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Whiteboard sticker for your laptop (sketchcase.com)
423 points by codeinterview 116 days ago | hide | past | web | 150 comments | favorite

I'm not being glib here, but after experimenting with many such solutions over the years, I've found that the best solution for me is to always carry a cheap, paper notebook--like one of those black/white-spotted composition notebooks with cardboard covers and unlined paper--that is about the size of my laptop lid. I just slide the laptop and notebook together into whatever backpack or bag I'm using for the laptop.

I always have a variety of pens and pencils with me, and writing/drawing with high-quality pens & pencils on real paper is better and more convenient in every way than writing on an equivalent-sized whiteboard surface. I then have 100 pages I can keep or give away instead of one that I have to delete and reuse, and without all the mess. Plus, I always have a couple of pens in my pocket, even when I don't have my laptop, so I never end up with a whiteboard but no markers.

The only time I've found whiteboards more useful than paper are when I needed a very large surface. If a small surface is good enough, paper works better for me.

I agreed but these are different mediums. With paper you can't erase obviously, so you use significantly more space when free scratching. Hence the usefulness of the whiteboard.

On a different note, notebooks are great. I converted my wallet into thin Moleskine notebooks that fit in my pocket super easily. I put my cards and bills in it. And I always have a pen in me. Archival pens are great. It's good for doodling too :>

With paper you can't erase obviously

I can, and do, quite easily. I have a twist-out eraser on the end of my pencil plus an artists' eraser in each pen/pencil bag, so I can make pretty quick work of some portion of a page, but if I really want to erase the page, I can do it faster with paper than with a whiteboard: I turn the page.

Decent quality paper and an assortment of Pilot Frixion Clicker (erasable) ball point pens in different colors are what I use for hashing stuff out, but even then a whiteboard is better for some tasks simply because of it's ephemeral nature.

Can you provide a pic?

Totally agree. Norhing beats good old pen and paper for notes or sketches. I'm also a fountain pen nut so I get to use my fountain pens while taking notes so it's a win-win for me.

Actually, this just gave me a crazy idea... what if laptop manufacturers included something low powered like a boogie board device on the outside of the screen, which could write / save directly to some small internal storage of the laptop, and then the resulting notes could be accessible via the laptop when turned on? Kind of like.. a poor man's tablet on the outside of a laptop? I wonder the cost of that vs. touch screens / digital pens.

But, in that case, how would it be different from just drawing on my Surface with my surface pen?

It's kinda exactly what you need.

Latency and n-way multitouch.

I feel like buying a Surface just to have drawing capabilities is expensive -- why not just make a screen ascessory that lays onto of your keyboard (or not) and plugs in via USB-C?

Rather than a screen accessory plugging into a laptop, this is what I got a Samsung Galaxy Tab A With S-Pen for. Retails for about $250 USD, it's an Android tablet that also comes with an integrated active pen, like the Note series of phones. You can share your drawings / writing with your laptop using Dropbox etc, at a fraction of the price of the Pencil-compatible iPads.

[I think you've been downvoted unfairly - although I think the Surface drawing capabilities are excellent & superior, they might be overkill for some use cases.]

One upside of the Boogie Board approach is trivial battery usage.

I've found they're extremely fragile though. I can't imagine it would hold up in a backpack, without a hard cover.

It's also instant access. It's just there, always running, always immediately ready.

What the Boogie Board does, it does really well but I really missed being able to page back and forth and an easy OCR workflow when I still had one.

getting a thinkpad X230T or a thinkpad helix (with wacom pen) from Ebay is much cheaper ;)

About $1000 dollars last time I checked. Add to that the cost of mental health issues associated with the use of Microsoft products and its a non-starter.

What experience do you have with using Microsoft products and resultant mental health issues? I'm guessing none, and it's just another throw-away remark that is anti-Microsoft, ignorant of the interesting and - in my experience at least - pro-good-mental health work they've been doing recently.

