July 17, 2012, 3:02 PM — Writing requires focus: You need to sit down with your thoughts and just plow through your work. Regrettably, a modern computer isn't that great for focusing on something as mundane as text. A word processor surrounds your text with so many flashy buttons and toolbars that you might sometimes feel as if the words you're trying to write belong in the backseat. Then there's the matter of chat pop-ups, email dings, Twitter chirps, and the entire panoply of modern distractions that conspire to steal your focus.
Although full-screen text editors such as WriteMonkey and WriteRoom eliminate most interface distractions, you are still just a single Alt-Tab away from a world of temptations and time-wasting activities (or "research"). So when you really want to get some writing done, sometimes a dedicated typewriter is what you need: You see no notifications, you can't switch to other windows, and nothing comes between you and your text.
In this article, I will show you how to take an old laptop and convert it into a text-only typewriter with zero distractions, but with wireless connectivity to your home network, and seamless Dropbox synchronization for your text. This setup allows you to write on your typewriter, and then edit your work in a full-fledged word processor on your main computer (or on the same computer, booted into Windows).
Download Ubuntu Server
Our typewriter will be based on Ubuntu Server. I know this sounds like overkill: Why take a server-grade operating system that supports enterprise hardware, and use it as a typewriter? I chose Ubuntu Server for three reasons: First, it's strictly a console OS, so it has no X-Windows to disable. Also, it has a polished and well-tested setup routine, as well as robust hardware support. With any luck, you won't have to tinker with drivers for Ubuntu Server to correctly identify and use all of your laptop's hardware, and most important, its Wi-Fi interface.