Posted tagged ‘netbook’

MSI’s new bling

May 28, 2009

Wired has a good run down of the new MSI X340. They are calling it the MSI’s Macbook Air and for good reason. Take a look at the pics on Newegg. Now I haven’t gotten my hands on one of these just yet, but it looks rather compelling. It would seem that MSI fixed all of the shortcomings of the Apple Macbook Air, namely two USB ports plus built in Ethernet. Oh don’t forget the SD card, vga and hdmi slots. Oh and most importantly it comes in at half the price. I’d say the chief advantage the Air has is OSX, but I bet the X340 will run Linux pretty well.

Really if you are in the netbook market and are looking for something a little bigger (screen size is 13 inches) and looks good than this is the machine for you. I like a good looking machine. I don’t think you have to sacrifice style for price or size and the MSI proves that.

Problem with SSD drives

April 13, 2009

So you may remember around here we had a little debate about SSDs (solid state drives). Well I am reminded of another problem. Actually it isn’t so much a problem as a new way to think of things. The short story is that my wife owns a Dell Mini 9. That machine is a netbook with an SSD inside. On Thursday she called me and said that when she booted up the machine she was given a black screen with “OS not found.” I told her not to worry about it because it was likely a Windows problem and that I should be able to get everything off of her drive. It was a faulty premise on my part. I assumed that it wasn’t the drive because none of the warning signs occurred. After doing some troubleshooting I figured out that the SSD itself had died. It couldn’t find the OS because the drive itself was inaccessible. Fortunately there wasn’t much information on that machine that wasn’t already backed up and it is covered under Dell warranty which they just send the new HD with everything preloaded on it. So wait time and fix time will be quick and painless.

The problem comes that there were no warning signs. With the moving parts on a regular HD you get the “click of death.” Of course I am not saying that I need the “click of death,” but with this there was no sound or blue screens or frozen computers. When it died it went silently with no warning leaving myself and the Dell technician scratching our heads. Of course this is just one incident, but it does go back to my original article on SSDs. The point is that there are still some reliability issues. These kinks will get worked out, but SSD technology wasn’t the silver bullet to fix the mechanical parts on the old Hard Disks at least not yet. To be fair I just had to fix one of my co-workers machines at work because of the “click of death.” Old hard disk drives don’t have the best track record either, but the technology has been around in this capacity longer so the variables are understood and the warning signs exist. Perhaps I just don’t know what to look out for yet.

On a side note. Dell Warranty is pretty handy. Before I confirmed the SSD we assumed I just had to run the XP CD. Since I didn’t have an external CD drive at the time he was willing to send a new SSD preconfigured. That was nice, but that meant that we would loose all the data on our machine. Point is that Dell didn’t expect me to have an external CD drive or to fix the problem on my own. I give them a small pat on the back for that.

Apple Netbook?

March 10, 2009

Will Apple release a netbook? That is the word heading around the rumor mill. First lets backup. Apple prides itself in being secretive and keeping people in the dark until product launch. Because of that secrecy it is sort of a game for outsiders to be the first to predict a product before Apple does. So you’ll see many predictions and every once and a while someone gets it right.

Personally I would like to see a true netbook come out of Apple. In hard economic times why not cut the consumer some slack and release a cheaper end portable computer along the same lines of the Mac Mini. They don’t have to pay it too much attention or even make it look that nice, it would just be nice to have an option for a mac under $1000. Hey it could even be above $500 and I would still think it was a deal.

In the article linked above Ars argues that the iPhone serves the gap of no netbook. I couldn’t disagree more. The iPhone is a great device for specific purposes. I carry it with me everywhere I go and it is always on the internet. I can get quite a bit of work done on the iPhone. I don’t “need” a netbook, but my wife on the other hand does. She needs to be able to open, edit, and print documents of various types. She needs to be browse multiple websites at once. She usually needs to do so at school where wifi is readily available. Not to mention that the closed nature of the iPhone is quite annoying (give me flash and let me do video chat). Netbooks are paired down computers, but they are still open computers nonetheless. My wife can watch any streaming video she wants, she can type papers if she needs, she can play some games, and can open any document type she wants. Can the iPhone do that? You let me plug in a keybaord on my iPhone and setup printers and install non-Apple apps on my iPhone and I might consider it a replacement for a netbook.

I don’t want to get into the game of predictions, but as this recession continues and Apple continues to watch their market be eclipsed by the likes of Acer because of netbooks one has to imagine they are considering entering that lucrative market. It is true that Apple sales are steady, but in hard economic times you have to be innovative and the companies that aren’t get left behind in the dust. So while these rumors may be totally baseless, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future Apple releases a low end netbook to the market.

Clarity on Netbooks and should you buy one?

January 23, 2009

Ars ran a good story breaking down Biz360’s low rating numbers on Netbooks. Ars generally thinks that the algorithm used by Biz is probably skewed in a way that unduly punishes netbooks. The article does a good job explaining why, but I can see why netbooks might, overall, be rated low. But I think the problem may also have to do with ambiguity. I think many people may be rating a netbook low because of confusion.

Ars outlines everything in the article, but what I am proposing is an end to the ambiguity. Clearly I love netbooks, they have so many compelling features (mobility, price, weight), I’ve pointed out the positives and the negatives before, but I figure I’ll put it in better form for anyone considering.

