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Two days before my teenage son was due to begin Sixth Form this week, the school phoned up to say that he's not allowed to study ICT at A-level. This came as a bit of a shock since computing was going to be one of his principal subjects. He might not be one of those 'A-star' students that you read about on results day - jumping …

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I love my Wenger Backpack

It does indeed only have one padded pocket, but it easily has room in the same space at the back for a laptop/tablet in a padded sleeve, kindle goes in the front, phone slips in the top pocket (some kind of ipod holder thing, just right for a phone and the rest of the pocket space is great for pens, leatherman etc). then there's the main compartment which easily has the space for a change of clothes and lunch, and my cables for my chargers handily stashed in the net pocket at the top. then there's another compartment with yet another phone pocket, pen space etc which handily holds my bike lock. And on top of all that I fit a bottle of water in the side. I still have a pocket at the very front free and another side pocket.

Love this bag so much. Used it on three continents for 6 years and while the rubber in the little bungee things on the side is dead, the rest of the bag is still working well if a little scuffed. Cost me £15 in Morgan years back and I can't replace it. Not even with the Wenger messenger back I picked up this year.

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Re: I love my Wenger Backpack

I just realised I'm a Wenger backpack fanboi. Oh well.

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Re: I love my Wenger Backpack

+1 for the Wenger.. I have one provided by the company and it is fantastic, i travel to europe at least once a month and it easily swallows 2 laptops, tablet, chargers and cables, clothes, food and i generally have space left for a trinket or two for the wife, go and try one out before dismissing ;)

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Re: I love my Lowepro / Tamrac / Kata Backpack

Have you looked at camera backpacks?

I hadn't, until I worked for a company that sold them. They're ace: Millions of pockets, waterproof, and designed to hold tons of fragile stuff.

Kata bags are also bright yellow inside, which is handy for finding stuff.

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Re: I love my Wenger Backpack

As long as we're on the subject of Wengers...

Bought mine in 2005. It has a CD player pocket instead of an iPod/phone pocket. The thing has held up amazingly well. Still has some cushion (in nasty situations, I have been known to use the thing as a pillow), straps are comfy, and about the only thing that's gone wrong is the lining started peeling off a couple of years ago. I guess that was the waterproofing. Oops!

Seriously though, I take this thing everywhere with me. I'm US based and it's seen Canadia, Nicaragua, the UK, Germany, and it's my primary bag on domestic trips. Biggest problem is that if I let it get too big then it doesn't fit in the overhead bins on smaller airplanes!

See if you can find it someplace with a good return policy. Are Amazon's UK return policies same/similar/better? I've turned in used electric razors before when dissatisfied.

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Coat

The one problem with a Wenger Backpack

The thing is large - Tardis-like, even - inside. The problem is thus that it actually invites you to lug along backbreaking amounts of gear. To give you an idea of just how much space the thing has, I'm pretty sure that if I forgot about taking along the body of a particularly irritating former end user for disposal, it is quite possible that it would remain in the bag until a pungent smell would remind me of its presence - it wouldn't get in my way in the meantime..

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Re: I love my Wenger Backpack

+1 for the Wenger.

I'm also a roving engineer, I carry two laptops (and occasionally an iPad) along with various cabling, power supplies, external HDDs etc. Picked up a Wenger Hudson backpack, and its positively cavernous. Even with all my rubbish it's still only 2/3rds full.

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My school did this to me in 1988. Turns out that the other people in the year all wanted to do Chemistry in conjunction with their A-levels so my Computer Studies option, which had officially been available the previous day, was kicked into the long grass. All but one ot the other pupils dropped out of their chosen combination of subjects, leaving one guy previously from another school and me. So my sixth-form career was diverted for a bunch of quitters and a guy from another school.

Am I bitter? No! It turns out the Computer course might not have got me into Cambridge for CompSci, so ironically I did better without it, as Cambridge is precisely where I ended up.

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Ru

...and the course mentioned in the article is "A-Level ICT" which rings alarm bells. Even A-Level computer science has been pretty crap over the years, and anything that purports to be even softer probably isn't worth a whole lot.

Timetabling is a pretty thankless task though. The chances of some people getting stuffed is high, and all the admin folk can do is to minimise the number of disappointed students. Hiring an additional lecturer is a pretty expensive proposition, especially if only a small number of students would ultimately benefit, surely?

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Universities don't generally require an ICT A-level anyway, so he's better off taking further maths or physics. If he's a proper geek then taking drama will help round off his personality and meet lots of girls too.

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Norm and Ru - thanks, this is what I suspected, given the buzz at the moment about the need for more programmers and fewer divvies knowing a bit about PowerPoint. My son's main subject is now Music Technology, so I suppose Drama will enable him to perform Music Tech on a beach in Brighton while waving one finger in the air.

