Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chemistry Building Addition: Introducing my new writing assistant

(This is Stop #21 in the Texas A&M Building Writing Tour, my attempt to motivate myself on my dissertation by writing in every campus building before I graduate.)

In recent weeks, my dissertation productivity has increased considerably, with an unfortunate result — the near extinction of my recreational writing.

I’ve been wanting to start blogging again, but it seemed so difficult to switch my writing gears. Plus, I felt intimidated by my backlog of buildings. So, to get unstuck, I decided to write in a new building, and tackle a really easy writing task: Gushing about my new portable monitor.

The 16.4” HP U160 Portable Monitor is a remarkable product. Simple, beautiful, and functional. It runs from a single USB port (no external power source). The attached case flips around and becomes a stand, so I can prop the non-glare screen at any angle. It starts automatically, as soon as I plug it in. Using the HP DisplayLink Manager software, I can specify the second monitor’s location, to the right or left of my laptop. This gizmo requires no computer savvy … just drag the windows and documents over to it, and drag them back when you’re done.

This is a wonderful writing tool. I can read a journal article on one screen and write about it on the other. I can compare two sets of statistical output side-by-side. If I’m doing lots of cutting and pasting between documents, I can keep them both visible simultaneously — no more switching between windows, confusing myself, and pasting paragraphs into the wrong file. It’s fantastic!

Every writing nomad should own one of these. At 3.4 pounds, it’s light enough to carry anywhere (official weight from HP, confirmed by my own independent measurement). Wherever I am working, my new monitor is by my side — at my apartment, the library, or the local bakery/deli. At my favorite coffee shop (which has tiny round tables), the monitor sits on a tall chair borrowed from the bar.

When it’s time to go home, the whole thing folds into a flat package about an inch thick. I’m not sure if the black outer covering is leather, or vinyl, or what, but it has a rich, classy feel. The inside is lined with soft velour/felt material to protect the screen. Embedded magnets gently snap the case closed, with no need for zippers or latches.

The subtle embossed HP logo adds a nice touch — I love my monitor so much, I don’t mind a little advertising. In fact, I sold two of them in the first week alone — HP should put me on commission!

What do you think is cooler, the monitor or the multicolored  glass-encased helix?