What are they:
Small–netbooks are small, typically 10” or less, but if the price and weight are right I would consider 13” at the largest
Cheap–if the starting price is $700 or more than forget it you are looking at a BMW not a Hyundai think $200-$500 and you have a netbook.
Weightless–usually under 3 pounds, compare that to the 17” behemoth and it might as well be weightless.
Underpowered–these machines are meant to be carried around and used in extremely mobile situations. You aren’t going to find much more than 1GB 2 is certainly max, no fancy video card (are you really going to play a game on your 9” screen?) and often a low powered SSD for power consumption and protection. Not to mention the processor which is under powered for various reasons.
Internet ready–These things thrive on attaching you to the internet. If you need to email and do facebook this is your device. Some actually come with a specific OS geared towards internet applications.

To quote Ben because it is a good definition:

I divide netbooks from notebooks in the sense that netbooks try to lower prices, heat creation, and storage space by limiting RAM, CPU type/speed, and HD type/size. They are primarily designed for limited applications and not intended to be a “mobile workstation.”

They are not:
Mobile Workstation–don’t expect this to be your primary machine, if you need to walk around with your entire digital life at anytime these machines won’t work for you.
Top of the Line–with a price tag of <$500 you can’t expect the best engineering or parts to be used. For that price the machine could only last a year and I would be happy.
Speed–again they aren’t designed to do heavy lifting.

What to watch out for:
While I like that Linux plays a huge role in the netbook revolution that also poses a problem to the people who don’t pay attention but clearly want Windows. If you are considering purchasing one, but need Windows, make sure that is what you are getting. Also, clearly this won’t be your only machine, so don’t think of it like it will.

Finally try it before you buy it. Now with the Dell Mini 9 you can’t do that, but Dell has a good return policy. The point here is that the keyboards are often shrunk due to machine size. If you are a touch type person than you will want to practice to make sure that the conditions are desirable. The Mini 9 worked well for me, but I couldn’t touch the Asus models.

So should you get one? My vote is yes. Who couldn’t stand to use a nice highly mobile machine at such a low price. But now you have been warned. You know what you are getting yourself into, so no complaining if things aren’t quite like the big boy models.

Competition between Linux and Windows 7 It’s a good thing.

January 23, 2009

So around here we are devided. I typically look at Linux and Mac issues and Ben does Windows. I certainly like to poke fun at Windows guys from time to time and I can take the heat back, but in the end I think all of the OS have their place and I use them all interchangeably. The Register has an interesting interview with Mark Shuttleworth (the creator of Ubuntu) talking up how good Windows 7 is and that he likes the competition. It is a good article, but not necessarily expected. After all you would expect the creator of a direct competitor would bemoan a good OS and talk down features and functionality. Mark even talks about how Windows 7 will be a compelling competitor on netbooks, where Linux has thrived. It is good to see someone realistic about this whole debate, and someone looking forward to the competition. From the article:

In fact, Shuttleworth believes a good version of Windows will end the current phony war between Windows and Linux in the high-growth netbook market and reignite the fight on features and capabilities.

I tend to agree here. Windows XP is quite old and while it is a solid and good OS (much better than Vista imo) it is starting to look and become stagnant. It is showing its age. However, Vista was too much for the low powered netbooks to handle so the battle between Linux and Window’s latest product has been on hold. It is time for Windows to duke it out on the battle field to see who wins. This will be quite a challenge for Linux/Ubuntu to overcome. It is obvious that the uptick in Linux and Mac adoption is a direct result of the Vista boondoggle, so it is hard to predict what will happen to the shifting market numbers if Windows 7 is a success. Part of me wants to see Redmond go down in flames and the other part of me can’t seem to let it go. But regardless of my personal preferences competition is always a good thing. As 3 major competitors are starting to emerge on an ever shifting and diverse market they have to strive to innovate, and that is good for all of us.

Netbooks getting bigger

January 7, 2009

I love netbooks. There are two reasons mainly. First, is that they are light and perfect for the task they were designed for. Second, they are cheap. As I said before it isn’t that companies haven’t made small laptops, they just didn’t make them affordable. Probably the biggest complaint against netbooks is the size. We want a small laptop, but 8.9 inches is a little too small. Recently some companies started to reveal 2009 offerings in the netbook category with larger screens (10-13 inches). Dell, who made the mini 9 (which my wife owns), is planning on releasing a mini 12 and could possibly launch a mini 10 (can you figure out what the number means). Asus and Acer have 10 inch models as well. MSI may have the boldest offering though. Wired just reported on what clearly is a Mac Air clone. I think the MSI looks good, and at $700 it might actually entice me to purchase. One of the biggest problems with the Mac Air is the price (over $1800 to start), if the MSI can deliver on looks and price all the better.


I’m not sure where the cut off is between laptop and netbook, with regards to screen size, but I think this is a good trend. By increasing screen size and keeping the price low more people feel they can afford good laptops. Sure a netbook won’t be able to play your games or processes video like a $2000 Macbook Pro, but for the on-the-go person who doesn’t want a 5 or 6 pound brick on their back this is the perfect fit. My family is happy.