Freewrite Traveler eink smart typewriter open for preorder at indiegogo $329

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Mi An, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Not to be outdone by Hook, I bought myself a Thinkpad tablet folio keyboard from a 2012 thinkpad android tablet on ebay. The selling point for me is thinkpad + usb interface in a fairly contained package. As a bonus, it's a rare thinkpad keyboard with optical trackpoint, which no one else seems to like but I love. I plan to use some sugru to mount something inside of it for eventual outdoor typing for my own less restrictive, if also less cool, eink word processor. The lack of a good hinge is the biggest downside to me, but it was only $20.

    As to what eink device would go inside of it, I'll probably be looking for a bargain as much as anything. It's not something I plan to use all the time, just computing in sunshine. Last year I remember seeing a yotaphone 2 go on sale for about $120, I drooled for a moment remembering when it first come out 4 or 5 years earlier at $900 msrp, but couldn't think of a use for the aging hardware and passed. Oh how I wish I hadn't. That price is practically the cost of the tiny eink display, and android ereaders with crappier chipsets (albeit, with bigger, newer screens as well) sell for far more. Not a great phone, but would be a pretty decent word processor and would probably even get better battery life than all but the most massive of ereaders I've looked at.

    My old onyx boox afterglow 2 had horrendous battery life owing to the manufacturer's incompetence, used as much juice idling as it did in active use. I bet the phone would idle better. In any case, options range from about $200 to $800 (the onyx boox max 2 is pretty cool, 13" android tablet but can also function as a display via hdmi for anything, including windows), but none are quite a match for me, so I'm just keeping my eyes open. Raspberry pi, phones, anything is possible.

    All told, I now have 5 thinkpad keyboards. 3 attachments for my helix 2 (2 pro keyboards with extra battery+hinge+trackpoint, 1 normal w/o those but with a stylus silo), a thinkpad tablet 2 bluetooth board that I used with my little dell venue 8 pro and first introduced me to the optical trackpoint, and now this thinkpad tablet folio. I prefer to think of myself as a perfectly sane collector, though a psychiatrist might have another perspective. Good thing I can't afford a psychiatrist! :newpalm:
     
  2. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    I love thinkpad keyboards and use the BT one with my Samsung tablet, though again, I wish it would attach as securely as the keyboard cover I have for it. I too love the optical trackpoint. Looking forward to what you end up putting together. :newpalm:
     
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  3. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Got my thinkpad folio today. It was sold as used, but mostly has shelf wear, no apparent wear from use. Actual keyboard feels perfect, same experience as... my other 4 nearly identical thinkpad keyboards. :vboops: The folio has three angles it can lean a display at, attaching magnetically to three slots at the base, which is kind of a nice touch. It's not a hinge, but it beats a lot of the generic keyboard folios I've looked at on amazon/ebay.

    I might someday attempt to jailbreak my old kindle 4. Someone actually wrote a vnc viewer for kindle so it could be used as an external display. But what I've read so far, well, it all seems a bit complicated, and even if I can get through the right instructions for my kindle, I wonder if it would even work peer-to-peer (phone to kindle) without an intermediate router between them. If I set my phone up as a hotspot while at the park and connected the kindle to it, would it be able to see the vnc server (of which there are precious few for android, some with reviews claiming they used to work, but no longer do on new versions of android) on my phone?

    Before discovering the vnc viewer I imagined utilizing something called kindleberry pi, a raspberry pi connected to a jailbroken kindle and my phone and the keyboard and a battery pack to power the pi. A glorious mess of cables the likes of which would make a plate of spaghetti say, "whoa, that's kind of a mess." Frankenfreewrite, I dubbed this concept. While trying to imagine what it would all look like, I increasingly pictured something that looked like it was assimilated by the borg. The kindle vnc viewer would greatly simplify things if it could actually work, though I'm not super optimistic. Probably too good to be true. Would bring my costs down to the $20 keyboard and a $5 cable.

