The Perfect Writing Machine

This post is about my eternal search for a laptop as a writing machine, as opposed to a coding machine, gaming machine or whatever – else machine.

First, the best so far. To date, nothing I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a lot, beats the experience of the 6 (?) year old PowerBook G4. Inasmuch as I dislike all sorts of hype from all sorts of manufacturers (yes and that includes Jobs), they have got it right with this one. I wrote about it in the defunct PWIT and I’ll say it again here. The few times I managed to use this really knocked me out. Not only were the keys big and easy to find, the material (anodized aluminum) was cool and smooth to the touch and seemed better resistant to scratches than the Titanium models. More importantly the keyboard gives a reassuring just – right click each time that never made you second guess whether you did it right. The body seemed never to get too warm (somewhat contested, this) and was compact and light. Finally the screen graphics was typical Mac, meaning it was never too glaring and still gave good light running on batteries which normally goes down a level or two to preserve juice.

I am a pretty ok touch typist and so far, above PowerBook has been the most responsive to my needs, even amongst newer Macs. I would consider buying a 2nd hand model of this even if I could afford getting newer ones, just because of that excellent keyboard. Now I’ve never been a Mac person and yes, I do find irony in the fact that I find such a ‘glamorous’ thing to be the answer for hardcore writing, but there it is. That thing is wonderful. I know at least two people who own one, one of which, sadly, just uses it to watch YouTube, play mp3s and show off to friends (if you wonder why I disdain Mac hype all you need do is take a look at this guy), and the other being Butch Dalisay, whose ownership and constant praise of one should be more than enough reason to believe me.

Second would be my beloved Karen, an IBM X series. So far its job has been relegated to two things: 80% writing, 15% watching downloaded movies in bed and 5% ‘net surfing. I believe that if a person manages to break down what he uses computers for then the chances of finding the perfect one increases exponentially, and I think that’s why I love this machine.

However it is not at all perfect. Inspite of the fact it doesnt have a CD/DVD drive (it has a docking station which I hardly use), it still gets rather warm after a bit of use. The keyboard while responsive has smaller than I like keys, the screen is too dark when it is on batteries (necessitating that I find places where I can plug it first, thank God for Starbucks), and finally I happened to get a Japanese model so I’ve got 2 extra keys on the keyboard with no purpose at all. Finally, its plastic to the G4’s anodized aluminum which is like comparing a Toyota’s polyester interior to a Bentley’s leather.

Regardless, it is small, light, and because of the excellent Xubuntu, a mean writing machine – which is what I feel whenever I use it. It’s as if it’s been designed for one thing and one thing only, to write stuff – which is good because of its weak processor, tinny speakers and weak LCD, it’s not much good for anything else.

And now finally, the future(?), the Asus EeePC.

While obviously it answers the ‘small and light’ requirements, I’ve received reviews that the keyboard is way too small. Mind you, as this is a post about writing machines, that is enough reason to think twice right there. See its easy to be inundated with other tech details as it’s choice of OS (Asus’ version of Linux), price and connectivity, but if I can’t write on it with my rather larger than normal pudgy fingers, then no go.

We’ll see though. I’ll try to get a hold of it soon. That low price (starting at P16,000 for the Celeron M models) is just too enticing to ignore.

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