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to eee or not to eee

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From a constructivist manifesto by Mayakovsky cited in Barrett Watten’s The Constructivist Moment:

What are the fundamental requirements for beginning poetic labor?


Fourth: Equipment. The business equipment and tools of the trade  Pen, pencil, typewriter, telephone, a suit for visits to the doss-house, a bicycle for riding to editorial offices, a well-arranged table.

I am trying to decide whether or not to buy an eee tomorrow. (Adam Kotsko went through the same ordeal a few days ago…)  I’ve tried out IT’s when she’s not looking, and I do like the damn thing, even though, sure, they keys are tiny and my fingers are very very long. But first of all I have an ancient (but apparently still value-retaining) gift card for an electronics store that may or may not survive the first month of the new year… I’m not sure how much is on it, but it should at least be enough to knock a fifth or a third off of the price. I want the barest-bones model they carry…. Aside from the light weight and narrow dimensions of the thing (it takes up the same amount of space, reportedly, as the hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower of Self-Denial that I carry around with me everywhere I go) it’s the open-source minimalism that makes me crave owning one. I tried to install Linux on one of my own old machines (a superlight Dell with a crapped out battery) but gave up once I realized how complicated the drivers would be to acquire and orient.  But using the eee would, I’m sure, feel like I was using a computer from the minimalist, rationalized future, like a  govt. issued intellectual sidearm stocked with freeware and political-correctness. And if it didn’t, I would make it feel so by sheer force of delusional will.

But on the other hand, the very program (Macjournal) that I’m writing this post in – and which I know use for all sorts of notetaking and record-keeping and personal journaling and blogging – obviously I won’t have on the new machine. And it won’t effortlessly sync with my other machines via (the incredibly expensive) .mac thing. I write my lectures and do my course prep and keep research notes in Circus Ponies Notebook, and I’m thinking about using Scrivener for book type projects. Not to mention iTunes, and the difficulty of marking papers the way I like to in OpenOffice.Argghh! Mac lock-in! Proprietary formats! It really is a problem, though. The deal breaker, maybe.

I’ve always, since I was a kid, been a materials and means fetishist. I suspect that many of us in this business one way or another are the same way, had the same start. The four color pens, the trapper-keeper inserts, later filofax things, pdas, and now my iPhone and potentially the eee. If this is the case, it’s actually a cheering thought – the idea that we write because we like to play with the tools, that the tools exists therefore we should use them with enthusiasm to make something good… We’re all of us constructivists from the start. Figuring out what it should mean that this is the case, aside from buying a new computer with a utopian (if locked down) operating system, is another matter but worth considering….

This isn’t a start at that consideration, but it is worth noting: at various times when I’ve considered giving up blogging, one of the leading thoughts contra is the consideration of what then my computer will be good for if it’s scaled back to simple email reception and word processing and light surfing. The Macbook would, in other, feel broken, out of work, if I didn’t blog. See? The tool forces the tool-use when the tool is owned by someone like me.

Another post entirely should be devoted to the other major purchase I am planning for my last days in the land of the free: gonna buy a pair of jeans, my first in oh several decades. Hmmmm….. It feels like such a bad idea now that I put it in html. I haven’t worn jeans in approximately, well, since I was a young boy. Another post, another post. Who knew I’d veer into a bizarre form of (self-referential) fashion blogging.

Written by adswithoutproducts

January 2, 2009 at 7:14 am

Posted in me, open, simplicity

11 Responses

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  1. I would buy the eee but not the jeans if I were you…and you know you can always write lectures/posts in open office and memory-stick them over to your poncy mac thing. It’s really quite easy! And the eee is very cheap and very Neurath-y, erm, probably.