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Thirded (fourthed, whatever we're up to). Anyone who is serious about a career in programming (or closely related hands on work, DB design, etc), I would recommend not to take ICT at A-Level of GCSE. Get a hard science subject, e.g. Maths or Physics. I believe a lot of University lecturers in Computer Science would prefer a lot of their new students didn't arrive with ICT A-levels. Enough knowledge that they will get bored in the first year introductory parts, badly taught enough that it will cause problems. At any rate, doing Drama isn't a bad thing either. It's fun, it's creative and quite frankly all that matters for a career in programming is that you get on to the degree level course. An ICT A-Level is essentially wasted time if you then go on to do a degree. No employer is going to care if you have a Comp. Sci degree AND an ICT A-level. The former completely replaces the latter. Better to have Comp. Sci. plus Drama. It may work out for the best.

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Windows

"My son's main subject is now Music Technology..."

If he needs a break from Logic and Reaktor, there is always Puredata and Supercolider. The latter uses sclang (Lisp related) for programming so he can sneak some fairly serious coding in. You can even get paid to code in public (google the wonderfully named 'slub' performance group).

PS: Muji do nice sleeves/mini-bags that just fit a 12 inch laptop so I would guess would fit an iPad.

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JDX
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Shouldn't this be in Bootnotes?

Hardware is for serious articles I thought!

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Re: Shouldn't this be in Bootnotes?

This is AD channelling Private Eye's ace columnist, Phil Space.

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Crumpler

Do quite a good range of bags, for many uses. Mainly seem to be camera bags, but as a result have lots of padding. I've been using my "Fourninety daily (L)" every day for about 4 years, only ever had one problem with it, which was a broken zip pull, but due to the lifetime warranty was able to take it to one of their shops for repair.

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Re: Crumpler

Crumpler gets the thumbs up from me too - I bought the 'Double Charge' bag designed for large laptops. I use it nearly every day for over 4 years now when commuting in on my push bike. Lots of space and pockets!

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Re: Crumpler

Crumpler for me too - some of the designs are a bit quirky but they're very well made, strong and reliable.

Loads of pockets too!

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A-level ICT is useful?

If your son's been at ActionScript since 11, ICT A-level sounds to me like a waste of his time.

But what do I know - I had the same fight when I wanted to do all 3 sciences at both O-level and A-level and ended up travelling to another school in town for the third one (Biology at O-level, Chemistry at A-level).

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Anonymous Coward

Even if the teachers can't be arsed...

your son could ask to study the course anyway, with project supervision from a nearby school, like this inspiring chap did:

http://smartsim.org.uk/index.php?page=history

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I know at least one story where a sixformer passed ICT with A* without receiving any educational help from his school - i.e. the school agreed to sign him for the test, on the condition that they won't do any work to educate him (lazy bastards - he basically learned himself). This can be done, don't give up so easily.

As for rucksacks, I sometime ago switched to bike ones - these are quite robust and light, yet large enough to fit equipment I carry often, also have stiffened back to keep it safe. The one I use is Jack Wolfskin Velocity 12 but there is plenty to choose from, some look more "business" than the others.

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Anonymous Coward

> he basically learned himself

either "he taught himself" or "he learned by himself" (although I'd prefer the former to the latter)

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Headmaster

Well if you're going to be like that...

It's perfectly valid to say 'he learned, himself'.

You're not then trying to shoe-horn 'learned' into being a synonym for taught, and everything's fine and dandy.

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Headmaster

Kenneth Grahame had a few thoughts on the matter...

The Toad, having finished his breakfast, picked up a stout stick and swung it vigorously, belabouring imaginary animals. `I'll learn 'em to steal my house!' he cried. `I'll learn 'em, I'll learn 'em!'

`Don't say "learn 'em," Toad,' said the Rat, greatly shocked. `It's not good English.'

`What are you always nagging at Toad for?' inquired the Badger, rather peevishly. `What's the matter with his English? It's the same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought to be good enough for you!'

`I'm very sorry,' said the Rat humbly. `Only I THINK it ought to be "teach 'em," not "learn 'em."'

`But we don't WANT to teach 'em,' replied the Badger. `We want to LEARN 'em--learn 'em, learn 'em! And what's more, we're going to DO it, too!'

If it's good enough for Mr Badger, it;s good enough for me!

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Windows

Sorry, but his pseudonym....

Would suggest English isn't his native lingo. Learned-taught? In Finland the natives have a problem wilth "lend" and "borrow". So effing what??? We understand. Stop being pedantic, will ya? Last time I bought a map, there wasn't near as many countries coloured pink than when I was at Primary school.....

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IT Angle

This is typical of British education...

This happened to me back in school, the year I was due to enter sixth form, the school decided to drop A-Level Computing in favour of a GNVQ in ICT (ie, a 2-year 'How to use Microsoft Office' course).

