If you're looking for a text version of our CEO's latest conversation with the Shared Security Podcast then look no further! This details our approach to digital privacy, how we got to where we are today and some of our future plans. Read on!
Tom Eston: You're listening to this shared security podcast exploring the trust you put in people, apps and technology with your host, Tom Estin.
Joining me on the show is Aaron Zar, co-founder and CEO of Silent Pocket. Welcome to the show, Aaron.
Aaron Zar: Thanks for having me Tom. It’s a pleasure.
Tom: Yeah, glad to have you on. Well, Silent Pocket has been a longtime sponsor of the show. So first of all, Aaron, thank you for supporting the show. And I'm really excited to be speaking with you today.
Aaron: Yeah, likewise. I mean, it's an easy decision for us. We have a product line. You have a captive audience. You believe in the product. And at the end of the day, it a tool that everyone and anyone can use on a daily basis. Thanks for having us.
Tom: As I always say on the show, you guys make really good high-quality products. And that's an important thing of the sponsors of the show. You know, we actually use the product and I'm not going to recommend something that is not useful for our listeners. And it's great that you guys are producing really great products.
Aaron: Yeah. And they look at exceptional, don't they?
Tom: I agree. I completely agree with you. So that's.
Aaron: Yeah, that's part of it. You know. Yeah, I want to look good. They don't want to wave the flag or what's going on. We're big fans of aesthetics.
Tom: So, being the CEO of a company that sells products focused on privacy, what are your thoughts on the current state of digital privacy in this crazy world we live in?
Aaron: To be honest, I'm quite hopeful. I think there's an abundance of tools that we could use these days. Obviously, the connectivity of technology has changed the entire scope of our planet and beyond, and that allows us to really, in my opinion, the way I look at it's like, well, the world used to be so vast and now it's tiny. It's very accessible. And I think there's a lot of big benefits of that that make life better.
And obviously, I think there's a lot of downsides that looks like, man, I wish I didn't have to use a cell phone in my life. That would be incredible for me. But this current state, to answer your question, I'm hopeful. I think that there are members of younger generations that are seeing the output of content and how that relates to their lives and what they can and choose not to put out there. And with that, there's a lot of useful tools that anyone can adopt to make their life a little bit more private and secure.
But obviously attending shows like Def Con, which we did this year and speaking with an amazing group of people, such captain, cool audience, very eclectic, highly intelligent, and just finding out the tidbits of what's really going on behind the scenes. It looks pretty sketchy.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Especially at Def Con where everybody is trying to hack everybody else. You know, you have the good guys, the bad guys, everybody showing up in Las Vegas of all places. Right.
Aaron: Yeah. It's like a petri dish of just Action. It's absolutely nuts. But, specifically on privacy and security, there's a lot of things that are happening that have been going on for years and longer than I've been alive. And legislation and laws and in government, things take time to kind of surface where once maybe viewed as paranoia now are kind of front of mind for people in terms of what's going on with big data and companies. And how can an individual that's a teenager, mid 20s or young 30s, professional or older generation, really kind of mesh into this connected world and how we could find a balance and strike it and not live in fear mongering and paranoia and just accept the reality of it and view it as an opportunity to implement tools and best practices to manage that and mitigate risks and threats. I'm very optimistic and it lives in a lot of different categories. I think it's a pivotal time to work, but people have their eyes open a little bit wider.
Tom: Yeah, those are really good points. And one of things I hear a lot from. I think the younger generation is “I got nothing to hide”. “You know, who cares about my privacy?” And the one I love to hear is “privacy is dead.” How do you respond to people that have kind of that that connotation of privacy?
Aaron: it's such an easy you know. It is. I just think it's a cop out.
I think it comes down to laziness and not wanting to delve any deeper than the surface. And people just want to have inherent trust in the use of these big brands that give be these great services.
That's all fine. But if you view it differently and you say, OK, yeah, privacy is nowhere near dead. I think it's just begun. I think this should be viewed as an opportunity to take the reins of your own life, your own small business or for governments to look at things. I see it as an opportunity and people want to give up because they're lazy. Damn, it's not easy to combat or control. It's a full-time job to try to make yourself off the grid. Like, how do you even do that? I've listened to your podcasts, listen to other podcasts. We as a company love to surround ourselves and work with the authorities and the professionals that are really on the forefront of privacy and security. And learn from them. But if you implement every single tool or trick or software or product, no one has time for that. So, what I like to tell people when they say, oh, privacy is dead or I have nothing to hide is: One, OK, there's tools that you can implement day one that are comparable to the free software that just harvest your information that you can implement that are great.
