27 Feb

Netbook, Part 2: Baby Comes Home

Well, it’s not the netbook I thought I would buy–which was to be the spanky new dual core ASUS with USB 3; instead it’s the Samsung NF310, also dual core, higher res screen and wider keyboard (with a bit more responsive keys and touchscreen buttons), and USB 2.0 only–but it was $140 less than the ASUS (special deal at the local Fry’s).

The bad news on the Linux front is that this model’s new enough and netbook configurations are unique enough that that no Linux flavor supports all the necessary hardware features yet–so for now I’ll stick with this Windows 7 Starter OS, strip off all the extra crap that came with it (including Office lite and a 60 day subscription to that PITA Norton Internet Security), install OpenOffice.org and PageFour, and put it to work right away–as my primary writing tool.

Overall, I’m very happy with it. Typing is no problem, the screen is bright with high contrast, the sound is terrific for a laptop, and it has these sexy clamshell curves that I can’t stop caressing with my eyes. Those crafty engineers at Samsung. And the battery life’s great–I’ve run it now with full power to the wifi and screen for well over 6 hours. Reducing brightness and wifi power is supposed to give me about 9 hours. And there’s the little popup telling me that it’s time for both of us to recharge.


09 Feb

Adventures in Netbooking

Thanks to the IRS savings plan, we’ll get enough money back this year to pretty up the main bath, make some necessary car repairs, fix the front porch roof, and, more importantly, buy a netbook for me. My precious, not for sharing.


The Asus Tripoli* PC 1018P w/ Intel Atom N550 Dual Core CPU, 2 gb RAM, 250 gb hard drive (enhanced hamster, not SSD, which unfortunately is out of budget), two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 ports, and a card reader. And a neoprene sleeve for transport.

It comes with Windows 7 “starter.” I plan to wipe the drive and install CrunchBang Linux. My son’s SO has been using C! on her netbook for about a year and has been very happy with it. C! doesn’t have the pretty UI provided with (K)Ubuntu, but it supposedly runs faster and has fewer issues. And fewer distractions. I like Win7, but also like the idea of using an OS that’s currently less subject to attack, has less system overhead, and keeps me focused. I also “grew up” on UNIX and Windows systems, so shifting back and forth is fairly easy.

Writing tools for Linux

I’m buying the Tripoli to use as a very portable, moderately priced writing tool, that can also handle e-mail, browsing, and playing multimedia files. I’m willing to trade screen and keyboard size for portability/weight (which is minus one pound–the anchor comes with it). For home use, I’ll eventually get a larger screen and keyboard.

I will miss my two favorite, distraction-free writing tools for Windows: PageFour and Scrivener. I’ll install OpenOffice to handle compability with MS Office files, but I stopped using Word for personal writing projects waaaay back in ’09. So I’ll be evaluating tools like FocusWriterPyRoom, q10, KWord, Writer’s Cafe, Celtx, and, for desktop publishing, Scribus. There are also full featured text editors, but I want writing tools that provide a little more lift without much adjustment. If you know what I mean.

I hope to have the netbook in my grubby little hands in three weeks or less. I’m getting the white clamshell, though, so I best wash up first.

Note: I was writing this list of tools as I was looking them up. It turns out that Windows is the starved platform. Kind of like eating the same thing for years out of a well stocked pantry and suddenly noticing a plain but well built little door along the baseboard that, on opening, leads into a gourmet deli.

Update: Several people have asked why I didn’t consider an iPad or wait for an Android tablet. They said that the netbook market is shrinking and will soon vanish, squeezed between cheap repackaged last-gen notebooks and the sexy new, ready to go out of the box, tablets. Err, no. At least, not anytime soon. Those cheap notebooks are still heavy and large, and the tablets are still appliances, not tools, and are more expensive than netbooks. The iPad has lousy wifi connectivity and, without buying an external keyboard, doesn’t cut it as a writing tool. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with tablets and appreciate them for what they are and will be, enough to know they won’t serve my needs anytime soon. I also don’t care if the netbook market dries up. It’ll continue to be a very useful tool until it stops working. I don’t know if Kurt’s world is the real world. But it’s real enough for me.

*Tripoli reads nicer and carries the weight of history while Eee sounds too much like a shriek, and I don’t want no computer that makes me shriek. Anymore.

07 Feb

Swinging from the Rafters

From Jonathan Carroll’s generous introduction to Jeffrey Ford’s Empire of Ice Cream, one of my favorite story collections, a quote that punctuates our hunger for wonder and why we love stories that bring it. A context would be, kids say “Wow;” adults typically don’t (or it takes more to wow an adult), because we can’t run the world if we’re constantly in awe of it.

Yet we know that the imagination really is most alive when it is not in control of things, flying through the air without a safety net below to catch it. To live surrounded by wonder means the unknown and the dangerous also surround you as well.

It’s a great intro and a great book, and makes me love short stories and want to be a writer all over again. And there are stories here that I can adapt for bedtime telling. Tonight, my kids get to hear about the Twilmish who inhabit sand castles on the beach and only live as long as the castles survive the tide. I love being given a story I can retell with great pleasure, and can’t think of a bigger compliment I can give the author.

Update: I think the quote above illustrates why flying dreams are so memorable, why it’s sad that they visit with less frequency as we age, and why those rare nights when they pass through like an old friend are so exciting and, on waking, bittersweet. Maybe that’s a best reason (there can be more than one) to write–to try and recapture, where you can, the sensation of flying without a net, and making it seem easy for the reader. Because it certainly seems easy in dreams to at least get off the ground–although maintaining altitude can be tricky. Like being a superhero with finicky powers.