I used to dislike Microsoft till recently. After using OneNote (on Wine) and their keyboard (Natural 4000) I am now a fan.

I switched from Windows to Linux in 2001, from Linux to Mac in 2004, and from Mac to Windows in 2016.

The Surface is a great machine and Windows 10 is a good OS.

I've seen some prototype laptops with a bistable e-ink touchscreen on the back, that could retain its image with the laptop turned off.


I know it's low-tech, but I just keep a pad of sticky notes in my laptop bag. If I write a note, I can stick it to the screen when I close the laptop, and it's there to remind me when I get back to the office.

And my cousin is a sales rep for a drug company, so I have a whole crate of logo-ed sticky notes.

And to erase it you could... shake your laptop?

I don't really see a problem with that. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only moving parts in higher end laptops are fans. Nothing will break, so why not?

I mean, it's annoying to do I guess, and requires hardware to detect shaking, but it's not terrible.

The Boogie Board is erased by pressing a button.

And have a mode that lets you tilt the laptop to draw!

Some previous attempts at this kind of second-screen/low-power interface that never really caught on:



The price seems steep but I like the idea of merging these 2 technologies: http://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2016/12/2/13818796/re...

You want the IBM TransNote.


You seem to be referring to something like the yota phone. https://yotaphone.com/

I do wish there's an android phone with just e-ink screen. Don't care about latency as long as the battery life is great.

Or you could have a touchscreen and launch an application to do the all the things you want. Plus other things!

I think it's a terrible idea. First, marker ink would be smudge all over backpack. Second, it's on the other side of the laptop! You wrote an algorithm on sketchcase and want to implement it. Well, now you have turn your laptop around every time too see it.

> Well, now you have turn your laptop around every time too see it.

You can probably use the sticker to cover the screen instead, that should put it on the correct side. :)

But there is a major problem with that "solution"... you would either have to remove the sticker every time you use the laptop, or you would instead have to choose not to use the laptop at all.

Otherwise it's a good idea.

A good solution would be just carry a little whiteboard separated. You can even put that sticker on some table and use it.

There's a product called The Noteboard [1] that's relevant here. It's basically a 7x5 grid of index cards laminated to be a whiteboard that you can toss in your backpack.

I didn't end up using it regularly because the surface doesn't erase as well as a whiteboard, but still a cool product.

[1]: http://thenoteboard.com

"Terrible" is pretty harsh and there are wet-erase markers that don't smudge.

You can come up with holes for any product. I think this is pretty clever and I bet people will buy it.

Calling this a terrible idea is such a typical garbage HN response. Its a cheap creative idea that someone put up for sale. Don't like it don't use it but I am sure it will sell to a bunch of customers that like it a lot.

Pfft, use a mirror.

devlos melborP

You could also use the front-facing camera on a phone as a mirror in a pinch.

>You wrote an algorithm on sketchcase and want to implement it. Well, now you have turn your laptop around every time too see it.

Write the algorithm, take a photos of it, win.

but the camera is on the other side so it's literally impossible

If only you could have a small device in your pocket that can take pictures! :-)

exactly, why not just a sheet of plastic the same size to throw in to the laptop sleeve with the machine

It seems like you'd have to pick up your laptop gingerly, no?

I don't use a backpack and after using this in the past I just wipe it clean after a meeting, nothing more annoying than when people leave writing on a whiteboard after a meeting!

Cool idea, but doesn't seem very practical. I also don't think people carry dry-erase markers with them

i think people who bought this would start to carry dry erase markers. companies also didn't buy dry erase markers before they had whiteboards

I think this is a really good idea, but if you look on eBay you can buy a 200cm by 45cm (~ 78.7 in by 17.7in) vinyl whiteboard sticker for $5. You could buy this, trim it down and use it on a handful of laptops at a significantly cheaper cost. There are lots of other listings for "whiteboard vinyl sticker" but here is the $5 one:


Also, I wonder if a "whiteboard magnet" would stick well to a mabook or aluminum bodied portable - wouldn't leave any residue: http://www.ebay.com/itm/17-x-11-Dry-Erase-Magnetic-Refrigera...

