the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: netbook

chromebook acer

Finally got fed up with the girls’ iPad. Fixed one too many times, it’s just time to move on to something different. My oldest told me that she uses a Chromebook at school, and having been impressed with my Nexus tablet and the Android universe, I decided to give it a look.

A Chromebook is a laptop. Sort of. It basically boots to a built-in Chrome browser, and includes everything Google – Drive, Docs, Play, Books, etc. While the offering of Apps is nothing near what’s available for the Android OS, that’s okay as they mostly stick to Youtube and I’m kinda over them playing Candy Crush, Fruit Slice, etc. Plus, I want them to have a laptop with a keyboard, ostensibly so they don’t have to use the wife’s, but in actuality because they’re just getting to that age.

81xTJR-HCGL._SL1500_

Off to Amazon, I found the Acer CB3-111-C670 for a super cheap $179.99. It’s got an 11.6″ screen, with a 16GB SSD, 2GB of RAM and an Intel 2.16Ghz Dual-core Celeron processor. It sports an 8.6 hour battery life, 802.11 AC wireless, SD card reader, two USB and one HDMI port, and a built-in camera. In other words, it’s a notebook computer! And hopefully the hardware will be a little more durable than the iPad wasn’t!

I login with my Google account and viola, it already knows who I am, has my synced apps and bookmarks. That’s not that big of a deal, my Android phone does the same thing. But here’s the coolest thing: I can then setup Supervised Users. These are accounts for my kids that I can total be big brother about. When I browse to http://chrome.com/manage, I get a full report of their browsing history, and the ability to block whatever websites I want. Perfect for a parent. Santa delivers it on Xmas eve, more about this in the new year.

Capture

On the web:
Acer Chromebook

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hackintosh

Remember that Dell Mini 9 that I bought earlier in the year. Check it out now:


How easy was this? Very. First, I purchased a Super Talent 16GB SSD drive to replace the paltry 4GB STEC that came with the Mini (you'll need about 8-10GB for the install). SuperBiiz/eWiz had it for $49.95 delivered, with coupon. It's a fast drive (this is the FEM16GFDL), much like the Runcore drives, but less inexpensive and in stock (ordered it Sunday, had it Friday).

Then, on a tip from the great resource of MyDellMini, I found a guide at Mechdrew that details the installation process. The step-by-step instructions show how to create a bootable flash drive from your Snow Leopard DVD ($29) on a Mac computer, and then install the OS on the netbook. The magic is two-fold: First, the Dell Mini 9 has extremely compatible hardware to OS X. Secondly, NetBookMaker, a GoogleCode project, adds the appropriate extensions to make it all work.

And work it does! Trackpad, wireless, camera, sound, battery meter, software updates (10.6.1), even sleep mode. But even more impressive is how responsive Snow Leopard is on the Mini – maybe this is the SSD too? So, however much I think Apple sucks, it's testament to the fact that OS X is Unix, and Unix is good.

On the web:
MechDrew guide
Netbook-Installer software

dell mini, received

Received my Dell Mini 9 today, and immediately installed Xubuntu 8.10 from a live USB drive. It's an easy enough process to create: insert a 2GB USB drive into the computer and either download the appropriate iso or insert a CD, then run usb-creator and a few minutes later you'll have a live distro ready to use on the optical drive-less Dell Mini. Xubuntu is based on Ubuntu, but just replaces most of the Gnome desktop environment with the resource-frugal XFCE. After installation, I had to fix the audio by editing alsa-base; this is a well-known issue with Ubuntu 8.10; I found the details at UbuntuMini.com. Just be sure to open the mixer and turn up the volume on the speakers after rebooting.

After rebooting, I accepted the proprietary driver for the wireless card, a Broadcom STA, entered my WPA/WPA-2 password, and connected to my wireless network. Like a good boy, I then updated Xubuntu, with all 118 packages that were available. I also installed the restricted media codecs, which includes java, mp3 playback and flash animation support:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-restricted-extras

Only a few more things to install, like the Opera browser and Skype from their respective .deb packages, and sshfs from the command line, in a few easy steps:

sudo apt-get install sshfs
sudo modprobe fuse
mkdir /your/mount/point/

Then open terminal and connect:

sshfs user@yourserver.com:/remote/mount /local/mount/point

If you haven't used sshfs (or scp for that matter) you're missing out on one of the easiest ways to connect remote computers. Perfect for the Dell Mini.

Here's my quick two cents: I've taken a few old Pentium III and IV-era laptops, installed Xubuntu and tried to make a go of them as "netbooks". The Dell Mini 9 is not an old computer; it's a fast, modern dual-core machine, even with the stock 512MB of RAM. (In fact, I'm wondering why I even bothered to order the extra 2GB RAM!) The screen is brilliant, the wireless integrated, and, even at 4GB, the SSD drive packs enough for a distribution like Xubuntu and some user files. There's an SD reader for convenient extra storage, and the integrated camera works out of the box with Skype. Yes, it's got a 9" screen, and yes using the keyboard is awkward, especially if one is used to desktops (like me). But I only paid $200. One dart though, the touch pad and keyboard are a bit too sensitive and jumpy, mandating one-finger typing. Yet, all in all, I'm very impressed. Thanks Dell!

On the web:
Official Dell Mini Site
UbuntuMini.com
MyDellMini

dell mini, redux

Even in these economic times, it's hard to pass up a good deal when you see one: yesterday Dell had a one day sale on their Mini 9 netbook, offering $50 off the "n" model. Sure, the Mini 10 is on the horizon, but at $199 I just couldn't pass. (Thanks to Engadget and Slickdeals for the tip-offs.)

With an extra educational discount of 7% (and free shipping), and a further 4% using a Dell credit card, I landed the computer for an all time low price of $204.91. While I couldn't see spending $30 to change the color from black (what's up with that Dell?), I did add the Integrated 0.3M Pixel Webcam for kicks. I'll update the RAM to 2GB elsewhere. Here's the specs:

  • Intel Atom N270 (1.6/533/512)
  • Ubuntu Linux 8.04.1
  • 512MB DDR2 (533)
  • 8.9" LED (1024×600)
  • 4GB SSD
  • Wireless 802.11g Mini Card
  • 1 year warranty

On the web:
Dell Mini 9 netbook