Monday, July 9, 2007

so long, laptop.

So the big brown truck of happiness showed up today and dropped off two packages: my eagerly-awaited Alphasmart Neo, and a CH Flight Yoke.

The Neo is simply excellent. If your daily routine includes a bunch of writing, for whatever reason, this thing is the device for you. It's about the size of a standard sheet of paper, weighs less than two pounds, and still has a full-sized keyboard. There's no waiting for it to boot--you turn it on, and a second later, you're looking at the blinking cursor waiting for your text input. If you turn it off, it'll pick up right where you left it once you get back to it. Every keystroke is automatically saved, so there's nothing to save manually. The memory has eight file spaces of 64k each, which comes to about 10,000 words per file. (It doesn't seem like a lot of memory in the age of multiple gigabytes of RAM, but this thing is just for ASCII text, and 64k times eight is a lot of text.)

When you're finished with the writing for the day (or week), you plug the Neo into your PC via USB cord, open Word or any other program that accepts text input, and hit the "send" button. Your scribblings paste themselves into the desktop program as if a speed typist on crank is hacking away at the keys.

Best of all: the thing is so light and sturdy that you can take it anywhere, and the battery lasts 700 freaking hours of writing time. (That's a month of non-stop writing.) Apparently, these things are popular with a lot of schools, and they run all year on one set of AA batteries. There's no laptop ever built that comes close to even a tenth of that kind of runtime.

Yeah, I probably sound like an Alphasmart rep, but this thing really is all that and a bag of chips. It's utterly useless to anyone who needs anything other than a word processor, but for writers, this thing is the best invention since Gutenberg's press.

Oh yeah, the flight yoke is the berries, too. Flying a Cessna with a stick just doesn't feel quite right, and the yoke adds a lot of realism. If you're into flight sims, and you can stand the snickers of your friends and family for getting your geek on with a flight yoke bolted to your computer desk, I highly recommend it.

Thus end today's product reviews. If anyone from Alphasmart reads this, contact me for my snail mail address, so you can send me a check and/or some free loot.

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