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G.M.D.
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Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:46 pm

Hi!

I'm thinking about buying Rpi3 to use it as my writing machine, because it's cheap, small, silent and energy efficient. I love Debian and minimalism, so Raspbian is great for me (especially with PIXEL), but I don't know if it's enough. Would it be enough to run Chromium with 3 tabs open (i guess), Libre Writer, some other notepad and maybe some music player in the background?

Maybe some of you had similiar idea; how it turned out to be? Does it do its job, when it comes to big text files?

W. H. Heydt
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 12:32 am

Being married to a writer who has written entire novels using far, far less hardware than a Pi, yes a Pi3B would be up to the task. I will make the following suggestion though (besides the traditional back up early and often). Since SD cards are somewhat "fragile" in heavy use, add at least a USB stick to hold your precious words. You could go so far as to use an attached HDD (such as the very nice WD PiDrive) or SSD, and--with a Pi3B--even boot from such a drive.

I would recommend using Raspbian for the OS because it is well supported and maintained AND it comes standard with LibreOffice, which has all the features you'll need for writing.

You should be able to run Chromium with a few tabs, plus a music player, plus LibreOffice concurrently.

Perhaps I should note that the earliest professional (as compared to fanfic) writing my wife did was on a PDP-11/70 running bsd 2.9 unix, using vi and nroff. It really doesn't take a lot of hardware to support a writer.

castletonroad
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:01 am

Buy a USB stick, plug it in, it will automatically be detected. You can use that as a storage device (or as a back up for your storage).

On a weekly basis, my Pi backs up my documents onto a USB drive. (You could set this task to be daily).

In addition (mainly because I tinker with my Pi), on a weekly basis, I back up the SD card image, that way, if the card does become corrupted (generally by not powering off correctly), I have a recent 'ready-to-go' operating system.

If you have a TV, HDMI cable, keyboard and mouse, then all you need is a Pi (35GBP), SD Card (5GBP) and 2Amp power supply ((10GBP).

Good to go!
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B | Raspberry Pi 3 Model B | Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

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DavidS
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:15 am

G.M.D. wrote:Hi!

I'm thinking about buying Rpi3 to use it as my writing machine, because it's cheap, small, silent and energy efficient. I love Debian and minimalism, so Raspbian is great for me (especially with PIXEL), but I don't know if it's enough. Would it be enough to run Chromium with 3 tabs open (i guess), Libre Writer, some other notepad and maybe some music player in the background?

Maybe some of you had similiar idea; how it turned out to be? Does it do its job, when it comes to big text files?
It will do the job, many times over. Why do you need an office suite for text files, that should be for formated files (wordprocessor files).

Though the Raspberry Pi 3B will do what you want with a good bit of power left over.
RPi = The best ARM based RISC OS computer around
More than 95% of posts made from RISC OS on RPi 1B/1B+ computers. Most of the rest from RISC OS on RPi 2B/3B/3B+ computers

ejolson
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:36 am

W. H. Heydt wrote:Perhaps I should note that the earliest professional (as compared to fanfic) writing my wife did was on a PDP-11/70 running bsd 2.9 unix, using vi and nroff.
Your point on backups is very important. It's also interesting to note how it is still possible to edit and reformat manuscripts prepared with nroff using Raspberry Pi computers, whereas if she had used the Wang 2200 WSC/30 Word Processing System, maybe not so much. My opinion is that LibreOffice was designed more for writing office memos than books. Maybe vim and LaTeX would be a reasonable choice for writing a book on the Pi.

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CarlRJ
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:28 am

ejolson wrote:
W. H. Heydt wrote:Perhaps I should note that the earliest professional (as compared to fanfic) writing my wife did was on a PDP-11/70 running bsd 2.9 unix, using vi and nroff.
Your point on backups is very important. It's also interesting to note how it is still possible to edit and reformat manuscripts prepared with nroff using Raspberry Pi computers, ... Maybe vim and LaTeX would be a reasonable choice for writing a book on the Pi.
You could even start off with Vim and write in Markdown format, then use Pandoc to generate output in any desired format (docx or whatever). And nroff was the good old days (on green screen terminals). I still miss the beautiful simplicity of tagged paragraphs.

