Last week a bit of my time was spent reinstalling my Acer Aspire one netbook with the latest version of #easypeasy linux. I had "upgraded" my Netbook to Ubuntu 9.04 jaunty a few weeks ago and found the newest addition of Ubuntu to be incompatible with my 3G modem card. Now thats not unusual. Early adopting ANY ubuntu distro on any netbook
system is sure to push you towards a lot of Googling around to get
EVERYTHING working right away. Because I have a garden, A wonderful
wife AND cradle the ruminants of a social life , I decided to forgo
this quest and use a distro that was time tested on the hardware platform I was working on. So the Easy Peasy 1.1 version proved to be a rather nice choice. Packed with the much needed hardware support for the Acer Aspire one ( Wifi, sound, Webcam .. etc) it all works out of the box. Never mind that you get Flash and the other proprietary stuff that would make Richard Stallman go completely mental, preinstalled.
What you also get is the (in)famous Ubuntu netbook remix interface, that gives you a completely "different" way to work with your netbook
then when you use a standard Gnome interface. A tabbed display with all
your applications, large icons, all the applications run in full
screen. When you are used to a classic ‘start button’ (or gnome menu
button) down below, it can be a little bit of a strange experience. My
first instinct was (as I had done in the previous times) disable the
interface and use the standard "gnome desktop" that I had useed, but i changed my mind. Why ? well , because a Netbook is not a notebook.
Backpedal a few months with me when the first generations of netbooks
started to hit the market. Everybody was tooting their horns how nice
this was , while others kept yapping away at how ‘light" these little
computers where and how crappy the performance was when you wanted to
play high resolution 3d games on them or render the next Toy Story
movie on one of these 300 dollar devices. From day one some people got
the whole idea about the "netbook"
WRONG. Suppose you own one of those giant trucks they have in a quarry
and you drive around tons of gravel and rocks all day long. At the end
of your shift you go home and pass by an ordinary car-sales lott
that has a small SUV in the parking lot. You walk in and start
complaining how that little car is far too small, can hardly handle any
load, doesn’t have a wheelbase of at least 20 feet and that the whole
thing is far from useful as a quarry hauling super-truck. Well guess
what Einstein IT AIN’T ONE ! I cannot imagine how many times I had to
"elaborate" on the fact just WHAT a netbook is and how its NOT a notebook.
not only goes for what you DO with the thing, it also applies to HOW
you work with the device. No you CANT play God-knows-what latest game
on there, A 3d shooter that requires a graphics card that costs twice
the amount of the entire netbook is NOT an option for your Asus EEE 900 or something. Second. And the netbook interface (or the native Xandros interface) may LOOK a little "playskool activity center-ish" compared to all the bells and whistles of a full KDE
interface.. but its a Nine (or even seven) inch screen for crying out
loud. If you want to cram down a complete Gnome user interface
(designed for a large, high resolution screen) onto this tiny interface
: Go right ahead. And while you are at it , why not ditch the interface
of your cellphone and use the classic Windows 3.1 graphical shell to
navigate around your text messages. Sure it works, but its a pain in
the arse to begin with. So the sooner people start seeing that the
little portable NETBOOK is spelled with and E and not with an O as in NOTEbook, the sooner they will become more productive on these little devices.
So, confronted with the big icons of the "netbook
remix" interface, I went on. It took me some getting used to , I can
tell you that. Not having the "normal" task bar and start icon on the
left hand bottom corner was pretty weird at first, but after a little
while i got used to it. I thought back of what it was like before.
Imagine squinting on the little 9 inch screen to locate the little bar
at the bottom and try to maneuver the tiny pointer towards all the
miniature icons. After following many online guides that "micro-mized"
your gnome desktop environment to have thinner toolbars, smallest menu
fonts and what have you.. It felt like I had just stolen a smurfs
computer. This was just too darn small. Think of it. You don’t run a
spreadsheet with 5000 rows on a PDA, so why the frack adapt a graphical environment that was built for a big-arse screen and squeeze it onto a netbook. A netbook is not a notebook.
