In Your Bag: Throw a Summer Jam with Tech

Whether you’re heading somewhere for a couple hours, the day or a full-blown trip, you need to pack your bag. What do you bring with you? Well, obviously, that depends on what you’ve got planned. Throughout the summer, we’re going to brainstorm a couple things that you might do…and give you some tips on what to stuff in your bag. This time out: What you need to throw a proper summer jam party.


summer jam bag envy x2 bluetooth wireless speakers.JPG


(I snapped a picture of this Rickshaw bag just before I ran out the door for a party. Inside it: An ENVY x2, Wireless Bluetooth Speakers, Beats headphones and, yes, that’s plastic wrap. Keep reading, I’ll explain that bit in a minute.)


DJ Hero

Used to be that DJ Duty meant two turntables and breaking your back lugging around crates of vinyl. (Don’t worry, the awesome / hardcore still will.) Sure, you could use a tablet or smartphone to serve up music, but how you deliver that music to the crowd is half the experience. If we’re talking strictly mobility, I’d recommend you check out the ENVY x2. The Atom-powered hybrid laptop has been my go-to device since I got mine last December. If you wanted to have a constant loop of music running for the whole party with the ENVY x2, you could. I’ve run with this thing for over 10 hours doing everything I need. How? Well, there’s a battery behind the screen / tablet portion and a second battery in the base. That second battery is CONSTANTLY charging the tablet. That means no extra power bricks to bring with you – all you need to worry about is what music you want to play. Better still, its gorgeous all-metal design stands out. The fact that it only weighs 3 pounds total (when the tablet is plugged into the base) doesn’t hurt, either.


If you’re feeling a lot more ambitious and want to project a video show….or maybe you want to perform high-speed transfers while you’re rocking out, check out the SpectreXT TouchSmart. I’ve spent a lot of time with this guy as well. It offers Beats Audio outputs so hook this up into your sound system. It’s also one of the few laptops to offer a Thunderbolt port so you can hook into high-speed data devices (if you want to copy over new tracks for the party). But the standout feature HAS to be the 15.6-inch display. Yep, not only do you get a crisp 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution, you also have a hand-friendly touchscreen


Why does that even matter? Download Virtual DJ for free and you tell me. Granted it’s intended for hardcore DJ use, but even on the most basic level you can queue up tracks, create a mix and be a digital turntablist (virtual scratching, that is…..). And, hey, did I mention, “FREE!?!?”


summer party bluetooth speakers.JPGI’m gonna to be honest with you, though. No laptop on the planet is going to create enough booming sound to fill up a party. What do you do? Well, the obvious option I mentioned above is plug it into the sound system wherever the party’s at. BUT, if you’re taking that summer jam outside, you need to bring the audio with you.


Whenever I’m going to a BBQ or outdoor party, I always pack a portable Bluetooth speaker in my bag. They provide great audio, can pair with anything from smartphones to laptops – and fit in your hand. Being specific, HP’s Bluetooth speakers are my go-to because beyond the solid sound, they can run off of AA batteries in a pinch. (The point: They run with rechargables, but if you’re between charges and don’t want the party to stop, you’re covered.)


Whatever you decide to bring with you, keep your gear dry and away from drinks. It’s a no-brainer rule of thumb that you probably practice, anyhow, but plans rarely survive first contact. A buddy of mine gave me this tip at a party. Bring some sort of plastic wrap with you…and loosely cover a couple parts of your computer (NOT the heat vents!) to prevent liquid getting inside. Of course, if you had an Elitebook, you wouldn’t be as worried. They can withstand some torture during the work day…so a little partying couldn’t hurt it.


Now, of course, there are a number of places to automate your afternoon beyond creating your own playlist. Online, there are always options. Here are a couple of my go-tos….



Again, being able to have this set up on a touchscreen is always kind of cool – it encourages people to come up and add to / create their own playlist.


Party Photographer Duty

Another big part of being at a party is capturing all those oddball moments that will inevitably go down. Sure people will have their cameras on their phones. But why not make it a little easier to chronicle the event? Maybe get the people a little more involved. Here are a couple random suggestions to keep the party going:


  • Set up webcams at the party.
  • Use the camera embedded in your laptop.
  • (Just make sure to let people know that they are being recorded!)


Maybe you want to livestream it to buddies around the country (why not?) – or maybe you just want to be able to take pictures without having to “push the button.”  If you want to just capture video, that’s easy enough, but maybe you want to set up a Webcam to snap time delayed shots at intervals throughout your party. Or set up a motion sensor so that it captures as people walk by. Obviously, this isn’t the best solution if you have limited hard drive space, but it’s an interesting idea to play with if you want to try something different.


summer party envy x2.JPGOr you could just feed out video captured on webcams to your TV through your computer. (You’d need to plug your PC into your TV….or, if you have a Wireless TV connect, you can wireless stream that video all over the house.)


Or maybe turn your laptop into a portable photobooth. Think about it for a second. Have all those pictures saved to a shared cloud drive….for example, all Windows 8 PCs come with SkyDrive (Or, with our HP computers, also score some extra Box.Net storage). Maybe you want to share a folder from the event with all your buddies – you can do that.


Other bits of advice: make sure that you have a couple good phone apps on your smart phone – beyond the usual bundled stuff. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you….and if it starts up easily and quickly, even better.


So, for example, here are a couple apps that I have on my phone:  Fast Camera – perfect for snapping a ton of pictures in a hurry. The second you fire the app up, it can continuously take pictures. You won’t miss a thing! 360Panorama – I really love this app – even a couple years later. 360 creates some awesome, stitched-together 360 images (as you’d probably guess from the name) and it’s a breeze to use. Check out Occipital’s site to see how it works. (Unlike some camera’s capabilities to take long, sweeping shots, you’re recreating a whole scene.)


Also, I feel compelled to say this to all you Instagram-heads out there: When you take any picture, take it NORMALLY. If you want to add filters to it after the fact, fine! Go crazy! But you’ll never know when you might need that original image later.


Well, there’s a couple quick ways to rock out your summer jams a little more. You have some ideas of your own to share? We’d love to hear ‘em!  If you've already used tech for your parties in sweet ways, let us know -- we'd love to put your story up for everyone else to see!


Also, for those celebrating the 4th of July: Have a great, long weekend.





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