Using a Chromebook (blame this on Bono)

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  • Using a Chromebook (blame this on Bono)

    I blame it on Bono. Last August he asked if Chromebooks could be used for writing screenplays and whether screenplay applications can be installed on them. That made me curious. And so, in May or June of this year I bought a Chromebook. Now I've got more than one. I use them as my laptops because they get about 12 hours of battery life — and my old, cheap laptops can't match that (can't come close).

    This Chromebook is an 11.6" Samsung Chromebook 4 and it costs (refurbished) $100 or new, $129. I picked one that was new enough to have both the Android Play Store and Crostini (the ability to run Linux). I also picked one that had 4 GB of RAM (you can still get 2 GB RAM used versions, but they're getting rare). It also has 32 GB of storage and a microSD slot for backup. The screen is not exceptional, but probably what you should expect on a $129 laptop and it works well for writing. I don't really use the Play Store — mostly this is a Linux laptop for me. And, because of the light OS, the speed is fine with a Celeron N4000 CPU.

    This Chromebook on Walmart's site: https://www.walmart.com/ip/SAMSUNG-C...6?athbdg=L1200

    Same one Factory Refurbished: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Refurbish...01US/844979866

    So what can you do with a $100 laptop? Quite a bit, actually — especially if you're willing to use Linux.

    Because I wanted to satisfy my curiosity, I've loaded all four of the screenplay applications that run under Linux. Fade In, Trelby, WriterSolo and KIT Scenarist. They all run fine. I've also installed Jstar (which is what I'm using to write this) and Emacs with Fountain-Mode, plus 'Afterwriting CLI (for producing the PDFs). So that combo is really a fifth screenplay writing "application." And you can also add Scrivener (the Linux beta from 2015 or 2016). I found an AppImage file that includes all the international dictionaries (it's free and legal) and that also runs fine on this Chromebook — and it has a Screenplay "mode" and can export to Final Draft. (Scrivener is supposed to be good for organization and outlining, it's never really caught on with me.)

    With Wine you can (technically) run Movie Magic Screenwriter, but not well enough to make it worthwhile. Final Draft would install in Wine, but it wouldn't run. Running Wine under Linux Debian (which already runs under ChromeOS as a virtual machine) is really just asking for trouble anyhow. And I was just using the demo versions of these two applications, so I don't know if activation would have worked under Wine even if they had run well.

    I can do all this with my Linux laptops (even used ones I bought cheap) but I can't match the battery life.

    At any rate, to sum up. Yes, you can write screenplays on a Chromebook (I haven't really looked at the Android choices). I would suggest a minimum of 4 GBs of memory and the use of a Celeron (rather than ARM) CPU. Also I would look for 32 or 64 GB SSDs. (You can also find used 16 GB Chromebooks, which will work, but the space is a little cramped.)

    I can also run all these screenplay programs on a Samsung Chromebook 3 I picked up for $25 on Shop Goodwill. Again, I made sure it had 4 GBs of RAM and supported Crostini.

    So, if you're looking for a very portable, cheap "laptop" with a long battery life for writing screenplays a Chromebook will do the job well. (You probably have to learn a bit about Linux however.)

    Should mention, Chromebooks (by default) want to back up to your Google Drive. I don't let it. But you can also back up your whole Linux partition to a microSD with a built-in app (which I do use, and it works well).
    STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

  • #2
    Verree eenteresting, all good info, I've been casually looking for a backup machine, there's plenty of these puppies on eBay at a reasonable price.

    DDP Logline Throwdown IV - Mix & Match contest - deadline Sept 21

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    • #3
      Or, for extended periods of time when power outlets aren't available to you, consider the lowly, but ruggedly durable, Alphasmart NEO or NEO2. They run on three (3) AA batteries for a long time, over 700 hours. There is an automatic “power-off” to save battery life, too. The screen is short, but it's virtually indestructible.