Of course being the computer geek I am this was not acceptable so my friend and I both enrolled for A-Level Computing as a night course at my local further education college in addition to our normal school studies.

We both got A grades which was a lovely 'two fingers' to the IT Teacher, although he preferred the new course because it meant he didn't have to do as much actual TEACHING as he used to.

And anyone wonders why there aren't enough kids choosing Computer Science as a degree option...

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Re: This is typical of British education...

"so my friend and I both enrolled for A-Level Computing as a night course at my local further education college in addition to our normal school studies."

And these days, the Colleges that still offer A level in comp sci will probably also have networking teaching rooms (fun to play with, but only in the holidays for me) . Sadly, you might have to travel a bit.

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Anonymous Coward

Bag suggestion and ICT is a good one to miss

These have room. Lots of room.

http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/chrome-citizen-messenger-bag-735.html?gclid=CLWzn76to7ICFYXJtAodfVoABw

As for ICT A-level - he really isn't missing anything. Seriously...my better half is a deputy 6th form college runner thingy. I have seen a paper. The only thing I am sorry about is the fact you will not be able to rant about A Level ICT on here as a result.

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Re: Bag suggestion and ICT is a good one to miss

Scared of clicking any link with the URL "Always Riding", just in case its NSFW...

2 years of MS Office* training would sadly come in useful in a software development environment, dealing with Spreadsheets with test cases, requirements and project metrics, release note documents and endless powerpoint presentations.

(* Feel free to use Libre/Open Office/Lotus Sympathy)

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Anonymous Coward

1980

and my 5th "option" at O level was crash-German for Latin students. Couldn't timetable that, so I ended up with choice #10 (which I had put down as a joke). Typing.

Decided being the only guy with 20 girls who *wanted* to be secretaries wasn't for me, and went for option #9 .... Latin.

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Pint

Re: 1980

1986, sixteen years old and managed to get a job with BT. In the typing pool, because I could type. The only male among a sea of women.

That was an experience.

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Re: 1980

I wanted to do Latin and they wouldn't let me. It wasn't a scheduling issue, it was just the Latin master was buggering off.

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Re: 1980

>> The only male among a sea of women.

I bet it was fun when the tide came in.

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Re: 1980

Red tides are dangerous,

/runs away, coat flapping.

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Re: 1980

@AD: That was only one week out of six. Bearable.

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Can't help with the bag search but your son's story sounds very familiar. I was in the same situation 24 years ago with GCSE Computer Science. My school made the top class do their Maths and English a year early at 15 so that the following year we could do Advanced Maths, Computer Science or some other extra courses. They had done this with O-Levels and promised us they would do the same with GCSEs. As a result I was in the first year to do Maths & English GCSE but the second year of GCSEs for all my other subjects.

Unfortunately the morons a year older than me struggled to get all their Computer Science coursework done in time so when I entered 5th year they cancelled the scheme and made us get a head start on A-Level Maths and English. Grrr.

I had been programming the ZX81 and Spectrum since I was 10, had installed the school's LAN a couple of years before and was learning Pascal on our 286s at lunchtimes. The IT teacher agreed with me I would sail through the course no problem and even offered to teach me after school but the Deputy Head would not agree to my requests.

So here I sit 24 years later with a successful carreer in IT as a System Admin and a Programmer, no thanks to the expensive private school my parents sent me to.

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Go

Bags channel on The Register

El Reg definitely needs a Bags Channel - luggage isn't just "hardware". It's lifestyle, utility, culture, image, quality, ergonomics and a cash sink to rival any Volvo. Anyway, for my tuppence, the Tom Bihn Brain Bag looks a good bet

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ICT A-level

With very few honourable exceptions, the best people that I have worked with in IT have entered the industry after studying anything but IT, so frankly your son has dodged a bullet there. He'll learn what he needs while he studies other stuff that will make him more rounded. I wouldn't stop him from studying CompSci later on, those honourable exceptions were good despite their CompSci degrees, but he's been gifted with two years learning something useful rather than A-level ICT.

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Tech air

Have a look at these bags: http://www.techair.co.uk/

Served me well for years driving about a hour back n forth on a multitude of roads and weather conditions(rain, freezing, burning hot) on a mountainbike. It even protected the laptop when the bag tumbled from a table due to my own failure to put it in a stable position. When the zipper broke they even replaced the bag free of charge(without sending back the old one). When it was delivered to the wrong adress(by the mail company, even though the adress was correct on the bill) they send a second one, freely again.

So yeah, good service and quality. Still love it.

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Meh

Is it just me or is there something really offputtingly creepy about that leer with the "something for the weekend, sir?" headline next to it?

