue with the hardware keyboard, which causes major problems when a speck of dust falls into the key wells. (which, working conventions all-the-time, is going to happen to me) If Apple fixes that, then I’ll likely shift back over.
So, just to recap, in the last six years, these have been either my primary or secondary Scorekeeping laptops:
- MacBook (Late 2008)
- 15” MacBook Pro (Late 2011)
- 13” MacBook Pro (Mid-2014)
- 15” MacBook Pro (Late-2015)
- Microsoft Surface Pro
- Microsoft Surface Pro 3
- Razer Blade 14” (Late 2016)
- Dell XPS 15 9560
- Dell XPS 13 9360
…and there will likely be another 13″ laptop added to this list sometime this year, as I fully-transition from my current job. (and lose my backup) Having 15″ laptops is really nice in a lot of places, but they are simply too-bulky in airplane environments, and come with some weight problems. As a result, I’m looking to replace my secondary laptop sometime this summer with something in the 12″-13″ range. (right now, this is likely going to be a refurb Dell XPS 9370) I also kind of need a less-power-hungry laptop for flying, as my current laptop power supplies draw too much power to be compatible with most airplace AC plugs.
Keyboard / Keypad
For a long time, I just used my laptop’s keyboard, but that usually involved a separate 10-key. One of the first things I bought when I started getting serious into scorekeeping was the Logitech N305 Keypad, and it is still the best keypad I’ve used when scorekeeping. Wireless tech, plus Logitech’s unifying receiver, plus the overall feel of it, it all combined to be a great keypad for me.
When mine started wearing out a bit, I was just going to buy a new one. Unfortunately, Logitech had discontinued their wireless keypad line, and the remaining stock were going for $150+ each. After some searching, I discovered some keypads that Cherry (the mechanical keyswitch company) was making, and went with one of their keypads for a while.
Around this time, I began to also bring a full keyboard with me. I had started using mechanical keyboards in 2014 at work, and started bringing one with me to events as well. This has gone through several iterations, as I tried out form-factors of keyboards. All of my keyboards have been variations of WASD’s V2 or Code lines, and I have all three of their major sizes: one with a ten-key, one without, and their re-branded Pok3r 60% keyboard. As the Cherry ten-key began to show some wear and reliability issues, I moved from trying to save space with my keyboards, to just moving to a full-size keyboard and having the Cherry ten-key as a spare + player-facing keypad.
So, right now, I’m on my second WASD V2 104-key keyboard. (my first one broke while in transit to an event, because of a packing issue)
Compared to other areas, I’ve been pretty consistent here, only really switching between various generations of the Logitech MX Master and Logitech MX Anywhere mice.
In 2015, an iOS app called Duet was launched, which turned an iPad into a display for a host computer. There were other applications that did this before, but Duet did it via the Lightning cable, which made the approach usable for me for the first time. I started using my iPad at events as a second-display around this time.
Another scorekeeper saw this, and started looking at ways he could do it as well. He discovered that USB displays exist, and bought the ASUS MB168B. Then I saw how much better that was, and bought the USB-C version. Then he bought a second one. Then ASUS came out with their second-gen MB16AC, and I bought (and currently use) one of those. Other scorekeepers started buying them as well.
So, the idea’s caught-on with other scorekeepers.
I’ve gone through a few different power-related things over the years, as my needs have evolved. For just about anyone, I would recommend Belkin’s SurgePlus adapter, which I used for several years. It provides just about anything you would need for taking advantage of limited power outlets.
When I started traveling internationally, though, I had to start worrying about different AC outlets. Initially, I just bought a random international adapter on Amazon, and though I still use that, I also bring with me a device advertised as the Bestek Universal Travel Adapter. It’s a cool adapter, doing the conversion at the adapter-level, and giving me three US plugs (with US voltages) anywhere in the world.
Funnily enough, though, the default cable for this adapter has an EU plug on the end. Initially, I just brought an adapter with the cord, but I eventually just bought a couple additional cables for different countries, so I can save a little weight.
A few of the other things that are regularly in my kit:
- I have a DualComm Mini 5-Port 10/100 Ethernet LAN Switch, which is a USB-powered switch for when I’m at a WLTR event that needs networked scorekeeper computers, but there’s no switch or router to be found.
- I backed the Nebula Capsule, which is a combination of a mini-projector, speaker, and Anker battery. I’ve used this as a round timer at a few events – it’s not good enough for the size of a Grand Prix, but it’s bright enough to see across a 300-player event. It’s also the size and weight of a full soda can, and works just fine all-day with a second battery connected to it..
- I use an Anker 10-Port USB Hub for … USB hub purposes. I use a powered hub so that I can actually charge all of my random battery-powered devices throughout an event day.
- I’ve had at least one travel battery with me for years, to provide interim power for all of my stuff. (especially on long plane rides, where the USB plug in the seat barely keeps an iPad charging) My current battery is the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD, which is an absolutely-absurd battery:
- It supports the USB PD protocol, which allows it to charge some laptops.
- It’s 99.16Wh, which is also the same size as the largest laptop batteries. (the maximum you can carry onto a plane is 100W)
- It comes with a very good USB-C A/C adapter, which charges this about as fast as a laptop battery.
I bring a lot of cables with me, some ethernet cables for networking, some USB cables for charging, and some other random backup cables, just in case I forget something in my main bag.
I recently added a Pelican 1510 case for carrying a lot of my secondary stuff. (keyboard, screen, projector, cables, etc.) This makes it much easier to carry the more important gear with me, and be able to fit my bag into tighter spaces in a plane. It also helps to have sufficient airline status to get a couple free checked bags.
My main bag depends on how I’m feeling, swapping between an Incase EO Travel Backpack and a Timbuk2 Command Messenger Bag. Both are very good for space, pockets, and fitting all of my stuff; I prefer messenger bags, but I use the backpack when I have more to carry or longer travel, due to some back issues. I’m also pretty into compartmentalization of my stuff, so almost everything in my bags are in their own bags or cases, meaning that swapping bags just means moving ~8 things.