Tag Archives: netbook

Time, Money and Technology

It seems to be about time for an entry that targets the intent of this blog.  One of the problems with technology is that it usually requires time or money.  I have had little extra of either lately (beyond getting my netbook), so I think I need to establish my next set of events.

I have Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE 4.3.1 running stably on my netbook.  As noted, I needed to reinstall due to partition corruption.  I have not had any trouble since, so I suspect one of two things:  ext4 or suspending while Amarok was playing.  Thus far,  I have really enjoyed my netbook.  There is expected slowness with some things, but this is a writing and surfing machine, not something intended for enormous power.  It is a fun little machine with excellent portability.  I look forward to the day that more powerful computers are this size!

As noted, there was a suspend problem with my netbook.  Since I suspect some things that are reproducible in a VM,  I intend to give that a try at my earliest opportunity.  I think the steps to replicate the problem should be pretty straight forward.

At some point I would like to start doing some development for KDE.  In the spirit of open source, it is because some things are broken that I want fixed.  I still cannot connect to wireless networks that have their SSIDs hidden.  That is very annoying.  I might also try to pitch in on Amarok, but what I really need is time (there’s that time thing again).

Lastly, and this needs to wait until I am at “my other home” again, I need to figure out some things with DSL.  I have to say I am pretty impressed with DSL — I really had no idea how it actually worked and that it used the telephone lines instead of a dedicated line!  I found some things that my VPN connection times out on, so I need to sort that out.  That also includes hopefully getting the Cisco VPN working under Linux (Kubuntu) again.

I think that sums up my technology plans at this point.  We’ll see how that sorts out against the real world.

More Obervations on the AOD250

Expanding on recent posts [1] [2], today I inspected the underside and found three easily accessible compartments:

  1. Hard drive
  2. Memory
  3. Mini-PCI

I have no inclination to chance the HDD unless SSD becomes rediculously cheap.  This has a 5400 RPM drive in it which trades performance for energy savings.  Given what I plan to be doing with it, a 5400 RPM drive is just fine.

The memory is 1GB.  Again, that is just fine for what I plan to be doing, but if I ever have $30 burning a hole in my pocket, I can take this to 2GB.  Given that I run Linux on this, that is more attractive than if I ran Windows because Linux seems to do phenomenaly better at using memory to load the core parts.  … I feel like I am talking myself into this upgrade.  I know that sounds a little crazy to say because more memory with Windows is always better; but I always feel like I am feeding a bad plan when I concede to Windows’ need for memory.  Windows needs it, Linux uses it.

The Mini-PCI port is the most interesting piece.  There is so much I could do with this:  broadband (I think…), SSD, Wireless-N, toothpick storage… the possibilities are endless!  Or not.  But it is expandable.  That is very nice.  The thought of having an SSD primary drive with a HDD as my data location has a certain appeal.  Though, this would not be any kind of near-term upgrade.

Initial Netbook Impressions

In newegg’s infamous delivery speed, I received my AOD250 today.  My first impressions are quite good.

  • solid seating of power plug
  • tolerable keyboard –touchtyping is relatively easy (I just typed a few pages in a story I am working on, and my typing suffered very little)
  • nice display
  • Kubuntu 9.04 installed beautifully with no more hitches than normal — better than my old HP laptop
  • quiet
  • pretty
  • touchpad buttons are not as hard to press as some reviews claimed — but I like the resistance
  • wireless networking worked instantly (under Kubuntu, that is)
  • bluetooth is toggled by a hardware button … very nice (and KDE 4.3 nicely picks up on that and displays the BT system tray icon when BT is enabled)
  • Comes with1GB of RAM — and I’m not sure why people are instantly upgrading to 2GB as this works nicely for me.  However, it is only $30 …

I have a few instant nits though:

  • “End” is Fn+PgDn, “Home” is Fn+PgUp — I use these two keys a lot; these two things are becoming the top annoyance (but not enough to say not to buy one of these)
  • USB ports don’t seem to hold things squarely, but I seldom use them
  • hardware switch to shutoff touchpad would be nice — Fn+F7 toggles the touchpad; not as convenient as a hardware switch, but tolerably serves the purpose (updated 2009-09-06)
  • wired networking isn’t working right now (see this post)
  • the glossy screen is tolerable, but I can imagine it being intolerable if I were backlit or sitting outdoors (hmm…)
  • the touchpad can be a little fussy about the “touch click” — but it appears to err on the side of less sensitivity; I would prefer it erring in that direction

Overall, the install of Kubuntu was easy, and this is working exactly as I expected. In my first few hours of owning it, I liked it!  As if it isn’t already apparent, I plan to keep updating this post.  I will ultimately post a review on Newegg.

