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Episode 2: Distraction-Free Writing And Hemingwrite

Shawn and Brian talk about distraction-free writing spurred by the announcement of Hemingwrite, a modern take on the typewriter.

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Distraction-Free Writing

What is distraction-free writing? In a nutshell, it's about putting words to paper and nothing more. In the computer age, this means a blank screen, a cursor, and no other distractions. Distraction-free writing is not concerend with font size, formatting, page layout, spell check, or any of the other myriad features that have been dumped into word processors since their inception.


The Hemingwrite is the hardware version of distraction-free writing, basically an eink screen (think Amazon's Kindle) with a keyboard.

The list price as stated on the Kickstarter page is $499. Kickstarter-exclusive pricing levels:

  • $349 (25 units)
  • $369 (500 units)
  • $369 (100 units)
  • $399 (no limit)

UPDATE: After this episode was recorded Hemingwrite released a video demostrating the current capabilitiy of the prototype. YouTube


Byword is our default pick for distraction-free text editor. Why? Because it gets a lot right by default. Sure, you can tweak it to your hearts content but it feels great to use from the get-go. It's available for Mac OS and iOS.


Perhaps the original distraction-free writing app (circa 2006 and 2007, WriteRoom is a Mac app that inspired many others.

(Aside) The Perils of Independent Software Developers

In early 2014, Hog Bay Software had to drop iOS support for its apps (including WriteRoom) and focus soley on the Mac OS versions. This move also included reducing the company from 3 employees to just 1 e to just one-man shop.

IBM Model M Keyboard

Shawn mentioned the Model M Keyboard. It was most prominently manufactured by IBM (among others). His keyboard is manufactured by Unicomp, has native USB (USB didn't exist in the mid '80s - the connector then was PS/2), and can be found here for $79 (at the time of this writing). It works just like any other USB keyboard except it's way more awesome. Shawn bought his in early 2007 and every time his coworkers complain he tells them to wear their noise-cancelling headphones.

Hemingwrite Alternatives


In our minds, the leading off-the-shelf alternative to Hemingwrite is a Chromebook. A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS operating system. Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS fronted by the Chrome web browser.

Chromebooks are an ideal alternative to Hemingwrite:

  • Inexpensive
  • Long battery life (compared to traditional laptops)
  • Larger screen for the 80-character line

While there are more expensive Chromebooks, we set a price limit of around $200. At the time of this episode, there were two Chromebooks that jumped out at us:

After combing through reviews, the ASUS C200 is the one we'd pick for a dedicated writing machine.

  • It has superior battery life compared to any Chromebook out there. While most get 8 hours the C200 gets over 11 hours on a single charge.
  • It has a great keyboard.
  • It has a fanless design yet it remains cool.

The one negative to the ASUS C200 is the glossy screen which isn't great for outdoor use. We feel this can be remedied with a $10 anti-glare screen protector. Also, in direct comparison to Hemingwrite, 11 hours is nowhere near its promised 4-week battery life. However, we think the true 'Thoreau' scenario, to be away from an electrical outlet for days or weeks at a time, is an edge case.

Engadget Review

Its battery life is easily best in class, and the spacious, cushy keyboard makes it one of the better Chromebooks for typing.

However, while the layout is almost identical, the Asus Chromebook provides the superior typing experience, with taller, quieter and overall nicer finished keys (there’s a better type of plastic used for the keys on the C200).

Beretta Premium

Brian grossly underestimated the price of the Beretta Premium shotguns in the video he mentioned. It turns out Beretta Premium guns fall into the "if you have to ask" price category. There are several models of Beretta Premium shotguns but the shotgun in the video appears to be the 687 EELL Classic. Like any one-off product, there is no set price but actual figures for the 687 EELL Classic put it north of $7000 (a bit different than the $2000 Brian quoted). And other Beretta Premium models can be an order of magnitude greater than that.

Thanks To Our Sponsor

This episode is brought to you by FUSE Coworking in Lincoln, Nebraska. FUSE Coworking provides a great space to work, whatever your needs, be it hosting a podcast for a few hours (like us) or spending the whole day getting things done. If you are in Lincoln, Nebraska and need a place to call your "work home" drop by their space in the Haymarket district.

Show Notes

  • Hemingwrite [1:06]
  • Discussion of Hemingwrite Parts List [9:30]
  • Shotgun Discussion [48:57]