Pixel Me Perfect

For most of July, I used a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display and iPhone 5, abandoning Chromebook Pixel and HTC One during the last few days of June. I’m moving away from writing principally for the web to ebooks, following the advice authors Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch give in APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How To Publish a Book. I chose these tools based on recommendations they, and other writers, made. Also, my Apple boycott ended in January. I’m not anti-Apple.

There are many things I like about MacBook Pro, which screen resolution is comparably high to Chromebook Pixel: Audio fidelity of streamed music is punchier, my Sony MDR-1RBT Bluetooth headphones work, battery life is longer and Chrome tabs don’t idle and force refresh (the 8MB memory makes a difference). There is the promise of better digital content manipulation, like photos or properly formatting ebooks for submission to major ebook stores.

But I don’t find writing to be any better, even though the tools are supposed to be. I tried Scrivener, which is over-complicated. My mind works such that I can keep track of what I need to without learning such an application. Microsoft Word is the defacto standard for publishing, but the program and I are long-parted ways. Strangely, I find Google Docs using Pixel’s terrific keyboard to be fantastically smooth, something not understood until the switch. My writing collapsed while I navigated this strange world of tools, familiar to so many others.

Then there is iPhone 5, which I now see as metaphor for much of what’s wrong with Apple. The smaller screen and overall size appeals to me, and there are many benefits to a unified platform, such as synced photos and other content, while many features are just right for storytellers. For example, the built-in audio recorder captures voice magnanimously and plugging iPhone into the Mac automatically transfers recordings to iTunes. My San Diego Comic-Con interviews all sound studio quality, and they’re easy to process.

But iPhone 5 is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My daughter constantly complains about cell reception on T-Mobile. I didn’t understand; HTC calls are clear. Then I got Apple’s device, and everything changed. What the hell is wrong with the antennas in this thing? Call after call is garbled, in my neighborhood. Then other shortcomings—really ways where Apple falls behind competitors—emerged. Little things, like the benefit of WiFi calling on HTC One, which T-Mobile can’t offer on Apple’s locked-down device. As a storyteller collecting ideas, Android apps like Evernote or Google Keep can take voice memos, and phones respond beautifully to voice commands, benefits missing on iOS.

My motto for 2013 is “Change the rules”. After struggling a month on Apple’s platform, I said “Frack it! I’ll do what works best for me rather than take the advice of others”. On July 26, I contacted T-Mobile and found that four days remained in my 30-day return period; iPhone 5 and I could part ways for $50 restocking fee. I debated going back to using HTC One or going with Sony Xperia Z, both available from T-Mobile. One won. I also considered buying HTC One Google Play or Developer editions, but neither supports AWS, which means no HSPA+ on T-Mobile. There’s LTE in San Diego, but not everywhere. I chose broader band connectivity over receiving faster Android updates. Besides, I like BlinkFeed and One’s camera app/features. I couldn’t wait for the Moto X, which launches August 1, because the iPhone 5 return period ends a day earlier.

MacBook Pro is another matter. My iPhone 5 problems are feature fundamental, like the inability to use the phone as one. By contrast, the Apple is a delightful laptop, on which I could easily use Google Docs and get some of the other aforementioned benefits. Turns out that my daughter’s aluminum MacBook, vintage before Pro naming, is wheezing; I bought the computer in October 2008. She needs something newer for her second year of college.

My wife and I discussed options within our budget. The obvious starting point: Give my daughter the MacBook Pro for Sophomore year. But what would I use? My wife inherited the first Pixel and offered to give it up. But she loves the laptop and uses the touchscreen way more than I ever did. I couldn’t let her go from the beautiful resolution experience to a lowlier Chromebook. I already missed out; in May, Google gave out Pixels at I/O, but because of a family emergency I couldn’t attend last minute. Could I buy one perhaps, rather than spending $1,299 or $1,499 on a new Pixel?

On Sunday (July 28), I bid in eBay auctions, losing every one, after finding nothing on Craigslist locally. Late-afternoon, I considered Craigslist listings in Orange County. One, from July 19, caught my attention. I contacted the seller. Did he still have the Pixel. Yes. What is the condition. New, unused. He asked $950, and I was willing to pay. We agreed to meet at The Shops at Mission Viejo, a 69-mile drive. I had been to the mall once, Black Friday 2009 to shoot photos of the recently-opened Microsoft Store. We both arrived early, chatted and separated. I’m grateful for his taking the time to drive 30 minutes and offering the Pixel at all. I arrived home around 12:15 pm PDT and set up the Pixel. You know, by logging into my Google account. That’s it!

I write this post on the family’s second Chromebook Pixel, and I feel inspired writing again already. I’m convinced that Google Docs, other cloud apps and Chromebook can meet my ebook writing needs. If not, matters couldn’t be much worse. So far, the process is even more difficult than expected. I had hoped to crank out mini-books, using Amazon Kindle Singles. But the response time is slow (up to four weeks), and I have one rejection and a no-response to my credit. Oh my.

My plan now is to completely self-publish through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (to start), even though my first writings will be shorter essays—10,000 words or less—length more appropriate for Singles. Hey, I’m new at this thing. APE offers great advice, good starting point for the self-publisher, but the first baby steps are proving to be more giant leaps for me. At least, I’ve got comfortable tools again.

Note: I might normally publish this kind of post at BetaNews. However, I plan to chronicle the new writing endeavor on my personal site, so chose here instead.