Since everyone’s going on about Netbooks lately…

Some may know that I bought an Acer Aspire One netbook (one of the Linux versions) back in October. I was boring, and didn’t write anything about it, either the fact that I bought one, or the fact that it showed up.
This netbook features an Intel Atom 270 1.6GHZ processor (single-core with hyper threading), 512MB onboard memory (expandable to 1.5GB), an 8GB solid-state disk, Atheros 802.11G wifi, Realtec high definition audio, and two card readers (a dedicated SD and a multi-in-one slot), not to mention a webcam, and the second worst built-in microphone I’ve ever heard on any notebook.

I really wasn’t intending on buying a netbook at all, though I thought the concept was kind of neat. Using the big, heavy Bertha of a computer known as Marvolo for nearly three years (though it’s still not as big or clunky as the old Toshiba A6500 I had before it), I thought something small and lite weight would be fun, if not for a main laptop, then an auxiliary one.

So, looking around for the fun of it, I ran across a new Acer Aspire One on Ebay for $250, and thought “What the hell, let’s see what happens.”

This Netbook comes with a customized version of Linux, called Limpus Linux Lite, which isn’t a friendly OS if you can’t see it. Thus, I threw Windows XP SP2 on, using a USB bootloader and an older 20GB Western Digital drive in a caddy, since netbooks don’t have optical drives. Well, that’s how I ended up finally installing, after a couple of false starts using a very slow 16GB flash drive, some boring cheap no-name Chinese P.O.S that deserves to live in a dishwasher. I have since replaced it with a much nicer Kingston 16GB data traveler.

Something kept dying when I disabled virtual memory, corrupting a bunch of files and making Windows un-bootable. So, I installed Windows again from the hard drive, which didn’t take nearly as long, but with the same result.
I then tried formatting the 8GB solid-state disk as fat32 rather than NTFS, which made the machine run so much smoother. Come to find out, the flash disk on this machine is probably the worst rated drive in it’s class, with a read speed of 30 mbps, and a write speed of only 10MBPS. You can surely imagine how this effects windows. A big bottle neck like that sure gets obvious when you have NTFS using more file system overhead, even without indexing.
That was done all in late October.

After finally getting the Aspire One up and running, I didn’t end up using it all that much. I took it with me to West Virginia, and only pulled it out of the case a couple of times for book reading, whereas Marvolo, the main laptop, was active pretty much all of the time I was there.

At home, other than getting on TeamTalk occasionally, or checking e-mail when it was more convenient to access, it stayed off and in a sub-compartment of my laptop case, being kind of bored.
It went to fake job with me a couple of times, but didn’t do much there either.

Last week, I was talking to freakyfwoof on TeamTalk. As Andre just recently acquired a netbook, we were comparing things and being generally stupid.
I decided to try installing a few apps on my Aspire One, which required some updated windows components. Running Windows Update totally hosed the Windows install, and I couldn’t really be bothered to screw with it for about a week.

Yesterday, I finally got around to putting a fresh copy of Windows XP SP3 on the drive, including some N-Lite customizations and an unattend script. This is all well and good, except I forgot to switch the file system from NTFS to fat32. Result; one working, but incredibly slow Netbook that is nearly pointless to use. The whole system just hangs like a man on a neuse whenever anything is written to the drive. This being windows, that happens quite frequently.
It boots up fast, but then goes down hill from there.
I’ve disabled lots of background services, killed virtual memory, and changed theme and performance options to make a lot of eye candy go away, but I think it’s mostly the file system overhead on the slow drive that’s holding this machine’s performance back.

I looked around on the net, and found various mods that can be done to add such things as internal bluetooth, and replacing the SSD with either a small Ipod magnetic drive, or a speedy 350X CF card, which would be faster than the default drive by a great deal, as well as many current magnetic laptop drives. This thing would run like a cute little… uhm… very fast something, if it only had a better drive.
Naturally, The cost of an 8GB 300 or 350X card comes out to about $75, about $10 for a ZIF to CF adapter, and another $70 or so to upgrade to a 9 cell battery. Huh, I should have just gotten something with a real drive in it, I guess. That’s what I get for not doing proper research. Flash disks are the future of storage, but Acer could afford to put a crappy one in their cheapest line of netbooks, since they were only meant to run a scaled-down Linux distro anyway.
Oh well. Not the first time I’ve done something stupid, and certainly won’t be the last.

I really like the size, weight and form factor, and when it’s not being slow and stupid, it is actually quite nice to use. As if you haven’t figured it out already, my largest complaint is the slow SSD.
Plus, it only comes with a 3-cell battery, yielding a little over two hours of battery life under Windows. There are 6 and 9 cell batteries for this netbook, which would each yield better results. I’d guess you could probably get about 7.5/8 hours on a 9-sell 6600 MA battery, which is about what I get with the 12-cell 8800MA battery on the laptop.
Overall, I’m thinking I successfully wasted $250.

I’m only writing about this to stay awake for a few more minutes. I just came home from the doctor’s place, wherein I had blood drawn and a flue vaccine applied. These actions in themselves didn’t do much to me, but I was already a sleepy person, and I suddenly have become much more so in a short amount of time.
So, having said all this in a rather disjointed fashion, I will give into the temptation of sleep, because it is, after all, something to do. One might say that sleeping is unproductive, but I disagree very loudly.
Yeah, I’m only seconds away from falling over.
Here we go… 3… 2… 1… Delta! India! Echo!

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