How To Keep Computing Simple with a Netbook

Do you have a netbook?  Are you considering a purchase of a netbook or tablet?  A netbook is a lower power version of a laptop computer.  Good netbooks costs about $300, which is less than any quality tablet, as of this writing.  If you are a mission administrator looking for a simple way to equip your team with basic computers in an affordable way, without becoming a computer repairman, netbooks are worth your consideration.  I buy a Asus model with 2 key features – a quick booting alternative operating system, and an easy restore feature.  The alternative OS allows you to be online in seconds, and the easy restore feature allows you do do a factory reset, anytime anywhere.

To keep things simple I use Portable Apps – normal, often free, computer programs that are designed to be run from a USB drive.  Installing these programs on the SD card, which lives in the netbook, makes things simple, as I don’t have to install a bunch of programs when I re-install the computer.  My portable apps include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, AbiWord, (Word alternative), Gnumeric (Excel alternative), Foxit (PDF reader), Skype, and others.  Basically, after a re-install, all I need to worry about installing is my anti-virus program, my PDF printer, my printer drivers, and Dropbox.  The other programs are there on my SD card, along with the installation files for these programs.  If I need Microsoft Office or other programs they can also be installed from my SD card.  This way I can easily and regularly reinstall the netbook to its factory state, which is easier than spending all day working on slow computers, viruses, or software problems.

Asus EeePC 1005PE-PU17

  • 14 hour battery life – great for travel or power outages
  • SD card
  • F9 Restore
  • Express Gate – a rapid-booting non-Windows operating system with basic functionality
  • Atom N450 1.66Ghz processor
  • 250 GB hard drive – plenty big
  • 1 GB RAM – I always upgrade this to 2GB right away – buy the Crucial 2GB 200Pin DDR2 SODIMM PC2 6400
  • Webcam
  • 3 USB ports
  • LAN port
  • VGA port

Buying a Netbook

Do you need a netbook?  A netbook is a small laptop computer that provides the basic aspects of a laptop (or notebook) computer, but is not as powerful.  By removing non-essential parts and reducing the size, manufacturers are able to deliver a machine that is small, lightweight, and “good enough” for basic computer tasks at an affordable price.  A netbook is ideal for travel and does a good job for writing email and browsing the internet.  A netbook is not adequate for running more sophisticated applications or running several common office applications at the same time.  Most netbooks include a SD card reader and a webcam, but do not include a CD/DVD drive or a multitude of ports.  Here are some things to look for when purchasing a netbook.

  • RAM memory – most netbooks are only sold with 1GB of RAM; make sure you can expand this to 2GB and do this right away – it will make a big difference
  • VGA port – make sure you can connect it to a larger monitor or video projector
  • Keyboard size – make sure it is not too small to type comfortably
  • Battery life – most people use netbooks while traveling or at other times when they are not plugged in, so make sure you have good battery life.

A recommended model is the Asus EeePC 1005PE.  It boasts a 14 hour battery life.