Thursday, October 16, 2008

Netbook


So guess what, I bought a netbook. No, I didn't end up buying the Dell mini inspiron 9. I bought the Linux 8gb version of the Acer aspire one. It was on sale at Futureshop for $299, and had better specs than the Dell mini for $100 less. It's a useful little device. I quite like it. I'm typing on it right now.

My only complaints are the 3 cell battery, and the international keyboard that comes with Canadian versions. The American keyboard seems far less annoying to use. But I got used to the keyboard for the most part. Also the mouse could be improved. It's a pain to press so hard on the mouse buttons, and their positioning is really annoying.

Minor quibbles include a lack of bios options, such as disabling the trackpad, The ridiculously complicated method to add an extra stick of ram (complete dissassembly really).. And the Linpus linux distribution while serviceable.. is annoying for anyone but skilled linux users like me to enhance. I really hope Acer switches to Ubuntu. It really is a better option, with better support, especially from the community. In any case, I did hack linpus up enough with fedora rpm's to have a workable xfce desktop and working divx media players.

Still, its impressively fast on the atom processor, you can play Quake III arena with most of the options turned on. As well, it comes with TWO slots for SD cards. Which really expands the storage options so that you don't miss having a built in hard drive.

The 3 Cell battery gives you 2.5 hours with wifi turned on. Wifi is 802.11g, and its a pretty good card for finding hotspots. Still, I'll wait for a 6 cell battery that can last 5 hours. 2.5 hours is a little bit shorter than what I'd like. 6 hours would be better, 8 hours would be best. There is an extended 6 hour life battery for the aspire one, but its 1) too expensive at $110 dollars, 2) seems to add too much to the bulk of the acer aspire one. I'll wait a bit to see if prices go down and/or they design a version that sits flush using better battery technology or something.

Another thing is that in the future there will be 3G options on these things. That's exciting. Or it would be, if I lived anywhere but Canada. Still, here's hoping Rogers gets some competition in the wireless internet arena.

I think a cool thing would be if they added an e-ink page to the lid, so that closed you could use it as an e-book reader, using the same internal hardware somehow. They could justifably charge more for it, and people would probably pay more for it. if they could do it in a way that it didn't seem obtrusive. That'd be neat.

Also it'd be nice if Ubuntu/Redhat/Xandros et all got together to create an Apple store type place for apps and games, and/or certified hardware. Perhaps using the old Lindows click and run as a base. It would certainly help convince some developers to port their software to the linux platform. Don't get me wrong, I use primarily open source software, but I'm not adverse to seing things like closed source games perhaps ported with wine being sold for download onto linux. At least it will get people on a free open source platform. Plus a lot of games require a CD be inserted, wheras these little things.. kind of eliminate that option. Anyways, I like it. Plus it doesn't have a Windows key, instead it has a little picture of a house. I guess its a "home" key.

Something I'd do with the keyboard, aside from having a US keyboard rather than the awkward international one, is swap the home/end keys with the pause/break/printscr keys. Home and End need a dedicated key, not something tied to a function key. Print screen though, is probably fine as a function key. Ideally, Where PrntScr is, I'd put page up, where Pause is, I'd put page down, where page up is, I'd put home, where page down is, I'd put end. And I'd simply assign Printscr/Pause Break to some funtion key somewhere. maybe f2 and f3.

Finally, I'd like to see some more aftermarket addons for this (and other linux based netbook style) devices. First of all, a retractable portable power cable would be nice. It's such a hassle carrying a brick when its unnecessary. I was a bit saddened that I couldn't charge this thing with a USB port. I mean, I realise its more powerful than a pocket PC.. but whatever. I'd at least like a retractable power cord, universal for all countries wouldn't be bad either. There are other official products they could add on.. like those teeny little USB addons, or whatever. Micro Bluetooth USB. That's what im thinking. I bought one, but if someone set up a netbook store that sold stuff like that, that'd be great. Kindof like apples store again.

So thats my acer aspire one review. The end.

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