typelesswriter . com

Writing after the tablet, the laptop, the desktop, and the typewriter.

Portable Multiscreen with Air Display

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I am typing this from a library where I do work frequently. My laptop is the “mid-2011″ edition of the Macbook Air, and I have with me an iPad (the iPad 2). I am not an “Apple person” by any sense of self-definition. This is just the technology I ended up with through an ongoing iterations of tools. I’ve only had the Air since late November of 2011, and before that the last Apple I owned I bought in, like, 1994. I’d used Macs in the intervening years provided by employers, but only owned Windows machines. My phone is an Android, based primarily on two distinguishing characteristics: homescreen widgets and drag’n’drop file accessibility.

Anyhow, the iOS piece of software I have come to appreciate most of late is Air Display, an app that must have been pretty slow to reach its promise because I didn’t install it for the longest time (I got my iPad 2 a week or two after it was released) based on fairly negative reviews. As of version 1.6.1, which was updated as of May 14, 2012, it’s working pretty darn well for me. It does several things, but what it does for me is provide a second screen. I’d long used dual monitors at home, and having one while out and about is very helpful. What’s great about using an iPad as a second screen is that the iPad doesn’t become rooted as a screen — you can still access the other apps running, and swipe back and forth. If you’re away from Air Display on the iPad for more than a minute or so it disconnects, but reconnecting is simple.

The only significant downside is, like so much in the iOS world, Air Display only works on wifi, which means several things, key among them that when I’m in a place where you have to pay to access wifi, like some hotels, Air Display is often useless.

More on Air Display at its manufacturer’s website: avatron.com.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2012/06/22 at 11:46 am

Posted in typing

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A Year of Typing Traditionally

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Well, so much about more thoughts “shortly.”

A year ago, I started this blog, as many blogs are started, on a whim. The whim was engendered by something less than whimsical: the sudden death of my netbook.

The iPad 2 had just been released, and I bought one thinking, against the judgement and in some cases outright experience of others, that I could just use that. I learned the hard way this wasn’t the case. In what I think will eventually be thought of as Pogue’s Law, new categories of products simply don’t replace old categories of products; they just become something else for us to purchase. This is why you see someone on the bus with an MP3 player and a cellphone, reading something on a Kindle while a laptop almost certainly sits in their bag, and perhaps desktop computer, a Tivo, a Roku, and however many gaming consoles wait at home. Oh, and a Roomba, no doubt.

So, I bought a replacement netbook, with the intention of riding out the gap in eligible light laptops with something by definition cheaper than the service agreement for a Macbook Air. Eventually, I bought the more recent Macbook Air, and have been pleased with it ever since. Even more pleased than I had expected.

The iPad was interesting, and occasionally useful, more for things I previously didn’t have much use, or present need, for — like checking email in between the times I was neither at my computer or out of the house and on my (Android) phone. Of course, it is good for more than that (especially for reading), but in regard to working, and by working I mean writing (not just typing, but writing: moving words around), that was about it — initially. Syncing notes with my computer helped, too. And in time, the iPad came to serve well as a second screen.

Side note: The irony of using an iPad as a second screen is that iOS is nowhere near as friendly to second and third screens as Windows is. There are, by my gauge, two things in particular my cheap Windows netbooks were better at than my more expensive Air: (1) recognizing (and un-recognizing) USB drives and (2) serving information to multiple external screens.

In any case, I have in fact found the iPad increasingly useful, and I am hoping to spend more time here delineating how — and also, true to the title of the blog, exploring the role technology plays in a post-typewriter world.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2012/03/22 at 7:22 pm

Posted in typing

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Reading, Not Writing, Certainly Not in Short Bursts

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Good thing is, the iPad is proving itself an excellent ereader.

Bad thing is, that capability came to light because over the course of almost six days away from home, it proved itself a less than valuable tool for writing — certainly for short- and medium-form, research-intensive writing on a tight deadline (what might widely be called blogging). This was probably made clear already here by the sudden absence of posts.

More thoughts shortly, once I play catch up on the writing I had expected to accomplish.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2011/04/06 at 8:29 am

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iPad Wish List: Transparent Word Processing

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I’ve been making a list of the tools I use on my desktop, toward finding an equivalent on the iPad.

