Final Sprint

by wjw on September 11, 2020

I feel as if I’ve been sprinting to the finish of Lord Quillifer forever.  Up till now, with every page I added, the finale seemed to have receded farther out of sight, but now I think I’ve got a handle on it.  I’ve written the last big action scene, I’ve written the last big revelation scene, and now all I’ve got is the denouement, which is a collection of short scenes and shouldn’t take long.

But I’m still in a race, this time with my three-year-old MacBook Pro.  It’s a dreadful machine, with a very annoying (and very cheap) keyboard, an enormous touchscreen that I’m always hitting by mistake, or dragging a sleeve across, which causes the cursor to leap about, and Spotlight Search, some kind of search window that’s always popping up when I don’t want it, and which I then have to take the time to make go away.  (It just popped up as I was typing this.  It’s malevolent, I tell you, malevolent.)

The butterfly switch keyboard is by now infamous, and mine has reached the stage where keys are leaping off the machine like popcorn.  I fish around, find them, then stick them back on. So far that’s working.

Despite being called “Pro,” the machine is not for serious work.  It’s for gaming, or editing cute cat videos, or posting your latest selfie to Facebook.  It’s certainly not intended for someone who has to write millions of words during the lifetime of the machine.

And yes, I know I could plug in a keyboard, but then with a second keyboard added it wouldn’t be a laptop anymore, would it?  I’d have to put the thing on a table or a desk, and quite frankly I’ve got used to working with a machine on my lap while I sit in a semi-reclined position on my easy chair.

So who will win the race?  Will I finish the book, or will my laptop fall apart before I can write “The End.”

Any bets, either way?

Michael Mock September 12, 2020 at 3:58 am

…Okay, I know you know this, but after twenty years of working in IT I apparently still cannot stop myself from saying, “Make sure you have everything backed up regularly.” Especially if you’re worried about your hardware. I’d really hate for all that work — any of that work — to disappear in a puff of smoke. And 2020 seems to be quite the year for that sort of thing…

Mark Wise September 12, 2020 at 10:26 am

Agreed that the butterfly keyboard switches are bad.

Cmd+spacebar is the shortcut for Spotlight search. You can disable it under Preferences : Keyboard

Apple Trackpads are usually quite good at ignoring random touches while you type. You do have to touch it with skin. Your shirtsleeve isn’t the culprit. Try setting the click to Firmer under Preferences : Trackpad

Finally, you do you. But…

Laptops have awful ergonomics. Long-term typing chews up your wrists and does unpleasant things to your neck and shoulders. You might be able to keep your comfy chair and get a lightweight bluetooth keyboard.

wjw September 12, 2020 at 4:15 pm

Oh, I back that file up daily. Believe me.

I set the trackpad to its firmest setting, and it doesn’t seem to stop the leaping cursor. Sometimes it will jump over a whole block of text, highlight it, and then erase it. I know damn well I didn’t press any of those keys. I can get the text back via command-Z, but it’s always a heartstopping moment when your last couple hours’ work just vanishes right in front of your eyes.

I had tried to find out how to turn off Spotlight Search, but couldn’t locate the information. Thanks for letting me know.

For me, the easy chair is much better ergonomics than a desk chair. I have a rest that tilts the computer toward me, so I don’t have to type on a flat horizontal surface, and the screen is closer to my face.

Mark Wise September 13, 2020 at 12:14 pm

WJW — You’re a long-time pro who knows his toolset, so thanks for your patience with my ‘splaining.

Based on that trackpad setting info, the jumping cursor is almost certainly due to stuck keys — spacebar, Command, Alt, shift, arrows, etc. — not the trackpad.

So, a stopgap fix would be a bluetooth keyboard. You know the longterm fix: s/l/a/p//A/p/p/l/e/ get a new laptop. The latest Pros have much better keyboards. But even Tim Cook would understand if you shopped elsewhere.

Etaoin Shrdlu September 13, 2020 at 7:56 pm

Not “Count Zero Quillifer”? 🙁 I was looking forward to a scene where Rastafarian AIs wirejack Phrenzy and blast Wenlock’s knights with CGI lightning.

Etaoin Shrdlu September 13, 2020 at 8:08 pm

BTW, if you decide you don’t mind changing operating systems, Asus laptops are pretty good. Use Linux off a bootable flash drive if you don’t want to deal with Microsoft; that way you can switch back and forth if/when necessary. You might even be able to get one working as a Hackintosh, doubt it but I haven’t really followed the developments in that stuff.

Oh, and I hope you keep at least one of your recent backups offsite, preferably in some other region or even country. “The Cloud” can be nice for that, but of course then you have to trust that they don’t leak your next bestseller.

Is this the end of Quillifer? Six books or three?

wjw September 14, 2020 at 11:10 pm

The third book will mark the end of the current contract, but I plan to write six books in all.

I have a bluetooth keyboard that I will deploy if the keyboard totally craps out. At present, it stands at “annoying,” but if it goes to “rage-inducing” I’ll get out the portable keyboard.

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