And we didn't that wasn't around five years ago; for example, like Proton Mail. Now, if people have nothing to hide, that's B.S. Everyone has something to hide. No one wants to air out their laundry publicly. It's like if you look up at a billboard and your entire digital rolodex of contact information and emails and pictures and everything was displayed in a big city like Los Angeles or New York. Would you stand down there and be proud of every bit of that thing? Anything can be taken out of context. Anything can be played a certain way. And I think we should be damn proud to live in democracies where you could have freedom of speech and have privacy, because a lot of the world doesn't have that. So, when people are too lazy to implement something, I just think it's unfortunate. It kind of goes hand-in-hand. I view it as a people that don't vote. We’re lazy.
Tom: Yeah. That's so true. You know, the other thing I like about your products and just your message, right, is mind the grid. And you really think about what that means is using your products to take yourself off the grid. And I would assume there's people that just instead of you know, maybe going for a hike in a remote area. Stick your phone in a Faraday bag. Right. And don't even have to worry about it anymore. Are you seeing more people using your products for that type of getting away from the craziness of wireless and mobile devices?
Aaron: like urban camping?
Tom: Yeah. Urban camping.
Aaron: Yeah. You know, it's. And just to backtrack a little bit on the laziness, it's not that everyone's lazy. There's just a lack of education.
And people need to have help on implementing these things. Everyone has their individual set of problems in life. I'm not trying to downplay that. People are lazy in general. It's such a blanket statement that it's more so. “Hey, take a little time to listen to one podcast or listen to or read one article and process that and think how you can implement a couple of things.” And if you try to conquer the whole mountain at once, it's defeating. You'll never do it. So, it's the same way. Anything in life, you just take it bit by bit or step by step.
Then you eventually get to a place where you could have a lot of benefit and it's fine. As I've gotten older, it's that I always want immediacy or instant gratification. And now it's like, OK, well, what do you need a rush for?
Because if you plan on being around on this planet for a while, slow down. Take the steps. Have good rituals that get you to a place ultimately where you have a great headspace and you have great efficiency in your work and you have great relationships.
As far as mind the grid, that's it's such a cool model that we go by. And one of my old interns, Alex came up with. We just had a brainstorm session. He was like, “How about Mind the Grid.” And I was like, wow, I instantly loved it. And we went to CES that year, and like two weeks before, printed everything with mind the grid.
What I liked about it was that It just is designed to provoke thought.
Eliminating all these extra words that Americans like to put in, and stripped down to mind the grid. OK, what's the grid? We all know what that is. And how do we be mindful around it? How do we really view our relationship as man and device? That's how I see like everyone could start off by thinking about it.
And there's so many inherent problems with that. From what our products serve and I know you originally went back to like our people doing it outside of camping, but it comes down to disconnecting from your phone.
That's step one. You disconnect from your phone. You don't have a phone. Then all of a sudden, your eye muscles aren't as lazy from you looking down and they're stronger and they look straight up. They look across like they're designed to do at another person. So, you start having more real conversations. And I think that plays over into any relationship in your in your life. For kids, your family, to your wife or your husband. Of course, your friends.
Then you just you could keep going down the rabbit hole for every application about how your phone or any connected device really plays in your life and has a tendency to jeopardize what we're truly about. So, mind the grid is a massive thing that I view and we like dissect it and use different regards and how we've used it to be more applicable as a marketing tool is to use it in like how great would it be if anyone right now could just step outside what they're doing and go hike in nature and not have a phone and smell the trees and listen to the birds and feel the sun jump in the water or whatever.
That's where people want to be. People want to be like or maybe not all the time, but that's a huge general statement. I feel like we all have this desire to have a different relationship outside of being plugged in and in an urban setting or in metropolitan city areas. There's plenty of time to use Faraday products. You could put your phone in there for 15 minutes and have good posture and meditate. And right now, I told you before we started it, I'm sitting in an infrared sauna next to a meditation room. And after this, I'm just going to take a little break. Half an hour break from my electronics, read a little bit and meditate. And if we practice that throughout our day, then we're just getting way better off. So, disconnecting from your phone for any of those reasons is great. Coupled with that, there's a big rise in EMF, electromagnetic frequencies, radiation, thermal heat, extremely low frequencies that come from your phone, and just how that's affecting our body as we are bombarded.
Smart meters used to be a big thing. I was living in San Francisco at the time. And there's this big rise of “OK, we have a natural electricity in our body.” Fine. But you know how we rule, how we were designed to have a laptop on her lap. And I mean, it's called a laptop for me and then a cell phone glued to our hand.
