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

Portable Apps

We know that the pen is mightier than the sword, but is the pen drive mightier that the hard drive?  A USB flash, jump, or pen drive is something that most people own and use to store files.  While these drives are useful for backups and file transfers, they can do much more.  As a solid state drive they are not as fragile as your computer’s hard drive.  One way to get more out of your USB drive is to run applications from it.  Many applications have been created or adapted to run completely from your USB drive.  That means that you can use your programs, bookmarks, and files from any computer.  This empowers you to leave your computer at home and carry your USB drive instead as it is smaller, lighter, more rugged, and less likely to be stolen that your laptop.  Many of the portable apps, as they are called, are free.  There are two main “platforms” or launchers – U3 and PortableApps.  U3 comes on certain USB drives, but is not worth paying extra for since PortableApps is a free equivalent.  You can download many other individual programs.  Here is a list of my favorite portable apps.  You can also install these portable apps in your Dropbox folder instead of your USB drive.