Say Hello to King Julian


My new laptop arrived this week and I’ve already put it to good use writing on my WIP. Here it is at work on my lunch break.

When you get a laptop from System76, it comes in this really cool box with a clever shrink wrap that you can open with no tools. I like that it has a Sci-Fi feel to it, because that’s what I write.


Below is a close up of the laptop showing the subtle curve up of the edges. For a plastic case, it’s very tight and solid.


The bottom is always of interest to me, as I hate warm laptops. This one has an intake fan on the right, but it blow out the side, so your lap is spared third degree burns. The speakers also face down near the front. You can also see the replaceable battery that forms a thicker lip under the screen. It actually makes the otherwise thin laptop easier to carry in my big hands.

Not sure what the CATV plug is for or how one would even use it. So happy to have normal sized VGA plug and built in camera card reader.


The power and drive lights are very tiny under the front lip.


The fan air exits to the side along with some USB 3 ports.


I’ve only been using this Lemur laptop for a few days, but already I’m loving it. It’s the first computer of any kind that I have purchased that came with Ubuntu Linux. So. Damn. Cool. I named my laptop KingJulian in honor of my favorite Lemur from the movie Madagascar.



Tablets, No Thanks

iPad 3G and iPad Wi-FiCreative Commons License Yutaka Tsutano via Compfight

I still don’t own a tablet. Not an iPad or a Nexus 7 or anything in between. How can a tech savvy guy like me not own the shinny that is the modern tablet? I must be a techno Luddite. How can I live without apps and flat, thin  screens that beg for my fingers to caress them? Don’t I know that everyone who’s anyone has at least one tablet, if not more? What is wrong with me?

Nothing. I just don’t need one. Tablets are consumer candy for first world gadget nuts with more disposable money than common sense. But they are so cheap now, surely I can afford one. Oh yes, I can afford lots of tablets, even the Mac ones; but I prefer to use that money to pay down my mortgage or pay off my car faster. Unlike most people, I understand that we are in a depression and my budget reflects that.

But, don’t I think they are cool? Yes. Because, Star Trek. But do I actually need one to get my work done, or to make my life easier? Nope.

I have two consumer grade items that I use on a regular basis. A smart phone and a laptop. I use the phone for just about everything except producing content. It’s my portable, always connected to the internet entertainment device. I get to use my fingers to use apps, play games, read books, get information and news, be social, navigate my car, make phone calls, send email, take pictures, watch movies and listen to music. Aside from size, how is a tablet better than that?

My laptop gets used for content creation. It runs a modern, full sized operating system – Linux. I use it for writing books, programming, creating art and making ebooks. It’s light weight and the battery lasts longer than the usual time I have available to create anything. I can listen to streaming music, or watch a movie on it. It also has a great keyboard, and a clear, 13″ screen, perfect for long form writing.

I can go off to any location that has cell service and use the internet with my computer through my phone. So portability is a key feature. I can carry my light, laptop for a long time and not be burdened by it. My phone fits snugly in my pants pocket.

So tell me again why I need a tablet?

Dell XPS and Ubuntu Update

I’ve had a couple of weeks now using the new Dell XPS laptop with Ubuntu and figured it was time for an update. In short, I’m loving it. The laptop is thin and light weight, as you’d expect an ultrabook to be. But unlike a netbook, there is plenty of space for my fingers on the keyboard and the screen is a nice 13 inches over the too small for my aging eyes netbook.

There is really only one major physical flaw with the XPS and that is the lack of a groove to slip your finger into to open it. It is unusually difficult to open this laptop as a result. If you have longer fingernails, it comes apart easier, but my nails are short so I have to pry it open. It’s not hard to open, just more awkward than it needs to be.

The battery life is around five hours, but to be honest, I don’t go for anywhere near that long on the laptop, so I’m a horrible judge of that. The longest I’ve gone is about three hours. Not too many modern computers do less than that.

The screen has been just fine for me too. Again, I don’t need bleeding edge resolution to write books or watch a streaming movie. I did finally watch a movie on it this weekend and it looked great.

The bottom does get warm after an hour’s solid use. But what laptop doesn’t? If you keep it on a desk, like every manufacturer recommends, you should be fine.

I’m also loving the latest Ubuntu operating system on this laptop. It’s fast, smart and let’s me do what I need to do. What else can a writer need? Oh yeah, it looks pretty sweet too.

I wish more manufacturers would put their trust in Canonical and work with them to ensure their laptops run Ubuntu. What say you Samsung, HP and everyone else? Because right now, Dell is the only company and this XPS is the only ultrabook that I can personally recommend to you.


Novel Progress and Laptop Woes

MacBook light shift Milind Alvares via Compfight

I’ve crossed the halfway marker in total word count this week for Starveyors, my Work In Progress(WIP). Sitting at around 44,000 words and counting. Progress through this middle part of the novel had been slow. Not because the story is lacking, but mostly because external forces are making it harder to allocate the time to write. Also, I believe the warmer weather is making my brain slow to a crawl. I’m finding it very hard to concentrate on writing.

Writing a novel is a complex mental task. It requires you to think about your characters, your plot and your world building. In the middle of a novel you are juggling subplots like spinning plates all while worrying about your main character’s development and a whole host of other pressing matters. Oh, and trying your best to keep your butt in the chair and your fingers typing. My mind of late has not been up to that complex task.

My trusty white MacBook is on its death bed. It’s about six years old. I’ve written four and a half novels and a dozen short stories on it. The track pad button is unreliable and the case is slowly disintegrating. A plethora of stickers on the outside are all that’s keeping it together. I really need to invest in a new laptop.

But sales have been down these past few months so my writing income is not going to cover a hardware upgrade. I have enough funds to pay for an editor and a copy editor and hopefully my cover artist, but not enough for all that and a new laptop. The good news is that I can finally afford to fund a novel that I self-publish from money earned self-publishing. Someday, I hope to make enough to pay for a new laptop for that writing. Someday. In the meantime, I’ll suck it up and buy a new laptop and keep on writing.

For the curious, it looks like I’ll be going with a 13″ Macbook Air. Hopefully I’ll get another six years out of that one.


Back From the Dead

Over the past few weeks I’ve been bringing an old laptop back to life. It was given to me by my good friend Bill Blohm who had no use for it. I was looking for a fixer-upper that I could put Linux on and use it strictly for writing. I didn’t care how old or ugly it was – which is probably a good thing.

What I would up with was an HP Omnibook 7150 with no HDD, 128MB RAM with no power supply and no modem. The power supply was found at a local battery shop and worked fine. The RAM and a HDD was ordered from a NY web site. One of the RAM upgrade DIMMs was bad. The HDD works fine. But I didn’t know it worked until I found a proprietary holder for it. That took several false starts at mail order houses to finally find on EBay. With enough parts to start installing, I went all the way back to Ubuntu 5.04 to get an OS on the HDD. Then I gradually started upgrading in order with some old install discs I still had laying around.


At bedtime on Friday night, I have a working version of 6.10.