Virtual Machines and Testing

Virtual machines have to be one of the best inventions to test other operating systems or other versions of operating systems.  I use them daily as a way to have different versions of software available under conditions where that would not ordinarily be possible (e.g., I can’t have v5 and v6 running on the same machine).  For personal use they are great for giving a test drive to things like software in the Alpha or Beta version of an OS, or, as I am doing now, testing the resolution emulation of a netbook so I can get an idea of the tolerability of the screen size.

This would be one of my plans for testing Linux more so I don’t have to mess up my host machine.  VMs are safe to run, and what happens in the VM stays in the VM…

So, about the netbook resolution.  First, I was impressed that Kubuntu kept up with the virtual monitor resizing.  I tried to beat xrandr and the basic X11 configuration into stepping down to 1024×576.  No dice, x600 was all it would do.  Then I found the setting in VMware Workstation to tell it that the virtual monitor was 1024×576.  Without a fuss, Kubuntu started and here it is.

The size is a little cramped, but if all I was doing was writing, email, light web browsing, and maybe listening to some music — no problem.  The keyboard size seems to be the one remaining issue that I need to (ab)use a retail store for so I can touch computers with relatively the same keyboard sizing — if not the exact.

So… VMs:  cool.  1024×576:  cramped but tolerable.

To Netbook or Notebook

Netbooks have become increasingly more powerful since their initial debut.  Some sport the Intel Atom Z530 (1.6GHz), 2GB of RAM, 320GB HDDs, and 1280×800 screens with decent clarity.  That also overlooks extras like integrated Webcams, ability to output to an HD monitor (some with an HDMI port), surprisingly decent graphics cards, bluetooth, and Wireless-N.

There are still a few significant detractors:

  1. small keyboards.  The best have a 92% scale keyboard.
  2. single-core, slow(er) processor.  I enjoy my pow-ah.
  3. not all have my ideal minimum resolution of 1280×800.  Most are ‘x768, some are even smaller.
  4. for just a little bit more money ($100 – $300 depending…) you can get an Intel dual-core, 15″ laptop with more memory, more power, more HDD space, a DVD drive, better graphics, and a better sound card.  Tempting, no?

The decision seems to have come down to “ultimate portability” or “good portability” as long as I am not talking about massive code compilations, running VMs, playing games, etc.   I don’t mind a 15″ laptop.  I used to have a 17″ for work, and the current 15″ laptops are much lighter than the HP ze5500 I am keeping alive.  (Of all my machines, THAT one should be Frankenstein…).

With my upcoming move to Verizon, I will be receiving a coupon to the HP store.  I get to make a decision.  For the coupon plus about $100 I can get a netbook with decent specs.  What I REALLY dislike about the HP netbook is that the height is the worst in all the market:  1024×576.  That is even more claustrophobic than the postage stamp, sub-quarter-acre my house is on.  OR I can use the coupon plus about another $300 and get a laptop:  15.6″ HD 1366×768, dual core, lots of memory, etc., etc., etc.

I have a desktop for all of my “power computing”.  I think what I need to figure out is exactly what I plan to do on a netbook, and is 1024×576 good enough for my uses, or is it too confining and potentially insanity inducing.  This is where a VM can come in handy.  I can fake that screen size and see what it is like.

My OS thoughts are no surprise.  I can actually get the laptop with an HP supported Linux mobile remix.  I would quickly convert that to either the Ubuntu Netbook-remix, or straight-up Kubuntu 9.04 32bit.  Some quick searching has revealed that is decently supported on this netbook (and the notebook I am pondering).

If I am going to use it for mobility, writing, surfing, email, and pretty much nothing else, I guess the question comes down to living with the resolution.  The price difference plays in here (I think we have established that I can be cheap) as does simple tech-lust:  the Netbook is the neat new technology, I have the ability, I wanty.

The one, maybe one, significant extra factor is that a notebook could become my “TV computer” — the thing I can hookup to the television in the living room for the rare times we want to watch something streaming.  But, again… rare times.  I’m not a complete Hulu convert yet.

“What to do.  What to do.” — Q’s Mother