As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals is to walk a bit less, and write a bit more.
(It may not have been stated that way, but that's the way I'm thinking about it :)
With that in mind, I decided that I'd like to have a basic laptop that I can throw in a satchel and haul around with me on my walks. Part of the reason I've really started to enjoy walking is that it gives me time to think and gets my thoughts flowing. So in the past year, I've done more than a little bit of draft writing on my phone as I've been out and about... and, honestly, it's a pain in the patootie. Even with text-to-speech, it's annoying.
It's light, seems pretty rugged, and weighs in at just a bit under three and a half pounds. Not a big deal, really. A few extra pounds will help me work just a wee bit harder as I go, and I'll have the ability to stop and write for a bit along the way.
More importantly, it's cheap. I like to walk back alleys. That's where the interesting stuff is. I've never been hassled, but if I'm going to be carrying around something, I'd rather it be a cheap Chromebook than a Mac Air or something similar. Plus, being a Chromebook, it's got sync capabilities with Google Drive, so I can write sans network connection then let everything sync up later when I get back to work or home.
The performance is decent. Some things seem to load slowly in Chrome, but for the most part, it's responsive enough. I'm writing this update on the Chromebook, in fact. The keyboard layout is slightly different from a Mac (and even a Wintel machine), but I'm not sure how much of that is the underlying OS, and how much is the fat that everything seems to be running under Chrome.
The keyboard itself is absolutely FABULOUS. It might turn out to be a flimsy piece of junk that breaks after a few weeks of used, but let me tell you, right now it's absolutely wonderful. I was worried a LOT about the keyboard. That and the display are the real reason for buying this thing, and a crappy keyboard would make writing a horrible pain. As it is, I'm barely even noticing it. They keys are just right - not too clicky, not too soft, not too stiff. Since this is a 13" laptop, too, my hands actually fit comfortably on the keyboard.
The display is nothing to write home about, but it is perfectly serviceable for doing text editing. Battery life looks like it's going to be pretty good, too. I started off plugged in until I got to a full charge, then unplugged to see how well the battery lasts. It's been about three hours of playing around so far, and the battery meter is telling me I'm at 88% with 11:25 left to go until I run out of power. That's pretty sweet.
Speaking of playing... the thing that sold me on a Chromebook was the number of available minimalist writing editors available for it. Anything that will let me do text editing would be fine, to be honest. My plan is to bang out some drafts, save them to Google Drive, then yank them into Scrivener for organizing, cleanup and editing. Heck, I could do all that (and have done that in the past, in fact!) as Blogger drafts. Having something a little more sophisticated than a basic text editor would be nice, though, so I spent the evening installing and trying out a few.
The built-in Text editor is just that. Looks a lot like Notebook with a little bit more oomph to it. If you're comfortable with that sort of thing, and are looking for absolutely minimal setup, that's probably all you'd need. I was interested in finding something just a wee bit more featureful, though.
Caret looks like a great little programming editor. I've used Sublime Text and Visual Studio Code, and Caret is very similar. I honestly didn't want a programmer's editor, though. Don't ask me why. Maybe because it feels too much like the tools I used day to day for work. I'm sure I could write in it, of course, but when I pop open something with that look and feel, my mind immediately goes to code. That's not what I want in this case.
Next in line I was going to try Writer. I saw a lot of recommendations for it, but it a quick look at some comments about it showed that they use their own servers for storage. To be very honest, I'm not comfortable with that. I've had some recent personal experiences where a change in ownership of a company has made getting backups of archival data difficult. You can export data if you buy the Pro version, but... you know what? No. I want something that will save to Google drive. I've already got my Drive synced to 3-4 different places, so even if Google decides I can't access it anymore, I at least have backups. I'll stick with that setup, thank you.
I ended up trying another editor called Calmly Writer. Very nice, minimalist, with just enough configuration options (including white-on-black text mode) that I felt like I could make it just what I wanted without feeling overwhelmed by options. It has the option to save in a bunch of different formats, including plain text, which is pretty much just what I want. So I took it for a spin, wrote a few hundred words, then said, "That'll do, pig. That'll do."
The very last thing I did was install Linux.
Yes, you can install Linux on a Chromebook now, alongside the Chrome OS... or on top of it, if you want to think of it that way. An install of Debian Linux runs in a container on top of Chrome OS, and you can start it just like any other app. It comes set up with a bunch of the usual suspects, including ssh and vim. That was completely unexpected, and very nice. I've got a couple of things I do outside of work to help administer existing web sites for a couple of non-profits, and having the ability to do it from this little Chromebook is really appealing.
So, that's the state of the world. Happy cheap little rugged Chromebook makes me happy. Because writing, and Linux.
... but mostly writing. Which is what I need to be doing now. Time to take this thing out for an extended trial... :)