He has a pretty thorough DIY for anyone looking to go this route: https://www.sketchcase.com/diy/

I have tremendous respect for the decision to post the DIY guide alongside the product. I find this sort of kindness hugely inspiring.

Aluminum won't attract the magnet usefully, unfortunately.

Maybe a real hard disk drive will, though.

It'll just slide down slowly. Try it, it's a cool experiment that showcases eddy currents.

I like the suggestion for a fun experiment, but I think pklausler was referring to the fact that strong magnets tend to wipe spinning hard drives, making magnets a bad idea for non-SSD laptops.

Oh, duh. You're right, I totally misread that. :)

Bummer, makes sense though

Not to mention that magnets cause even Macbooks with SSD drives to enter sleep mode. Try it with an iPhone or iPad, or any other device with a magnet (as others have indicated, don't do this if your hd isn't solid state).

Yeah, it seems to trick the mechanism that detects the lid is closed. It took me a while to discover why my work laptop would go to sleep as I was typing, when I had it stacked on top of my (closed) personal laptop.

>I think this is a really good idea

Is it? Either you're looking at the whiteboard or at the screen. If the laptop is open, you can push it closed if you write on the back. If it is closed, you don't want to press too hard lest you damage the screen.

Why not just use a piece of paper?

Okay, is there some dissonance I'm not picking up on here in this thread? The item is sitting at 220+ votes, at the top of HN right now and looking at the timeline, it appears the only reason this is on sale is because people begged the author to sell them.

And in the thread... a bunch of people suggesting "Why not just DIY?", "Why not paper?", "It's useless on the back" etc.

This is obviously a popular item. Maybe some introspection?

Healthy skepticism is also warranted.

But you bring up a good point. Should the primary point of these kinds of threads be about giving props and praising the startup/service/product or should criticism and skepticism be allowed in as well.


I actually like it as product to personalize your laptop, as opposed to something to help your productivity.

I doubt most people would push so hard with a dry erase marker that they'd damage the screen. Laptops aren't that fragile.

Now you can tell applicants that yes they will be coding on a laptop during the interview.

Yes and that's when I walk out of your interview. Some time ago I did an interview with elementary coding questions, like 2nd year of university stuff. Was a developer with 15 years of experience. Rage quit. They're like oh, you got 100% percent on the stuff you attempted, here is a new link to finish it. And I am like no thanks, have contract work, please send it my way. Not interested at a job at a place that interviews like this.

I've met several 10+ years developers that couldn't code basic stuff, why instead of rage quitting you did not say "I don't want sound cocky but this stuff is really easy for me, do you have anything else?" by rage quitting I wouldn't trust you contract work, what would prevent you from rage quitting in a different scenario!?

I agree wholeheartedly. On the flip side, when I interview such candidates, I usually prefix baseline questions with "This is probably a piece of cake for someone of your calibre, but please bear with me because it's a part of the process we got to get out of the way"

A clear indication of process over people.

You gotta weed people who can't code somehow.

I didn't expect to get any contract work out of that. I wanted to simply send them a message. Maybe they got it, maybe they did not. But I don't want to work for people like that. And this was the guy I would be working under testing, so if he thinks that this is a good test, then I don't think that this is a good job.

Developers complain all the time about these stupid tests. But they do nothing about it. Do something about it, maybe something will change. And they will stop testing stupidly.

Half of developers complain about these stupid tests. The rest complain about working with people who can't pass them. The industry is full of people who don't belong, and your record isn't meaningful unless your references are people I personally know and trust.

Whatever, businesses hire other businesses routinely based on a conversation and a handshake. I expect the same sort of respect from businesses I work for as an employee. They can find some other peon to work for them, I have standards just like they have theirs. Not trying to sound arrogant, but my best customers have been those that hired me on the basis above, as another business owner. People who think you are an employee treat you quite a bit differently.