    In use, I had my dell venue pro fall forward a number of times and clatter against my hands or the keys. Eventually I used some velcro tape to sorta temporarily fasten it in position to prevent falls. It was not an elegant solution, but it held me over until I could get some more integrated. On the move, having separate pieces to hold together presented challenges as well. Love my thinkpad helix 2. And I can definitely appreciate how the freewrite traveler would be a nice super portable handy thing to grab and go anywhere.
     
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  4. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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  5. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    One surprising thing they already got wrong on the Traveler: There is no front or back light on the screen. The Freewrite has a front light on the screen. Why would you create an alleged "Write Anywhere" device with an eInk screen that has no illumination for low light. They have had push back on that, but as with arrow keys on the Freewrite (The Traveler does have software enabled arrow keys), once they decide something, no amount of feedback sways them. The mantra is (they always have a mantra for features they don't want to include): "the device was not designed with a front light in mind, and adding a front light would also add costs that were not incorporated into the cost of the Traveler."

    Really? You are expecting to retail this device at $599 (after the crowd funding) and you can't include a friggin' light on the eInk screen?

    Actually, I suspect the $599 price was calculated to hedge against possible rising costs due to tariffs. Would not surprise me if the final price ends up being lower (they will probably claim you are getting a discount).

    Still, the thing that bothers me most is their Postbox layer. You have to go through their servers, to get to other cloud services or to actually get to the settings for the software. What are they going to try to sell me later in order to use my typewriter I bought from them? Why else would they invest in a server farm and force people to have an account. In truth it's less than a Chromebook's dependence on Google, but it just seems weird for a manufacturer to do it. And if they go out of business?

    I think I've decided that, although the execution will be less than perfect, I can't pass up the concept at $299, but the "Cancel Contribution" button will be there 14 more days (When the crowd funding phase ends, you can no longer get refunds through IGG).
     
  6. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    I have to confess my finger is moving ever closer to the cancellation button. To a small degree, it is annoyance with Astrohaus' and their more kool-aid drinking fan base of spinning technical trade-offs into supposed benefits for writers (along with this attitude of we know best how your work flow should be). Annoying people tend to beget annoying children. :vbwink: Let's face it, they selected an eink screen because it has low energy consumption (better battery life) and is visible in sunlight, not because the delay in letters appearing as you type discourages looking at the screen and editing. And likely they did not include illumination for that screen on the Traveler because it will have an even smaller battery, not to, again, keep you from reviewing the screen in a dimly lit room.

    But I'm also being pushed by this discussion by a couple of owners of Freewrites on the Alphasmart forum. One, a novelist published in the UK, really really wanted to love this machine. His experience echos most of my fears about how Astrohaus runs their business.

    https://www.flickr.com/groups/alphasmart/discuss/72157696826746560/

    Particularly this post:

    https://www.flickr.com/groups/alphasmart/discuss/72157696826746560/72157702602695544

    The physical design of this machine is almost perfect and makes it so seductive to hope they are going to get this one right, but I really don't trust them. In part because they are not willing to give me a machine that is free of their cloud service (though with sacrifices, it can be used that way) which seems to be badly managed and which depends on their staying in business. Ultimately, my Neo 2 stacks up better and better against what they are offering (and if I didn't have 2 already, can be had for about $25-$30 off ebay) except that it isn't a clamshell.

    8 more days...
     
  7. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Whoa. I wouldn't have even imagined crashes and instability. It does so little to begin with. It is new, but still, it's not their first gen product and with so little to control...

    I also have some doubts about whether that input lag is a necessary byproduct of using eink. Maybe. But I kind of think that's an implementation issue and might even be related to the other hardware. My transformer infinity had input lag, it was maddening. Someone believed it was related the RAM, which varied in quality from tab to tab, so not everyone has the same problem. But lots of eink devices have super under-powered everything, because after all, it can't do much, right? So it doesn't need much power, throw anything under the hood. But often the bottleneck is upstream of the screen. Given yours and other descriptions of this company, eink isn't my first suspect.

