Why netbooks are important: Innovation

asus eee-pc 904h netbookI’ve pointed out this brilliant piece by Wired before. If you haven’t read it you should. It’s about how netbooks changed the computer industry, and ended, at least for some uses, the arms race towards ever greater performance. But there’s another thing that makes these tiny laptops very important, and that’s innovation. Hardware limitations and new use cases have forced software and hardware developers to come up with new solutions. Since the launch of the original Eee-PC nearly two years ago now I’ve spotted a number of really cool innovative projects that would probably not have existed without the netbook phenomenon.
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Fit-PC2 review: The world’s smallest desktop PC

fit-pc2As I wrote earlier, CompuLab was kind enough to send me a Fit-PC2, so I could find out if this tiny little PC is as great as it sounds on paper. The first unit I received failed before I could properly test it, but it was quickly replaced and I’ve been putting the replacement one through its paces all day today.

On paper

The Fit-PC2 is the world’s smallest fully functional desktop PC. It’s about 1/4 the volume of a Mac Mini, and it still has all the necessary connections and features to be used as a home or office computer. It’s also the most energy efficient PC I know of, using only six watt when idle and eight when playing full resolution HD video (1080p). Yes, it does that. But more about that later.
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Crunchpad launch prototype looks like dreams come true

CrunchPad launch prototypeTechCrunch just posted an update regarding their CrunchPad project. And there’s a ‘launch prototype’, which I assume is somewhat like a ‘release client’ in software development. Feature complete and ready for a last round of testing. The new renderings look even slicker than before, and there’s a nice video of the previous prototype in action that hints at what the software is going to be like. I just knew these prototypes were further along than they’d have us believe back then.
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Why am I still not excited about Tegra?

nVidia Tegra LogoAt Computex, nVidia is keen to show off it Ion and Tegra product lines. Ion is a new chipset that turns Intel’s Atom processor into a multimedia powerhouse by adding a proper GPU. The first products are available and have been met with critical acclaim. But I find Tegra a much more interesting product. Not in the sense that I’m going to run to stores when the first Tegra-packing devices hit retail, but in the sense that I’m curious to see where this is going.
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Conceptronic’s YUIXX: truly all-in-on?

YUIXX media playerEarlier this week, Conceptronic, the people behind the highly acclaimed CFULLHDMA media streamer announced a new media box called YUIXX. Yikes? Not at all. It seems like this product might well bridge the gap between media streamers and full-fledged media center PCs. Judging from the specs, this thing will play back any type of file or stream you throw at it, either from the optional internal hard drive or through your network. In full HD. But what really sets it apart is that it can also record TV from one or two DVB-T tuners.
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Five reasons to put Ubuntu Linux on your netbook

Eee-PC Tux 2Microsoft pounded itself on the chest last week saying over 96% of netbooks now use Windows. This made me somewhat sad, because I was hoping these little computers could be the break Linux had been waiting for.

The first couple of netbooks all had Linux pre-installed. Unfortunately, Asus chose to go with a custom Linux distribution for which it has yet to release its first update. No Firefox 3, no Flash 10 and no easy way to get additional software. Except for the easy to use interface, they came up with the worst example of what Linux can be. But if there’s one thing Linux offers its choice. It is my opinion that Ubuntu is the most user-friendly Linux distro out there, and I highly recommend giving it a go on your netbook.
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More Eee-PC Firefox speed tweaks

swiper_foxI wrote about how Firefox can be really slow on the Eee-PC a few months ago, and offered a simple tweak that helped me back then. Since upgrading to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) however, that configuration setting didn’t help nearly as well as it did before. Apparently, there were a few more things slowing the browser down. So here’s a couple more things to try.
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Six Windows versions bad? Try hundreds!

penguinsTwo stories caught my eye this week. On tuesday, and to the horror of most of its users, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 will ship in six different versions. Most of which have pesky little limitations.

A day earlier, Linus Torvalds said in an interview with Distrowatch that having ‘hundreds’ of different Linux distributions is ‘absolutely required’. So where most Windows users would have greatly preferred a single version of ‘their’ OS, Linux’s founding father sees no problem with having hundreds. I have to admit that I tend to agree with the Windows community on this one.
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Pink Eee-PC 701 + 5 year old girl = fun!

When the first Eee-PCs were introduced, it was love at first sight for me. I’d been looking for a small, portable device that would let me blog, send email and surf and this seemed to be it. The reason I never got the original 701 was because models with bigger screens were announces even before these 7″ versions actually hit the market. But when I saw the pink 701 on sale last week I couldn’t help getting one for my eldest daughter. It was dirt cheap and she loves it to death.
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My Eee-PC OS experiences so far

Since I wrote a post asking for “Asus Eee-PC 901 OS recommendations” a while ago, I’ve actually tried three of the five options I mentioned in that post. OSX isn’t a serious option for me, mostly because I don’t want my netbook to run illegal software. An ‘nLited’ version of XP would probably boot faster and run a bit smoother, but it would still need regularly updated firewall and anti-virus software. The three options I did try each have their own merits and flaws.

Here are my experiences so far, completely biased and laid out as a table similar to the kind you’ll find in real, professional reviews…
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