And businesses routinely get ripped off for that kind of recklessness. I've had to deliver the bad news to management about a body shop who obviously hadn't learned C++ yet because their deliverables were full of syntax errors they were asking us how to fix.

While I dislike most programmer interviews for asking obscure or trick questions, what's wrong with them having a baseline set of coding questions? You might have 15 years of programming experience, but people lie on their resume all the time, and a lot of management positions in this space are hands off (and the manager's skills degrade/are for the wrong tech').

I certainly have a few managers with 20+ years of experience who cannot code a Hello World site in our primary technology. Their resume will still list them as "Senior Development Manager."

PS - My managers are actually very good at their respective jobs, they just aren't hands on anymore. I am just saying that if they moved jobs their resume would be "misleading."

A manager doesn't need to know how to write a Hello World. It can be useful for a manager to have technical knowledge but purely for managing wetware (i.e. humans/programmers) it isn't required.

Stickers on laptops usually make Jony Ive sad, and he's sad enough already being locked in that white room with one set of clothes.

But this one is much better, because it occupies the entire laptop!

But poor Jonny might like this because he could draw pictures of aluminum rectangles on the sticker.

Stickers on laptops make ME sad. Like Run-DMC sang "Calvin Klein's no friend of mine, don't want nobody's name on my be-hind!"

And then followed it up with "My Adidas". But I agree in spirit.

And yet, the newer laptops require a USB hub to be functional, which means you have this thing dangling from your laptop like a condom that was freshly used.

When I had a non-unibody Macbook Pro, I would actually doodle with a dry-erase marker directly onto my (glass) screen. This was handy for making small annotations as I was pondering designs, PCB layouts, etc.

Unfortunately for my screen-doodling habit, new MacBooks have some kind of coating (AR? Oleophobic?) that causes the marker's fluid to bead up, ruining the effect.

Cliff Stoll (the Cuckoo's Egg / Klein bottle guy) used to write on his CRT screen too -- obviously a long time ago when I saw it.

> Unfortunately for my screen-doodling habit, new MacBooks have some kind of coating (AR? Oleophobic?) that causes the marker's fluid to bead up, ruining the effect.

I can confirm, my mid 2014 MBP screen is _ruined_. Tried alcohol, screen wipers (which actually made it worse)

I am this close to using a detergent (I know I shouldn't). Any suggestions?


Apple is replacing the affected screens for free, I had mine replaced few months back (late 2013, 13" Retnina Macbook Pro).


Not sure why people are downvoting your comment. It's a real issue you are trying to help.

I had mine replaced for free a few months back as well :)

Why is this being downvoted? Is it incorrect? If not it seems useful.

Staingate is a real thing and @achow's comment is correct and is very useful and that's probably what is happening with @component's mbp.

Sadly, yes it is "staingate"

Did a bit more digging and found a site [1] which has a gallery of affected MBP, showing the different levels of "staingate"

[1] http://staingate.org

I think this is pretty neat and love all things whiteboard but the one annoyance is that I now need to carry around a whiteboard marker and eraser (if you don't want crap all over your fingers from erasing). Note: I don't think you can solve that problem.

And now I probably am carrying a backpack which makes paper + pen better. I think the #1 benefit of a whiteboard is the size. I can draw huge diagrams and everyone in the room can see and not have to huddle around a piece of paper.

I still think it is interesting....

Marker? No, you need that. Eraser? Kleenex is a good add to any bag – but you could also figure out some way of having a removable plastic overlay to preserve the diagram...

But, ultimately, your point about pen & paper was my thought too... And then I decided that ~$16 after shipping was cheap enough to try, even if I later decided paper was indeed better – so I ordered it.

> I think this is pretty neat and love all things whiteboard but the one annoyance is that I now need to carry around a whiteboard marker and eraser (if you don't want crap all over your fingers from erasing). Note: I don't think you can solve that problem.

