Friday, April 24, 2009

The Rise of Netbooks

Netbooks are taking the computer market over by storm. They are all the rage, and it seems the term "netbook" is the new buzz word that you hear about on CNN or see on tech websites like CNET <> . What is a netbook? In very simple terms a netbook is a shrinked down cousin of the much bigger laptop that everyone has grown to love & hate (especially if your hard drive crashes and it is your only computer you have). Netbooks are the "Mini-Me" of laptops (see the YouTube clip below and check out the Austin Powers movies for more info).

Like Mini-Me, netbooks are pure genius in their concept and purpose for which they are designed to meet. Netbooks are primarily designed for emailing, surfing the web, and doing light word processing. You don't need a full blown laptop that will cost you upwards of $1000.00 to accomplish the tasks of checking your email, surfing the web, and doing word processing. Netbooks would make great computers for kids, students, people who do light traveling and still need to be connected to the Internet cloud, road warriors who are tired of lugging around back breaking laptops, and power desktop users who can't drag their fabled desktop PCs into the living room to surf the web while they are watching Lost, Heroes, or 24 on their 42" flat screen TVs. Netbooks are too cheap for laptop manufacturers not to make them, since they can flip a decent profit on a device that probably costs them pennies compared to the price the consumer will eventually have to pay for them.

I'll admit that a netbook would make a great addition to anyone's tech arsenal for numerous reasons. Take myself for example, I've used laptops over the years both at work on a professional basis, and on a personal basis. Laptops have their place, but I will always espouse the benefits of a desktop PC vs. a lapotp any day of the week if I'm making a point about which I'd use for my primary computer. But the desktop vs. laptop argument is a post for another day. Who hasn't wanted to check their email while sitting on the couch watching their favorite show? I know I've wanted to do that, but I don't want to drop $1000.00 to do that. I can use the exercise and I don't mind getting up to walk to my computer room to check my email if I really need to that. Netbooks make the Internet a more personal and mobile experience for a person especially when you have the ability to take it with you as long as you have a wifi connection around to jump online with. Even if you don't have wifi, there is still a benefit to being able to have a small computer with you that you can be productive on when the urge hits you. If I was taking a college class in a traditional brick & mortar classroom, I'd definitely want a netbook at my side just for the simple fact of being able to take notes & jump on the college/university LAN when the lecture hits the boring, sleep inducing spots that exist in all lectures. Overall, I think the concept of netbooks is great and I hope it is a niche that is around to stay. Netbooks represent the writing on the wall. The "wall" I allude to is the eventually advent of a true tablet computer. I'm sure the tech aliens over at Apple are working on something like a tablet computer. On a side bar, the folks at Apple seem to bring science fiction to life in amazing ways, just take a look at the iPhone <> and I don't have to say anything else in that regards, back to netbooks though.

I think everyone was sleep at the wheel when ASUS dropped their netbook on the market which sparked the netbook revolution that we are now in the midst of. In typical Microsoft fashion, the storm troopers at Redmond and their mindless fanboys in the press have been spreading misleading articles about Windows dominance of the netbook market (click on the article links below:
I don't buy many of the arguments in the 3 articles above that I referred you to because I believe that there are more Linux users out there than anyone accurately knows. At the most, the articles and others like them only present one side of a two sided argument. With over 10 years of experience of actively working in the Information Technology field on a professional basis, I can safely say that out of the box that Windows is not easier to use than Linux. For starters, to use just about any sort of peripheral in Windows, you have to have the associated driver for that device in order for the operating system to be able to communicate and interface with that peripheral, Windows plug-n-play is a well known myth in IT circles. Out of the box for Windows, means you can only surf the Internet and fire-up Wordpad if you need word processing. Linux on the other hand is an entirely different story. With Ubuntu <>, my Linux distrobution of choice, you get a ton of applications out of the box like:
  • Firefox - a much better and innovative web browser than Internet Explorer.
  • Tons of free games.
  • F-Spot - a photo manager.
  • Gimp - a photo editor.
  • Open Office - a full blown office productivity suite that includes words processing, spreadsheet, and power point applictions that really work and get the job done.
  • Brasero - a professional CD/DVD burning application.
  • Transmission - an awesome BitTorrent client.
  • And rock solid security as soon as you press the power button.
There isn't enough room in this blog to list all the software that is freely available for Linux that is out there for the masses to not only just use, but to also tweak, customize, and perfect to their own specific tastes and needs. There are thousands of software applications that are no farther away than a very simple "sudo apt-get install XXX.deb" or search through the Synaptic Package Manager in Ubuntu. Let's just say that Linux is like legion, we are 10s of thousands deep & we are everywhere. Do you have a cell phone? Have you checked out the latest hollywood blockbuster? I have no doubts that you would be surprised to discover just how deep Linux runs within the world of technology. What do you think most Internet backbone servers run on?
Typical netbooks come with between 512MB to 1GB of RAM, an average video processor, an Intel Atom processor, and a decent size hard drive. These specifications alone would cause me to think of something other than Windows to run on a netbook. Have you every tried to run Windows XP on a computer with 512MB or 1GB of RAM? It isn't a pretty experience that I'd write home about if I wanted to brag about something. 1GB of RAM is the bare minimum to get decent performance out of Windows XP. I'm amazed at how people & OEMs have been duped by Microsoft into buying into the hype of netbooks that come pre-loaded with ancient Windows XP! Yes, most people do use Microsoft Windows, but that doesn't equate to Windows being the right operating system for the job. You can run Linux on just about anything due to its flexibility, low hardware requirements, and compatibility with a very broad range of computer hardware. Anything, as in the super small picotux - the smallest Linux computer in the world. The picotux 100 is the world's smallest Linux, only slightly larger (35mmx19mmx19mm) than a RJ-45 connector, see the picture below.

More information about the picotux 100 can be found here.

The hardware requirements for Ubuntu are meager when you compare them to what you need for Windows XP or Vista. Ubuntu or Kubuntu have the recommended minimum requirements of:
  • 700 MHz x86 processor
  • 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 8 GB of disk space
  • Graphiccs card capable of 1024x768 resolution
  • Sound card
  • A network or Internet connection
More installation system requirements can be found here.

Linux is like the Jedi of Star Wars, and Microsoft is like the Sith. We know who wins the war eventually, but for now, Linux users need to band together whenever and wherever we can to spread the word about Linux and open source software. Ignorance about the advantages and power of Linux is something we must combat aggressively and whenever we get the chance to. Don't buy into the hype about Windows dominating the netbook market, because it simply isn't true. Linux gives users their powers back in regards to turning a mundane computer experience into an adventure of epic and informative proportions as you plunge into the world of using Linux. I believe in time that Linux will eventually overcome the suffocating dominance of Windows to finds its voice in the mainstream technology and computer circles and coexist with Microsoft on a more public level than it does now.

Total freedom is one of the true beauties and strengths of Linux & open source software, even though I'd be willing to pay for Ubuntu if I had to because it is well worth my dollars.

Have no doubts about it, if I ever get a netbook, it will definitely be running Ubuntu Remix, Ubuntu's Linux OS for netbooks!

Additional resources and information can be found below at the following links & videos.


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