Tag Archives: technology

Working while walking

Phil: I need to get more writing done. And, as mentioned last week, I need more exercise.

Now I think I’ve found a solution to the two problems.

Listening to the radio a few weeks ago, there was an interview with a children’s author who dictates the first draft of all his books to his phone while out for a walk. This sounded like a good idea, so I downloaded a suitable app and gave it a go.

First job – Dictate a 14-page article provided in handwritten form. 25 minutes later, I had a file. An hour after this, I’d been through, edited it for typos and sent it off to my editor to start on the process of subbing it to fit on the pages available. Results were pretty good, certainly no worse than my typing when I’m trying to work quickly and copying someone else’s text.

Next – Killing time waiting for an MOT test to finish, I headed to a local park to try and write a chunk of novel. 2,500 words laid down in an hour or so (I was interrupted by a couple of phone calls) but if I’m honest, when I looked at the file, it was a bit rubbish. OK, so turning it into an acceptable first draft didn’t take quite as long as starting with a blank page, but not far off.

I think the trick is to dictate properly. Reading someone else’s words was fine. Making up my own, the speaking is less regular and worse, I can’t stop myself doing the character voices. Slow down and the results are much better.

Despite this, I have a feeling that with practice, using my phone this way might work. It’s perfect for transcribing articles from others, and since I have half a dozen of those lined up this is A Good Thing. For novels, work in progress.

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Technology breakdown

Candice: I’m in a hotel room in Leeds trying to get on to the WiFi. I’ve given  up and am now writing this on my new phone so it’s going to be short and sweet. I have  had a frustrating day so am using this opportunity to relax and watch some mindless TV.

Phil has been firing some stuff at me over the last few days and I was hoping to add some girlie polish to it too whilst I had some down time in the hotel, but that idea has gone out the window. Fingers crossed the WiFi in tomorrow’s hotel will be better.

I’m sure that this never happens to protagonists in books, unless it’s supposed to. WiFi  fails and female lead goes to bar and meets her leading man.

What I can report is Leeds is a nice town though I didn’t find anything in the shops so that was disappointing too !

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Push the button Max!

KeyboardsPhil: Tuesday’s post was written on a tablet computer. It’s a very nice tablet computer (Asus Memo Pad since you ask) but if this is the future of writing, I’m going to buy some new cartridges for my fountain pen.

Back in the “good old days”, the pen was the writers connection to their reader. That process of taking ideas from one brain and sending them to another involved making marks on a piece of paper so the nib was part of the interface. People became pen snobs. Only the best would do and of course some believed that their writing would somehow become better.

To be fair, this happens with all manual crafts involving tools with beginners believing that better tools rather than practise and effort make all the difference. A recent piece on the radio talked to knife makers who admitted that the most expensive kitchen knives costing thousands of pounds all went to people who just showed them off in the kitchen. Professional cooks used the mid-range models.

Anyway, once we stopped scribbling and started banging keys, typewriter envy became the thing. I’ve used a typewriter but fortunately by the time I was doing any serious writing, we had early word processors with their oh so important delete key to handle typos. If you want to get nerdy over the tools of the trader, head over here for a list of writers and their machines.

Which brings us up to date. Now, a tablet computer is a wonderful thing. When Apple introduced the first iPad, most people fell into two camps – the “what’s the point?” crowd mainly consisted of techies who couldn’t understand that for most people the web is something they consume rather than create on. Others declared the death of the conventional computer. As it happens, they aren’t so far off – computer sales have dipped as people realise that if all you do is post on Facebook and watch YouTube, you don’t need an office, you can do it on the sofa in front of the telly.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I got the tablet thing even though I am a bit techie. For me a computer is a tool for a job, not an end in itself and sometimes a simple web access is all you need. My tablet is invaluable to me as it removes the need to be at the PC for e-mail checking and allows me to be where I’m working.

I can type on it – the choice of machine came down to the best keyboard option (it has numbers as well as letter unlike an iPad where you have to switch between the two) but prodding an unresponsive bit of glass is slow and uncomfortable. In years to come, I suspect fingers will become shorter and knuckle joins impacted in those who prod the screen a lot. I’m pretty certain it’s not possible to write anything longer than a short story on one

Even my phone (HTC Desire Z, tech nerds) has a flip out keyboard. This makes it heavier than most and it’s showing its age but it won’t be replaced until it dies as you can’t find anything similar with a sensible screen and keys for fat fingers.

No, I need a keyboard. A proper rattly one. Not a soft touch or something that looks cool but has only tiny amounts of key movement. A proper workaday model that can stand up to my heavy keystrokes and the occasional thump when the words aren’t flowing. Something that has to have crud cleaned out from between the keys occasionally. Until we can beam our words directly from brain to page or even brain to reader brain, it will have to do.

(In case anyone is wondering, or just thinking I’ve gone mad, the title of this post comes from a running gag in the film The Great Race)

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Happy Birthday WWW

"25"Phil: Yesterday was the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday.

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?

I remember working for the ministry of cows and cobbling together a laptop PC, fax modem and Compuserve CD to get on-line for the first time. I logged on in glorious black and white (the best the laptop could do) and then wondered, what do I do next?

A colleague with an X-File obsession suggested we look to see what the was on her favourite TV show and since she ruled the typing pool with a rod of iron and I needed to get export certificates through there in less than a month, I had a quick search. Downloading the pages took ages and when we saved them to a floppy disk and transferred them to a colour PC, the results were a bit rubbish, but it didn’t matter. This was the future.

A few months later, having been made redundant, I spent hours at the local library using their single web-connected computer to surf. Inspiration was provided by a Yellow Pages of web sites. Literally a printed book listing sites under different categories. Even then it was a fat publication.

Two years later, it was suggested I take over the company website because I was publishing a magazine so I knew about pictures and things. A couple of days later I had learned enough HTML from a book to finish the launch of our commercial arm’s website. Nerdy types will shrink in horror at the way we used tables and even frames to lay out content, some of which was animated GIFs, something I still thin are pretty neat even if I know them to be considered as dated as drop shadow (If you have no idea what I’m on about here, don’t worry).

The web has made a huge difference to authors. No longer do I submit articles on paper, floppy disk or CD. Everything flies around using electronic magic. On the other hand, if I wanted to waste time on the computer, I played Solitaire until I (quickly) got bored. Now there is an infinite supply of procrastination accessories.

More importantly, it has made the e-Book possible. Can you imagine this taking off if it weren’t possible to download the words? Would anyone want to carry the Kindle to the book store to pick up the latest novel?

Of course, most importantly, without the WWW, the great writing team of Nolanparker would never have met up in the first place. I wouldn’t have been employed to look after the website at a quango where I met my friend. Who knows where or what we’d have ended up doing? You wouldn’t be reading this, but then without the web, there would be no websites or WordPress either.

Yes, Tim Berners-Lee made the world a different, and I think better place. Here’s to the next quarter century.

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