All my Pi's just have local microSD cards for storage, but every night they tar up selected portions of /home/pi and /etc and send the timestamped file off to my NAS.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:38 am

ejolson wrote:
W. H. Heydt wrote:Perhaps I should note that the earliest professional (as compared to fanfic) writing my wife did was on a PDP-11/70 running bsd 2.9 unix, using vi and nroff.
Your point on backups is very important. It's also interesting to note how it is still possible to edit and reformat manuscripts prepared with nroff using Raspberry Pi computers, whereas if she had used the Wang 2200 WSC/30 Word Processing System, maybe not so much. My opinion is that LibreOffice was designed more for writing office memos than books. Maybe vim and LaTeX would be a reasonable choice for writing a book on the Pi.
When "word processors" started to become common, it was noted that individual writing styles appeared to follow patterns determined by whether a full WP or an editor with embedded formatting commands was used to write. WP users tended to write longer, more complex sentences where using an editor while embedding formatting tended to use relatively short, tight phrases. Much like the style differences between Faulkner and Hemingway.

It is perfectly possible to write using almost any sort of tool, from the pencil onwards. The real advantage to using a computer (and it needn't be much of a computer) is the ability to store the material, retrieve it and edit it without fully retyping it. Hence professional authors leaping upon computers with great cries of glee. There are exceptions, of course. Well into the 1950s (when--according to the received wisdom--*all* manuscripts were actually typescripts), Lord Dunsany was submitting manuscripts written with a quill pen on foolscap paper...and getting them purchased and published. For mere mortals, the computer is the way to go.

It really comes down to what the individual writer is comfortable with. My wife has used (at various times), vi and nroff, a TRS-80 Model 100, Word for Windows 2.0, and now LibreOffice. Since she still regularly posts on usenet, she can still touch type vi commands, and she could probably do enough nroff commands to get the basic formatting of a manuscript in place until we could find or reconstruct a proper set of header macros. For fiction, at least, one doesn't really need much formatting...paragraphs and underlining (to indicate italic) are about it if you use a separate file for each chapter. Footnotes--rare in fiction--are easily done in nroff. Your header information is a running head with title, author and page number. *Occasionally* something more complex is needed. She has one book which required three distinguishable fonts and their italic versions, and that had to be indicated in the manuscript. That sort of thing (at least in fiction) is pretty rare.

The only *hardware* complexity required for the OP is wanting to stream music in the background and having an open browser with a few tabs. If one dropped the latter requirements, a Pi Zero, Model A+, or Model B+ has enough raw compute power to do the job.

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 4:24 am

Why not just have the files autosave every few mins and backup to Google Drive/One Drive etc.
Even use Google Docs so it's pretty much always saved with extra old version up there, possibly see if the add-ins work (like speach to text etc)

zqo17
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:14 am

bensimmo wrote:Why not just have the files autosave every few mins and backup to Google Drive/One Drive etc.
Even use Google Docs so it's pretty much always saved with extra old version up there, possibly see if the add-ins work (like speach to text etc)
I was about to suggest Dropbox. If you don't have concerns about privacy, you can use online backup tools like Dropbox.

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:31 am

What privacy concerns would they be for the 3 mentioned online storage.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:33 am

I've written a lot on libre using a Pi, and found it to be perfectly good as a statically based environment. It doesn't travel so well, unless you go to the expense of a Pi-Top or similar.

But for minimalist writing I'm now using a Chromebook as my best solution. It's cheap, with a hdmi display, long battery life, lightweight, good keyboard, backs up to the cloud and highly portable so I can take it anywhere and work. In theory there is a concern about privacy, but in practice a 2FA protected google account is not worse than many other methods.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:25 am

Because pandoc was mentioned, I want to note that there is an EMACS extension called pandoc-mode with which you can real-time render pandoc markdown.

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G.M.D.
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 3:09 pm

Wow! Thanks for all the answers! :D

I already have USB drive to backup my things and transfer them between devices with ease, so that won't be a problem.
Using Libre Writer is my old habit, but I'll try other tools, too. It's time for some changes, after all.
I thought this idea wasn't good, but I guess I was wrong. I'm pretty excited.

I accidentally clicked Ctrl + Q and closed the browser. I should have used notepad, as always for long replies :/ So, this time, it's short.

ejolson
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 4:45 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote: When "word processors" started to become common, it was noted that individual writing styles appeared to follow patterns determined by whether a full WP or an editor with embedded formatting commands was used to write. WP users tended to write longer, more complex sentences where using an editor while embedding formatting tended to use relatively short, tight phrases. Much like the style differences between Faulkner and Hemingway.
Do you have a reference for this?

I too remember reading an article, maybe the same one, on the quality of students writing when using a WYSIWYG word processor. In that article the writing done with the word processor was was observed to be generally of poorer quality--simplistic sentences, poorer organization and shallower thought. The teacher's analysis of the situation was that the rough draft looks so nice on the screen that the students turn it in as the final work. Again this was research published when students first started using word processors.

