Recently in Netbooks Category

Video review: Microsoft Surface tablet

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The £399 Surface is Microsoft's first foray into PC hardware. The tablet device runs Windows RT, which means it is unable to use x86 applications. This is a bit limiting if you would like your own browser  since the only one available at the moment is Internet Explorer 10, that ships with Windows RT.

However, you can download applications from the Windows Store, Skype, eBay and the Kindle app are there, but sadly, no BBC iPlayer. There are several tools to improve the tablet, but there does not appear to be much in the way of enterprise software in the Windows Store.

Still, the relatively limited functionality means the Surface tablet could be deployed where people need simply email access, tasks, calendar and basic Word, Excel and PowerPoint functionality. It is probably suitable for a device in education and where a relatively locked-down environment is preferred.

I personally like Windows 8 Professional, which is only available on x86-based tablets and hybrid devices, as I prefer to run my own applications, rather than be restricted by the choice in the Windows Store.

Dell adds X Factor to jazz up corporate laptops

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In this podcast, Kirk Schell, executive director for Dell's business PC range, speaks to Cliff Saran from ComputerWeekly.com about the changing personality of the business PC and laptop.
 
 

Learning to live with MeeGo

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I have been using MeeGO 1.0 for almost four weeks. My first impression is that, out of the box, MeeGo is an excellent OS for Net Book users. It boots up quickly and has a clean desktop user interface, which makes it very easy to see running apps. It is nice to see that Intel is now demoing a version with touch functionality, which will make the UI truly excellent for mobile phone and Net Book users.

 

The main problem with MeeGo - and for that matter any Linux distro - is that if you want to do something not included in the distribution, things can become increasingly difficult.

 

I spent last weekend hacking the MeeGo OS to try and get Audacity, the open source sound editor, to work. You'll need a load of source code/dev.lib packages, to provide the development tools and various libraries, in order to ./configure audacity successfully. My estimate, is that a make compilation takes around 40 mins. Installation through make install puts the Audacity icon on the MeeGo desktop, which does save an awful lot of time figuring out how to do this.Here's a screenshot of it running on MeeGo...but it's not quite working yet. I still need to figure out how to configure Audacity to use my sound device.

 

audacity.jpg

Mee have a Go

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Meego is an attempt by Intel and Nokia to create an operating system platform for mobil devices like smart phones and Net Books.

The Net Book version can be booted from a USM memory stick, but you will need to use the Linux dd command (dd bs=4096 if=<image file> of=<usb drive>
) or the Windows utility MeeG provides to make a "bit copy" of the MeeGo operating system .img image file.

Booting is fast, even off a USB memory stick. When you boot from USB, MeeGo gives you the option to install it, run it from USB, or boot the computer using whatever OS is already installed.


Booting into MeeGo takes around 30 seconds and on some machines, like my Fuitsu Amilo Net Book, it detects the wireless connection automatically.

Unlike traditional operating systems - or even the Net Book optimised Ubuntu Net Book Remix release - MeeGo offers a browser-like UI. Tabs across the top of the screen move you between different modes of operation. There is no desktop per se Instead you have a "Home" screen,  which is a bit like an internet portal, showing thumb nails of whatever you running apps, like Twitter feeds, email and any images, multimedia or document files that are open. "Internet" gives you access to Chromium, the MeeGo built-in browser - but you can install Firefox

The "Zones" tab works like Task Manager in Windows, which lets the user move directly to a running app. "Applications" lets you launch applications, tinker  wih the system, update files, browse the hard disc etc. While the Networks tabs lets you switch off and on the wireless, bluetooth and wired network connections

 

meegohome.png.

This is a version 1.0 OS and many things do not work. To get wireless going on the troublesome Broadcom chipset used a Lenovo S10e I tried, I needed to install the OS, dev tools, and follow the excellent instructions from blogger Slaine, on compiling the Broadcom driver. Not pleasant, but it did eventually work.  The package manager is not as intuitive as Ubuntu and there are less apps available - although Gimp is present, which came as a pleasant surprise. Open Office can also be made to work quite easily by following these instructions.

I was annoyed that the Huawei 3G dongle for connecting to O2 was a non-starter. Nor could I get the Citrix XenApp plug-in to wok (that said, it required several careful steps to get Citrix going on Ubuntu).

I look forward to having these two piece of functionality, as they would greatly improve the usability of MeeGo in the enterprise. In the meantime, I think it's worth giving MeeGo a test drive. It's a nice looking OS - and not bad to use, if you can get wi-fi going.

How to get Citrix running on Asus eeePC with Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix

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I gave my mother and brother-in-law Ubuntu recently...yes, I do like them. It's just XP sucks on old hardware. Linux is the only viable option, and Ubuntu is the closest thing to Windows in the Linux space.

