Monday, February 1, 2016

Writing While Cruising

I mentioned in a previous post that I had bought an ASUS C201 11.6 Inch Chromebook and I would be testing it for writing purposes on our cruise. Well, I did just that. First, a brief look at my portable writing set up.

ASUS C201 11.6 Inch Chromebook and Logitech optical mini-mouse with flat mousepad (freebie from my IT days - link goes to a similar product without advertising on it).
I carry a variety of small cables - just in case. The things I use the most are the IOGear card reader, Belkin USB hub (link goes to newer model), 64GB memory card and DataStick Sport memory stick
Targus CoolPad (discontinued)
The swivel is nice but the larger bumps on one end mean the laptop is elevated - great for cooling but even better for those of us who need to type with the keyboard at an angle.
Kosmicc Neoprene Sleeve
 Best carrying case EVER! I have it in three sizes, one for my iPad Mini, one for my Chromebook and one for my MacBook Pro. The front zipper pocket easily carries all my accessories, shown above, as well as my charging cable.
Now for the pros and cons as well as how it actually worked out for me.

PROS:

  • Amazing battery life
  • Very lightweight and thin, even with weak wrists and arthritis, I can pick it up with one hand.
  • The keyboard was very good, for me. The size worked out well.
CONS:
  • Would occasionally freeze and I'd have to do a hard power-down.
  • REALLY would like to have a backlit keyboard. If this gets replace, that will be a must for these old eyes.
I thought I had spent enough time researching apps and extensions that would work offline with Chrome. But I did most of it on my MacBook and FORGOT to turn on the Chromebook, connect to WiFi and sync. Oops! That meant I had to pay for WiFi on the first day of the cruise. Not a budget buster at $16 for the day, but did catch me by surprise.

The next surprise was not finding the apps that I installed on my MacBook on the Chromebook after syncing. Dang! Oh well, I spent a little time finding the apps that I thought I had decided on (finding one to read .rft or Rich Text Format docs was important for formatting issues).

Long story short, the latest update of the app I had chosen wouldn't open files already created, only create new ones. Grrrr! So more time was spent searching for another app that would be workable.

Ended up deciding on Google Docs offline. Okay, I can do this. Oops! Google Docs can't open files that aren't in Google Drive. Phew, glad I had my reader and my files on the memory card. Uploaded them to Google Drive (still using my Carnival WiFi) and started writing.

Next defugalty - even when connected to WiFi, Google would sometimes save in offline mode. That shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, for whatever reason, it created ANOTHER file. Double argh...

Okay, these were short stories without much need for formatting, so I decided to just write in the text editor that came with Chrome. That worked and the files were saved in my Downloads folder (using up the little bit of hard drive space offered).

By day two, after talking to another passenger, I opted to pay for WiFi all week, $60. Not bad considering I wasn't doing any excursions. I used it a lot for research...if you do all your research ahead of time, not a big issue. But for me, it was important. Plus I used an online thesaurus a LOT!

By the end of the first week, I was looking for a better alternative to the basic text editor. Much more trial and error, installing, testing, deleting - I ended up using a little app that is working well for me. Minimalist Markdown Editor. It enabled be to use markdown language OR HTML for basic formatting. One thing I really like is the split window - I type on the left and what I am typing shows on the right. The more I played with it, the more I liked it.

On a scale of 1-5 with five being the highest, I give the Chromebook experience a 4 overall. I will continue to use it for all my travel writing as well as my McDonald's writing (anyone who has followed me for a while understands what I'm referring to).

I will continue to test writing apps, hoping to find THE ONE, but for now MME works for me. The biggest lesson learned was to be prepared. Bring two types of backup media (you never know what will fail), pre-load either Google Docs or your Chromebook's download folder with the files you need and backup as you write (keeping it in two spots at least).


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