    This is one reason I'm leaning towards waiting around for a fire sale on the yotaphone 3, which has familiar snapdragon 625 guts and which I've even seen play video, even though they weirdly backtracked on not officially supporting mirroring to eink (but the ability to mirror is still there, just buried a little). I look at a lot of the eink tablets and worry they might be as poorly built as my afterglow 2 was. I was glad to have that, but my expectations were low. When I do put together an eink typewriter, I'd like the guts to work well. Waiting for a good price there also gives me a chance to see what dasung does with pricing on their not-ereader: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/not-ereader-an-e-ink-mobile-phone-monitor/coming_soon/x/7411233

    I don't envy you your choice. I really like hinges like the traveler has for a tight package and really loathe kickstandy-type stuff, like my folio. But this area pretty much demands tradeoffs. Gotta sacrifice something somewhere.
     
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  8. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    I suspect you are right about the eInk lag. In general, I just don't think they are really great at software development. And again, this Postbox thing they push on you. If they would just give me a writing device that lets me type, save files and pass files to my computer, I'd be thrilled even if the software is a little buggy. How hard is that? However, they insist to have full functionality, I have to have an account on their servers using a service they call postbox. Yes, the traveler will work without Postbox (I think-- it may force a first time registration), but you can't change the settings on the Traveler without being connected to Postbox, and you can't get firmware updates without being connected to Postbox, and you can't easily delete files without being connected to Postbox and if you connect to Postbox at any time for any reason, any writing you have on the device will be automatically loaded to their servers.

    Given how badly they execute software, I'm not all that keen on interacting with their server software.

    I just can't make up my mind which is/will be more frustrating. Giving this up when it looks like it ought to be the perfect writing machine, or getting it a year from now only to find out it is as bad or worse than I thought. I know which choice is cheaper.
     
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  9. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Just got an email from IGG, dasung not-ereader early bird price is $369. Ugh, no thanks. A smaller monitor is pretty cool for my use though. This is an android tablet that can also be a monitor, not sure what ports/protocols, but I'd much rather have something built to be a monitor than use a vnc hack.

    Onyx followed dasung in providing a 13" monitor, at a fraction of the price, and also built in an android tablet to it on the boox max 2. Now dasung is adding an android tablet to their smaller monitor in response. Hopefully onyx comes back and adds monitor to something in the $250 range. Even if it was a terrible tablet, for the eink monitor functionality alone I might be tempted.

    dasung.png
     
  10. Hook

    Hook Professional Daydreamer

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    Well, it's done. I have cancelled my backing and IGG is issuing a refund. I think I waited so long in part because I didn't want to leave time enough to get re-tempted, like a sports team running out the clock at the end of a game. They still have 10 of the $299 secret perks left. Now they have 11.

    I've spent 3 week intensively researching the Freewrite, and there are a lot of problems, but for me it came down to two things. The first is Postbox. Everything about Postbox gives me the willies. I have to get an account. I can't delete my account, and I have to let my writing be on their servers unless I want to reduce the functionality of my writing device. *My* writing device. If I pay $299 (certainly if I paid $599) for a device, I expect it to be fully functional, That, and the line in the FAQs that says: "Postbox is currently a free service for all Traveler and Freewrite customers "

    The second thing is that it doesn't offer me anything that I don't already have with the Neo 2. Nothing. Yeah, I have to send my writing to Dropbox on my computer or tablet—be nice to have that on-device, but the Traveler doesn't have it on-device either, you have to use Postbox. My Neo 2 doesn't have the nice clamshell, but it has a small kit bag which also holds my tablet an hook up gear, which is pretty easy, lightweight and portable.

    Had the Traveler had all of the Neo 2 functionality local, in that hardware, I would have been all over it. I don't trust Postbox and I don't trust Astrohaus.

    But the funny thing is, I have to stay away from the IGG page for the next four days because I haven't fought off the Voo Doo. The Voo Doo is that every time I look at the physical design, I see an update to the Neo 2. It isn't, sadly, but that's what I want to see.
     

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