So that's an area that we used to make products that were specifically tailored towards radiation. And it's definitely a semi controversial area where we play much more in the privacy and security.
But in other relations, you know, privacy and security is massive. We make laptop Faraday bags. If you're not using your laptop, why wouldn't you not put it in a Faraday bag that not only is going to protect it from cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS RFID, EMP, solar flare, EMF, anything like that. Peace of mind alone is worth it. And they look good We make them in leather or waterproof nylon.
So, you're carrying something that is super durable and has this cool added feature on the inside that no one else know about, but ultimately allows you to clear your space in your head. And you know the listeners of your show or are surrounded by I.T. security and privacy. It’s like the lifeblood and being at shows like Def Con, it's amazing. Like if that show could just continue every single day and that we are there selling products and we had a vendor booth, our business would be colossal. It's crazy because it's such a captive audience. They already understand the need. And that's what where we get a lot of validation for our product. Shows like that for people that are on the forefront of privacy and security and then our rolodex of customers that we sell our products to. It's amazing to see the validation. We're like, wow, this is incredible for these very focused industries and these very focused use cases and how we as a company internally view those and why we are so adamant about pushing mind the grid and pushing outwards with any individual to use one of our products
It's kind of a long-winded way, but I have a lot of thoughts on it and we're very passionate about making good looking products that have more value add to them.
Tom: So how did you start Silent Pocket? What was the initial kick off of that?
Aaron: So, co-founder, because My father originally came up with the idea in the late 90s. He has such a vivid imagination and mind and always been ahead of his time. He said so many different ideas and he has other patents throughout the 80s. And this was an idea that I remember being, I'm thirty to be thirty-six this year, So in the late 90s.
He used to be in textiles. So, he had materials and he was just had raw materials cloaking his phone, like wrapping it around. “How cool is this? I could just. It's a dead zone for your phone.” And he's kind of showing it to me and I'm a kid. I mean, I'm in junior high school. But I had no concept, I didn’t have a cell phone. And I don't think I was alone in that thought. He was viewed among his peers. As like being paranoid. What are you worried about? What are you talking about? And this was early on.
And flash forward to two thousand and seven and eight. He started prototyping and sampling some pouches. Really simple. That's where the name Silent Pocket came from.
It was originally designed for a suit pocket. So, the same dimensions as like the inside of a coat jacket. So, any person doing business that was something that had a cell phone at the time would slide your phone. You could enter a meeting, you could enter any situation, you could travel from point A to point B and be off the grid. And that was all the start of it from an idea that was too young for its time to, you know. 2008 is still young for its time, adopted by people living and breathing in I.T. and privacy and government armed forces.
But since then, I got involved in 2009, we worked together to rebrand the product and clean it up a bit. There's so many different use cases that I could rattle off that it gets very convoluted on how to describe the product. So, we really focus on privacy and security. It's like, OK, there's a suite of tools and I applaud you, Tom, for giving people more knowledge and ways to implement tools in our daily life. I use these apps using software. We view ourselves as one component of that. So, if you view something as a circle, you implement all these.
And we're kind of the final gap because if we don't have devices, if we didn't have this type of technology, we wouldn't need any of this stuff. So, to temporarily remove your phone from any situation by means of a Faraday bag or Faraday sleeve is beautiful. To add that into your arsenal, tools to help yourself out daily is key. I saw that and my dad saw it and we just focused on privacy and security. He's not involved in the company anymore outside of being a great adviser and a huge champion.
Now it's 10 years later. That's crazy. Things are just organic and slow. And that's when a patent was filed. Now we have an issued utility patent on our product, which is great. And the beauty of it is that our products are very thin and very sleek and have mechanical action that make them really easy to embed in anything. It’s been a really cool journey.
I wasn't in privacy and security by any means prior to this. I used to sell high end wine.
And I guess my claim to fame is how I cut my teeth cold calling. I struggled and how cold calling really changed the demeanor and the direction of my entire life.
Tom: cold calling is hard.
Aaron: Oh my god. Talk about just being whittled down. It's funny. It's not an easy thing. And it's probably more seldom done these days. I was started off around that same time 2008-2009-2010 and was selling high end wine direct to consumer.
But I also grew up listening to Jerky Boys. They just they just push the boundaries. They push the envelope on what was capable over the phone. And if you take a sliver out of their book, or a whole page. It's like you're never going to meet these people.
It's a game of getting what you want and through a great management team. Living in San Francisco, it just really helped me out a lot. I was a little bit more sedated, I'd say, and it really helped me cut my teeth in terms of business manner and put me on the path for “Like you really could do anything that you want,” a little bit cliché to say, but you know, you put your mind anything you could pull it off. Like there's always an answer to get through something and gave me a lot of confidence. At that point, that's when I switched into Silent Pocket, where it was a bit plateaued and there wasn't much being done with it.
