After a week of owning a netbook, I have to say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought. I’ve spent much of the time hacking at it to get it the way I want it. It works perfectly in both Ubuntu and XP. I’ve not had a single problem with the wireless network either at home or work (both use WPA encryption). The connection to my Belkin N1 router has worked flawlessly. I’m very glad about that because a netbook isn’t much use without the ‘net.
You can use it anywhere; the sofa, the kitchen, even sat on the bog if you’re so inclined! You can stick a few movies on the hard drive. I’ve got season 7 of The Shield on there for when my wife’s watching Holby City. Even better, it’s now running a MythTV Frontend, so I have access to live TV and all my recorded programmes from any room in the house. Or even the garden when the weather gets better! Myth works brilliantly in this configuration. A proper mini-me media centre on your lap.
Downsides? It’s maybe a little plain and functional looking in matte black, and it still picks up fingerprints. The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to. A couple of the keys are annoying, especially in the Linux command line, (it requires 3 keypresses to get a pipe, for example). The battery life could be better.
I guess the most disappointing thing is the bootup time. Bootchart says 48 seconds, but that includes connecting to a wireless network and obtaining a DHCP address, which can take 10 seconds. However, from power-on to Firefox it’s more like 80 seconds. Not bad, but hardly “instant on”. I’ve optimised it as much as I can without getting in really deep and compiling my own kernel etc. I still think the 160GB hard drive was the better choice over a smaller, faster solid-state. Bootup times may be worse, but improved write speed and having the space for 2 operating systems plus a few DVDs has to be worth it.
On the whole, though, I think the Lenovo was a good choice in a crowded market. XP comes in handy, even though I use Ubuntu most of the time. The hardware works flawlessly under Linux. The big disk is great. Bluetooth is an added bonus, giving the option of a headset for Skype and a mouse with no dongle. Something to play with in the future. Plus, at the moment, you’d be lucky to pick an S10e up for £30 more than I paid! Nice one, Dabs.
After a weekend of anticipation, Christmas came late for me this year when the little Lenovo S10 arrived. Within a few minutes I was in XP and on the wireless network at work. The first surprise was the wonderful screen. Apparently mine’s the S10e model, which has a glossy, 10″, 1024×576 pixel screen. It also has a special BIOS containing an instant-on Linux OS. Cool.
I booted Ubuntu from a USB stick which was created from “System->Administration->Create a USB Startup Disk”. Unfortunately, I had problems trying to install it from here as the partition manager kept crashing. I could have persevered with this, but luckily I had an external USB DVD drive which I got with my work laptop. Booting and installing from CD went without a hitch and within an hour of the kids going to be I had Ubuntu Intrepid 8.10 installed. It was slightly but-clenching when it was shrinking the XP partition, but XP still worked fine afterwards.
The open source Broadcom driver worked out of the box with WPA2 encryption, but the ping stats looked slightly flaky. Enabling the restricted driver seemed to fix this. Most importantly, the wife was impressed; she spent the next hour on Facebook!
I’ve been watching the rise of the netbook with interest. In the past I’ve played with PDAs and smartphones, but in my opinion they just don’t cut it for browsing the web. A netbook is about as small as you can make it without compromising usablity. Plus, they have been doing a sterling job of bringing Linux into the mainstream. It’s just a pity the manufacturers insist on “dumbing down” the interface.
I managed to keep my trigger finger off my mouse button and didn’t jump onto the bandwagon too early. I knew that anything less than a 1024 pixel wide screen would be compromised. I told myself that once they reached about £200 I’d take the plunge…
So, last week I decided to go for an Acer Aspire One. I soon came to realise that they are like gold dust at the moment. You just can’t buy them. Unless you want a pink one, but I didn’t fancy a “gaybook”. A mate of mine bought one for his wife for Valentine’s Day. We joked that she’d be getting a pink, 10 inch, battery powered gadget… hope she wasn’t disappointed.
Eventually I found a blue Aspire One with a 120GB hard drive and Linpus Linux for £230 at Scan. I ordered it Q-collect to save the £10 delivery; I drive past the junction on the motorway on my way home anyway. Unfortunately, Scan’s idea of “in-stock” actually turned out to be more like “in stock in a few days’ time”. Unfortunately for them, Dabs had emailed a flyer that morning advertising a Lenovo S10e for £250. For £20 more than the Acer you got a 160GB hard drive, a 10″ screen and bluetooth. It was a no-brainer, so I cancelled my order at Scan and went for the Lenovo.
The S10e comes with XP installed. It’s weird that as a Linux fan I’ve bought an XP netbook, but I was gonna stick Ubuntu on it anyway, so what’s the difference? I’ll keep XP on a little partition because it could come in handy. There’s always the odd proprietary application or website.