Writing never used to be something I found difficult. When I first started this blog I was posting every day during Gamescom 2011. Following that I still posted every other day for a good while. Recently I’ve been finding it difficult to set aside the time to just sit down and write, and always seem to have something else on the go. I don’t want this enterprise to fall by the wayside, so I am going to try and write more. Part of that strategy is finding a way to write while avoiding distraction. This is becoming difficult with modern computers. The internet is readily accessible and home to a lifetime of procrastination. Though it has facilitated my writing through the availability of blogging sites, it has also hindered me. Typewriters have a certain romantic quality but are just not practical. The Hemingwrite is an e-ink typewriter with a mechanical keyboard and minimal connectivity. Designed as a minimalist approach to writing, it eliminates the distractions of modern PCs. It would be my ideal tool, but it is likely to cost an arm and a leg on release.
The unavailability (and expense) of hardware led me to seek out a software solution. Write Monkey, a word processor with a minimalist interface and few bells and whistles. Eliminating task bars, start buttons and tool bars, Write Monkey simply presents you with a blank page and leaves the rest up to you. Inspired by the Hemingwrite, I am also using my Nook Simple Touch e-reader as an e-ink display for my laptop through RealVNC. It’s not an ideal setup as there is lag between the Nook and the laptop, but it is showing promise and could provide a distraction-free writing environment. I am starting to see why George R R Martin uses such an old computer to write his epic novels. The Nook Simple Touch is my current e-reader of choice. It cost £30 and is great at what it does. I enjoy pushing the capabilities of hardware. Despite appearing otherwise, Android is at the heart of the Nook software. With a few tweaks the Android interface is accessible allowing the installation of third party applications.
Such applications include the VNC viewer I am using to mirror my laptop screen. It also provides access to a web browser, providing a rather unique version of the web resembling a living newspaper. For the price it is hard to beat – a poor mans tablet and an excellent e-reader. The refresh rate is the main hurdle to regular use as a tablet. That, and the battery is not geared up for so much screen activity. E-ink screens refresh once every page turn, unlike regular displays, and are not well suited for most tasks. My ideal computer would have a dual e-ink and OLED screen, with the ability to switch between modes. The e-ink screen would be ideal for reading articles and writing, while the OLED display could be used for other computing functions. Though I have always thought of e-ink screens as being easier on the eye than LCD, the evidence to support this idea is mixed. Study samples on the matter have been small and the methods of assessing visual fatigue are not standardised, and while one study found e-ink to be superior to LCD in this regard, another concluded that the resolution of the displays involved was as important a factor as the technology. Opting for the best quality screen you can afford is normally the best choice, and I have found it difficult to return to lower resolutions after using my laptop’s 1920×1080 display for so long. Technology is ever improving, and the previously unrivalled screen in this laptop is now becoming standard.
Now for gaming! The only games I have played in the last week are Super Meat Boy and Goat MMO Simulator, the latter of which I only played for ten minutes. Super Meat Boy is a platform game following Meat Boy, a red cube-shaped character, who is attempting to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr. Fetus. The game is split up into short stages, often nefariously tricky, requiring perfect timing and perserverance. Each stage is a battle in itself and forces you to hone your skills and apply them to extreme situations. The rage quitters and the easily disheartened may have a tough time with this one. Ordinary I am not one for swearing, but when I am playing Super Meat Boy the obscenities fly thick and fast, as if propelling Meat Boy forward across the deadly landscapes. It comes with a great deal of despair, but also achievement if you manage to complete a stage you did not previously think possible. Following each stage you have a chance to view the replays and see where you went wrong (or right, occasionally), but instead of each attempt playing one by one, all of your attempts are shown simultaneously, resulting in many Meat Boy’s running around the stage dying in a number of horrible ways. It is definitely worth playing if you can stick it out, and I am going to power through and try to make it to the end…unless I throw my laptop out the window. Whichever comes first, I suppose.