    I would worry a little bit about whether you (well-nourished American-type) are incompatible with the size of the keyboard, though. Even I have to to keep my fingernails short for typing on the thing. But it is currently my second favourite possession. Buy it! Support your ailing economy!

    infinite thought

    January 2, 2009 at 10:18 am

  2. I wear nothing but jeans if I can help it. My parents got me some kahkis and another pair of dress pants, but until then, my primary non-jeans were a pair of greyish pants that I had gotten like seven years ago for $5 at a clearance sale. I always get compliments.

    When I was buying my new computer, I tried out the eee and didn’t like it. On the other hand, I was thinking of it for my primary computer (due to its cheapness), which was a terrible idea.

    I have a lot to say in response to this apparently: when I was in college, I flirted with a minor or second major in computer science and accordingly used Linux for six months — my sole OS, not even a dual-boot. I was using a desktop with a lot of generic hardware, so the drivers weren’t difficult, and there was something appealling about compiling a custom edition of each program tailored to my specific needs. But when I got a new laptop, I decided XP was probably good enough. I was going abroad, and did I really want to spend my semester abroad recompiling my kernel? (Instead, I spent it poring over Middle English texts.)

    Adam Kotsko

    January 2, 2009 at 4:09 pm

  3. My two cents.

    Buying a netbook makes sense–the eepc, not so much. Go with the dell mini 9 or the msi wind (nicer keyboards, not much pricier).

    Also, turn the thing into a hackintosh and run all the mac programs you want.


    January 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

  4. The eee should not be a primary computer (just as jeans should not be primary lower-half-wear). But hey, I wrote part of a Honneth review in the back of a car going across Southern India the other day on it and it was both amusing and useful to do so (until I felt carsick and had to stop, but I don’t blame the eee for that).

    I like the ‘just good enough’ thing of the eee, and that fact that you could chuck it against a brick wall and it would be fine. It also gets compliments, just like Adam’s non-jean trousers.

    infinite thought

    January 2, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  5. Being able to chuck my laptop against a brick wall is a feature I would use.

    Adam Kotsko

    January 2, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  6. Of all the varieties of displacement activity I tried whilst not writing my thesis, installing Red Hat 6 and learning LaTeX so that my unwritten thesis would, when written, be beautifully printed was far and away the most satisfying.

    I wonder if there’s a set of LaTeX packages that can be installed on an Eee. That would by quite cool.


    January 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

  7. You could get LaTeX trousers and an eee. T(eee) h(eee) h(eee).

    infinite thought

    January 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  8. Many eee models are Linux-based, meaning they presumably would have LaTeX pre-installed.

    I tried to learn LaTeX for my masters thesis but quickly gave up.

    Adam Kotsko

    January 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

  9. Ah man. So I went to fucking Best Buy and they wouldn’t let me see an eee, play around with one. The story shifted as I asked different employees: the floor model had been alternately shoplifted / hidden / dropped on the floor (too bad it hadn’t been thrown against a brick wall). I’m not going to buy it if I can’t play with it first.

    I left after saying something nice about the imminent closure of their operation. “Watch, watch – check back with me in a month.” Not nice, not nice at all.

    I did get some jeans though. Expensive ones, by my standards. Hmmm….

    I don’t think LaTeX comes with the eee. It uses a locked down version of Linux that you can’t really futz with either without risking serious disruption. From what I understand, if you were inclined to mess with it, it’d be easier to put Windows or, yes, OSX on it than to download Linux stuff. Or, I guess, your own install of Linux.

    The lockdown is appealing for some of us. It’s part of the fun of it.


    January 3, 2009 at 8:15 pm

  10. Dammit. I just drove halfway back to the store only to turn around and come home. I am so conflicted and bad at big ticket purchases. And this isn’t even a big ticket purchase, just feels like one as it’s, you know, a whole computer. Maybe I’ll buy one during my long layover in Philly tomorrow if I come across a store…


    January 4, 2009 at 2:04 am

  11. Chrissake man! If it’s going to cost you that much extra therapy you can have mine for nothing and I’ll buy a new one – seriously!

    infinite thought

    January 4, 2009 at 3:15 am

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