Quite the dramatic lead-in, I know. It’s been one week since I finally bit the bullet and ordered a Pixel Qi trans-reflective screen from Makershed and just over one whole work day since I installed it. And what a difference a day makes. Here I sit, typing a blog post and fixing bugs, not 20 feet from the ocean. At 11am. In Los Angeles. The sun is shining brightly overhead, and I’m actually getting work done on my laptop. It’s fantastic. For those of you who haven’t heard of the Pixel Qi screen, it’s from the folks at Pixel Qi, a spinoff from the OLPC project. You can order the screen right now for 250$ on sale from Makershed and I have to say it is quite worth it, at least if you’d like to get some work done in the sun. If you’re smart about it, you can actually get yourself set up with a Pixel Qi enabled netbook relatively cheaply, as I did.
As most of you have probably surmised by now, I’m on a tight budget. Startups cost money, as do the latest gadgets and being self employed makes juggling the desire for both a tricky situation. Read my book for more on that ;). Anyway, I had heard great things about the samsung N2X0 line of laptops. 12+ hour battery life after installation and a hyperthreaded N450 cpu should be enough to carry me through an entire work day without frustration. The nice thing about buying a netbook with no interested in the screen is that you can shop in the broken section of eBay and craigslist. I picked up a Samsung N210 laptop with a broken screen a cracked bezel for 100$ off LA craigslist. The Pixel Qi LCD installation was a breeze. For 350$ total outlay, I’ve got a netbook with the screen of a kindle. Screen refreshes are lightning fast, and Ubuntu/Debian work out of the box.
And would you look at that view! The Pixel Qi screen allows you to use your laptop places you just sinply couldn’t before. While this may not be an issue in some places, here where I live coffee shops and Wifi hotspots get crowded with a capital crowd. However, there are always seats available outside, in the sun, where you can’t see anything. Sitting outside the coffee shop, sipping mocha and browsing the internet, a simple pleasure. This alone may be worth the cost of entry for some, but I had loftier ambitions when I set out to build my kindlebook. (seriously we need some better words to describe these things).
The Perfect Spot
So I grabbed my new epaperbook and hopped on my motorcycle and headed north up the California coast. The PCH is beautiful in the spring and the beaches are not too crowded. Heading north past Malibu, people and coffee shops begin to thin out and parking becomes plentiful. Unrolling my hammock, I walked down through a flock of bustling gulls to the beach and began to write. First on the menu, some code work.
Firing up my default Notion programming desktop (from the previous articles) I started combing through an off-line copy of the TRAC database for one of our beta products looking for a good bug to fix. After finding one I figured I could knock out before my 2hr free parking window was up, I alt-#’d over to my geany workspace and began to get down to business. While the coding was fine, I did notice a bit of eyestrain from all the sunlight. I realized that I had not tried to use the Pixel Qi screen while wearing sunglasses. Throwing on my HD Vision glasses (seriously, those 9.99 glasses from CVS are excellent) resolved any issues. The screen was still crystal clear, as ever.
After finishing up the bug and commiting the fix to my local git repository (If you’re not using commit hooks to close TRAC tickets you are missing out), I started writing this very article. It’s remarkably easy to get into the flow of writing when you’re surrounded by the awesome spectacle of nature, and I managed to write up today’s experience with the Pixel Qi before my parking expired.
Where do we go from here?
Programming and writing with the Pixel Qi screen has been a delight thus far. It absolutely sips electricity, and my battery will easily last through an eight hour coding/debugging cycle without recharging. It’s got me thinking about all of the other sunny places I’d love to do work, and may post up some of the fun places I go. From debugging on top of a mountain, coding in the desert, to programming on my roof; the sky’s the limit. A terrific implementation and a truly groundbreaking device.