• Hello, Google

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    Yesterday, I posted about my love affair with Apple coming to an end.

    This was a little scary – as over the last few years, my brief encounters with Windows machines have not been happy ones. Never-ending updates, relentless malware attacks…

    What was the alternative?

    Since 2014, I have been using Google Apps – now suggestively renamed GSuite. It allows me to use Google’s e-mail, calendar and other apps under my own domains.

    I had vaguely heard about something called a Chromebook.

    These are typically pretty low specification machines that run a web browser, specifically, the Chrome browser. The processor is old, the memory is tiny. There’s nothing to them. They are cheap though. And fast.

    The principle is that you keep everything in the cloud. All of your files. All of your e-mail. All of your programs.

    Useless. How could that possibly work? I do far more than online stuff.

    Actually…No. I don’t. Or, rather I do very little that cannot be done with a chromebook.

    What do I actually do with my device?

    All the top procrastination tools are online – Social media, online shopping, email.

    Spreadsheets? GSuite has Google Sheets that can view and edit Excel. Likewise for Word and Powerpoint. There is even a work offline mode should the broadband go down or if I’m on the road. Microsoft programs are all available as web apps.

    This post is being written on WordPress – a web app.

    So – I bought a Chromebook. I’m writing on it now. Naturally, being me, I bought one that is premium. This is an HP, with a metal body, a gorgeous high definition screen, B&O speakers. Frankly, it looks a lot like a Macbook. Currently there are 8 tabs open. The machine is like lightning.

    The laptop boots up in seconds. There are no programs taking an age to start up. Virus protection is done server-side by Google. As there are no programs, there are no updates. I like it.

    Oh…and you can have two for the price of a Macbook. Three or four for the price of a high spec Macbook Pro.

    I’m told that I will struggle to mix my next single or edit my 4k video release on this machine. Not things that I do.

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    Are there limitations?

    Maybe.

    First. Everything is stored on GDrive, in the cloud. Navigating around that does not come naturally to me – but I I suspect a little research and I will discover a quicker way.

    Second. I write (not enough) on Scrivener. Scrivener is great on a Mac, OK on a Windows machine, doesn’t work on a Chromebook. I will need to write elsewhere. Thus far, Google Docs looks favourite. It has only a tiny fraction of the functionality of Scrivener – but it has the bit that I need. 99% of Scrivener is wasted on me.

    My Iphone has been retired too. I have a phone made by Google, called a Pixel. I tried an android phone before – and regretted it. This one however is great, and just works. A bit like Apple used to.

    My hardware is built for Google apps. I’m using Google apps. Unsurprisingly, it’s seamless.

    I suspect the real cost of this is that Google has everything. I have no doubt that it hoovers up all this data. Privacy? What’s that?

    But, truth be told, I suspect that the privacy ship sailed a long time ago.

     

  • Bye, Apple

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    I wrote here about my penchant for gadgets and my frustration with the big IT names.

    In an effort to simplify my tech life, I had worked myself down from four devices (Imac, MacBook, Ipad and Iphone) to two. (MacBook and Iphone.) I even have a ‘dumb’ phone – for when being unconnected is a blessing.

    What was becoming apparent was that my beloved Apple was losing its way. I do appreciate that it remains an absolutely massive company with huge sales and profits. However – I am going to stick to my guns here – over the next few years it is on a relentlessly downward trajectory.

    Apple made amazing beautiful innovative stuff that just worked. Was pricing premium? Yes – but the kit was gorgeous and desirable. Ipod, Iphone, Macbook Air – wonderful, cutting edge tech.

    Then Apple started doing strange things.

    The watch. “You can get a text on your wrist!” Hmm…the whole world is talking about how to make tech more useful but less obtrusive, about the power of not allowing tech to dictate your life. So Apple make a device that can vibrate on your wrist every time a friend posts a picture of their breakfast on social media.

    Iphone. “Like the last Iphone. But better.” Oh. Great.

    “Look! This new Iphone won’t work with your headphones. You need to buy wireless ones.” Gee. Thanks.

    Ipad. “Look! Like the last one. And look, a little one! Wait! A huge one. With a stylus.” Didn’t someone say something about a stylus being the sign that the wheels were coming off?

    I was pinning my hopes on the new Macbook and latterly the Macbook Pro. The Macbook is really light, has a great screen and is an attractive piece of equipment. It only has one port. To make it really thin, the key board is different. Look. Its OK. It’s a nice piece of kit. But it’s not special.

    Finally, after years of waiting, the new MacBook Pro was released. The good news is that your old headphones will work with this.

    Yep. Apple’s flagship mobile phone announces the death of the wired headphones. Launched a month later, Apple’s flagship laptop announce the renaissance of the wired headphones.

    What else is on the new MacBook Pro? Well – a spectacular price tag for a start.

