A Democracy of Netbooks

As a long time reader of Joey DeVilla's excellent blog, Global Nerdy, I take exception to his post Fast Food, Apple Pies, and Why Netbooks Suck:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/01/a-democracy-of-netbooks.html

And despite the launch of the iPad, I’d still got for a device like this in preference.

I’d like to get my sister a netbook, but I’m not sure if she’d approve of it or not.

I still feel bad for wrecking her laptop a year ago…

What is the max RAM these things are capable of? Will it run Visual Studio 2008 with SQL Server 2008 installed? I’m not looking to run production systems or anything but if I can install VS 2008 + SQL 2008 and do some development on the go, without it choking, then that is fantastic.

You made me want to post the story of my Netbook (which I gave you credit for). http://www.cybertough.com/technology/ode-to-the-netbook/

I’m posting from Nexus One smartphone. I can write software to access any of the hardware. If I don’t want to use Android I can put my own OS, not that I would haha. I can access the internet through any wireless hotspots. The yearly cost is $0.00. If I want to text message or use it as a phone I can pick and choose from many vendors, thanks in part to it taking SIM cards. I love my netbook, but now that I have the smartphone I can see its merits.
Note: A counter example to smartphones being poop ALL the time. They have the potential to be decent.

I have the same concerns as Optimalsolutions - are current netbooks powerful enough to handle heavy software like Visual Studio? Can the memory be upgraded to help the experience, or does the Celeron processor result in a slow performance?

Steve Jobs answered that decades-old complaint by stating, “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”

What he actually meant to say was: “Our typical profit margin cannot be achieved with a sub 500 netbook that doesn’t flat out suck compared to REAL computers. Oh, and our OS is too heavy.”

"Slightly bigger and pricier than a phone, but can’t phone."
Skype fool.

I think netbooks are taking portable computing in the right direction, I even see slight shifts in the laptop arena because of them (or so I assume because of them). The biggest current issue I have with the ones I used are the hard drives. They don’t seem to store anything at all. I get it, they’re tiny, but loss of wifi key on shutdown? That’s poor. What’s the point if I need a usb drive (that’s actually larger than the internal drive) attached at all times?

Adding to my previous comment: Didn’t Apple just announce the Ipad (also known as Ipod Touch XXL) for just under 500? BTW - parts for that are under 300 FYI.
Wow, just wow. This is why smart people don’t like (Cr)Apple.

The idea of democracy is great… but where’s all this “free” wifi coming from? In my 'hood you can choose between Cablevision cable or Verizon DSL. But thank god I don’t have to be on the hook to those big corporate cell companies! I guess I can go to McDonald’s or the bookstore for free wifi, but in reality most people are paying some major corp for their internet access. So the argument for democracy ignores the whole ‘net neutrality’ issue… if the company you get the net from can decide what net you can get your democracy goes right out the window, no matter what kind of machine you’re hefting around.

And to the iPad naysayers… well, I’m sure Apple will take your thoughts into consideration while they’re depositing their billions into the bank. In regards to macs and netbooks, you get what you pay for…

As for netbooks having the potential to change things, I could give credence to that argument, but don’t think that everyone who jumps on the internet is there to change the world. cf google’s recent video “What is a browser?”… 8% of people questioned knew what a browser actually was, most responded “Google” or “Yahoo” or the like. That’s the niche that netbooks are really filling.

talking about unlimited access to the complete sum of human knowledge, and free, unfettered communication with anyone on earth.

I totally agree with you. That’s very nice that you pay attention to the democratisation through the netbooks technology. I got mine (Samsung N130 netbook) few months ago and I love it. BTW: I got it with Windows 7, but installed Ubuntu linux (“Karmic Koala” Netbook Remix) as a second OS. I would definetly recommend Ubuntu to anyone using a netbook primarily to the internet needs. It looks really much better and works faster on netbook than Windows 7. And it’s free.

I’ve always loved that Steve Jobs quote. Of course, the original Mac Mini launched at $499 so I guess he’s really admitting it’s pretty crappy. I own one, I can say that, right?

That Apple is not able to build a sub-$500 computer that doesn’t suck, is really a problem with a Apple - not the computer.

Don’t forget that if you swing that way, a number of the more popular netbooks are becoming popular in the hackintosh community. If you get one that sports Ion, you could even manage fancy desktop effects without breaking a sweat, and it’s about a quarter the price of an official Air.

You stress the ubiquitous access to internet from netbooks as their primary advantage, but please notice that ubiquitous WiFi access is far from common everywhere in the world… it may be true in the US, but not as much in Europe for example.
Smart phones fill the gap by providing you the same access over 3G or 4G and so provide a real alternaitive in those places.

I agree with the general sentiment that Netbooks are a worthy and useful devices, but I think your comments about Smartphones are unnecessarily dismissive (or possibly US centric).

I have an Android phone- I have root on the phone, I can install whatever software I like and I’m not bound by any corporate shackles (I’m in Australia and I don’t have some extended contract which binds me to my telco). I can VoIP like a netbook, but I have the added advantage that I can use a 3G network to make phone calls if I want to pay the price (which I do!). To all intents and purposes its as free, and in many cases as powerful, as a netbook (and more powerful than some). The only part of the Winer definition it doesn’t fit is “3 USB ports” (it only has one).

The toll roads and gatekeepers you speak off do not exist for many smartphone users in many parts of the world. Android users can install whatever software they like and in most of the world they are free to live off WiFi in exactly the same way that a netbook user does- no monthly fees or contracts. Or pay the monthly fees, just like a netbook user can, for additional network access through the cell/mobile network.

In many parts of the world (Japan, India, Indonesia) the smartphone is already the desktop/laptop/netbook of the land. Netbooks? Too big, bad battery life and flimsy! Why would you want one of those?

Strongly agree!
I am using Iphone 3G, although it can do browsing, reading pdf but it still kind like too small and not powerful enough. I am thinking to get a netbook for those kind of stuff. At least I can do more stuff with netbook, write any program, play movie, browse full page website instead of zooming here and there while browsing some website.

I think you miss on one of the most important points for why people buy netbooks: weight!

After large laptops have been carried around for 2-5 years before netbooks got popular, most people were tired of having 5kilos+ on their shoulders. It’s bad for long travels, because luggage is limited, and it’s bad for short trips, because you have to decide beforehand if you want to use a laptop or not.

A netbook is something you can always carry around. That’s what Apple understood when designing the Air. The flatness isn’t the key, but the lightweightedness.

When I go look at laptops and netbooks I look for screen size, processor speed, ram, battery hour and weight. If it scores high on the first four, but bad at the last, it’s a no-no for me. This is important.

Programming-wise, is this CULV-equipped notebook worthy when it comes to c# developing? I’m considering the purchase of one of these small beasties as a backup machine to use while I’m commuting.

Thanks in advance,

I’ve been very anti-laptop for years. I always contended that I can be much more comfortable and productive on a desktop with a nice monitor, fast hard drive, better performance.

But of course, portability is nice to have for travel every now and then. The problem from my perspective is that laptops have grown so much over the years.

So a few months ago I broke down and bought a laptop. I chose the dual core Acer AS1410 you mention in your post here. Acer calls it a notebook, other sites call it a netbook. Whatever you call it, it’s small, light, and capable.

Recently I went on a business trip and took the mini-computer with me. I found that it’ll fit on one of those tiny fold down trays on an airplane even with a ginger ale sitting next to it. And then I can fit it in my slim netbook case and slide it into the seat pocket with all the magazines when I’m not using it. The Acer just made sense for that trip.

“What is the max RAM these things are capable of? Will it run Visual Studio 2008 with SQL Server 2008 installed? I’m not looking to run production systems or anything but if I can install VS 2008 + SQL 2008 and do some development on the go, without it choking, then that is fantastic.” - OptimalSolutions

I upgraded mine to 4GB RAM, which is its theoretical max. That was the other reason I chose the Acer 1410. Most other netbooks are only capable of 2GB RAM. And I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it’ll run VS and SQL Server. Personally, I’ve used it for RDP into my work computer. It’s definitely usable for emergency development in a pinch.