JP Vossen on 21 Dec 2010 22:48:36 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] Need Advice: Netbook for Christmas?

Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2010 20:16:21 -0500
From: Casey Bralla<>

I've been considering using some (well, all of it, actually) of my Christmas
loot to buy a netbook.  But I'm worried that I may find a netbook too slow and
confining.  What does the group think?  Are they "worth it"?

Here is what I'm looking for in a netbook:

1.  Excellent portability
2.  Long battery life (should be able to fly to Europe (~ 6 hours) on a
battery charge
3.  Linux (natch)

I have a Dell Mini-9 that I upgraded to 2G RAM and a 16G SSD, so no moving parts. That's really nice.

I consider it a "read only" machine. I can't get used to the squashed screen and tiny keyboard with bad key placement to do any real work. This email would be about the limit, though I happen not to be on that machine at the moment. OTOH, it's light, small, and very handy for some things. I mostly read email using Thunderbird (to IMAP) and browse using FF.

I'm using stock Ubuntu 10.04, with a trivial tweak to make the top panel auto-hide to give a tad more screen space. I probably get closer to 4-5 hours out of it. No optical drive, so no DVD watching or anything. I'm also using whole-disk (except for /boot) crypfs and I haven't noticed any performance issues. But I also don't compile things there, and updates are--not fast.

The thing is, a lot of what they call "netbooks" these days I'd call a tiny laptop. Not to start a holy war, but what I liked about the concept originally was no moving parts (i.e. SSD) and most of the "netbooks" seem have hard drives these days. This is a personal pet peeve, I guess, probably no one else cares... :-)

I don't have anything really "practical" I want to do with it.  It would
really be a toy, but hopefully a toy with some utility.  I'll want to do some
surfing, maybe some real work (in short spurts) and also use it as a fancy
iPod music player.  (playing flac files, of course)

I've used it + Rhythmbox as a ipod in my car. Very hard to control, change things only at stop lights... Keeping it closed and hidden so you don't get arrested for driving while surfing is also probably good. :-)

I don't want a tablet because I want a true keyboard, even if it is smaller
than most notebooks.

I think the Mini-9 keyboard really sucks. Others may disagree. I've seen much better layouts on just about all the other machines. I think I liked the Asus one.

I've got my eye on an Asus with a dual-core atom.  By the time I buy the extra
GByte of RAM and a bluetooth mouse (I hate track pads), it will be in the $350

However, I could also bust my budget and get a budget laptop for $450.  This
would give more performance, but less portability and shorter battery life.

My fear is that the netbook will be cool to play with for a while, but will
simply be too confining (too slow, too small a screen) to hold my interest.

That's what I thought a year or two ago when I got mine. I haven't gotten tired of it, it works for what I use it for. But I haven't given up my big honking desktop either.

Has anyone bought a netbook recently?  How do you feel about 6 months later?
Would you buy one again if you had it to do over again?

If I lost mine I'd probably replace it eventually, but I cold live without it too. I used to bring it to PLUG meetings, then stopped bothering. I have given a couple of presos from it though.

Good luck,
JP Vossen, CISSP            |:::======|
My Account, My Opinions     |=========|
"Microsoft Tax" = the additional hardware & yearly fees for the add-on
software required to protect Windows from its own poorly designed and
implemented self, while the overhead incidentally flattens Moore's Law.
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