While writers may have adapted to the novelty of the rough draft being typeset by now, I've got a different thought why WYSIWYG may lead to poorer writing. Most documents are made of paragraphs that are made of sentences that are made of phrases and clauses. When writing using a text formatting system, it is possible and advisable to put each sentence on a separate line broken at logical clauses and phrases. In this way the author is viewing the logical structure of each sentence when editing. In WYSIWYG one views the formatted output based on settings of the font and paper size. In particular, the beginning and end of each sentence changes position after every edit.

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CarlRJ
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:19 pm

ejolson wrote:I too remember reading an article, maybe the same one, on the quality of students writing when using a WYSIWYG word processor. In that article the writing done with the word processor was was observed to be generally of poorer quality--simplistic sentences, poorer organization and shallower thought. The teacher's analysis of the situation was that the rough draft looks so nice on the screen that the students turn it in as the final work. Again this was research published when students first started using word processors.
I recall a quote from the early days of word processing (long before GUIs), to the effect of, "the advent of modern word processing has made it possible to full-justify thoughts, ideas, and theories that previously could not have been justified in any other way."
ejolson wrote:I've got a different thought why WYSIWYG may lead to poorer writing. Most documents are made of paragraphs that are made of sentences that are made of phrases and clauses. When writing using a text formatting system, it is possible and advisable to put each sentence on a separate line broken at logical clauses and phrases. In this way the author is viewing the logical structure of each sentence when editing. In WYSIWYG one views the formatted output based on settings of the font and paper size. In particular, the beginning and end of each sentence changes position after every edit.
Very much this. Text of any real length, for me, always starts in vi (MacVim, these days), and frequently with sentences broken out on separate lines. It makes it easier to rearrange text (umpity years of finger memory), but it also makes it easier to see what you're actually saying, vs. how the page flows. Once the words say the right things, and the sentences flow properly, then the text gets copied into HTML, Word (yuck) or other formats, if need be. Funny, though, back in the days of entirely ASCII email and posts, on 80-character terminals, I wasn't the only one who was known to make minor last-minute changes in word choice in order to beautify the ragged right edge of monospaced paragraphs.

(It still bugs me that modern Linux systems, Raspbian included, elect to show man pages with full right-and-left edge justification in text-based terminals. Man pages should first and foremost be accurate and readable. What idiot came along and thought, "hey, I've got an idea, let's make this vital information harder to read, so it's prettier when you lean back and squint!"? Filling, in nroff/troff was intended for when you sent the text to a typesetter, never for terminal display.)

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:57 pm

When you are looking at justification, you are not writing, you are styling. Write first. Edit second. Style third.

For writing, the keyboard, screen, and latte mug are the most important hardware. The computing bit hanging off the back of the keyboard could be a Pi Zero running off some AA batteries. A decent brand of microSD card is reliable. The Pi 3 is just more convenient because it contains USB and Wifi connections.

An ultrabook has the screen, battery, everything, built in and some brands have decent keyboards, giving you a better choice for writing at the beach. When a Pi has a case with a decent splash proof keyboard and screen, I will replace my notebook. Back on the desktop, the Pi 3 is a good choice.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:20 pm

My most important "hardware" is the keyboard, screen and Silent Hill 2 soundtrack :lol:

Thanks again :D Still got plenty of time to think, but I'm pretty convinced.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:34 pm

G.M.D. wrote:My most important "hardware" is the keyboard, screen and Silent Hill 2 soundtrack :lol:

Thanks again :D Still got plenty of time to think, but I'm pretty convinced.
When it comes to keyboard--and personally choice of keyboard is, I think, more important than the choice of computer--the preference of my wife and my self are the Unicomp keyboards. Unicomp licensed the keyswitch tech from IBM, as used for the keyboard that came with the original IBM PC, where IBM was trying to replicate the "touch" of a Selectric typewriter and came remarkably close.

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G.M.D.
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:45 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:When it comes to keyboard--and personally choice of keyboard is, I think, more important than the choice of computer--the preference of my wife and my self are the Unicomp keyboards. Unicomp licensed the keyswitch tech from IBM, as used for the keyboard that came with the original IBM PC, where IBM was trying to replicate the "touch" of a Selectric typewriter and came remarkably close.
That's probably the biggest reason why I want to keep desktop PC. Smaller one is a bigger screen. I use ThinkPad X220 which is a great laptop with pretty good keyboard, but I prefer to have more freedom with which keyboard I can use.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:02 pm

ejolson wrote:
W. H. Heydt wrote: When "word processors" started to become common, it was noted that individual writing styles appeared to follow patterns determined by whether a full WP or an editor with embedded formatting commands was used to write. WP users tended to write longer, more complex sentences where using an editor while embedding formatting tended to use relatively short, tight phrases. Much like the style differences between Faulkner and Hemingway.
Do you have a reference for this?

