Back when netbooks were introduced, I was very excited about these cheap little laptops. The first ones ran Linux, and they had amazing battery life. I ended up getting two Asus Eee-PC models, and I stil have them. But now, with tablets and ultrabook boasting far better specs, mine are used less and less. That’s why I decided to see what I could use them for if I replaced general-purpose desktop OS Ubuntu Linux with software geared towards a single purpose. Below are three things I tried, and I was suprised by how useful they made my Eee-PC 901.
More Three cool things to try with your old netbook
When Intel first introduced their Atom line of processors, they told us it was aimed at smaller, so-called MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices). Soon after that, Asus released the first netbook, and a new category of computers was born. But they weren’t really MIDs. In fact, the term MID hasn’t really caught on, and there are very few devices that are generally considered to be MIDs. Nokia’s internet tablet series for and Sony’s Mylo come to mind. But both predate the Atom processor.
Atom’s major advantage over other small, power-sipping CPUs is that it uses the same x86 instruction set as desktop CPUs. This means that Atom-based devices, if powerful enough, can run Windows. Intel probably thought this would be essential for MID adoption. But then Apple released what would prove to be a game-changing device.
More The end of the Atomic Age?
It’s been a while since I blogged about Chrome OS. Things have been pretty quiet around the Google-supported operating system for netbooks and tablets. But Hexxeh, a 17(!) year old developer who’s been supplying pre-built versions of the OS for a while now, released an new version yesterday, and it’s a lot more polished than earlier builds. It boots in seconds and runs pretty smoothly for a pre-alpha OS. If you’re curious about Chrome OS, this is the perfect opportunity to give it a try.
Not only is the ‘Flow‘ build very easy to use, there are complete setup instructions as well. The OS is installed on a USB stick or an SD card (provided your target computer has a card reader it can boot from). It runs off of that drive, so nothing is left behind on the computer’s hard drive. Simply take out the SD card and boot up to get back to Windows or whatever you were using before.
Before netbooks came along, ultra-portable laptops computers were the most expensive ones you could get. I don’t have any proof that the netbook hyped caused them to get cheaper, but they have. I bumped into Asus’ new UL30A model in a local store this weekend, and it was love at first sight. Here’s a machine that can do everything that bigger laptops can, but in a very sexy and slim package. I hate lugging around a big heavy laptop, so this one seemed pretty much ideal for me.
More Asus UL30A: Everything a laptop needs, just smaller
I’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.
More Why netbooks are important: Innovation
Microsoft 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.
More Five reasons to put Ubuntu Linux on your netbook