Monday, May 18, 2009

My second computer is a Netbook

They're compact, they're sleek and they're cute. They are netbooks and they are setting a new trend, especially amongst the Net Generation. The iPhone was the icon of 2008 and the netbook is the icon of 2009. So what are netbooks? Simply put, they are portable computers - smaller than laptops and larger than smart phones, about the size of an old video cassette. Netbooks are essentially laptops without a DVD drive and a small 10 inch wide-format screen. And they pack a lot of computing power. My netbook has a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB memory, a 160GB hard drive, a webcam, WiFi, Ethernet, USB and a memory card reader. Newer netbooks have 16 to 64GB of flash memory instead of a hard disk, which makes for faster startup and low power consumption. Netbooks come pre-loaded with a user-friendly version of Linux, or Windows XP.

The term netbook implies that they're best suited for Internet use. The netbook is the ideal portable machine. Add wireless Internet and a web browser and you've got the ability to email, chat, watch YouTube videos, upload your digital photos to Flickr and more. Netbooks have many advantages. Carry them to coffee shops, work on documents on cramped aircraft, play music at a party, take them on holidays to process photos and videos, and look good while doing all that! Did I mention that netbooks are cute?

Ironically, size is also the netbook's greatest disadvantage. Netbooks will never replace laptops or desktops as your primary computer. The screen is small and gets cluttered. The keyboard is small for human hands. I suffer from repetitive stress injuries and typing for more than an hour on a netbook really hurts.

Should you go out and buy a netbook? Netbooks are almost the same price as a mid-range desktop PC. Think of a netbook as a second vehicle - something you use occasionally. If your portable computing needs aren't very demanding, the netbook can be an ideal companion to your desktop. If you think of using a netbook as your main computer, get ready for degraded vision and wrist surgery.

Netbooks may have their downside, but no one can pass up their good looks. Most PC manufacturers know this, and have a netbook to sell you. Everyone netbook owner I know bought it simply because "it looks cute!". So did I.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Read a (net)Book!

Netbooks can make reading e-books very easy and natural. EeeRotate is an innovative program that rotates the Netbook display screen by 90 degrees, allowing you to open and hold your Netbook like a novel!

EeeRotate can be activated on the fly, by pressing Ctrl-Alt and the arrow keys (up, down, left, right). It is free and easy to use.

If you own a Netbook, give EeeRotate a shot! Although I'm not a fan of e-books, reading an e-book in this manner works better than the normal horizontal screen format.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Netbooks - Reviews, comparisons, hacks and hints

Netbooks are here to stay. These tiny computers are the rage amongst the Net Generation. Perhaps the first Netbook on the scene was the Sony VAIO Picturebook that came out in mid 2000. The Sony Picturebook was ahead of its time. Sure it had a small 1024x600 10" screen, built in webcam, no DVD drive, reasonable battery life (2 hours which dwindled down to 10 minutes after a year) and extremely tiny and portable. However, the necessary "environmental factors" weren't in place yet. And oh, it cost 6 times as much as a Netbook does now.

In 2000, there was very little WiFi. WiFi wasn't built into every system. One had to use ugly plugin cards to enable WiFi. There was also very little WiFi service around the world. The only place you could use WiFi was either at home or the office. Storage size and RAM was also low on the Picturebook - 128MB RAM and a 4GB hard disk. And there was no broadband Internet to the home.

Netbooks now have a lot of computing power, and yes, some can even run Mac OS X! (links later down the article for how to run OS X on your netbook). And all the environmental factors are in place for netbooks to thrive - WiFi, fast broadband Internet, cheap digital cameras, music on MP3s, YouTube, GMail, Flickr, Facebook and what not. The netbook has arrived.

First, some reviews:

What is a Netbook?

How Cheap Little Laptops Hit The Big Time (Wired)

Some comparisons and reviews:

The Top 10 Netbooks

Wikipedia's comparision of Netbooks, at a glance

And here's how to turbocharge your Netbook into running Mac OS X, making it the coolest Apple machine!

First, ensure that your netbook is "Mac compatible".

Next, follow Gizmodo's easy tutorial on running Mac OS X on the Dell Mini.

But all's not rosy for Netbooks. They are a pain to use - especially a pain on the eyes because the screen is too small and a pain in the wrists, because typing on tiny keyboards will ruin your carpal tunnel nerves.