I got an hp mini 1000 netbook recently and it quickly became my favorite computer. It’s the first computer I’ve owned that’s worthy of the title “lap top”. Whomever said netbooks aren’t powerful enough to be someone’s primary computer either didn’t try or plays too many video games. Not only is it more than capable of handling 90% of my computing tasks, but more than half of the other 10% can be done, with some inconvenience. I went from using my desktop computer several hours a day to several hours a week and the netbook is quickly become my primary computer for home use. Here are a few things I learned as I got settled into the world of netbooks:
Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) is the way to go.
If you’re thinking of getting a netbook with Windows XP, don’t. Save the money because XP is an inefficient, resource intensive operating system. Throw it on an underpowered netbook and you’ve entered a world of wait. I got the Mi edition of the hp mini because it came with Linux pre-installed. Though hp’s flavor of Linux is more compatible with the netbook’s hardware accessories, even it was a bit slow. I went to the Ubuntu Netbook Remix site, followed the directions, and was up and running with the new OS in less than an hour. There are two major advantages to UNR: First, it’s optimized for the netbook’s Atom processor. Second, the user interface is optimized for the netbook’s small screen. There were some problems, the built-in speakers did not work at first, and neither did the wired networking. Another hour of following the directions on the Ubuntu web site and my system is running perfectly.
Viewing the world at 1024×576.
It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago 1024×768 was a huge screen. Less than a month ago I was worried that 1024×576 would be too small. Naturally, there are some things that require lots of screen space, but the overwhelming majority of what you do does not. UNR comes with a netbook friendly interface that I originally thought would get in the way. I first switched to the standard Gnome desktop, similar to Windows or OSX. That was a mistake. Working with a standard desktop layout on a trackpad and small screen taught me how inefficient it really is. Screen space is wasted on taskbars and menubars; app (Start) menus are a pain to navigate. It wasn’t until I gave the UNR desktop a chance that I realized how powerful it is. Task bar, system tray, app menu, and window title are all merged at the top of the screen. This allows apps to run with the most screen space possible while still giving you access to those features. Clicking the Ubuntu icon in the upper left corner hides all running applications and brings the launcher panel back to the front. Frankly, I’m beginning to think the UNR interface would work equally well on my desktop computer.
Get a big battery.
The one mistake I made was not upgrading the battery. The standard 3-cell battery the hp Mini 1000 comes with provides a solid 3 hours but not much more. That’s just not enough to make the system as portable as I’d like it to be. To exacerbate the problem, the power cord is not very long so I find myself tethered to outlets a lot. Though Linux is supposed to be less power efficient than Windows, I am consistently getting the 3 hours out of my battery as promised by hp.
Plenty of speed, and get the SSD.
True, the atom processor isn’t as powerful as a quad-core Pentium. True, it doesn’t have an nvidia GForce x99million special edition SLI with 6 terabytes of video ram. But as I said, it’s plenty capable of doing 90% of what you do, so long as 90% of what you do is not video games or making Pixar movies. The web browser is plenty fast, it plays mpeg rips of my DVDs flawlessly, I can even stream hulu. All in all, it’s not measurably slower than my desktop computer. One thing it has working in its favor is the 16 gigabyte solid state drive. The big advantage of the SSD is speed. Any task that requires a lot of disk activity will be greatly sped up. 16 gigs may not sound like a lot, but it’s plenty for Linux. I’ve installed a ton of apps, downloaded files, and I still haven’t filled half the drive. Throw in a stack of SD cards to replace DVDs and you’re set.