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Tech - Cheap, quick, portable, distraction-free writing(or coding) (1 Viewer)


Seasoned veteran member
Nov 21, 2020
Whether a writer or a programmer or both, working on our computers is rife with distractions. Many writers prefer to have some sort of distraction free workspace and many settle for a software to emulate that, but nothing stops you from moving the cursor or looking at another screen etc

The best way to have distraction free writing is to go ELSEwhere. There are several now defunct portable word processors that can do the job but they're not customizable and their screens ALL suck(not to mention they eat more power than the one I'm about to tell you about, save whatever display you choose) The only current production of that sort of thing is $4-600 for pretty much what I'm building here but with prefab pretty housing and more energy consumption. Not sure on software customization but none in hardware again.

Enter the raspberry pi Zero(1.3 but w is better for anyone wanting to save to clouds etc) and the RISC operating system. Raspberry OS or dietpi and others would all work, but they have more distractions AND demand beefier machinery. RISC OS was created for arm devices by the people that created the first arm devices back in the last century.

Having just spent the last several hours testing my new toy, I wanted to share with you all. No I am not posting from it because that would defeat the purpose if I could. I went to adafruit(there are others like chicagoelectric and some bright green site I forget atm) to avoid the ridiculous markups on boards at all the unauthorized retailers, and I purchased a raspberry pi zero 1.3 for a whopping $5, I purchased the USB expansion board made just for it for $10(if you want internet get the zero W for $10 and use the ceramic ring included with the board...not sure how exactly as I didn't need that). Unless you have one lying around from a goofy laptop, you'll also want to pick up a MINI(not micro, that's for a different pi) HDMI adapter (about $3) so you can plug your TV or whatever into it.

Now from here you don't need to buy anything most likely unless you are the opposite of packrat when it comes to electronics...and I doubt those here fit that category. You will need a micro-usb cable and charger, with an optional battery pack(cheap is fine for these zeros, their bigger siblings need more amperage than some might provide) but you likely have tons of all those things lying around.

You will also need a microSD card, size really doesn't matter in this case though most sites tell you 4gb min for OS cards, that doesn't really apply to RISC OS(it's about 50mb) There is a limit but offhand idk, I think it's 128gb for the zero. You will need your windows computer and some way to read and write the card(USB is better, possibly desktop, but most built-in laptop readers won't flash the cards right), and go find the raspberry pi imager program. Using that, select RISC OS from the "other operating systems" menu or you can find your own(not sure if other downloads have more stuff built-in, but you don't really need "stuff" unless you want a more graphical writer) ...

MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE you do not select the wrong drive when you put in the target device, then start. I have mine verify and it only takes a few seconds for OS this size. One of the advantages to RISC OS other than it's TINY footprint and demands, is that it does not require internet to initially configure like all the pi OS do(and possibly all Linux idk) ALSO, you can pop it out and into other SBC's to your heart's content. The other OSs because of the configuring(drivers and shit mostly) you have to have a fresh image if you move the card to a new board. Because of all this, you can both get the cheaper pi zero, and spend a lot less time getting it up and running(and fewer distractions later without internet-and no, RISC does not support wireless even if the board does so you'd just waste money unless you want to have another card with dietpi or something TO do online crap too, just swap while power is off each time).

I have personally tested the above statement also. The copy of RISC I am running in the other room was first in my pi 400, then my rock64, now my pi zero without 1 effect. Finally, an SD you can port to all your SBC's without reflashing it between, so long as you can plugin to Ethernet if you want it(no port on zero but there are expansion boards of course).

Now, I haven't tested this, but I'm sure this particular OS would even run on the pi nano or an Arduino because of just how little it demands and takes up. The pi zero has 512MB ram. It dwarfs the other 2 I mentioned but Risc flies on it. Never waiting, it just works. Many of the software I've seen for it browsing around is in the kilobyte size, not megabytes, so that should tell you something. What I'm doing here requires no other software but it is available, just haven't worked out those details personally.

Now this is supposed to be for typing, and the RISC OS, unlike dietpi etc, is Avery mousecentric OS, whereas you must have a keyboard to setup the others, you won't do ANYthing without a mouse here, and that seems odd due to it's age. I just got a couple new sets of us wireless mouse/keyboard sets in the mail today for my various projects, and the one I have plugged in is surprisingly awesome. It has little round keys that have big gaps between them I though my fingers might miss often and hit nothing, but as soon as I sat in the recliner and put it on my lap I could type quite well and without such issues. I'm trying that set out first because it came with batteries and the other didn't lol, but I got lucky with both I think. This set is so lightweight and comfortable for laid-back typing even without any sort of desk, no keyboard bouncing around as I've had with any other one I've tried using from my lap. The other set has a lower profile mouse, and mechanical-reminiscent keys, but those keys are SILENT except for the space bar. The only noise typing with that is my fingers hitting the keys themselves, little taps, not sound from the keys but space makes a little extra tap.

Ok so, we get our pi, we need spacers and/or standoffs(like for motherboards) and screws that match, along with nuts. I purchased a case too but I'm only using half of it and it only came with some of the hardware(made specifically for this expansion board but they messed up lol) but I have plenty of screws lying around. The expansion board has 2 options: just get the one with all the hardware. The spacers and nylon screws and standoffs and nuts all come with the usb board. You want to carefully line the boards up BACK TO BACK (if 1.3 not a W zero) and insert the long screws first through one board then a spacer(smaller was best for me) then the other board and apply nuts. Don't do this one at a time, or tighten until all are attached, this takes some tiny finger juggling due to the size of the boards(the whole computer fits in a cigarette pack WITH a coiled up USB cable) I ended up holding both together with one hand and sticking screws in all 4 holes from one side, then one by one sneaking a spacer on before passing the screw through the other board, if you can just get the screws in one board and have an antistatic foam sheet lying around, you can then lay this screwhead down and pile the rest on in layers. Screw-board1-small spacer-board2-nut. Now the fun part is that you have to SQUEEZE the boards together to make the pins contact securely AND to get those pesky nuts to thread. Once nuts are tight, and you stick your sd card in, you're holding a computer complete with HDMI, micro USB, full USB, mini USB, 1.5ghz CPU and 512mb ram, and its harddrive. This whole setup costs $15 (more if need SD cards, but can get those cheaper in bulk) and is ready to go. Needs power and peripherals plugged in and you're moving.

Now, you're gonna want to pop that HDMI adapter in, and the fob to your key/mouse(or plugs if both wired) and go find a charged battery pack and micro-usb cable. Do not plug the computer to the battery OR wall charger until you want to turn it on. You can get cables with switches in them, but we don't have them just lying around the house. As soon as it has power, it's gonna boot

Now I've taken some time playing around, testing what's built-in, and after a lot of time with the elephant app(I forget name, something educational) I realized it wasn't ideal for writing, though it'd work in a pinch, but it IS great for coding. There are many other coding apps built-in too fyi, and I think this one has a compiler too in the right mode.

Then I remembered the other thing I opened when I first loaded and explored. In your apps you want to open"edit" that's it. Edit. Edit does not have a word counter though I plan to add one to it eventually myself, but you can have any color background or text you want(mine looks like an ancient apple:green text on black) and vary indentations and spacing between lines and how tabs work etc etc...but if you maximize it all you SEE with the options menus closed, is what you type.

Notes: there is no right click. You must centerclick a lot of things to get the menus, I spent a lot of time figuring them out but once you know, it's easy. The elephant program autosaves every minute unless you change that setting. I have not looked to see if Edit does the same.

So, for me, I spent $40, but in reality I only needed to spend 18(needed HDMI adapter) to have this setup. All the other pieces were already lying around the house. I have the whole machine and a battery pack in this little trunk-like box-purse thing (lol) on the TV stand, with an HDMI from tv, a micro USB to battery, and a USB dongle for mouse etc. Only reason I couldn't carry it off is the HDMI hanging out. Unplug that and can move whole thing elsewhere and plug into a different screen, no reboot needed unless you skip the battery.

When it comes time to shut down, the process is instantaneous but a little hard to find at first. Middle click the raspberry in the lower right corner of the desktop to find the power menu. Then your screen is replaced with a little box that says unplug or click to reboot. It's that fast.

In the future one could invest in some sort of portable screen, but the energy consumption would go way up and you need a GOOD battery or build yourself a case with batteries and a charger board etc- there are 3d printed laptop like case stls for exactly this(but on a bigger pi, the ones the size of playing cards lol) and other similar if you look around, then you could go write in the woods for a day undisturbed if you wanted- and I mean a 24hr day with the right screen and battery. The point of this for a writer isn't to edit despite the program name, but to write, so you don't really need the screen for much and a small one will do(I'm still waiting for the screen built-in to a case I ordered for $15, then scoured around to find the perfect board to fit once I realized I couldn't put a pi 4 in it- thus the rock64 with usb3 and emmc, but it won't draw much as it's a 3.5" screen just enough to maneuver once setup preferences to begin with. I wouldn't wanna see drop-down menus except to power off on that size lol)

You enjoy writing but never find the time without other things rearing their heads? Need distractionfreezone to write? Want a completely separate place to code? Got $20? You can build this.

Edit Note: PipeDream also comes built-in, a normal office suite if you want that sort of thing. A little etricky to open til you figure out the selection box, but it appears to do everything including separate options for text(word processor) and plaintext like notepad, spreadsheets, and whatnot.
Also, there are many brands but this lightweight batteries included sub$20 key/mouse set is a "D3200" and works very nicely as I said on the lap in a recliner, low profile so your thighs are the palmrest, and no bouncing around
The other key/mouse if in the market for more traditional typing feel AND ultraquiet so you can even type next to your wife who wakes up to everything.. look for the Periduo 712b(not sure if the letter is the model or color) and it's made in Germany. both sets i bought are red and black but both have other options.
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Oh and if you wanna spend a little more for an all inclusive setup and want to avoid the led/lcd bluelight back and write in bed, you can get an e-ink screen so it's like writing on an ebook reader. They come in 2-3 colors(B/W or B/W/another like red or blue or yellow. These draw almost no current so you won't have to beef up the battery part really like with other screens. I'm also betting they're much more readable outdoors when the sun's out, if you like that sorta thing
Power consumption: I've run this thing about 10hrs now, possibly longer since I lose track of time, off battery only. I'm using a 10000mah battery and it is now at 75%. That lines right up with what I'd seen listed online(pi zero is THE lowest energy consumption COMPUTER (there things like arduinos etc but they're not computers- or likely lower power) followed by the pi zeroW(w means wifi) And in theory you could run windows on this but not EQ.

Windows specifically made sure the pi3s could run windows, but idk if they messed with drivers for the 4s, or if the zero counts as either, but with 512 ram, the only windows you might wanna try is the one made for embedded stuff (it's free too) but what would be the point of a tiny system that still performs, if you bog it down with bloatware aka windows lol.

They are also over clockable but make sure to use heatsinks if you do that. I use them to be safe any way, and the newer beefier models have fans available too(if never looked at pis, like me a month or so ago, you might not realize that they can have up to 8gb ram, most have quad core CPUs and come with bgn and a WiFi AND Bluetooth, and there are many other manufacturers as the entire design is open source, and some have other features. Some have octocores, others have actual emmc already- much faster than sd and you install differently, and some had usb3.0 before the official RasPis did- the rock64 I have is one such I believe, as it was made to fit the same cases as raspi3 but raspi didn't have usb3.0 til 4.

There ARE some little SBC's(single board computer) like this with Intel or amd CPUs too, but they start at the top price for RasPis and go from there. Those could be made for eq quite easily. Also, there are several ways to use m.2 ssds either natively(a few obscure boards, or a Dev board with a computer module plugged in) or with an expansion board directly, or an expansion board the plugs through the usb3.0, thus throttled to that max speed. Expect to pay a minimum of $70-80 for an x86 sbc, and that's bottom of the barrel, but there are a lot around for 150-200 that are nice, some with separate ram modules so you can upgrade, and many already set up and for sale ready to go but you have to watch the different specs and ages of the tech on them as they vary. Good option to have portable or tiny/power efficient EQ so long as you are very good at minimizing demand if you wanna box with them.
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Tech - Cheap, quick, portable, distraction-free writing(or coding)

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