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In case you were wondering ...

Today I'm in Birmingham (where yesterday I did a reading and talk with the Brum SF Group). Tomorrow I'm in Edinburgh. On Wednesday I shall be in Leeds, and on Thursday in Nottingham. Don't expect a lot of blogging in the middle of all that travel.

I have seen the 11.6" Macbook Air in the flesh aluminium, and it is indeed a thing of beauty; if it had a beefier processor and/or a bigger SSD I would have been unable to resist the compulsion to grab one as an on-the-road engine for running Scrivener 2.0 (which came out last week, and looks to be the bee's knees as a tool for jobbing novelists). Luckily (or otherwise) it's not quite there yet, but maybe they'll bump the spec in 12 or 18 months ...

That's all for now.



Are you going to pass through London fairly soon? ISTR this being mentioned. Unfortunately, answering that from the content of this post requires solving the travelling salesman problem;-)


I was at that above mentioned Brum SF Group meeting (not sure if the S meant sauna or sardine... it was very warm and packed out) and enjoyed listening to your talk and reading of extracts from Rule 34, which I'm looking forward to purchasing (and reading) when it comes out. Didn't quite have the nerve to approach and say hello, but this message is a brief thank you for a very stimulating evening of ideas rich entertainment.


Charlie, can you tell us more about Scrivener? How useful is it?


Scrivener is very useful if you write long text documents with complex internal structure -- such as novels. It's not a word processor, or an outliner, or a scrapbook manager, or a note-take g app -- it's a bit of all of the above, and more. Saved my ass when the last two Merchant Princes books ran away from me, with 17 viewpoint characters and five significant plot threads to keep track of: I was able to slurp everything into Scrivener and untangle the hairball, by refactoring its deep structure. There's a free 30 day demo -- why don't you try it for yourself?


Charlie, I had the original 1.6GHz Air (the rev A one, with the HDD). This new Air (the 11.6" 1.6GHz one) is much faster. The 4GB RAM, the SSD, the NVidia 320M make all the difference. You can see a screen recording I did:

Besides the recording the screen, I was scanning medium format negatives in the background, listening to music with iTunes, had Chrome open, and you can see Photoshop CS5 is pretty responsive on a good sized 16bit photo.


I know it's faster -- I have a rev. B Air (2.1Ghz with SSD) and have been reading the hardware tear downs and benchmarks on sites like anandtech. However, I don't want to have to ride herd on two computers, and the 11.6" model isn't really up to replacing my 2008 Macbook Pro (the desktop). So in due course I'll be getting a maxed out 13" Air (with 256Gb SSD, which is essential if I'm going to use it as a sync hub for my iPhone and iPad).



Scrivener is very useful if you write long text documents with complex internal structure -- such as novels. It's not a word processor, or an outliner, or a scrapbook manager, or a note-take g app -- it's a bit of all of the above, and more.

I'm curious as to how this works. How do you denote internal structure in a novel, for instance? I use LaTeX a lot, and this does provide some sort of tracking for things like page numbers, sub-sections (really, like an outline format of the I 1) a) type). What you're talking about seems to be a little more sophisticated though. How so? Is there a pull-down menu of themes and plot outlines, so you can just select "man vs fate" and "an old man in the heart of city unaware that he is the son of X must answer for his father's actions" :-)


Go look at the website; I believe there's a video.


A followup on the new Macbook Airs; my wife has one. (Birthday present or something ...)

I have a guest account on it, so I just logged on. The thing blew my socks off. My desktop is a rev. A 15" unibody MacBook Pro, 2.4 GHz, circa mid-2008. I hadn't quite appreciated how much of the UI Apple farmed out to the GPUs in Snow Leopard. The new Airbook has the same resolution screen as the Probook, same amount of RAM, and a slightly slower 2.1GHz processor, but feels screamingly fast and much more responsive -- and that's compared to a probook with a SATA-1 SSD. I suspect if I tried to do something really challenging -- numerical modelling or a heavy image editing session -- the probook would show a slight edge, but the 13" Airbook -- while not having a higher headline clock speed -- wins hands down in every other way for the kind of work I normally do.


I got my 11" MacBook Air for exactly the scenario you cited. I deleted iLife from it first thing, then installed Scrivener 2.0 and Dropbox. The latter means that I could stick to the baseline 64gb storage without fear, though I did opt to go for the full 4gb RAM. My only concern was that the screen's vertical space would be a squeeze, but it's actually perfect. And as you said above, the thing screams… at least for my purposes. What a great writer's tool this is!



The beta is also out for a Windows version, and that will run (with a bit of fiddling) under WINE. I'm doing NaNoWriMo again, and if I had had more time to get used to it, I think I would be using it.

