The Minimal Writing Laptop

The Minimal Writing Laptop

My poor laptop has seen better days. By virtue of being a piece of technology in the modern age, being 7 years old means it is painfully out of date. Progress has marched on, but it has not, and its welded 2GB RAM are not enough to handle more than two or three internet tabs.

I’m fortunate that I was able to afford my shiny desktop, and work provides a laptop, so my personal laptop falling behind the times isn’t a big deal. But where it has been able to shine is in its steady and only half-planned transformation into a minimal writing laptop.

With the laptop not able to handle much anyway, I slowly uninstalled most of the programs. Goodbye Broken Age, lovingly reinstalled on the desktop to finally finish one day; Picasa too, since all my photo drive storage and upload management is done on the more powerful desktop now. VLC, Simple Comic, and all my other “fun time” apps are gone. What does that leave me with?

  1. Some miscellaneous tools for work: TextWrangler, KeyNote, The Unarchiver. Sometimes if you gotta do work at home it’s more tolerable doing it lying down in front of a laptop.
  2. Evernote, Dropbox, Jumpcut and Quicksilver. Always required.
  3. Skype, because I call my family early in the morning and sometimes I can’t quite get out of bed.
  4. And Scrivener, my go-to for all my writing projects and management.

Plus all those annoying system apps that I know, from painful experience, cannot be uninstalled without dire consequences.

Of the above list, the only two real requirements for my minimal writing laptop are Scrivener, to do the actual writing, and Dropbox, to backup and sync the writing between computers. But minimalism comes in stages I suppose, and I haven’t quite escaped using my laptop for things besides writing. Still, it’s getting there, and maybe its dedication to a single task will encourage some more dedication in me too.

Things I Read: Writers on Writing

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do at McSweeny’s is actually very accurately titled. It’s all the writing rules that you’ve heard to the point that they’re trite. Only then it sort of makes fun of those rules too.

Clarion 2012: Every Brilliant Piece of Writing Advice for those of us who couldn’t attend. It’s a lot of content, so save and read in bits and pieces.

He Hit Send: On the Awkward but Necessary Role of Technology in Fiction at The Millions.

Our School Shooting on Salon isn’t about writing, but it’s about a writer, and the way real life influences fiction.

Science Fiction Now

I’m not that inspired when it comes to making up science fiction technology. But the more I read, the less I need to be. A lot of technological advances that seem to me like magic (“I… I don’t have to plug my iPhone in to sync it? It just talks to my computer through the air?”) already exist.

Power has a lot to do with future youth culture, and one element of that is hacking. And the more computers occupy our lives, the more power these hackers will have.

The Future is Now

I went to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in NYC on Tuesday to see their exhibit Why Design Now? National Design Triennial. The future is now, people. Or the future is when the exhibit’s designers, engineers, architects, et al get funding. For me, a lot of the fun of speculative or science fiction is making things up that aren’t real but just plausible enough. Thanks to the Cooper-Hewitt I can now pull out of my bag of near future knick nacks the following:

  • Widespread use of garden rooftops to reduce building energy use (imagine looking down on a city and seeing forests and street grids)
  • Clothing scraps/waste recycled into chairs (thanks Issey Miyake; this can also be expanded to a widespread culture of reuse, where things we previously discarded are obsessively repurposed)
  • Solar panels integrated into rooftop designs
  • bioWAVE and similar machines installed on the ocean floor to collect energy from currents
  • Magnetic/maglev trains (as seen in the late great TV show Caprica)
  • Towers that use the currents of rising hot air to generate energy
  • Increasingly convenient and carryable folding bicycles (the one on exhibit folded and could be rolled like luggage)
  • Use of vertical space for small-area farming (gardens up skyscraper walls, spiral towers with advanced drip systems as inner-city farms); especially useful as population growth bleeds into available land
  • Light boards powered by solar energy built onto building facades, allowing for advertisements (and maybe less sinister uses) everywhere
  • Bionic arms and other limbs that can be “wired” directly to a person’s nervous system using an injectable interface that finds its way to and implants itself in a person’s brain.

Sorry, no jetpacks.