Right now the key thing I’m looking for probably doesn’t exist, because it may stretch the multitasking properties of the iPad past its breaking point. I like to write on green text on a 75% black background (25% transparent) full screen. Essentially, this is what in the Mac world is attributed to WriteRoom, but for me is simply how I learned to compute, on a TRS-80 back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Well, that’s true of everything but the opacity. The reason I like it at 75% opacity is so I can continue to view “behind” my writing whatever it is I am researching, usually a web page. Sometimes my email, or a live Twitter feed.

In the meanwhile, I use the app Side by Side, the dual-panel browser, though it’s not really the same thing.

I fully recognize that one of the key matters to adapting to new technology is figuring out how it’s intended to function, and going with that flow. But that doesn’t mean that good ideas can’t be ported over from antiquated paradigms, right? Isn’t that why WriteRoom was such a success in the first place, arriving as it did in a ribbon-festooned, bloated-Word world.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2011/03/29 at 7:58 pm

Posted in typing

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Lines-o-type: Linkage, Whiteboard, Battery

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Quick links:

1. Thanks to my college buddy Andrew Jaffe (andrewjaffe.net) and to the portable-music-making blog the-palm-sound.blogspot.com for letting their readers know about this site.

2. Thanks, as well, to Andrew for having favorited a tweet by twitter.com/aallan, which introduced me to the app Penultimate, a handwriting app that, according to Fraser Speirs (at speirs.org) also does double duty as a digital whiteboard.

3. Tips from lifehacker.com on disabling Ping (Apple’s half-hearted social music system) to extend battery life, and using Google Reader as a customer read-it-later system, and taking advantage of SugarSync’s 5gb of space.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2011/03/29 at 6:00 pm

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Day Ten: Is My iPad an Extrovert?

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This is a daily-ish journal of my ongoing experiment: using the iPad as a “laptop replacement” for writing.

Last night I found myself, again, long after dark, surfing news of upcoming small laptops, notably the 11″ Samsung Series 9 and the Lenovo x220, and reading up on the Macbook Air’s predicted chip upgrade. Discontent had again set in.

Perhaps it was because I was reading a book on the programming language Python, and felt frustrated that I would have to wait until morning to try out some of its instructions on my desktop.

Perhaps it was because I was composing some short pieces of writing, without the Bluetooth keyboard, and finding that the cut’n’paste on the iPad was unnatural to me. I’ve been writing on a computer longer than most people my age, and moving bits of type around is how I write, a habit deep enough to require a word stronger than habit.

But then I recalled my recent days out and about with the iPad, the seven-plus hours I spent one day in particular at a library and, later, cafe. I got tons of writing done then. So, what had changed? It’s as if the iPad lost its aura of productivity when brought indoors. Was it proximity to the desktop? Did the knowledge that a full keyboard sat footsteps away put the iPad in its place? Was it posture? Did the fact that I was seated on the couch rather than at a table intrinsically shape my interaction with the device?

The limitations of the device were reinforced further when I decided to procrastinate. I would buy a “digital” version of a mid-run volume of a graphic novel series I had been reading, only to discover that it was not available for sale. I instead read a PDF of a book I had stored in Dropbox. And read about Amazon’s own new consumer-oriented cloud confection. And then surfed images and news of laptops.

Perhaps my iPad, perhaps the iPad, simply is an extrovert, really only flowers when you’re out and about, and it’s the most powerful electronic device on your person, rather than ranking second, even third, as is the case at home. The world closes in when you’re seated at a cafe with little on you besides your portable computer, a notebook, and a mobile phone. The laptop’s screen seems larger, and the iPad’s does, too.

That was last night.

Right now, if an app of a gun were pointed at my head, I think I’d say the issue was posture.

Written by Marc Weidenbaum

2011/03/29 at 5:49 pm

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Day Nine: Two Questions

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This is a daily-ish journal of my ongoing experiment: using the iPad as a “laptop replacement” for writing.

Quote 1: I mentioned the existence of this blog today for the first time on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, my friend Jeffrey Stock, who writes Broadway musicals, wrote in response:

People always ask me: “Do you compose on a computer?” As if the computer had anything to do with it.

Quote 2: From the first volume of the graphic novel Gotham Central, a great Batman series co-written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Michael Lark. This is from the end of a story written by Rucka:

“The ‘w’ is busted.”

“Then don’t use the ‘w,’ rookie.”

“You have another way to spell ‘Two-Face’?”

“Try two o’s.”

Written by Marc

2011/03/28 at 6:51 pm

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