It seems to have some roots in outliner software. Looks to be able to have distinct chunks of text which can be shuffled around, with a visual analogue of a corkboard as an interface, that can also take reference info.

As Charlie says, there are demo versions and videos and stuff.

Definitely worth a look.

A href="">Scrivener for Windows Beta


I very nearly bought the 11" last week through work, but opted for a thinkpad at the last moment. It's not over until the tin is in my hands, though, so it could still go the other way if the order goes funny.


Writers tools are all very well, but I don't want to carry on herding multiple laptops; these are complex machines, and they own you (or your time). Far better to have one general purpose machine and a solid disaster recovery plan than to boss around a herd of special purpose machines. As it is I've got an iphone (I need a phone; it doubles as a PDA), an iPad (the best ebook reader/PDF reader I've ever found, and does a bunch of other stuff besides), and I'll be acquiring a 13" Airbook in due course to replace my desktop machine and my travel laptop (a last-gen Airbook which is, in comparison, a dinosaur).

I can't come up with a sane use case for having an 11" Airbook as well as that laundry list, unless it's to replace the iPad, which doesn't do the same stuff and doesn't really need replacing (and if I replaced it I'd need a decent ebook reader, which an 11" laptop is not), or to replace the larger and more powerful Airbook. And I don't think this first iteration of the 11" Airbook is there, yet.

If Apple upgrade the Macbook Air range to Core i3 or i5 in 12-18 months' time, and make a 256Gb or 512Gb SSD an option, then I might have a shopping accident. But not unless I get something more out of it than just another shiny piece of technology to own a chunk of my time.


Mr S, are you at an event in Leeds on Wednesday? (asking, as I live in Leeds).


Nope. Passing through en route to Novacon in Nottingham, visiting relatives.


OK, thanks.

(forgot it's your home town".


Better wait at least a few months to buy one. Over breakfast this morning, one of my IT friends (who is very pro-Apple) said she was evaluating the Air for possible deployment to her company's employees. I guess the case didn't turn out to be very sturdy. She advised me not to purchase one -- at least not just yet. I trust her judgement on these things, because she's a long-time specialist in Macs...


I can't help but wonder if somebody like OWC might start putting out aftermarket replacement SSDs in the form factor required for the MBA. It's a little disappointing that Apple aren't using stock 2.5" SSDs, but understandable; it's not like SSDs are constrained by the size and shape of spinning rusty iron platters, after all.

I'm looking forward to having enough money to shove an SSD in my Mac Pro. Combined with the aforementioned rusty iron platters, it should do the job very nicely indeed.


Aftermarket SSDs have indeed been pre-announced, but it's anyones guess when they'll ship and how much they'll cost.


There's a nice phrase from a trainer on a course I did some years back that seems apt to the question of cost: "the gross domestic product of a small African nation." (Probably not, but it'll sure seem like it for anything worthwhile.)


I've seen lots of people referencing the Toshiba press release, but nobody has mentioned price.

Also unknown, as of yet, is whether the 256G module will fit inside the 11.6" MacBook Air.


The only problem with aftermarket SSDs is that they're unlikely to be cost-effective, at least initially. If they can fit the 256 GB SSD into an 11" Air, that's a different story, since that would be a true upgrade rather than hoping the cost of the 128 is smaller than the build delta in Apple's store between the 64 and the 128, even after selling off the 64.

I also suspect Apple is getting terrific pricing for themselves, which lets them bump up their margins while still keeping prices low enough to sell. I've tended to buy my macs with just enough RAM, then upgrade them after, but aftermarket RAM has always been a lot cheaper. (Current 8GB RAM upgrade for my iMac, $160.)


And speaking of which ...

The Macbook Air I ordered last week (to arrive more than 365 days after my last computer purchase, as defined in my new year's resolution) took off from Almaty a couple of hours ago.

It should arrive here next week.

(Spec: 13" screen, 4Gb RAM, 2.13GHz processor, 256Gb SSD.)


Price, and also availability. Toshiba is, at the moment, only supplying these SSDs to OEMs, so you can expect to see the Wintel market following in Apple's footsteps very soon; but they won't be available to the general public for a little while yet.

Still, given that the specifications for them seems to be relatively open (in that it's a smaller sized variant to SATA, and hence should be available on similar terms to standard SATA interfaces), I'd fully expect to see other companies manufacturing their own; there would be a decent market for 512 GB, or even 1 TB, SSDs in these form factors, I expect, especially when prices start to drop a bit.


How long ago was it that you were vowing a year of abstenence from acting on your techno-lust?

You slut.


About 370 days and counting, Tony ...



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 6, 2010 6:04 PM.

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