8 hours on a train with Lubuntu and Abiword

Back in April of this year I went down to Birmingham with my son to go to the Gadget Show Live.

I live in the North East of Scotland and travelling to Birmingham consists of either flying, going by train or driving.

The flights to Birmingham were priced obscenely high. I think the airlines must have been confused because they seemed to think that instead of wanting to buy a ticket I must be wanting to buy the entire plane. To be honest with the prices they were charging I would expect a place on the board of directors.

Last year we drove down to Birmingham and it was actually quite a fun way to travel. My son who was 11 at the time thought it was great playing with the dial on the radio to see what local stations he could pick up.

Anybody who has ever travelled from Scotland down to England by car will know that there is a point between Kilmarnock and Carlisle where there appears to be nothing at all. The radio stations disappear (even the national ones).

After what seems like an eternity you suddenly hit Carlisle and you think that you must be almost there now. Then you see the sign that says “Preston: 100 miles”.

Whilst travelling by car was novel it was too much to do in two days.

This year therefore we decided to go by train.

As we were going to the Gadget Show you can appreciate that we are the sort of people that would never go on a train without our fair share of technology.

My son had brought along his Kindle to read and his Samsung Galaxy to listen to. I had brought along my trusty Acer Aspire One Netbook, an external hard drive full of videos, 2 copies of Retro Gamer magazine and my Sony Walkman.

The journey from Aberdeen to Edinburgh went fairly quickly and the Scotrail train was reasonably comfortable. The Virgin train from Edinburgh to Birmingham was less so.

Somebody needs to explain to Virgin trains that in the middle of April it isn’t necessary to have the heating on so high.

The most annoying part of the Virgin journey however was that whereas on the Scotrail train the WIFI was free, Virgin wanted to charge a kings ransom.

This of course isn’t really a problem because my mobile phone has internet connection sharing and so for a while this is what I did.

The train of course must hit that same area that the car hits whereby all radio stations cease to exist and the 2% of 3G disconnectivity kicks in.

Without a working internet connection I had a choice of reading the magazines, listening to music or watching films on the netbook.

I had already read the magazines on the journey down to Glasgow and so that left the movies or the music.

As I listened to my music my mind started to wander and whilst thinking about the parking ticket that I had received a few months earlier a story came into my head.

I therefore opened the netbook and started typing.

Lubuntu ships with Abiword, which isn’t the most powerful of word processing applications, but it didn’t need to be.

I didn’t even know why I started writing really because I’m not sure that I ever planned to do anything with the story.

On the journey back to Scotland I finished the story.

For those of you that may be interested the story is about a guy who has been arrested by the police and who is being interviewed over the death of a traffic warden who died in extraordinary circumstances.

(He had thrown a deep fat frier that was on fire out of a first floor window which just so happened to land on the unfortunate traffic warden).

I decided to release the short story on Amazon and to do this I had to save the file either as a Word document or a HTML file. Abiword is capable of doing both.

I am extremely artistically challenged so I asked someone on Fiverr to create a cover for me.
And here it is….


  1. Abiword is also shipped with Xubuntu (Ubuntu + Xfce). I tried to open my previous used *.doc files and unfortunately Abiword corrupted doc formatting significantly. So I decided to remove it and replace it with Open Office. I can say that OO works with doc/xls formats much better. Appart from macro of course, but this is another story. Have a nice day. Mario (Xubuntu user).

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