I got a Dell Mini 9 netbook. One of friends bought a Dell Studio 15, along with it the Mini 9 was offered for $100. So I lapped it from him It was a pretty good deal.
It is base model Mini 9 – with 512 MB RAM, 5GB SSD and Ubuntu 8.04. It has no moving parts – not even a cooling fan. I love the fact that it make no noise. I’ve gotten used to the humming sound from all computers. This is my first silent computer.
The switch from the enormous 15″, 3lbs laptop to a 8″ netbook is interesting. Two things I noticed quickly are screen real estate and keyboard layout.
- I knew that netbooks are underpowered but I didn’t know that meant I can run only Firefox. If open Firefox and the Ubuntu update manager, Firefox would stop responding. In such scenarios the system mamager would report max CPU and/or RAM utilization. The major resource hogers were – Firefox and GNOME. Firefox is definitely not recommeded for netbook. I installed Midori web browser – which has much lesser memory foot print. But flash is not working in Midori – I need to fix that problem. Next I installed OpenBox Window manager which is supposed to be much lighter than GNOME. It seems faster, but I don’t have the numbers yet. GNOME panel which runs the OS taskbar takes 30 MB. The only information I need from the GNOME panel is battery and wifi information. I’m hunting for options to get these info without the GNOME panel.
- The screen size is 8.9″ – which is sufficient for my needs. But the title bars and task bars take up a lot of screen space. I used Metacity window manager to remove the title bars. I tried autohiding the taskba, but it wasn’t annoying at times – the taskbar won’t come out sometimes, or would take too long.
- The keyboard is definitely cramped; many keys are ridiculously small. I don’t blame Dell – they have used all the space they had. I think 10″ netbooks would be the sweet spot – to have a full sized keyboard. From a human factors perspective – width across two comfortably held hands would be 10″ to 12″. So I think 10″ would be the sweet spot – as long as the main input device is an analog keyboard. The Mini keyboard doesn’t have the F11 key (so I use full screen), there is only one Ctrl key, and page-down, insert keys are entered using Fn key combinations.
- Battery life is an acceptable 3 hours. But the standby time seems to be poor. I didn’t measure it – but I think it consumes relatively more battery during standby.