I’ve just been running with it. It's great where we're in now with so many different products and a lot of variations of our patented product. Which we use the same design for a laptop and we use the same design for a key fob bag and we use the same design for hardware wallet for cryptocurrency and we use the same design for cell phone and use the same design for a lot of different stuff. So, it's really cool. It's very universal. We're in a good place. 2019 is beautiful. Great for business, man. A lot of things happening in the world are terrible, but at least people have more transparency in terms of what is really going on. And we just want to integrate into people's lives, into business lives.
Tom: What are some of the other kind of I guess I'd call them the bare essentials, right, for your product line that just the average person you're even taking out like a security privacy professional, right? Like at DEFCON?
Aaron: Yeah, certainly when we make wallets as well. I mean, that's kind of men and women for the most part. I mean, as things become more digital. People usually carry like an I.D. and a card in their phone. But we make wallets kind of on the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
We address. What do people want? They don't want some bulky, clunky Costanzo wallet. Some people do. And more power to you, if you want to carry that much stuff, but we make very minimal designed wallets that are very thin and we use RFID material, so we got you protected on that
Once they click their mind over from like RFID protection and more, they kind of jump to financial. I work hard for my money. I need to protect that or my passport data or transportation, car door entry, a card and bundle that end. Then their mind really starts to click on OK. Well, if I'm worried about this title plastic thing with a chip.
What should I think about next? Like we’re cyborgs. What's the extension of our body? It's our cell phones, our smartphones.
So how do we get that out of our hand and take moments throughout our day or once a month or whatever? I'd say any of the wallets are great. We use real cow grain leather. They're handmade. They're awesome. They're cost effective. And then a cell phone sleeve.
A lot of different applications for that. If you're traveling, traveling is great use case for us. It’s like all you have to do is get on the plane and go and everything falls away and a lot of things do fall away. But what you gain when you land somewhere else is like, oh, OK, I'm going to a different country. There's a different set of laws, different government, different border crossings, rights and rules. It's important to be able to have something to safeguard your information, and like we have a backpack out now, and you drop in any electronics. It is TSA compliant and scans like a normal product, but at least you put your phone in there and you're just protecting your information from being read without your knowledge or out your consent more so.
Wallet, phone sleeve, And I really love the laptop bags because when you're not using your laptop, it's shut. People don't actually power down or take the battery out. It's really more dormant. Laptops now have like location services. They have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, everything else. We have found that a lot of people see that connection because with a phone. Well, what if I want to get calls, you know, and I want to be able to pick up my phone and say maybe at night you put it in there or maybe when you're crossing a border, maybe when you're traveling for distracted driving or maybe use it in a meeting. So, you're like, hey, guys, like we're going to talk about confidential shit here, “Let’s put our phones in a Faraday bag.” That would be a nice feeling. But with the laptop, it's great. They're sleek, they’re thin. We have leather and drop your laptop in and you put it inside a backpack or a briefcase and you’re just at ease, my friend. Like have a little piece of mine of what would I get done if I didn't have a phone or a laptop?
Tom: The other the other thing I would add, too, is and I talk about I thought once on the show all the time is, you know, the key FOB Guard right of, you know, more and more stories are coming out about cars being stolen or accessed with wireless key fobs. And these are actually real attacks that are going on. You can just Google in the news and you know, another Tesla was stolen or, you know, there's ring videos of people actually using devices to clone key FOBs. You know, that's something I've recommended to people to especially maybe people that have higher end cars like a Tesla that are hot targets for theft. You know, that's something that definitely people should be concerned about.
Aaron: 100 Percent. And it's because it kind of just bloomed overnight. Like this isn't real. It's like, why isn't it real? It's not that hard to understand. Relay attacks to cars are happening. And you could stop that day one for the most part by utilizing one of our Faraday sleeves.
We make the same Faraday sleeve as a laptop sleeve is like 13 or 15 inches. And we boil that all the way down to an extra small size that fits your key ring and your keys and your key fob or small enough for just your key fob. And they look good. They're super discreet and they work to drop in your purse, drop in your bag, place inside instead of just hanging your keys at the door in the key fob.