I wish laptops had laptop-sized e-ink displays on the back of their normal displays. I mostly want that for reading, but since I'm wishing for things, I'll also now wish that these hypothetical displays are pressure sensitive, for writin' on.

You can get a quart of chalkboard paint for $15.

You can even recycle broken laptops by painting the screen!


Ha! Kinda related, I made my niece and nephew wooden MacBooks based on that same idea.


"oh... Thanks uncle riebschlager... a wooden MacBook..."

Yeah. That's pretty much how it went down.

Looks like they owe you some commission: every size of both models is sold out! ;)

This has been around for awhile now and you can actually order them today: http://www.drawattention.co/ (aside from them being sold out...)

Those have a logo on them though (although the blackboard one is cool too). Fun sales copy!

It seems to me that the logo is a second sticker.

The smallest whiteboard combined with the dirtiest laptop? No thanks!

I dont get the indicators that its a new product. These guys look like they have been doing this since 2014: http://www.drawattention.co

Instead of waiting, you can just order a small Writeyboard now which is exactly the same thing.


What I'd like to see is a stealthy monitor with case (or just a universal case for monitor or laptop). The case, fully open, could latch open and the back flat side would be a whiteboard or even clalk board. Kinda like an artist's portfolio case, but for devs.

In addition the case, if laptop size, would be semi drop proof. The point being, I'd travel more by bike if I didn't hear a fall would total my hardware.

Finally, big ask here, make it insulated. Leaving my machine in a cold car while snowboarding means I generally like to wait a bit til the machine comes back to room temp.

Yes. I've seen hardened cases (a la for DJs & musicians) but they're often overkill, AND I want the outside to serve a purpose (I.e., whiteboard).

Keep it in the $100 range and you have a winner.

I think it's a neat idea but personally, I'll stick to a legal pad. I use them quite a bit, but not enough to justify switching to something like this and then taking photos of my work.

So basically I have to either flip it down to see what someone drew on the whiteboard or turn it around. Pen and paper work just as well.

Ive been using my laptop like this for years. I just bought some white plastic film you use to protect text books with and stuck it to the back of my Thinkpad. Works great for todo lists. I also agree that they should build a laptop like this where every free surface can be written on as a white board. It is surprising just how much I use this.

Comes with free erasers: your shirt, arms and backpack.

I liked the roadmap on the OA's page.

Others have mentioned the stick-on dry wipe vinyl whiteboards that are available. For walls there is also 'magic whiteboard' - a roll of plastic material that sticks to the wall using static electricity.

I'd mention the 'mini-whiteboards' sold for use in classrooms - usually A4/Letter size. These are about 2mm thick and can be used as clipboards as well with a suitable bulldog clip. My final idea would be to get a map case like the one that hikers use to keep their maps dry and put completed whiteboards in that for reference.

Personally, I prefer paper/pen &c

Looks like a solution to a non-existing problem.

Looks like this submarine advertisement has surfaced.

We used to make whiteboards at a printing company I worked for. It was mainly just white SAV (self adhesive vinyl) with a laminate over the top.

Ten dollars is an awful lot to pay for that, when you're talking about just a laptop size. You'd be looking at much less than a dollar in materials.

Edit: Though the fella obviously recognises this, and has a DIY on the page... And I can see people buying them for the convenience element. Still though...

Or you can use a laptop with touch screen and/or a digital pen...

And Google and microsoft have note taking apps that makes your hand writing searchable.

Edit: wow, some people on HN really dislike touchscreens...

I have those as well but they're used for different purposes.

But from my experience this is exactly how people are using touchscreen laptops in meetings.

I don't see the point of adding a sticker to your laptop when it already can be used as a whiteboard with the added benefits of digitalisation (backup, share, undo, search...)

Yeah was just going to say, this is what the Surface Book was built for.

Microsoft has also a digital whiteboard product line that looks like oversized surface tablets.

Very expensive and very popular I've been told.

At least in the case of the Surface Book they're pretty in line with MBP prices.

