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.


Bill M said...

I love it! ... "filling a water tower one drop at a time" You hit the nail on the head!

Hope the chromebook works out for you.

Joe V said...

I'm interested to see how you get on with it. Myself, I have a Neo but haven't used it in a while. For short stories it's sufficient to use the "send" button, but longer works require file transfers, which can't be done without the Neo Manager CD Rom being installed, which means being tethered to a computer.. Still, I keep thinking about just letting my young 7-year-old grandson begin using it,mhate to see it go to waste.

Elizabeth H. said...

I've thought about trying to get the Neo into the hands of my nieces, who might enjoy writing on it even without transferring text elsewhere. I think the internal battery may be dead, though, so I need to do some tinkering, and I've not found the motivation just yet. But it does deserve better than mere casting aside!

The Flip won't get here until about Christmas Eve. Man, I hate waiting.

Anonymous said...

Smart move. I bought a Samsung Chromebook second-hand ($70) and use it purely for writing with Google Docs. No more having to make backups on multiple devices. It was that fellah "Wrong Way Write Way" gave me the idea.