Application-wise its the same thing. Those of you who complain about a netbooks
pretty "compact" storage capability I can only scream ( imagine me
doing this in Peanuts Hysterical voice) "ITS NOT A NOTEBOOK" . What do
you expect ? Having the storage capabilities of a fracking Drobo for less then 200 dollars ? Use the low price and ultraportable side of the netbook to your advantage. Extra memory sticks, external harddrives and the internet
are your friend. Don’t push the 4 gig solid state hard drive into
obesity because you can"t see the difference ! Forget installing the
4000 programs and applications on the little netbook. Why in Gods name would you need photoshop
elements on a device with a screen resolution of your average at&t
terminal. I know : Perhaps its to provide you with near
murderous-rage-frustration attacks because it "does not run as fast" on
the little netbook, as it does on your bigg machine at home. (never mind the fact it COSTS 5 times what the netbook cost ya)
So learn to live with the netbook by using it for what it is. Some nice pointers :
– Push your data into the cloud and use your netbook as a portable portal : Gmail, Foxmarks, Google Dox, Dropbox and the hundred other web based services are your friend. Use your netbook
to access your cloud-bound data. Use it as a super portable way to get
to your data anywhere. Make sure you have enough means to connect to
the net. Install some free wardriving tools on your Netbook to pick up stray (open) wifi or use available hotspots to do what you need to do (remember : always use a vpn, an ssh tunnel or https connections when roaming the interwebs over someone elses connection) Having "all of your emails" and "all of your data" in one single place and on one single computer .. is sooo 90"s.
– Use applications that match your hardware : You want to go ahead and install Vista on your Netbook
? Go right ahead my friend. I’ll see you in five years when you are
done installing, booting up and working through all the updates. Take a
look at using ANY operating system (linux / windows / whatever) on your little netbook
, but just make sure that its easy and convenient to work with. By
using cloud based computing ( The world in your browser) and cross
platform applications (that work on your fancy macbook pro, your PC workstation at home AND your linux based Netbook)
If you DO get stuck offline make sure you have some "light"
alternatives to the applications you use at home. Full install of word
? Don"t think you’ll be needing that. Install all the "viewers" for the
common type of applications like .docx, .ppt
etc , just so you can have a quick look at them when you need to. Don"t
have room for the entire MS office suite ? No matter. Use openoffice or just go for a fancy version of "notepad" to do your quick type ups.
– Your netbook is your terminal : Who ever said you have to go on the road without the "full power" of your home office ? Install "logmein" on your macs or your pc and use the webbrowser on your netbook to remote control your machines at home. After hooking up your dirt cheap Asus EEE 701 to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard you can "make yourself at home". Open up Logmein, take over the Vista computer at your place and your netbook has the power of a giant. The small form factor of your netbook
does not need to be a permanent feature. Hooking up a stray monitor,
keyboard and mouse make working on the device a lot more pleasant.
Heading over to your inlaws for thanksgiving ? Stuck with their lame XP Sp1 computer that runs slower then a hippo on tranquilisers ? Yank the cables of all the pheripherals and shove your little portable buddy right in there.
– Your netbook keeps you entertained: when online your netbook is a perfect source for entertainment : youtube is your friend, but why stop there: With applications like Miro (and more recently HULU) you can automatically download content to your netbook.
Don"t have the storage space ? Try hooking up an external drive for
that sweet sweet content. While the guy next to you is staring at his
portable DVD player with nothing else to do then twiddle his thumbs,
you can happily watch the content you downloaded, listen to a podcast
you put on there or take a sneak peek at one of the many movies you
ripped to your external drive (and chat on MSN at the same time) . Your netbook becomes your super-portable buddy to get to your data.. Online or offline.
I hope i got you thinking in this post and maybe given you some nice ideas … So remember kids.. A netbook .. ain"t a notebook.. Luckily .. it doesn’t have to be. 🙂