What's In Your Stocking?It's a rough year for Christmas. Everywhere. Money is tight, and belts tighter. We writers are all watching the market and wondering how our publishers will fare, and not hearing very good news. So it may seem odd that I'd want to talk about expensive gifts for writers, when we're feeling lucky to buy a pencil.
But writers are dreaming people, and we're very good at imagining the future. And we're always trying to find ways to make writing fit better into the rest of our lives. So I thought it might be fun to show you some great things to help you write that are on the market now, or coming up. Some of them aren't expensive, but are interesting. Most of these are aimed at helping you make your writing more portable.
And after you read, how about telling us what's on your list for this or future Christmases?
I always write with a laptop, and use in much like a desktop, except that I can move it around. But it's heavy. A year ago I replaced my older Dell for a bigger Dell because I needed a bigger and better screen, but I missed the portability of the lightweight earlier model. I had hoped to get one of the new mini-notebooks before going on my last trip, but the one I wanted wasn't available in the model I wanted. By the time we had returned, I made up my mind I was never traveling with a big clunker again, and I bought the bitty laptop I had been wanting. I am NOT sorry.
I chose the MSI Wind. It's slightly larger, 10.1 inch screen to the 8.9 inch of others, and it has a larger keyboard. The Wind also has an anti-glare screen, which is really important to me since it reduces eye strain. It's about a third smaller than my regular laptop in all dimensions, and weighs 2.3 pounds. It has a huge 120 gigabyte hard drive and 1 gb memory, but I keep a minimum of stuff on it so I'll be less tempted to fool around when I'm away from home. But like all minis it does have internet capability. Prices usually range from around $450 at Buy.com up through $700 for fancy models, but I don't understand the point of fancy for this use. I got a great deal at $400, and no shipping. I take the little critter everywhere. Small keyboard takes a little practice but works well. The touchpad is strange, but just takes a little adapting. I love the bright, crisp screen, and could even do my artwork on it if I wanted. I wanted the long life battery, but it wasn't available for this model yet. So that will be next year's Christmas present.
My friend Lexie bought a different brand, the new Dell mini. At 8.9 inches, it's even smaller. My long fingers stretched out can almost span its width! It weighs about the same, a little over 2 pounds, and has a more stable solid state hard drive, which is much smaller capacity, but jump drives can provide extra space and the point is to keep the device minimal for travel. Extra longlife batteries are not available yet, but knowing Dell, they will be soon. And the price is really nice, at $349 and up.
You can find models by Asus for as little as $300, and they are top notch. Acer also makes great inexpensive models. Fujitsu owners rave about theirs, and I hear Sony's model is great, if a little expensive. Dell is now making a bigger model more the size of the one I bought, at about the same price.
Don't want the smaller keyboard, but like the portability? Check out Dell's new line of full-size lightweights. They're currently offering savings of about $300 or more, bringing the price as low as $724.
Don't want to carry a laptop? Here's a digital pen that will actually capture the page on which you make notes and pictures. The Livescribe can even convert your hand-written notes into digital text (you'll have to remove the first space in the link immediately following http because I'm having trouble with embedded links):
It apparently requires special paper, but you can find this little critter at Costco and Target. Currently it's running in the $199-299 cost range, but this is the kind of gadget that's likely do go down in cost, and I'm pretty sure it has competition out there already.
Just want something to record audio? Here's a pen that will go with you and record up to 7 hours of workshops or other stuff. It's a YouTube video but again, remove the space after http to see it. I'm having trouble with embedded links.
I don't know if this pen would record good enough quality to work with Dragon Naturally Speaking. But that's another way to write faster. I recently bought the newest version, Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 10, and got a great deal. Here's a link that can get you to some great prices, as low as $53 for the Standard version.
I'm finding Dragon a little challenging to work in audio instead of by typing, but as I'm learning, I find I really prefer it. It's definitely a lot faster to speak a story than to type it. The new version does far better than older ones and recognizes almost all my speech from the beginning. There are some words not in its "vocabulary", but they're easy to add. I dislike the headset, which pinches my head, but I just use a different one.
There are lots of other great gifts for much less money. Laptop users will appreciate a portable light that operates from the USB port. I have a snake cable type which I think it the simplest and lightest weight. Another useful gadget is the Kensington power adapter to convert DC into AC, and compact and simple if you like to run your laptop in the car. You just plug it into the cigarette lighter, then plug the laptop cord into it. No extra cords.
So what goodies would you like to see in your stocking this year-- or next?