Coding Horror

programming and human factors

What's On Your Keychain, 2008 Edition

Over the last few years, I've become mildly obsessive about the contents of my keychain. Here's what's on my keychain today:

What's on my keychain in 2008

In internet parlance, this is known as EDC or every-day carry. There's an entire internet forum dedicated to the art and science of determining what goes in your pocket. As expected, in terms of strip-mining an obsession, the internet delivers.

I originally wrote about the evolution of my keychain in 2005 and again in 2006. Here's the current lineup:

  1. Leatherman Squirt S4 multitool
  2. Corsair 8 GB Flash Voyager thumb drive
  3. Fenix L0D-CE AAA LED flashlight

The one constant is the Leatherman Squirt. Mine is actually personalized with a Pulp Fiction joke that not everyone gets; I opted to flip it over this year so I wouldn't offend. You can view the text in previous years' photos, if you're curious. I absolutely adore the Squirt. There's a reason I've been carrying this great little multitool since 2005; I use it almost every single day. Prior to the Squirt, I carried the Leatherman Micra, but the Squirt is a far more versatile multitool in almost the same form factor and weight. If you're open to carrying a small multitool, I recommend the Squirt without reservation. I have yet to discover anything better in its weight class. Note that the Squirt comes in a few flavors, which do vary slightly:

I was, however, sorely tempted to get a Leatherman Skeletool. It's beautiful.

Leatherman Skeletool CX

(The carbon fiber CX model is pictured; it also comes in an all-metal version which is $20 cheaper.) According to the Leatherman site, it's twice the weight and size of the Squirt, which puts it squarely out of EDC contention for me.

In 2005, I carried a 512 MB thumb drive. In 2006, 1 GB. In 2007, 4 GB. This year it's a whopping 8 gigabytes. As capacities increase, speed of the thumb drive becomes paramount. What good is a gigantic 16 GB thumb drive if it takes you an hour to transfer your data? I'd prefer to carry a tiny USB thumb drive, but my research indicated that all the svelte, sexy, impossibly tiny USB thumb drives inevitably come with a hefty speed penalty. My previous 4 GB drive was tiny, the size of a half-stick of gum, but slow enough that I found it awkward to use in practice. After doing a bit more research for this generation of my keychain, I finally arrived at the Corsair 8 GB Flash Voyager thumb drive, which offered the best blend of size, speed, and cost. In my testing, I can read from the Flash Voyager at around 25 MB/sec (5 minutes to dump), and write to it at about 7 MB/sec (19 minutes to fill). Not too shabby. Be sure to consider speed when buying your next high capacity USB drive, or like me, you may end up disappointed.

I didn't realize how obsolete my barely two year old AAA battery powered LED flashlight was until I picked up the new Fenix L0D-CE. A commenter to my previous keychain post recommended this brand, which sports a fancy new Cree LED. I figured it'd be a minor upgrade, but I was blown away by the difference in brightness compared to my old LED flashlight-- the Fenix L0D is incredibly bright! Don't take my word for it; this experienced flashight reviewer was impressed too:

The sheer volume of light produced is amazing for a single AAA cell light. My readings show that on the "high" setting the L0D-CE produces more overall light than a 3-D cell Maglite. On "medium" it produces more overall light than a common 2-D cell light. All this from one AAA cell.

You read that right: this little LED dynamo produces more light from a single teeny-tiny AAA than an older, traditional bulb technology Maglite produced from three enormous D cell batteries. Amazing! As alluded to in the review-- and unlike my previous LED flashlight-- this model has five different modes, all selectable by rapidly switching it off, then back on:

  1. Medium (default), 3.5 hours @ 20 lumens
  2. High, 1 hour @ 60 lumens
  3. Low, 8.5 hours @ 7.5 lumens
  4. Strobe light
  5. SOS pattern

The AAA model is constrained by the limitations of the battery. Imagine how bright the other, larger models in the Fenix family can get:

I had no idea LED technology was advancing so rapidly. Honestly, unless you enjoy blinding people for fun (this does have its charms), the single AAA model should suffice. It is astonishingly bright in any dim area.

That's probably far more than you wanted to know about what's on my keychain. So what's on your keychain this year, and why?

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: