I never had much use for a portable computer before. I always preferred to invest in a single behemoth to squat in the corner of my room, powerful, brooding and mysterious. For all those modern games I don’t play.
Then I realised that I spend an hour every day on the bus doing absolutely nothing (and let’s not go back to grinding Donkey Kong on the GameBoy because even my levels of masochism have limits).
I got to wondering how I could make use of this down-time…
The Wheels of Steel Are Turning and Traffic Lights are Burning
I have a lot of projects on the go, so I was determined to find some way to use the time to advance at least one of them.
But the bus judders along plothole-ridden roads, so it’s too unstable for proper concept-drawing work for Y4 (I have only resorted to horrifying scribbles in the most dire situations where an idea must be transcribed before it disappears… What do you mean, they’re horrifying scribbles even without the bumpy ride?).
Everything else for Y4 requires a full computer. High-powered graphics (hurr hurr), intense programming, inefficient object editing… There is the company laptop I use for work, but that’s not really portable — it weighs a tonne and is wired up to monitors and keyboards and other things that make me wish it was just a damn desktop with a proper graphics card (or maybe it’s just the company bloatware I don’t want to uninstall in case that’s breach of contract that makes it deceptively sluggish for the power supposedly under its bonnet).
But if I couldn’t work on Y4, could I work on something else? Maybe something purely in the realm of words, words which with a portable keyboard are insulated from jolts and wallowy suspension… Maybe something I made an entire personal wiki program for…
As the name of this blog implies, I decided that I would buy myself a cute netbook. Something small, light, portable. Something with a keyboard, where mistakes caused by bouncing around can be easily rectified.
After some consultation with people who know more about these things than I do, I discovered that just about every model in my price range had exactly the same system specs. 10.1″ screen at 1024×600, ~10 hours of battery life, 1.66Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM and Windows 7 Starter.
So it came down to build quality and feel. Last Saturday, after the options had been narrowed down via the internet, I took Kilbirnie down to PC World to have a look (while he was still drunk and I had a terrible hang-over). I found my cute netbook right there, but they didn’t have any in stock when I tried to buy it, so I left and bought it out of a Curry’s on the way home later that afternoon.
It’s a Samsung NP-NC110-AM1UK in black. I named it Astradyne.
Crippleware and Bloatware
Windows 7 Starter is hilarious.
For a netbook, where power saving is obviously something you want to be able to fine tune, half the power settings (including what the power does) are locked down. I also find the inability to change the desktop background a pretty cheap blow, along with being unable to change the colour scheme of classic windows mode (at least it did allow classic mode, I suppose).
So I just plugged in my Windows 7 Professional key and in-place upgraded. Sorted!
For being a not-very-powerful type of machine, where you probably want to keep things pretty slim, it fair came with a lot of bloatware. A raft of “games”, a raft of “easy xxx manager” for a load of different functions (though, I suppose if I sat on Windows 7 Starter I probably would have needed most of these bloatwares to actually be able to change anything)…
First start-up took ages while Samsung installed everything, only for me to clean it right back out again. What a waste of an evening.
The other thing about the cute netbook is that it’s not particularly powerful — but it doesn’t need to be. With the likes of wi-fi disabled (half the power consumption rate gone in a flash), power estimates while running LoneWiki (just “notepad with hyperlinks”, remember) show that I should be able to squeeze the full 11 hours of advertised battery life out of it.
So now I’m setting about When the Freedom Slips Away, This Wreckage and Shattered By Light in earnest. Okay, it’s only an hour a day in total, but slow and steady wins the race — and it means I can keep this going while still spending lunch hour and home time on Y4, rather than leaving it to languish between bursts of activity.
Basically, dead time is now live time. The long term agenda is satisfied.
And I have a cute netbook!