    There is a funky thing called an OLED bar. Which is essentially a strip of touch screen at the top of the keyboard.

    The rest of the computing world has launched machines where the whole screen is touch – and laptops can now be hybrids – part computer, part tablet – but Apple has a strip. Right.

    Dell, HP, Lenovo are all making laptops that are as pretty, as well-built and HIGHER spec than the Apples – for much less money. I mean a lot less money.

    IT experts have been saying this for years – but to a layman like me, Apple stuff just worked and visibly better quality than the competition. That’s simply not true anymore.

    So – I have jumped ship. I am using no Apple hardware at all.

    What am I using? The photos is a pretty strong hint – but that’s a whole new post on its own.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Ink, Ink and more Ink

     

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    I recently rediscovered the pleasure of real pens, using real ink on real paper.

    This was as a result of considering techniques for writing, and I was led into a new world of stationery by writing-buddy Amanda Fleet, who blogs about writing here and about stationery here.

    It was Amanda who introduced me to Bureau Direct.

    Now – be warned. The link above takes you to Aladdin’s stationery cupboard.

    I recently had a look for ‘lined envelopes’. One hundred and forty choices. (All of which I could find a use for.)

    Need a notebook? Four hundred and ninety eight options. (Not counting colour choices.)

    Amanda and I correspond by letter. Yes. Really. Hand-written, on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp. (Any younger readers – ask your parents.) She has lovely hand-writing, and always has several fountain pens inked up and ready to go. Her letters are always an explosion of bright ink.

    I have horrible handwriting, but am quickly catching up on the pen front. So it was time for me to start experimenting with some more coloured inks.

     

    I had ordered the J Herbin Ten Inks Set. (£26.95 after my special discount.) OK, anyone can get the discount – sign up for their newsletter; but I still prefer to believe it’s just for me.

    Inside the beautifully presented ‘coffret’ (just sounds better than box) are ten bottles of ink, each of 10ml. In order to test them out, I used a J Herbin glass pen that I had bought from Bureau Direct a few weeks ago. The paper is an Age Bag notebook, by Clairefontaine, available at, you guessed it, Bureau Direct.

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    Check out Amanda’s excellent review of the paper here. I can only imagine that when naming the range, the Clairfontaine marketing team had risked the second bottle at lunch.

    The ink is lovely to write with, even as this left-hander wrestled with the glass pen. In truth, the glass pen is not hard to master – as soon as you discover that rotating it will alter the breadth of ‘the nib’.

    Colours – entirely subjective. I like them all, but I am particularly taken by the Gris Nuage. I suspect that tomorrow, I may have a different favourite.

    The team at Bureau Direct are knowledgeable and charming. Delivery is fast and efficient.

    Just be careful. I’m now mainlining stationery…

     

  • Oh No! The Sun’s out.

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    Don’t get me wrong, I am usually partial to a bit of Spring and sunny weather. Right now, I am thinking that I need to be outside enjoying it rather than sitting at my desk writing about it.

    I bought and read a book yesterday. (This is a habit I encourage you, dear reader to develop. Keep an eye out for anything by Stuart Lennon).

    I found this particular book while wandering around in the slightly mad worlds of Twitter and Blogs. The book can be found on amazon (Click on the word book earlier in this sentence!)

    It is by a guy called Ben Adams. I enjoyed it. It is an easy read, and good fun. Ben is a little cagey about which bits are his experience and which are his imagination – but that is at it should be. We are British males. We don’t want too much of this metrosexual nonsense. We are uptight and proud of it, what?

    Currently, I am stalking Ben. He published ‘Six Months to Get a Life‘, his first book, in January and his blog records his experiences. Damn it.

    I will definitely use different pictures here if nothing else. He posted about #MondayBlog.

    You can read it here but essentially it is a hashtag which one can add to tweets. Fellow authors then pick up on this and retweet and favourite it.

    I only have a rudimentary understanding as to what the last sentence means, but I am hopeful that it is a good thing.

    This page is on a new theme. Again.

    Mrs L pointed out to me that having a ‘sign up’ box right at the bottom of the page was not necessarily very clever. So now it sits proudly top left.

    So…no excuse not to sign up now.

    Oh yes!

    The book. Sean is getting along OK. With my long and varied experience of Central European hangovers, I found writing about Sean’s remarkably easy.

    Until of course, the Sun came out.

  • Permission Granted

    In the true spirit of active prevarication, I have spent some time reading lots and lots of resources about how to write a book. Believe me, there are a lot of them out there. One that I found interesting and helpful was Stephen King – On Writing. (I will make a point to learn how to post links here for Amazon.) Mr King writes from a position of authority – in that he sold millions of books. I shall write some more tomorrow. I hope that my day grappling with all things IT has cracked the blog / website thing and I can focus on content.