Zenbooks and the maintenance of quasi-literary art

I have been unable to write for the past week. It’s the loss of routine I blame, the loss of routine that changing tools has dealt me. The change hasn’t been smooth.

And perhaps this is where you’ll want to stop reading because, frankly, it’s not all that interesting, unless your thinking about buying a notebook or simply want further insight into the mind of a malingerer.

My battered old Asus Eee netbook was dying, is now past reviving. I lay no fault upon its passing. My experience was good. I had hauled it everywhere from the Parkland bush trails to the Purple River in Kokura Japan, from LA Starbucks’ to the Burger King in Onoway, and it had, every time, fired up like a Redbird match.

800px-Selectric_II So, thinking I’d stay with the brand I started looking around online for a replacement. I found a refurbished Asus Zenbook, (liked the name) and ordered it. However when the package came (all the way from New Jersey) and I, with some excitement, took it from the box and started typing I was plunged into misgiving. The touchpad, simply from the movements of my right palm, jumped crazily, seemingly with a mind of its own, clicked, highlighted, erased words; it was impossible to type. After some sleuthing I found a solution—and it wasn’t from the tech support who told me to update the drivers, since I had already done all that. A little piece of software called Touchpad Blocker saved the day.

But now that I could get down to writing a further problem broke the deal. The keyboard was finicky to the point of not registering all the keys unless you hit them dead in the centre. Not all the keys were bad…but it only takes one. I checked the net and found a number of ‘keyboard grievances’ so knew that this was not only a problem with my machine.

The thing is, I’m a sloppy typer. Self taught, 20 odd years ago while still working for the Alberta Wheat Pool in Spruce Grove (the turquoise grain elevator is now a museum, me being the last manager, although I don’t think these two things are connected). One day between grain trucks I hoped the tracks, ran across main street to a second hand store where I found an old green Selectric that hummed and vibrated on my desk, challenging me to enter its world of shock and awe.

I looked up finger placement in a typing book I no longer remember the name of, and in time I found my way around the keyboard, and experienced the magic of words, thoughts, rising from bond paper. The physicality of the whole process has stayed with me.

For me writing is all about the keyboard. The Asus Zenbook UX31E had to go.

Now I’ve never been a fan of Apple, I’ve viewed Apple as the computer equivalent of a gated community. Always liked the open invitation of Windows, even with all its faults and crazy-aunt quirks. But every once in a while I’d stop at the Apple counter in Future Shop and glide my fingers over the keyboard and tap out a phrase or two…admiring the quality of the hardware. The keyboard, with the smooth-stroke island keys and backlit board was compelling.

So, having spent several frustrating days with my Asus, and understanding the ‘swappabilty’ of OS’s these days, I checked Kijiji (out of the corner of my eye) for an Apple notebook. First up: a Macbook Air, unopened, cut-price—a young woman with an unneeded Christmas gift.

A few text messages and I was at her downtown door. She explained it was from her father, with whom she wasn’t particularly close, who would have had no idea she was already happy with what ever she had. Which now makes me the recipient of an ill-conceived gift to a daughter from an aloof Californian father. So maybe now I’m looking at this whole thing as somehow redemptive.

Anyway, I installed Windows 8 on the Macbook, a fine match, although it needs some techy-tweaking, and voila, I’m back stroking out these bits of nonsense and my ‘block’ is gone. Well, except the block I contend with daily: the one that leaves me questioning life in my own skin and the relative worth of anything I’ve ever written. You know, that one.


  1. God will have to help me if I ever have to deal with anything technical. I don’t even know how to update a driver. I am afraid the days of confusion will soon be upon me.

  2. Yes, that block, I know it well, the writing one… but everything you write has value, don’t stop, no matter how you question this. (And you’ll love your MacBook; I still say almost daily that mine was the best Christmas gift I ever received.)

  3. At work my production computer runs Windows XP. For testing purposes I have a Mac Mini running OSX Lion and another computer with separate partitions for Windows 7 and Windows 8. The Windows 7 partition has a copy of VMWare Player which currently has installations of Ubuntu Linux 10.04 and 12.04.

    Windows 8 on a MacBook? Hmmm… interesting!

  4. i wouldn’t worry if i were you. everyone in Vermont uses some kind of Mac. It’s kind of a thing with us, especially in the arts and creative world. I have been writing on some kind of Apple product since 1989, and my rule of thumb—as seems to be yours too—is to use a machine and software that doesn’t get in my way. I consider most microsoft products to be like black flies buzzing around my head while i am trying to think. my children tell me, dad, you can disable all that, but, even after i tell the machine NOT to check my spelling my grammar my facts my eecummings orthography, it still does….
    but, just to say, you don’t have to think of it as a gated community. i would never live in a gated community, and, if i felt that this apple-y one were one, i would leave it and go back to my 1940’s era Royal Non-Portable— haven’t had to do that.

    But, as a new apple user, you could now post a blog about, for example, the extreme budget cuts in, for example, the California system of higher ed, directly tied to the need for more and more money for prison capacity, directly tied to the structural violence of a society that allows a company like Apple, who have profited gloriously from all the infrastructure service that their home state provides, to set up a dummy office in tax-haven Nevada, thus avoiding, say, 500 million dollars in state income taxes, which the execs and stockholders of the world’s most successful company could easily cough back, and if they don’t, california will move to further privatize their prison system, signing, of course, pro forma qua qua qua, the letter of agreement with Corrections Corporation of America (who are the banks that are CCA’s major stockholders?) to guarantee 95% occupancy of in-state private prisons, thus encouraging draconian anti-immigration laws and de-emphasis of in-jail rehabilitation programs…. Put that in your pipe and smoke it; I mean, I do every time I boot up, but, like most of the millions of users all over the world, I love my Mac, my iPod, my iPhone, manufactured by those loving hands of my brothers and sisters, worker-dormitory bound laborers in far-off China.

    There, thank you, my friend. See, no block for me! I’ve started my writing for the day! sincerely, Peter

    Peter Gould, PhD
    Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies, Brandeis University

  5. Thanks Peter, enjoyed your response. I know a bit about the dark side of Apple, but I appreciated reading your outline of Apple’s deception and corruption and to learn of the subsequent string of consequences. I may need to post something. But yes, none of us are pristine, unsullied, all of us are fractionally culpable.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *