BlackBerry Passport: A Writer’s Choice

The Blackberry Passport is the oddest, quirkiest, one of a kind smartphone that I’ve seen in a long time…

What do you think? (Don’t judge my makeshift screen protector, nor the case)

And I Love It!

The Blackberry Passport is what I’ve been looking for in a productive smartphone. The size and shape almost forces you to write. The physical keyboard may feel cramped during the “Getting To Know You” phase, and with only three rows of buttons it’s easy to see why it’s been overlooked in the saturated world of portable devices. But those are what I call “Change Factors”.

Finally Getting It Done

I’ve used smartphones for many years. I’ve spent more time exploring how to get things done rather than getting things done. Even more time was spent wondering if there was a better way than how I was doing it. Beacause Distractions.

BlackBerry’s OS fades away, allowing me to construct, write and edit on a mobile device to an extent I was never able to achieve before. They operating system handles all the technical operations behind the scenes, jumping to attention when I need it.

From a writer’s perspective, my transformation from giving the Blackberry Passport a passing glance to all out obsession with acquiring the device didn’t happen overnight. I was currently using an android device. I was ok with it overall. But I did find editing and writing on it to be more cumbersome than what it was worth. Before the backlash starts, it’s important to note that I am a huge android supporter. So no fanboyism here.

Truth be told I never so much as considered Blackberry as being the provider of my next smartphone. I thought Blackberrry had given up on simple folk like me in favor of business minded professionals. They gave up on jumping on the perverbial bandwagon and being like everyone else. This made me look at myself from a whole new perspective. I realized that I am a business professional.

Even though I stilll enjoy what I do with all the passion, innocence and sense of wonder I’ve had since writing as a kid. The Blackberry Passport has shown itself to be the missing, albeit, not perfect, link in my mobile writing world.

A Strange Addition That Fits In

I’m a quirky, odd and non mainstream person. As a freelance writer, I have everything I need (and then some) to write and publish from my home office. I was lacking when it came to mobile work. The other phones I’ve had (iOS, Android and Windows) could be corralled together in one lump. In their own respective way they were great for quick edits, emails, pictures and texts while I was out and about. Gaming differed from device from device, but was wonderful. That wonderful gaming experience was also hurting my production.

In the battle of Android and iOs I felt as though I was the go between that was in the middle of a custody dispute. One could do this better than that and so on. I always compared Android to the angry brother that feels resentment because the other brother gets the attention he craves.

I gave Windows Phone a fair run. I went in expecting this device to be the deciding factor. Productivity wise, I prefered the Windows environment over Android and iOs. Disappointedly, the phone didn’t meld with its laptop/desktop counterpart. The limitations are evident and you can feel the current “in progress” state.

Enter BlackBerry

The Blackberry Passport didn’t impress me at first glance. Were you impressed when you saw it at the top of the page? It’s vastly different when compared other smartphones out there. It’s square shape. It’s three rows of letters will make you think “Where’s the number keys?” (Answer: They appear when needed, virtually, as a fourth row) It doesn’t look comfortable to hold. (But it is). It won’t fit in your front pocket. (It will)

It was so impractical that I forced myself to give it another look. And upon closer examination it occurred on me that, with a little hands on experience, this might just work.

The thought of purchasing it weighed heavily on my mind. I couldn’t shake it. The comparisons are unavoidable. Price wise, it was the same as the newest iPhone. However, for what I would pay for an iPhone, it would soon become just another faster, more vibrant toy. I didn’t need another toy this go round. I also didn’t need a phone on the level of a business professional. I wanted something to fill the gaps between home and work. In fact, because I found myself making comparisons that every one else makes, it swayed me more in the Passport’s favor.

Blackberry Delivers…So Far…

The Passport is unlike any device I’ve ever had. And so far, the positives have overcome the negatives. Regardless of how many phones I’ve had, there was always the like/don’t like comparisons. The Passport is no different. I’m comparing anything and everything. So far, it shines where others have lacked. I’ve always found at least a few things that I like about my phones to justify keeping them. There is always something I don’t like any phone but I’ll tolerate it because it delivers on things that are important to me.

I took the Passport Plunge with the knowledge that I can return it if I’m not satisfied.

I’m Satisfied

The specs, while outstanding as far as smartphones go, wasn’t my deciding factor. It has 3gb of ram, and an inexhaustable amount of (expandable) storage. I wasn’t impressed. On my first outing, I decided to edit a document while waiting in a line. I discovered I was able to maneuver and make adjustments more in depth than my expectations of a smartphone. That impressed me more than bellowing out the specs under the hood.

I’ll be able to provide progressive updates as I become more acquainted with the device.

Unexpected Surprise

The sound on this device is incredible! I downloaded an ambience app to set the writing mood. The sounds are better and louder than any device, tablet and smartphone, I’ve had up to this point. I’ll elaborate more on the sound quality in a future blog

What About That Amazon AppStore Thing?

Yeah, what about it? At first, I thought it was a desperate plea on Blackberry’s part to gain part of the Android market. My conclussion is that it might influence a few current Android user’s decision but…no.

What this means to me is Blackberry acknowledging their app store is inadquate for some current and potential users. I had little to no intention of using Amazon’s appstore, but I found myself to lean on it more than I thought.

The reason is because this device is well on its way to be my daily driver. In the first day of getting it, I thought it would make a great secondary device at best. Now, I’m giving it a lot of thought. It really does fit the needs of this writer for on the go usage.

Who’s It Not For?

If your device use consists of hours of media consumption, gaming and casual social media, don’t bother with this device. Blackberry didn’t make the Passport to occupy your child while you shop or be your comfort toy. There are hundreds of other smartphones out there that will suit your needs. I like to think of the Passport as your manager that will have a drink with you, but remind you not to stay out late because tomorrow is a big day.

An Amazing Powerhouse Of Productivity

I see an increase in my mobile productivity. Something I’ve never experienced in all my years of having smartphones. I can blog on the go. I don’t mean jot down notes, minor editing, save, then tweak and upload when I get home. I can blog from A (Idea) to Z (publish). The software available and the distinctive size are a remarkable advantage. I can compose and send emails in full detail. When a creative idea blasts into view, I can take out this quirky weird device and squash that creativity bug when it strikes.

To my fellow writers, give this device a chance. I took the chance and so far the positives are far surpassing the negatives. While the Passport isn’t my daily driver as of yet, there’s going to have to be a lot more negatives that come along to change that direction.

Oh, and just you know, this device does make phone calls…

This Is How I’ll Do It: 2015 Revision

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know how indecisive I am when it comes to writing. One minute I’m fascinated with the latest and greatest, then I’m on to something completely unrelated and different.

That’s going to change in 2015

I’ve spent so much time and money worrying about how to get the word out that I didn’t spend time getting the word out.

Either way, we’re all right

Keep in mind the following is my personal experience and opinion. There is no right or wrong here. You can agree or disagree.

No Android In 2015

In its current state, I don’t see any benefit using the Android system with my writing. I have an Android phone as of this writing. Aside from using to make a few notes and updates here and there, android hasn’t pulled its fair share of weight in my writing world. As a result, it will soon be replaced by either an iPhone or Windows phone.

It’s not just you, Android

I’ll also be distancing myself from my Windows tablet. As with the Android decision, it doesn’t fit into my current routine. Unlike the Android decision however, I’ll be keeping Windows on board in its other forms. I’m waiting with baited anticipation for Windows 10. This will be the deciding factor as to which phone I get.

Now that I’ve touched on what I’m ridding myself of, what am I embracing?

I Can’t Wait To Tell You

The nucleus of my writing world takes place on a 2012 Mac Mini. Capping off the ram to 16gb and sporting 2TB of hard drive space, this is more than adequate for what I need.

Why 16gb?

I’m also bootcamping Windows 8.1 on the Mac Mini. That’s right. The best of both worlds. I have a lot invested in Windows programs so I’m not about to abandon Windows altogether. Besides, you never know when MS Office will come in handy. (Often).

Aside from an older model laptop PC, the Mac Mini will be Control Center to my writing world. Anything and everything that happens elsewhere will be accessable here.


Of course, no writer in 2015 is complete without some form of “Writing On The Go” and I’m no exception. I do plan to keep using my android phone, reluctantly, to capture those ideas on the road but other than that, I only have two devices I plan to use while out:

Apple iPad Air: I think the iPad is THE ideal writing tool. Its versatility is unmatched in my opinion. There’s so many writing apps to choose from, certainly there’s at least one that will make your writing life better. You can choose to use a bluetooth keyboard, and there’s a plethora of those to choose from to create your writing world.

And Finally; a.k.a. Saving The Best For Last

This is an unexpected device. Yes, it’s unusual and no, it’s not for everyone. For me, it’s the best addition to my writing world up to this point:

Alphasmart NEO and Alphasmart Dana: These devices appeared to me out of nowhere. Had I been told that I’d be using a defunct 2004ish era device that wasn’t developed for writers, I’d say you were wrong.

But I Proudly Stand Corrected

There hasn’t been a more useful, welcomed device in my writing world. I wrote a blog about these devices. You can read it here. I’ll be writing an update on these devices soon!

So there you have it. My 2015 Writing Plans. What’s your routine? Share your thoughts, ideas and criticisms. Until then…



10 secret OS X features hidden inside your Mac


Not so secretive but good to know if you’re a Mac user!

Originally posted on BGR:

Apple recently updated its desktop operating system OS X to version 10.10, also known as Yosemite. The latest version of OS X packs tons of new features beneath a sleek redesign of the user interface, but most Mac computer users likely haven’t even mastered all of the features that were already available in OS X.

We recently told you how to access a nifty paint app that Apple hid on your Mac, and now we have a list to share that identifies 10 interesting OS X features that you might not have known about.

View original 335 more words

My Smart Watch Is Smarter Than Yours!

A standing ovation for a watch? One that isn’t even available yet? One that may not warrant such an ovation when it’s release?


A few questions come to mind:

What has this world come to?

Did I miss a memo?

Was it mass confusion?

Was the standing ovation sign that was intended to be shown when U2 was giving us free music miscue?

I just didn’t see anything worth a standing ovation

I’m not against Apple products. I have and adore my Apple products (iPad Air, iPad Mini and Mac Mini). I’m not against any products that I have a strong chance of buying at some point. By the way ‘Apple’ can be replaced with ‘Android’ or ‘Microsoft’ and the effect will be the same.

But Come On People

Apple announces it’s finally getting into the smart watch business (Not today, but soon) and the reception is as revolutionary as the announcement that world peace has been achieved.

It might be great. It might be revolutionary. It might be full of bugs. It might not be any better than what’s out there already.

In my personal opinion, the watch that necessated a standing ovation?

Pebble Smart Watch

If anything, it did deserve a standing ovation from me. It’s my favorite of all smart watches.


It does what it’s intended to do and, in my opinion, does it better than anything else I’ve seen so far.

And that’s not all!

The Pebble Smart Watch couldn’t care less if you’re an Android fan or a happy go lucky Apple type! That’s right, amazingly enough, it’s compatible with both! Granted, there are far more things you can do with it on Android versus Apple, but that’s because as everyone knows, Android is better than Apple. (Builds a wall of self doubt and prepares for the rebuttal)

Memo to self: Remember to include, “It’s only a joke” in all caps to counteract the above statement

But the best thing about the Pebble Smart Watch are the things it doesn’t do as well as the others.

Hear (read?) me out

It doesn’t do pictures. Well, it does, but it does so in a low resolution pixalated mess. I have a phone in my pocket that does incredible pictures (in color), so why should it have to?

It doesn’t send texts. It receives texts, and does so in a easily read manner. That’s all it should have to do. If you need to answer a text, you can do so from the comfort of your phone.

It doesn’t allow you to talk directly into it. Actually, yes you can. It just gives you a subtle look when you do it.

Now, on to what it DOES do.

It keeps accurate time!

Even when not connected to any other device, it keeps track of time.

Pretty cool, right?

Not only that but…(get ready for it)

I can tell the time…OUTSIDE! *Standing Ovation Moment*

I have yet to see any other smart watch viewable while outside…literally…because those things are horrible to look at when you’re outside. Keep the “Ooohs and Ahhhs” to a minimum please.

It also provides you with the weather, because when your outside and you can’t tell if it’s raining or not, it’s important to have a device strapped to your wrist to inform you of these things.

It provides you with the latest Facebook status updates. **Cough**Android Only**Cough** The importance of being up to date on Uncle Marty’s trip to the supermarket is worth the price of the watch in itself. Thankfully, Apple will remedy this significant, and sorely missed, feature.

And the absolute BEST thing about the Pebble Smart Watch is…

It doesn’t compare itself to other smart watches!

Although countless reviewers and testers DO make the inevitable comparison, there really isn’t a comparison when it all comes down to it. Pebble didn’t release this watch to go head to head with any other smart watch. It’s a good thing too, because seriously, they’re in a class all their own.

It’s the smartest of the smart watches. Think of Pebble Smart Watch as someone you see walking around in tshirt and jeans. Not because he can’t a suit, but because he feels more comfortable.


As I unboxed and got to know my Pebble, there wasn’t a moment in time (See what I did there?) when I thought to myself…

“Wow! This requires a standing ovation!”

So what’s your thoughts on the Apple Watch? I have no doubt it will put the smart watch market on the map. After all, it IS an Apple product. While I like the Apple line of products, there isn’t a product in the world that’s going to have me gathering in a brouhaha over it. Maybe my mind will change and I’ll be standing up and shouting once Apple releases their watch.

Maybe I won’t

Or maybe, just maybe…I’ve piqued out as a happy, satisfied customer! :)


I didn’t forget to include “It’s A Joke” counterstatement. If you gave a smart watch a standing ovation, or even a dizzying GASP when it was revealed…that’s not a joking matter.

Writing The (Alpha)Smart Way!

AlphaSmart NEO vs. AlphaSmart Dana

What the heck are these anyway?

First and foremost, What are these? Basically, these are obsolete portable word processors (circa 2000-2006). They are all but forgotten today.

With the exception of a group of writers. It’s their interest in these devices that piqued my interest. I’d like to share with you a couple of these lesser known, yet widely misunderstood underdogs of the writing world.

This review is from a writer’s point of view.

The devices discussed here are old, and disregarded by most people.

The way I see it, if writers can still use fountain pens, parchment and ancient DOS based word processors (you know who I’m talking about!) for their writing rituals, why not obsolete technlogy from a company that no longer exists?

I’m a newcomer to discovering the (now defunct) AlphaSmart line of products for writing. I am proud to call myself an owner and user of two of these writing wonders!

These devices were initially marketed and geared toward schools. Teachers and students specifically. They are no longer produced, and considered obsolete by many, including myself. Technology has surpassed and need for such items and have been replaced by far better, and advanced, equipment.

Stating The Obvious

None of these products are intended to replace todays computers, tablets or laptops. To some writers (me), they are a diversion, a supplement if you will, to my writing wants.

I often read about people’s writing habits. I’m a writer, it’s what I do. Sometimes as I read, I discover habits and devices that I’d like to attempt or perhaps implement into my own writing routine.

On more than one occasion, and by more than one writer, I’ve read favorable references to writing devices such as NEO, Dana, 2000(2K), or 3000(3K) writing devices.

They claimed these devices offered:

“Distraction Free Writing!”

“Full Size Keyboard!”

“LCD Screen For Outdoor Writing!”

“Easy usage and painless transfer to computer!

There were other quotes, but I was sold at “Distraction Free Writing!”

They were all made by one company…


When I googled AlphaSmart I discovered that this company was no more. They were now owned by another company that didn’t carry hardware at all.

So I went back to my usual way of writing, not giving much thought to it. However, I kept going back, wanting to know more about these wonderful writing tools.

As it turns out, these devices can be purchased today from ebay or Amazon just to name a couple of places. Prices vary greatly depending on condition of the unit. (Remember, these haven’t been produced in a long time. They are sold used, refurbished and “as is”). Take a look at the respective site of your choice for ordering information.

There are some common elements regardless of which model you choose. It’s safe to say at this point that I’ll stay away from the 2K and 3K models. I read many reviews and most of them pointed out a very stiff and not too friendly keyboard. From this point forward, the comparisons I’ll be making are intended for the NEO and Dana models

Both the NEO and Dana use the same style rechargeable battery pack. My advice?

Stay away from the rechargeable battery packs.

From what I’ve read, these rechargeable battery packs are at least eight years old or older. They WILL fail. Period.

The NEO and Dana run perfectly well on three (not four like you’ll read in other reviews) AA batteries. Of course AA batteries are plentiful and easy to get. And they’ll be much better than any years old rechargeable battery unit ever will.

Proof Positive that three is the truth! (Don’t judge me on my choice of battery brand)

With That Being Said..

You’ll also see a description that a power supply is either included with it or not. The power supply is not a vital or even necessary part of the either of these devices, especially if you read the “three AA battery” part. The power supply is intended to charge the rechargeable battery pack that’s bound to let you down…see the connection?

OK, so now that’s out of the way. Invest in a pack of AA batteries just to be safe. But in all reality, you won’t need THAT many…especially if you choose the NEO.

Choose a NEO if:

You’d like a newer unit. The NEO was released after the Dana. It’s about 2 years newer. It’s a lot easier to use, true story.

You take an oath to send your writing progress to your computer at least 2-3 times a week. Take this oath for yourself, not for me or anyone else.

  • You can be satisfied in working with a very limited amount of font sizes. Although they range anywhere from one line on the screen to eleven, all it’s really doing is squeezing as much as possible onto the screen.

You’re not familiar or have no desire to learn an obsolete Palm OS system. If you can’t remember what a Palm Pilot or PDA is, or its place in the history lineage of electronic devices, choose NEO.

Choose Dana if:

  • You prefer an actual (although outdated) Operating System to manage your writing documents
  • You are familiar with Palm OS’s process for installation and managing software
  • You like the idea of being able to back up your writings on SD cards. I inserted a 1gb SD micro card I had and it was immediately recognized. >
  • It’s absolutely necessary for you to have a backlight on your device. (I will say the backlight on the Dana is NOT its strongest point)
  • You have great eyesight and can stand to look at small fonts for long periods of time. (says the guy wearing bifocals)

You don’t HAVE to learn Palm OS to enjoy the Dana, Alphaword works superbly. But to experience all it has to offer, it may worthwhile.

“You can’t wrong with either one if you plan to just type to your heart’s content and transfer to a computer later.”

Both devices connect via USB cable to either Mac or PC and transfer what you’ve written without any fancy software or other issues. Just be forewarned…the transfer is done letter by letter, line by line. Meaning you can watch what you’ve typed earlier being retyped into your favorite word processing program on your computer. I’ve tested it with MS Word, Pages, Storyist, Scrivener and had ZERO issues with any of them. The Dana transfers this information a lot faster than NEO.

I wouldn’t recommend editing on either the NEO or Dana. Although possible, either device proved to be much too tedious. Especially seeing as though you’ll be sending to a computer. There are far superior editing tools on your computer to waste time fiddling with editing on the Dana or NEO. Just let your creativity flow.

It’s not necessary with the NEO or Dana for it to have a rechargeable battery, power supply or CD back ups of software. In fact, staying away from all that makes for a better experience. The software for NEO/Dana is still available on the company’s website. (You’ll have to Google)

If you decide on the NEO, I’d strongly recommend you google and download management software called NEO manager, download management software for the NEO. In fact, if I can make a suggestion, I’d strongly recommend you download the NEO manager NOW so you don’t have to do it when your NEO arrives. Also, while you’re at it, google and download NEO fonts. This is a freeware package of fonts for use with the NEO. It’s really just different sizes of the pretty much the same font, but it works well.

By now you can tell I’m somewhat biased toward the NEO. And I admit, I am. The Dana is a superb device in its own right. I ordered a Dana eleven days after receiving my NEO.

My reaction to the NEO was “WOW! This is what I’ve been looking for!”

It’s attraction is its simplicity, not only in execution but design as well.

My reaction to the Dana was more disheartening than excitement. I think it’s because my initial purchase was NEO.

Dana has a MUCH steeper learning curve. (The whole Palm OS thing) However, once I overcame the OS nuisances (read: deleted the unneeded apps) I’m completely satisfied with both purchases!

Fortunately, I once owned a PDA about 10 years ago (Back in MY day). There is so much about the Palm interface I didn’t use then and certainly won’t use now. The Dana has two distinct advantages that makes it a keeper for me.

  1. HUGE advantage over saving documents. They use TWO (count ‘em) slots for storing documents. Saving progress on removable memory cards.
  2. Backlight display.
The backlight is on…and I’m being serious


Once I figured out how to turn on the backlight I wasn’t too thrilled. It was so darned…DIM.

To accomodate dimly lit or dark places with the NEO, I attached a reading light to my lap desk, not the NEO itself. This provided just the right amount of light not only on the display but on the keyboard too so I could see what I was doing. Not so with the Dana. The backlight barely provides enough illumination for the screen much less your keyboard. Doesn’t look like I’ll be retiring the reading light anytime soon.

And while we’re talking about screens…

See what I did there?

The NEOs screen is far better than Dana! While neither screen is an award winner, the better of the two is clearly (and I mean that literally) the NEO.

And finally:

If you’re looking for a writing tool that offers you a simple approach to releasing your next or first great novel look no further! You can’t make a wrong choice between NEO or Dana.

Random Ramblings and outtakes from this post

If you’re in need of a distraction free device that’s capable of handling your cherished tales or rants and complaints, The NEO is far less a hassle than the Dana, that’s for sure.Palm OS…Indeed!

Before I forget…

Be sure to look at some Youtube videos to see if Dana/NEO is what you’re looking for. A word of caution though; watching videos is what got me started!

My personal advice to those juggling Dana or NEO. Choose the NEO. Although the Dana has some additional features. These are features that you will never use or will cause distractions. And wasn’t the reason for looking into a distraction free device is so you can be…distraction free?

NEO/Dana are strictly creative tools. If you’ve ever had that bothersome itch deep within your soul. These tools will help release that which that is aching to get out of your system.

“I can’t recommend this product enough. It’s been my driving force since I purchased them” -Riterrick, shortly before starting this post