You know, we're starting to work with different car manufacturers for these types of problems as well. It's not exact thing where a car manufacturer wants to like wave the flag and be like “Hey, our keys aren't secure.” But even more so in the automotive industry is mechanics and working, you know, remote start engines. And we have several different customers where we make products that abide by OSHA laws where you put your key inside. So, there's no accidental human error by remote starting the engine and having physical harm. You're talking about a key FOB that has a lot of gaps in it in terms of what it could cause, like there's a ripple effect there. What I love about these textiles that we have and Silent Pocket brand, is that we could essentially take the same product and apply it so many different industries and we're trying to have pillars of our company kind of represent these different issues.
But the majority of what we're going for is getting back to like minding the grid. It's like, OK, if we start there, conceptualize why you would want to adopt a product that blocks wireless signal and then kind of sort it out where it fits into your life. You know, I think the people that listen to this podcast will be like “Faraday Bag, I know what that is.” Like everyone does.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows what it is. And I don't think people need to know what it is really like. Silent Pocket wants to get to the place where we could integrate with larger brands or fashion brands or other products and be that component inside of a product that is Silent Pocket. Like you have this thousand-dollar briefcase. Great. That's amazing. Silent pocket has a section of it where you could put any of your stuff in and it’s super secure. How great would that be?
Tom: Any new products that you guys are working on?
Aaron: Yeah, we're always in the lab boiling up some stuff. You'd mention key FOBs and this is a very public setting. And I'm not going to say everything, but basically think about a faraday bag, then we think about how people are resistant to adopting it and how we can close that gap with usability. We're closing that gap by different designs. And we're also learning weekly about different use cases. And some of those are inbound and some of those are outbound. We’re like whoa, I didn't even know that was a thing. That's great. Just reiterating our patented design and putting it for different applications. But what I can speak publicly about is our latest product that was on pre-sale, but now it's live as of yesterday.
Our faraday back pack. It’s a 20-liter back pack. Pretty simple for the most part. But what we've added in this second version is a secret stash pocket behind like your back that could fit a phone and a passport. That's RFID protected.
The whole inside is all R.F. protected. Drop in multiple devices, laptop, whatever. Roll it down, it’s waterproof and it blocks wireless signal as well.
So not just RFID and everyone is like, oh, RFID, it's not RFID, RFID just like, forget that word. It's like radio. And this is actually all encompassing.
And we actually launched it at Def Con and people's eyes got double the size and the validation from the excitement on people. “We're like a Faraday backpack, that's waterproof!”
Was such a cool feeling to. And we sold out. We have our other dry bags as well. Five liter and ten liter dry bags and then more down the pipeline.
Just reiterations and more collaborations. We have some really cool collaborations with powerful brands where we're going to be a feature inside of one of their products. Stay tuned for that. And that's going to open up our world. And I think it's going to be a really cool milestone.
But some of the collaborations we currently have live, we have one in particular with a brand called CASA. They're big in the cryptocurrency space and they have a bunch of different tiers to the software that they provide. But we ship on their Gold member plan, every subscription or how they work. We make a Faraday bag for hardware. Well, so every one of their customers gets a hardware wallet with a Faraday bag that we make in collaboration with CASA to have an extra layer of security over any wireless threats that could happen. You know this just tiny little device is holding your own everything like your entire livelihood.
So, by all means necessary, people need it. Yeah. So that's some stuff that's going on right now. We have a lot of stuff in the works. We're always open to hearing people's thoughts and love to make new products for people.
That's where a lot of our development has come from, from identifying a need, prototyping, making a sample and going from there.
Tom: Yeah. So how can our listeners find out more information or, you know, obviously, you know, silentpocket. com, but that's actually a good question. Like if people do have feedback for you about your products, what's the best way for them to do that?
Aaron: Anywhere you can send a message to us, whether it's social media. I know it seems like Twitter and while we certainly don't have a massive following. But for I think for your listener base, it might be more adopted at Twitter. We'll take any direct message that way, whatever's easiest, really. And we check it all on Instagram or even Facebook. But at the silent pocket dot com, you can sign up for some emails from us and we send them periodically and include exclusive news and discount codes and the latest and greatest. Blogs. You can reply directly to those emails. You can send us an email. firstname.lastname@example.org. Many ways just find us all things silent pocket, @silent pocket and hit us up. We love conversation. We love dialogue.
And we don't champion ourselves as the privacy security experts by any means. But we know how to identify issues. We know how to make great products. And we love to surround ourselves with a community that we could march forward to better people's lives and give people the tools that are much needed. The better they work and the easier they are to use. Then people don't have hesitation with buying them for their themselves, their businesses, or their families.
Tom: Thank you again, Aaron, for coming on the show. This is great. Great conversation. I learned a ton just about the background of the company. And you guys are just doing really cool stuff. And I can't wait to see what the future holds down.
Aaron: Thanks so much for having us, Tom.
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