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>> Is it just me or is there something really offputtingly creepy about that leer with the "something for the weekend, sir?" headline next to it?

It's just you. Tell me about your mother.

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Headmaster

It must be impossible

To timetable any random collection of A levels - at least unless the school is so large that there are about 5 sets available in any subject. So what were his other proposed A levels? Are we talking about a reasonably logical combination?

Of course it was such much easier back in my day: I froget the exact options, but there were only (IIRC) 13 A and O levels on the school curriculum at all, and if you wanted to mix science and arts subjects you were largely out of luck.

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Bag Selection.

I see you have a unique issue with cramming things in.

I walk in all weathers about 30 minutes each way, what I'm looking for is waterproof-ness and waist and chest straps,

This is what I chose...

http://www.pakuma.com/products/akara_k1.htm

I don't see the waist and chest straps on the Wenger bags, though I admin I only had a cursory look.

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Re: Bag Selection.

My Wenger bag has a chest strap but no waist strap.

It's not a great issue for me, though I appreciate the chest strap when I stop off to get some milk, beer, wine other heavy grocery on the way home.

My hiking rucksack has a waist strap, but it's a lot larger than my backpack.

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Happy

Re: Bag Selection.

As long as the waiststrap is bigger than the waist, it's not an IT problem....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bag Selection -- And if you want more padded compartments...

... then MAKE THEM YOURSELF, TO YOUR SPECS. Not that hard to find a suitable 5mil foam and cover that with a good fabric of your choice. Make a bag-insert to fit exactly two ipads, for example, or for those plus a 15" laptop (so your present and future macbook fits), whatever. A waterproof snack-insert so your sandwich doesn't get crumpled, or one to hold your drinksbottle upright? No problems. Maybe you have to ask a suitable female, maybe you can do it yourself.

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Try Targus Atmosphere

I've been using a Targus Atmosphere TNT007EU for about 5 years. So good I just bought another off eBay, plus 5 more for other colleagues. You can currently find them for £17.

The description says 15.4" - don't be fooled. My regular laptop is an old 17.1" HP model - full widescreen and not very thin. The case regularly carries the laptop, loads of papers, large assortment of cables, 2 CD wallets, 4 LTO backup tapes and an external DVD drive. There is room in the proper laptop compartment for 2 laptops or maybe 3 if they're thin - and dividers to keep them separate.

The rear compartment expands - it has an all-around zip that allows it to be made larger. Even without doing that I have carried my lunch in there. The pictures show it expanded and holding a printer and that is certainly possible.

The strap is wide and compfortable, although the one time I carried 3 laptops, I wasn't sure I could trust the stitching and metal attachments, so I used the handles - which are also quite good.

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Lazy school admins

I discussed exactly this issue with a pal of mine the other day - he is a senior master at a very well known and well thought of school. My daughter was given this rubbish last year and has resulted in a wasted year of her time before we placed her in a college that would provide the course SHE wanted.

My pal's comment was that timetabling is a problem, but if a school puts sufficient effort into it - and ironically a bit of computer time - they can - and should - achieve a satisfactory (not perfect mind) outcome for ALL students.

Simply letting the "gifted" pupils have their options and letting the rest squabble over what is left is pathetic.

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Windows

Re: Lazy school admins

Depends on the number of students in the 6th form and the *average* number of students per class for economic viability.

Another problem that Schools have is that a given teacher will probably have to teach lower in the school, so cutting the 'slots' available for 6th form work. These days, students do take some pretty random combinations (in my day it was 'science sixth', maths physics chemistry OR Biology Chemistry Physics with a scientific maths slot, OR 'humanities') and so some serious juggling is needed.

FE Colleges have it easier: more students (thousands rather than hundreds), more teachers (factorially more combinations of class possible), less 'down school' constraints, but they are increasingly 'data driven' and tend to avoid the harder subjects like the plague.

The main problem at my place of work is fitting everyone in; I'll be teaching in the car park next week by the look of it. We usually manage something... Gove has made GCSEs in Maths and English free to adults who do not have them as opposed to £200 a pop last year, which is great but we have a lot more adult students wanting day lessons...

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Hmmm bags and more bags

I went through quite a lot. But my requirements are that I can put atleast 2 1L bottles of water in them along with a ton of other stuff. Managed to get my hands on a Wegner backpack this year and I'm happy to report I still have plenty of room with 2 1.5L of sigg water bottles in there, an eeepc701(though I'd like to replace that with a 13" laptop device), ton of cabling, adapters, glass cleaning kit, portable fork/knife/spoon, portable headphones, etc... etc... etc... And still have room to put in my ereader and probably a lot more.

Very happy with it. Though the lack of waist straps is a bit annoying. And I can't use chest straps since it presses on my chest and can trigger my asthma.

I guess some people don't understand how hard getting the right gear for such things is.

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