The 21st Century Writer, Part II

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Man, 2017 is already so last year.

Way, way back in the distant past of 2016 I told you all about the 21st Century Typewriter.

In that post, I recommended getting yourself a tablet​ with a bluetooth keyboard. It's pretty portable, and pretty flexible, but guess what? Unless you want to pay out the big bucks for an iPad, or you're crazy enough to want a Windows tablet, you can't have Scrivener, as there's no version of it for Android. This rules out most of the best value tablets on the market.

When I wrote my previous post, there was already an alternative but it was getting a somewhat lukewarm reception at the time. There are good reasons for this, that I need not go into. But, let me introduce you to:

The PC Stick

​You are looking at the Intel "Compute Stick." Released in mid 2015 it caused quite a stir among techies and the IT press and everyone had a lot of cool ideas for what to do with it. And a lot of people overworked the poor thing. It's very small, and it gets hot.

So there were quite a lot of unsatisfied customers who were disappointed that they couldn't play Call of Duty or stream UHDTV on it. If you have no idea what I just said, your the right person for this device. Why?

It's a Computer. You're a writer. You need one. To write on. To do a little light research. To keep up with your social media. All the stuff you do on a computer.

This Year, Somethin's Bound to Happen

There's a great article over on Digital Trends​ all about the new offerings in PC Sticks for 2017. You can read it if you want to, or you can just use it to follow the links and buy the device of your choice!

Let me unpack it for you, with a little help from Mike, as usual. Right now, chances are, your computing experience looks like this:

​Mike on his laptop, poor lamb. But I hope you aren't sitting at a desk with a massive, whirring humming thing under, on or behind it somewhere. At least if you have a desktop let it be an all-in-one like the HP 22 b050 (below).

Hint: the computer is built into the screen. It's kinda nifty. But not very portable.

To have a 21st Century Portable Typewriter, using a PC stick, here's what you need:

  1. A PC Stick: from $100
  2. A portable monitor: from about $250
  3. A bluetooth mouse & keyboard: from about $40

​So this is a tiny, lightweight portable computing solution for less than $400.

What Little you Have to Know to Get Started

PC Sticks Choice

​Have a look at the article on Digital Trends (linked above). Basically in PC Sticks it's the same rules as with all computing:

  • The smaller you want it, the more it costs
  • The faster you want it, the more it costs
  • The more you pay, the better quality it is
  • Some brands cost a little more just for the badge (but some of them are worth the extra)

But my ONE RULE of computing for authors applies very soundly here:

You don't need much.​

Portable Monitor Choice

Your portable monitor must have an HDMI port. They are available in various sizes, and you can even get a touch screen portable monitor if you want to spend even more money. The GeChic 2501C is pretty practical (below).

Mouse & Keyboard Choice

Go straight for Bluetooth. Most PC sticks have only one USB port and you can't be clogging that up with the dongle of your wireless keyboard.

You have two choices - if you expect to be working on a flat surface most of the time, a Bluetooth keyboard and separate Bluetooth mouse​ are a good choice. For more portability, choose a Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in trackpad.

What's wrong with a laptop?

People do sometimes ask me this. It's about the science of ergonomics, and the art of comfort.

Posture and vision specialists tell us that the screen should be level with the eyes - your eyes should be at a height somewhere above the middle of the screen. The keyboard should be on a flat surface, and itself as flat as is comfortable for you. If (like me) you learned to touch type on a mechanical typewriter) you might want to be able to rake (tilt or incline) your keyboard a little​. These little but necessary adjustments are not possible on a laptop, and working for long periods on a laptop is difficult and uncomfortable for many, many people.

A portable monitor can be mounted on a tablet stand or a tablet arm when at home, and propped up or stood on its built-in stand when out and about. But bear in mind the PC Stick can be plugged into any screen with an HDMI port, including televisions.​ So you can PUT SCRIVENER ON YOUR 50" TV and type on your sofa.

I Even Hear Tell...

... of some retailers who have already seen the potential in this set-up and are offering bundles. 

About the Author Harry Dewulf

Professional Literary Editor and Creative Writing Teacher. If you want help of any kind with your book, you may contact me here. I recently launched a course to teach you everything I’ve learned about writing novels in the last 8 years. It’s called Read Worthy Fiction, and you can find it on Udemy.

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