Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 11 Jan 2010

Netbooking

I hadn't owned much in the way of portable computers until recently. I've owned a number of PDAs, including Psion 3a, Palm IIIx, Palm Zire 71, Acer n35 and my current Benq E72 'smartphone', but could never justify the cost of a laptop PC. A couple of years back I was given an old Toshiba laptop (Pentium III 600/128MB/6GB) that enabled me to program my house control system. That system seems to have stopped working. If anyone wants to try and do something with it then let me know. More recently I acquired a slightly newer HP laptop that is much more usable and gives me the ability to play video on the TV via the S-Video port. If I can get it networked up then it may find a use as a general media player in the living room.

Ever since the Asus EEE PCs appeared I have fancied one. They have come a long way since then and are now very capable PCs, even though they are a lot less powerful than the average desktop. Their advantage lies in being very portable. I'm a lot more likely to take something the size of a hardback book with me than something that weighs as much as a couple of house bricks and needs a large bag. I went for something at the lower end of the market in the form of a Samsung N130. The price was reasonable and was sweetened by a £20 cashback offer from which I just received the cheque. The specification is fairly standard, N270 Atom CPU, 10" LCD, 1GB/160GB. Battery life seems pretty good, but has not been tested that much yet. The first real use it got was as a DVD player on our skiing holiday. I could have ripped DVDs to the drive, but didn't have time to our new Xmas movies before we departed on Boxing Day, so bought a cheap DVD/CD-RW drive on ebay. The built-in speaker is a bit weedy, so I also got an X-mini speaker. It's only mono, but charges via USB, is pretty loud and very portable.

We were able to watch our DVDs using VLC, which generally worked well, but did give some audio stutters. This was using XP. I really wanted to get a netbook with Linux, but the options are more limited these days. I fully intend to install some form of Linux on it, but have not found the time. I know that Ubuntu has some issues with the wireless, so may consider other distros. I need to do some research. Meanwhile, the Samsung is getting a lot of use as a way of accessing the web in rooms other than the study.

Our other major hardware acquisition recently is a Wii Fit board. This is another clever device from Nintendo. We're exploring the included software that includes all sorts of exercise routines and some games. It lacks the ability to put together a full programme of exercises to form a routine, but I understand the new 'Plus' software can do that. We may buy that if we find we are using it enough. We also got the Mario & Sonic Winter Olympics game that can use the board. I find the Wii games so intuitive as you generally just have to move to play the game rather than dealing with tricky button combinations. I just wish I had more time to explore the games we have, but the kids get a lot of fun from them.

[21:24] | [] | Comments | G
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