Comments on the Smart Alec
I thought I should comment on my experience with the Smart Alec after a few months of use. Generally I'm very happy with it and I'm using it every day to work and for most every trip I take.
I like the size and I'm especially happy with the stomach and chest straps. Before I got the bag I was skeptic to the stomach strap as it looked too flimsy and I feared it would not give enough support but my experience has shown that it is more than thick and sturdy enough to support whatever weight I'd like to put into it. Furthermore the bag has really really excellent running capabilites. With the braincell clipped tight and the straps clipped on I can run like crazy without the contents or the bag jumping all over the place.
Onto the "bad" stuff...well it's not really bad stuff...rather quibbles and wants... :)
I think the placement of the penholders on the inside of the lid is not very good. This because the lid is usually curved especially when the backpack is completely full and almost empty, and then you don't want something which is pretty long, straight and ends in a tip under that lid. My suggestion would be keeping them in the vertical position, so perhaps within one of the sidepockets instead ?
With only the Braincell size 5 clipped inside, the Smart Alec has a tendency to "buckle" a bit under it's weight. This also creates an unpractical space beneath the Braincell that is very hard to get to and is sort of lost. So my suggestion would be to possible make a separate set of hoops below the ones you've already got to satisfy the braincell users. That does create the problem that when the backpack is very full you can't get easily to your PC since it's a few inches below the top of the backpack, but a double set of hoops means you've got the choice with advantages and disadvantages.
If could have choosen I would have liked the top lid to be able to create a bigger opening, especially with the Braincell clipped on, getting bulky clothes like my jacket into the bag is hard. So perhaps extending the zippers and inch or half on each side ? This might decrease the sturdyness or structure in the backpack I don't know, but I'm throwing out ideas here :) My last quibble is with using the Freudian Slip, Smart Alec and Braincell combo. Since the Braincell occupies the rear position which also is the place where the 'pack is tallest tucking the Freudian Slip next to it means it's too tall, and you end up with a 'Slip that's pretty bent which in my eyes sort of defeats the purpose of the Freudian Slip (i.e. protect papers mostly), at least that was what I wanted it for.
This is a long list of comments and just as final comment I'd like to add I'm very happy with the backpack and it's become a constant companion. I might even try to shoot some nice pictures of it in Oslo.
You may want to do a little further investigation into your bag
I had the same thoughts on my Smart Alec when I first got it. With the size 5 Brain Cell clipped in, the bag would sag and fall over alot. The weight balance seemed off and I couldn't get anything to fit underneath it. I cursed the stupidity of it all and was removing the brain cell clips to return the infernal bag. Then I realized i had missed a second set of loops further down the bag.
Clipping the Brain Cell into the lower set of loops made a huge difference. Tom had thought of all. My faith was restored. Everything was right with the world. I was in love again.
Now I do agree with you on the pen pockets in the top thing. Whenever I put things in the lid pockets, especially in the biggest pocket (I put my Powerbook power adaptor there), they always end up falling into the bag.
The pocket behind the colored part of the bag is a nice touch. I'm assuming that's a pocket, anyway.