My First NetBook

So I’ve been fascinated by the NetBook craze. Actually, I loved NetBooks even before they existed, being fascinated by the early Toshiba mini-notebooks in the 90s. But I’ve never owned one, until now. With prices close to $200 for a decent machine and my love of gadgets, it was just a matter of time.
I decided to go with the Asus eeePC since it gets the most attention and I wanted something popular to increase the chance of information and hacks being widely available. I got an older 900 series because I wanted to go small — and it looks like the newer ones are a little bigger.
For $219 I got 1GB of memory and 20GB SSD drive. Of course, I went with the Asus version of the Linux OS, and not Windows XP. I was tempted to go with XP, just because I could probably run Flash and Director on it, but I really wanted to use Linux. I may install eeeBuntu, but for now the Asus OS seems just fine.
So my first impressions are that it is indeed small and light. Perfect. I will be able to take this on short trips rather than my MacBook Pro, which is three times the weight. After all, while traveling, I just need email and Web access. I don’t really do any development while on the move.
The OS is a collection of apps, of which Firefox is the big one. That’s all I really need. It does have an email client, but I’ll probably never touch it. It also includes Open Office 2.0 which may come in handy for taking notes at conferences. A lot of the other applications are actually just Web links to email, Google Docs, Wikipedia, etc. But there is an instant messaging app and even Skype.
The hardware includes a camera and mic. And there is a video recording application that may come in handy. There are also headphone and a microphone input jack, as well as 3 USB 2.0 jacks and an SD card slot. Completing the ports are an ethernet jack and a VGA output to run an external monitor. OK, I can see doing presentations on this thing.
At first I thought that the trackpad was going to be a problem. Not the pad itself, but the hard-to-press button below it. Then I realized that you can tap on the pad to click. So the button is really just for click+hold and right clicks. In fact, the track pad responds to two-touch for scrolling. The keyboard is small and hard to type on, but is still so much better than iPhone typing that I don’t mind.
The best app, for me, on the thing is one that isn’t even shown in the interface. By pressing Home+T I can bring up the terminal window. Then by typing “krdc” I can run the KDE Remote Desktop. This is the Linux version of Mac’s screen sharing, or VNC. Without a problem I can share the screen of my Mac Pro. That’s pretty much what I do with my MacBook Pro anyway.
So I’m pretty pleased with the NetBook so far. Combined with the fact that I now use a Mac Pro as my main machine, this might mean I don’t need to get a new MacBook Pro when my old one gives out.

Update: I got tired of the toy-like Asus OS. Plus I wasn’t able to install any additional applications for some mysterious reason. So I installed eeeBuntu standard. A real OS. I’ve used Ubuntu before, so it was all very familiar.
I love this little device even more now. Firefox rendering of pages is much better in this OS. It looks just like on a Mac or PC now. And I am able to add applications galore. It comes with a built-in VNC client that I don’t like, but I installed the krdc application without a problem. I was even surprised that my Sprint USB modem worked without any issues. So now I can use it pretty much anywhere in the U.S.

Posted on July 30, 2009 at 10:39 am by Gary Rosenzweig · Permalink
In: General

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  1. Written by Albert Gheuens
    on 7/30/2009 at 11:19 am