Stylus input


How can I combine a real notebook with digitization?

Great question. My current solution here is Livescribe, a ball-point pen that remembers what you write if you use special paper. It also has some features I don’t use, such as audio recording. You can find more about that on the internet. It transfers data to special app (macos/io/android/windows) via bluetooth then via a cloud service such as dropbox, google drive, Evernote or OneNote to other devices. This is unsatisfactory. For one the smartphone app is awful, clunky and unintuitive, and unstable; it crashes if you look at it funny. For another, there are, you will observe, no end-to-end encrypted sync services on that list, so everything you write using the pen can be assumed to be subpoena-vulnerable and spook-readable min some jurisdiction or other. And no, there is no option on that list that simply transfers files to your hard drive. It has to go via the hard drive of some unaccountable third party. As such, do not use it to write notes on anything if you do not want police and spooks reading it.

People have been complaining about the app for 7 years now and it has remained largely unchanged apart from fixes for crashing bugs and compatibility updates, so do not buy the pen in the hope that the app will improve. If this were a priority for the company they would have demonstrated that before now.

The real frustation here is that the writing experience for this device is so good, so simple and easy and intuitive, that it makes the unecessary paint points and frustrations introduced by their terrible software even more vexing. This is so close to an amazing luxurious experience. It is as if you are an aspirational cook and a michelin star chef lends you there kitchen and you can use it all you want, but it is on fire.

tl;dr Great hardware, awful software. Worth it as a metaphor for the inescapable frustration of life itself. Maybe also worth it as a pen; I cannot decide.

Here are some links I’ve needed for the Livescribe recently:

Graphics tablets

Wacom are the recognisable ones here, but they are crazy expensive and their drivers are awful on macOS, working unreliably and aggressively enforcing obsolescence of tablets. Their competitors drivers can surely not be any no worse and their tablets cost less. Which competitor is least worst?

Richard Zach recommends StylusLabs Write as the input app, a minimalist sketchpad app that looks convenient for maths and other textual-type stuff. Windows/Mac/Linux.

Tablet computer as graphics tablet

I am fond of Android-tablet-as-screen, since it is a cheap device with touch interface and visual feedback. There are many apps that do this; None for linux though AFAICS.

Richard Zach is good here and talks through some of the wacom options and getting output from his mathsnerd reMarkable tablet via srvfb.

Mathematical OCR

a.k.a. “Reverse LaTeX”.