The Rise of The Netbooks

mini9Since it seems we just can’t live without the Internet these days, it’s no wonder that consumers want to be “connected” while on the go. For most, that means having a smartphone device that can download email or browse the Internet. The bad thing, is that most smartphones have limited screen size so the Internet browsing experience just pretty bad. In addition, I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the local coffeeshops have their laptops out and connected browsing the Internet via a free WiFi connection. So, it certainly makes sense that computer manufacturers want to fill the niche between smartphones and traditional laptops by creating a new device that is very portable but can allow for Internet activities. Thus, the birth of the Netbook devices.

The Netbooks are basically small laptops that have a 7 to 10-inch screen. These devices are usually the size of a hardcopy book (about 1-inch thick), and have a touch-type keyboard (although small). The goal is to have the device last for more than 3 hours on a single charge, and to do so required the use of a low-power processor called the “Atom”. These devices also have built-in WiFi for Internet access, with some having Wireless Cellular cards.

Recently, I got caught up with these Netbooks, and decided to get one for use with daily activities. I purchased a Dell Mini 9, which has 1 GB RAM, WiFi, Webcam, and Bluetooth transceiver, and is running Windows XP. The main storage media is not a traditional hard drive, but rather a Solid State Device (SSD) which is similar to a Flash USB drive. The size of this drive on my Dell Mini is only 16 GB, so I need to be careful about what I install. I made my purchase through Costco.com online, so I won’t actually get the unit for 2 to 3 weeks (bummer).

Being a big reader of user forums, I searched around and found the forum called “mydellmini.com”. Amazingly, this forum has lots of useful postings from other Dell Mini 9 users to the point of being cult! 🙂 I also found it amazing that so many people are “modding” (or modifying) their Dell minis by making hardware changes. Luckily, Dell provides a very detailed service manual so people can open up the device and work with the internal components, and as such some people are adding in extra LED indicators, USB Flash Drives and internal GPS devices. Quite ingenious.

My goal is to have a very portable laptop that I can use for web browsing and checking emails while on the road. Long battery life is a must (the Dell Mini is suppose to get 3-4 hours on a single charge). I also plan to run Apache Web Server on the Mini so I can show clients new web pages that I’ve created, and possibly do some programming using MS Visual Studio 2005. Although the screen is just 9-inches in size, it is at a 1024×600 resolution which should be nice for web page viewing.

If you’re interested in Netbooks (specifically Dell Mini 9’s), you can check out my other Web Blog called “Dell Mini Zealot” at at dellmini.wordpress.com

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