My netbook

Ubuntu NetbookI decided recently to get a netbook. I don’t have a really portable laptop and I thought a netbook would give me a bit more mobility and encourage me to write.

I did most of my shopping online for the deals and was pretty conflicted about which to go with. A couple of places had great deals on Acer netbooks, the Aspire One. It has a big harddrive, etc, etc. And I always liked the Asus eeePCs that I’d seen. But the Dell Inspiron Mini just looked so cool. A co-worker made the great suggestion that I head over to Best Buy just to try them out.

l-640-480-b83860f1-330d-4e80-8f13-d34a56c59a54Getting hands-on with the machines made up my mind instantly: Dell won on hardware, easily. The Inspiron Mini just felt like a computer, not a toy. A very tiny computer, but still a computer.

I also made up my mind about another important point. I wanted a netbook to be a netbook. I didn’t want an 80GB harddrive and all that other crap. I wanted the internet-only machine. The Dell delivered. Also, the Dell could be configured with Ubuntu Linux and I’m doing my best to get away from Microsoft.

The Best Buy salesman clearly did not know how to sell a netbook. The whole appeal is that it’s a small computer with limited functionality. Basically just a browser and a keyboard. But he tried to sell it to me like a traditional machine. Historically, computer salesmen have touted the more, the faster, the smarter. Netbooks aren’t that. The guy actually said to me: “Do you plan to put Microsoft Office on it?”

I said, “Oh God, no.” And he stood there struck dumb for several seconds. “I don’t want Microsoft anywhere near it.”

I was going to order one directly anyway so I could customize it a bit. And then a few days after shopping for one, Dell had a one-day sale on their Inspiron Mini — $199. I went with Ubuntu (natch) and juiced the RAM up to 1GB. But I stuck with the default 4GB harddive.

I got the machine today and it’s very cool. The keyboard is taking quite the adjustment to get used to. And, aggravatingly, I’ve had to un-Dell it. I was a little stunned Dell would put their crap onto a tiny Ubuntu machine, but they obviously can’t leave well enough alone. I immediately removed their Dell Desktop configuration, the damn Yahoo toolbar they’d put in Firefox and then I renamed the icon “web browser” to the proper “Firefox.” (I wonder if Dell made a deal with Microsoft to un-brand Firefox on their Ubuntu machines; I heard that when Dell started selling Ubuntu computers, it ruffled feathers in Redmond.)

And oddly, it doesn’t look like it’s updating in the typical Ubuntu fashion so I’ll keep a close eye to see if Dell has made other concessions to reduce the usability of the OS.