I too remember reading an article, maybe the same one, on the quality of students writing when using a WYSIWYG word processor. In that article the writing done with the word processor was was observed to be generally of poorer quality--simplistic sentences, poorer organization and shallower thought. The teacher's analysis of the situation was that the rough draft looks so nice on the screen that the students turn it in as the final work. Again this was research published when students first started using word processors.

While writers may have adapted to the novelty of the rough draft being typeset by now, I've got a different thought why WYSIWYG may lead to poorer writing. Most documents are made of paragraphs that are made of sentences that are made of phrases and clauses. When writing using a text formatting system, it is possible and advisable to put each sentence on a separate line broken at logical clauses and phrases. In this way the author is viewing the logical structure of each sentence when editing. In WYSIWYG one views the formatted output based on settings of the font and paper size. In particular, the beginning and end of each sentence changes position after every edit.
Actually...the "received wisdom" for working with vi and nroff/troff was to type in phrases, not whole sentences, on a given line. This can be seen in the tutorial "UNIX Text Formatting Using the -ms Macros" found here: https://www.hactrn.net/ietf/rfcgen/textms.html And before anybody asks, the "Dorothy Heydt" mentioned in the credits is my wife.

What happens with WYSIWYG appears to be that people just run off at the keyboard, since--short of a paragraph break, one never needs a carriage return at all.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 9:46 pm

I used to work with generically coded translations running to about 5MB. Early drafts were printed double spaced in a standard format for amendment and correction. Final output was to the typesetting spec for the publication. A colleague noticed that by providing successive drafts in different formats the translators and reviewers would find more of the errors than if he used a consistent format.
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ejolson
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 10:11 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:This can be seen in the tutorial "UNIX Text Formatting Using the -ms Macros" found here: https://www.hactrn.net/ietf/rfcgen/textms.html
Thanks for the link. I particularly enjoyed the instructions on how to produce output suitable for a daisy wheel printer. It's strange how clearly one can remember the sound such a device makes without having thought about it for years.

It's a shame the Pi doesn't produce a recognizable sound as it's computing. Maybe the next version of PIXEL will have a copyright-encumbered audio plugin for the cpu monitor that sounds like a Harley motorcycle to go with the wallpaper.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:00 pm

G.M.D. wrote:My most important "hardware" is the keyboard, screen and Silent Hill 2 soundtrack :lol:

Thanks again :D Still got plenty of time to think, but I'm pretty convinced.
I'm getting a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blues (a Rosewill 9000V2) and I'm very excited. Haven't tried it out because I haven't gotten it yet, but I've tried others and I'm super excited.
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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Mon Oct 24, 2016 1:35 am

G.M.D. wrote:
W. H. Heydt wrote:When it comes to keyboard--and personally choice of keyboard is, I think, more important than the choice of computer--the preference of my wife and my self are the Unicomp keyboards. Unicomp licensed the keyswitch tech from IBM, as used for the keyboard that came with the original IBM PC, where IBM was trying to replicate the "touch" of a Selectric typewriter and came remarkably close.
That's probably the biggest reason why I want to keep desktop PC. Smaller one is a bigger screen. I use ThinkPad X220 which is a great laptop with pretty good keyboard, but I prefer to have more freedom with which keyboard I can use.
While I don't do it directly (there's a KVM switch involved), I do use a Unicomp keyboard with a Pi. I also use a 27" Viewsonic VA2702w monitor as well. So there's no reason why one can't have a good keyboard, mouse (Logitech Marble Mouse trackball, here), and a top notch monitor and still use a Pi. Indeed, the Pi very nearly becomes least expensive component, while the overall "system" cost remains pretty low.

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Re: Raspberry pi3 as PC for writing - is it enough?

Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:11 am

Does anyone still use word processors?

No, seriously. I have not seen anyone using Word or whatever for ages.

We have come full circle. Back in the day we had WordStar. Basically plain text typed into a a CP/M machine with some formatting codes thrown in to tell it how to print the thing. And a little magic word wrapping going on.

Of course before that was RUNOFF, nroff and such.

This idea of text with formatting commands included continued until WordPerfect, the last usable word processor, but was killed of by Word where all contact with the underlying format was lost.

Confusion reigned as people fought in vain to get their documents to come out right. More importantly companies with masses of documents found they could not read their old docs in new versions of Word.

And so, full circle, to the present day. Most of what I write goes into the WEB. Much of it is written using mark down. Which is, guess what, plain text with formatting commands included.

The only difference is that now we use Unicode rather than ASCII. That has an ocean of problems we won't go into here.
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