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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

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Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
The Shepherd's Crown
Terry Pratchett
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Technology, reading and Writing - Part 3

OK, you've got the ideas, got the plot and the snippy one-liners. Now it's time to put it all together.

Who you gonna call? Well, not Ghostbusters for a start!

This is one of the most personal of things going. Some people can write when surrounded by noise on a commuter train. Some need total peace and quiet. Some dress in working clothes and sit at their home desk to enforce a working atmosphere. Others go to the local cafe and write with the buzz of life surrounding them. Some write in locations not for creation, but for convenience of time.

There is no one solution that will cover everyone. No matter what I write here, someone will go, "What a load of bull!" while others will go, "Hmmm... nice idea. I'll try that."

No matter what you go for, there is an inherant danger about buying stuff on the internet; which is that you don't get to see it in the flesh. All you get are pictues. You don't get a hands on for build quality, or how the materials feel. One of the things that caused me to get a Ducky mechanical keyboard, is because I got my hands on a friends. I saw it, tried it, and liked it. I then did my research and chose my options. I got the chance to talk with my friend about the keyboard, the good points, the bad, and made my decision. Nothing else really got a look in, because I liked what I saw.

Reviews don't really completely cut the mustard. I'd recommend going to a physical shop and having a mess with equipment; not so much for the individual devices, but to get an idea of the materials that a particular manufacturer is using. The idea is to come away knowing which makes you want to go for, and which you don't.

Mechanical keyboards.

 

Everyone has their own tastes and it may take you a bit of exploration to find one that you like. You might not actually like mechanical keyboards at all and prefer the softer touch of a membrane keyborad.

Personally (as much of this is down to indivdual taste and experience) I was trained on electronic typewriters and I even sat an exam on them. I do like a bit of tactile feedback and a bit of noise. Although I think the next time, I'll go for one that doesn't have the noise element, as typing at 4am wakes up the house. Oops!

You have a manufacturer of the keyboard itself, this will usually determine the logical functions of the board; whether it has breathable LED's for example. Programable keys. Do you like a separate number pad? Are LED's your thing? Then you think about your keys. Here's one guide to the Cherry MX range of keys - http://www.keyboardco.com/blog/index.php/2012/12/an-introduction-to-cherry-mx-mechanical-switches/ - each one has a different "bump" action, a different strength of spring and also noise level. I'm using Cherry Blues, but next time I think I'll go for browns. The colour of the switch is simply a shorthand code for the features of the key; and is separate from any LED colour.

Note that on mechanical keys, any LED is usually one side of the central, "post," therefore on the number keys, the symbols usually aren't lit very well. Something to look out for. Also, you can get rubber, "O," bands to put under the keys to alter the depth of key travel. All good stuff to know about.

Ultrabooks.

My writing is usually done without noise. I wouldn't be very good at writing on a train. If I put music on, I can't write then, either. I usually play music when I'm having a break. But I do write in all sorts of locations. On my bed, in the living room, reclined in a chair, on my stomach, on a lounger... and ultrabooks come in very handy for that.

Even at 13" or 14" (for a decent keyboard) they can be quite light and portable. I keep mine in my backpack, but the only time it comes out at work, is when I'm going to wander down town and don't want it with me; 'cause I can't write even during the lunch hour. I just can't get in to the creating groove.

The other thing about ultrabooks, along with laptops, is the touchpad. The number of times I catch the pad with the base of my thumb and send the cursor off to who-knows-where, is unbelievable. Eventually, they'll sort it.

Also, being more compact, some models are difficult to get in to and repair if they fail. I generally ensure my working files are copied off every day, and I keep very little on it. I also don't keep anything on it that I can't afford to lose.

I have laptops, but I prefer the ultrabook for writing because it is less noisy, lighter and consumes less power. Obviously I use it mostly just for writing. I have been known to play Portal 2 on mine, and it can handle it, but the fan goes completely bananas, and I have to ensure that it is plugged in to the mains. They pull a number of tricks to give ultrabooks the power sipping abilities they have, so expect battery life to fall off a cliff if you push it.

I started with the HP Stream; a low cost device, and I got what I paid for. Six months later, it was replaced with an Apple Air, but one week later I ripped off the iOS operating system and replaced it with Linux Mint. For the time being, I'm happy, but the screwey keyboard is driving me nuts. No home/end/pgup/pgdown and other things, and despite being a UK unit, the @ and " are all f*$%ed up. My eye is on the units that Lenovo are producing in the ThinkPad range. One of those next, methinks; at least providing they get the CTRL+FN key swap sorted out (as well as a few other things. I'm watching them!)

Different devices.

I have been around computers long enough to know that you don't sink all your cash in to the one machine. You can guarantee that when it goes wrong, you're then completely screwed. Rather, most of my communication is done on a desktop machine. That is backed up to a home server, which I built to be, "fault tolerant." ie. it can take a licking and keep on ticking. The ultrabook is then specifically used for writing, plus the odd video that I want to watch in bed. If one thing fails, I'm not completely knocked out of whack. I can still function.

Novel solutions.

You're not stuck with desktops and laptops. There are other solutions out there and I've toyed around with a few of them. One of the things I tried was a bluetooth keyboard and a 7" tablet, on the basis that the tablet was smaller than a laptop, lighter and more portable. In the end, it was the software that let me down, and I also found out that I'm not good at creating in a crowd. If I did a daily commute on the train, then I dare say that I could learn to drown out the ambient noise after a while but... hey.

Know thyself.

Putting the tech before your working pattern is putting the cart before the horse. You're not going to get the best performance. It can sometimes be worthwhile investing in some cheap, second hand tech (like I did with the tablets, keyboards, stylus and other things) to work out what works best for you; and then investing serious money in to something which will support you.

Just ensure that you keep proper, regular backups on air-gapped media and have tacics for charging, etc.