      The Alphasmart NEO and NEO 2 use a simple USB cord for you to export your text file into any of your word-processing programs—Fade In, Final Draft, Scrivener, Pages, Word, and others. Once loaded into the program of your choice, you only have to format what you wrote.

      It's great for putting in a day-pack or even a hydration pack for whenever you find yourself away from civilization or electrical outlets and an idea or other flash of inspiration strikes.

      https://www.ebay.com/b/AlphaSmart-Ne.../bn_7116105163
      Last edited by Clint Hill; 09-12-2021, 08:01 AM.
      "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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      • #4
        Originally posted by dpaterso View Post
        Verree eenteresting, all good info, I've been casually looking for a backup machine, there's plenty of these puppies on eBay at a reasonable price.
        If you have any questions about using these with Linux and screenplay applications, I'll be glad to answer them.
        STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Clint Hill View Post
          Or, for extended periods of time when power outlets aren't available to you, consider the lowly, but ruggedly durable, Alphasmart NEO or NEO2. They run on three (3) AA batteries for a long time, over 700 hours. There is an automatic “power-off” to save battery life, too. The screen is short, but it's virtually indestructible.
          Yeah, but with these all you can do is write. What if you have a powerful need to waste time online or experiment with every application that is somehow distantly related to screenwriting? I have a couple Alphasmart Neos. They are great for writing. I even picked up an Original Mighty Bright NuFlex light for these so I can write at night. I picked the original because it runs on AAA batteries, or it can be powered via its USB port. So with a power pack or two (or some extra batteries), you can write all night long. It will barely clamp on the back of the Neo, but it's heavy enough to stand on its own (especially if you have a small power pack attached to it). I have other LED reading lights but, unlike the Mighty Bright, the neck tended to turn back to its original shape. The Might Bright neck stays where you put it.

          https://www.amazon.com/Original-Migh...1492302&sr=8-2

          Originally posted by Clint Hill View Post
          The Alphasmart NEO and NEO 2 use a simple USB cord for you to export your text file into any of your word-processing programs—Fade In, Final Draft, Scrivener, Pages, Word, and others. Once loaded into the program of your choice, you only have to format what you wrote.

          It's great for putting in a day-pack or even a hydration pack for whenever you find yourself away from civilization or electrical outlets and an idea or other flash of inspiration strikes.

          https://www.ebay.com/b/AlphaSmart-Ne.../bn_7116105163
          You can also type in Fountain format and, with a USB cable, flow your writing into a text editor. Give that text file a .fountain extension and you can import it into just about any screenplay application (with the exception of Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter) and it's completely formatted. Or you can read that Fountain text file into Screenplain.com and convert it to Final Draft format online.

          http://www.screenplain.com/

          If I had the discipline to write, the Alphasmart Neo is a really good suggestion. But you used to be able to get these for about $25-$30 shipped. Still a good deal at their new prices, but it's definitely more than I'm used to. You can also find these sometimes on ShopGoodwill.com — closer to the $25 with shipping price that they used to be on eBay.

          One thing I meant to mention ... As for Chromebook vs. Alphasmart Neo, one advantage of the Chromebook is that you can produce a PDF and email it or post it directly. If you have a phone with the HotSpot feature, you could even do this during a power outage.
          STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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          • #6
            I'm glad I could help, Centos.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Centos View Post
              Yeah, but with these all you can do is write. What if you have a powerful need to waste time online or experiment with every application that is somehow distantly related to screenwriting?
              Ha! That's a knee-slapper! 😄
              "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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              • #8
                This has me intrigued. The neighborhood in San Francisco where I used to live had a high amount of theft in cafes -- I can't tell you the number of times I saw someone rush in, pull a laptop off a table and run out -- so I got in the habit of writing in notebooks in cafes (as in paper notebooks) and stopped taking my electronics with me. Always kept my cell phone in my pocket.

                But if I had a Chromebook that just had screenwriting files and nothing else on it, and it was backed up, then if it got stolen in a cafe -- big deal. Or from my car -- big deal. I like the idea of having a disposable writing machine. Hmmm.

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