They're talking about the Surface Hub which comes in 55" and 84" sizes and is priced to match.

Ideally, this could be done on the screen itself. Using a 2-in-1-laptop like Lenovo Yogas you can position the screen directly in front of you, and it has a touchscreen (obviously).

I guess the problem is that even with digital pens, haptic feedback and maybe precision are not up to par with the real thing. But those things might improve a lot in the next 10-20 years, there seems to be a decent amount of research going on for the former.

I used to have a similar whiteboard stick on my old MacBook back in 2011 - it was really useful as long as I remembered to bring a whiteboard marker with me to meetings. It'd be nice to have an eink boogieboad like wrap instead but the problem with those it's it's erase all or nothing so, I'm sticking with ordering a new whiteboard wrap from here as they're so cheap.

For the past five years I've been working at white-veneered desks - and for the vast majority of that time I've actually been using my desk as a dry-wipe board. It doesn't make too much of a mess when it rubs off on my hands, and it's a fantastic way to quickly sketch out a to-do list or draw a diagram for a colleague.

Google reports a 75% increase in searches on the terms "how to get dry erase marker out of clothing"

I wonder about the low-tech use case of :

writing on this wb surface on laptop, then re-covering with clear plastic to make it semi-permanent [ preventing wipe off with handling / slipcase / backpack ]

Does the original peel-off wb material cover would re-adhere ? .. if so, handy.

You can get a giant roll of this stuff on Amazon for $6 less than your shipped price.

And they even include a marker...

Just what I want to do - draw private info on the back of my laptop and lug it around. Anybody got a way to print CC numbers onto my shoes?

(IOW: I think it's a cool hack that fails to consider actual implications outside of the immediate problem solved.)

My fear would be that my notes are being erased when putting the notebook into my backpack.

I believe correctable pens solve this issue.

Wipebook (http://www.wipebook.com) did a short video comparing correctable vs. dry-erase vs. non-permanent pens:


It demonstrates their resilience to accidental erasure.

You could always use permanent markers and ethanol or isopropyl alcohol to erase it.

A lot of people actually share this concern and you are right if you're planning on keeping what's written. I personally use it for practicing coding interview questions and brainstorming.

I bought a whiteboard 2 weeks ago for my home "office". Thinking about it, it would have made sense to buy a big sticker instead which I can stick on one of my windows. For sure that would have been much cheaper. Plus, I would not have needed to drill holes in the wall.

I myself right directly _on_ the windows' surface. Works great! Though you need white color marker to do it at night. :)

I hope by "whiteboard" you meant a 4x8 sheet of melamine bathroom/kitchen tile underlay sheet - and not one of the more expensive kind with the fancy aluminum borders (which, if you wanted to replicate those, you could find the parts in the hardware aisle of the home improvement store)...?

No unfortunately I bought one of those expensive ones.

Well - maybe next time?

The 4x8 sheets of melamine backer board is cheap, cheap, cheap! Where I currently work, we have 80 linear feet of the stuff on our walls in our dev area (held up with nails and construction adhesive). It isn't fancy, but my employer believes more in results than being "impressive" (plus, we don't get any clients back here anyhow).

Those stickers will work on your wall too.. not just your windows.

Take a picture!

or you would get dry erase crap all over the inside of your bag

Cute. But impractical, not to mention messy. They should allow you to put your company's logo on it, as it would be a cool alternative to branded coffee cups, pens and mouse pads.

Cool idea, but you might want to revise your messaging: "I could make one for them but making them by hand is REALLY time consuming." "Handcrafted by Charles Han"

Fascinating. Other people has come to the same conclusion I see. Here's mine posted on reddit a few days ago : https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/5q8evm/comment/d...

Just get a touchscreen already. Then you can draw like on every other device you currently own.

I love having pen marks on my shirt when i'm carrying my laptop

I'm so excited. Ordered this, exactly what I needed!

I use a pencil on my MacBook, and then erase it.

This is a fantastic idea.

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