Monday, December 14, 2015

Welp, I Ordered Me a Chromebook

A surprisingly hard act to follow!

Some personal history: although I've traditionally written a goodly portion of first drafts by hand (speaking primarily of fiction here), once I get the ball rolling it's nice to have the speed of a keyboard--not to mention it's nice not to have to do quite as much double work, reentering all the text.

On the other hand, I have the attention span of a gnat, and a fully capable large screened computer offers many distractions. Also, having my text all spread out on a big screen a) makes it feel like I'm filling a water tower one drop at a time and b) makes me inclined to endless editing, since I can scan back through bunches of text at once and find fault with it. I compose most of my blog posts in a small Notepad window on my big screen, but that's not really practical for longer work.

Several years back, I discovered and fell in love with Renaissance Learning's Alphasmart word processors, specifically the Neo. They were rugged, their battery life could be measured in months or even years, they displayed just a few lines of text at a time, and they had a great keyboard. Basically, they were a miniature portable typewriter that saved to memory instead of paper. They only did one thing, but they did it well. I've loved mine. However, there are a few caveats: first of all, getting text from the device to the computer can be fairly time consuming and requires cables. I loathe cables. I lose cables. Secondly, the thing looks like a business class Speak and Spell. I never got truly comfortable with using it out in the public eye.

For some time, I've been longing for an Alphasmart successor: a simple, highly portable, unpretentious device which would allow me to create documents and sync them wirelessly.

I briefly owned a lipstick pink Samsung netbook and still remember it with fondness--I wrote a ridiculous number of short stories on that thing--but it was so slow, especially when booting up, and backing up my documents or syncing the between computers took a bit of thought. It was close, but no cigar.

A few years ago, Chromebooks began to pop up. I was mildly intrigued. Google has been a friend of mine since the days of invite-only G-mail and I already had quite a few documents in the Google eco-system. However, at the time, Chromebooks didn't really have any off-line capability (though I'm usually connected, I'd like that now and again), and were almost a public beta. I liked the concept, but didn't feel like they were ready for prime time.

The current crop feels a lot more polished to me, and I've decided to take the leap. I ordered an Asus Flip C100. This device is part tablet as well as part mini-laptop. The keyboard is small, but actually a bit bigger than the netbook of old, so I'm not too worried. It only has a 10.1 inch screen (tablet sized), but it's a nice bright IPS panel, and although 1200x800 is low for a tablet, it's better than the old netbook. I think it'll be very comfortable.

On top of all that, it has a touch screen, and if you flip the keyboard back, you can use it as a tablet. Granted, Chrome OS isn't really optimized for touch right now, and the screen is no iPad Retina thing, but my primary use case would be browsing or looking at PDFs, and I think it will be just fine for that.

You can also stand it up tent style, or flip the keyboard back far enough to use as a stand for watching movies (Netflix and Amazon Prime should both work) or displaying recipes. That covers just about everything I'd like to be able to do with a small portable device. Document editing comes above all, but I've never owned a tablet and, while I'm not expecting anything like iPad performance, I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

It should be here sometime in the next week. More thoughts once I've had a chance to incorporate it into my workflow. It could be the perfect first draft machine--if I can avoid the siren call of other Chrome tabs. The little guy only weighs about two pounds and will fit easily in my writing bag for coffee shop trips and lunch breaks. Best of all, whatever I type will instantly be available from my other computers.

A bonus: this is childish, but I've always kind of wanted to put stickers all over a computer, but have never had one I felt I could decorate like that. I am *so* gonna sticker this little thing once the brand new wears off.

Anyway, I'm tentatively excited.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Tracking Inks and Pen Rotation

Quick and dirty blog post based on a momentary Twitter discussion re: keeping track of fountain pens. If you're a nice logical person who keeps one or two pens inked with the same inks all the time, this does not apply. If, like me, you occasionally find yourself with six or seven, you may need a memory jogger for what's in what, especially if you bought samples of eleventy billion dark blues that are all very subtly different.

So this is my method. It's not fancy. If I get fancy, I fall behind, so I save notes on what I like or dislike about inks for my journals or blog posts.

As you can see, I'm rather fond of that Orange Safari. And even in a lousy nighttime photo, isn't the Cactus Fruit cool?

Anyone else log what inks they're using? How do you go about it?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Three Inks: Terre de Feu, Cactus Fruit, Scabiosa

As I'm going through these Goulet Pens ink samples, I thought I'd toss out a few little mini-reviews! So here you go. My opinions only, and your mileage may vary.

1. J. Herbin Terre de Feu

I really, really wanted to like this ink. In a very wet writer, I think it'd be quite nice, and it does have interesting shading. However, like many J. Herbin inks, I find it too dry for my tastes, and not saturated enough. In a less than fire-hose-ish pen, it comes out a pale pinkish brownish orange, which just doesn't appeal to me.

Ruled out.

2. Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel

This is an ink I like more than I should probably admit. I mean, it is BRIGHT. Obnoxiously bright. It is not really a "grown up" color. But ooh, so cheery! It isn't a super duper match for more absorbent papers (the "eel" lubrication factor, which is supposed to make pistons work a bit better, seems to make ink spread and feather a bit more than standard), but it is a pleasure to write with.

This one goes on my wish list.

3. Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa

Scabiosa sounds gross, no? But it actually just means honeysuckle. What a difference a language makes. This is another ink I wanted to like: it has an iron gall component, which makes it somewhat water and fade resistant, and in the right pen, it might be kind of nice. However, in my fairly dry-writing modern converter pens, it writing with a toothpick. *shudder* And the color ends up being a pale imitation of itself. I think. Reviews of this ink vary so much, I'm not completely sure what color it actually is--I expected a dusty purple, but it looks more...pinkish grey.

Ruled out.