Yesterday, I helped a colleague out, by installing Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix on his aging eeePC 701, which previously ran Xandros (and which I had managed to damage by playing with the config).

Not only did it boot off a USB memory stick, as a Live operating system (ie I didn't need to install it on the eeePC's hard disk), installation was just a single click.

There's plenty of help via Google on making a bootable 2 GB USB memory stick and copying over the Linux files (you can do this from a Windows machine if you run software like Virtual Clone Drive  that can read .iso CD images and Canonical's USB-Creator tool).

The really big problem - if you can call it that - was getting access to our Citrix Metaframe server. A good starting point is the Ubuntu Forums which has an excellent step-by-step guide to downloading and installing the Citrix ICA client. You will need to use a Terminal window and the version numbers have changed since this posting, but if you make the relevant changes to reflect the version of Citrix you've downloaded, the ICA client should install without probs (it's actually called Citrix Receiver).

The only issue I faced was a certificate error, which occured after I logged nito our Metaframe server. Again Googling around came up with a rahter neat solution: simply copy the certificates from Firefox to where the ICA client is stored:

sudo cp /usr/share/ca-certificates/mozilla/* /usr/lib/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts/

This seems to work.

Chrome OS - is this the first OS for cloud computing?

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Google has fleshed out its strategy for Chrome OS, an operating system which will only run web applications and will offer no local storage directly. The hardware will be tightly controlled to ensure the OS performs well, which means devces will use solid state disks and specific wireless network adapters.

The local storage will only be used to cache data, so that users can work offline. When they are connected, Chrome OS will synchronise local data with cloud storage.

Google will try to provide an operating environment analogous to Windows and other desktop OSs for web applications. This means web applications will be able to access graphics accelerators, mutli-core architectures and multimedia peripherals like cameras, speakers and microphones - just like normal desktop software. In fact, the whole operating system is optimised for cloud computing.

The neat thing about Google's appraoch is that any web application will run, even something like Office Live, created by Microsoft.

Who loves netbooks?

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TNS's Mark Hobart has written a piece for Computer Weeklypiece for Computer Weekly that contends the netbook will disappear, squeezed between smarter smartphones and shrinking notebooks.

I think he's got it wrong.

I've got a Nokia N95 and an Asus 701 eeePC that runs Linux. The Nokia is great for phone calls, for recording podcasts, and for taking snaps and videos. The Asus is great for reporting on the move, for getting onto the web, and for editing hi-res images from my Canon G9. It's also pretty good with Skype phone calls. Together they are dynamite.

What's more I pick up the costs myself. This is because my boss offers me the same functionality via a spine-twisting lump of iron called a Dell portable, a battered tri-band Nokia that didn't work in the US last time I tried, a bulky box called a Marantz digital voice recorder, and finally another bulk box that contains a Sony digital video camera. Hannibal crossed the Alps with less kit than me on assignment.

So I sacrifice some image quality, which isn't readily noticable on the web,  for weight and convenience. But the advantge I get, as a professional journalist, is so great that I don't mind picking up the tab. And it's not like I'm that well-paid. So far my boss hasn't complained either, although he does sometimes look a little embarrassed.

But all this only makes Mark's real but unstated point: that end users can now afford to buy a lot or even more than the functionality that their employers need. This has big implications for the employers as well as equipment makers.

Churchill said, Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. But I doubt I'm going to get anytime soon a device with a 12MP still/video camera with network access that allows me to touchtype and still fits in my pocket.

Intel ULV may power the ultimate NetBook

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Intel looks like it is trying to kill off NetBooks. The chipmaker has unveiled a new processor to enable manufacturers to create low costs thin laptops Companies like Sony and Apple may find it hard to justify the high cost of their ultra notebooks if mainstream laptops are just as light, thin and good looking. Hopefully, some smart manufacturers will use the processor to power NetBooks.

As an owner of an Atom-based NetBook, I'm very pleased with the way the device handles and performance is pretty darn good. But clearly a bit more horsepower will help. So if Intel's new ultra-low voltage (ULV) processors are used in NetBooks we end up with the ultimate portable computer.

Intel: Netbooks just for children...you've got to be kidding

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Intel looks like it's fed up with the success of the NetBook. Anand Chandrasekher, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the Ultra Mobility Group has said that NetBooks are for kids. Apparently grown-ups need a grown-up laptop.

This is utter rubbish. I travel every day into London on Southern Trains. Many grown-up commuters actually prefer them to larger laptops that don't fit easily on the tiny amount of table space we have on the train.

 

I've used a 7 inch Linux-based Asus eeePC and now an 8.9 inch Windows XP-based Fujitsu Amilo. I've used both machines abroad and in the UK, to send and receive Word and Open Office document; I have edited and uploaded 70 MByte WAV audio files using Audacity and today I imported a 48 MByte raw image file into Gimp...and three other applications were runnig  at the same time. Earlier this week I used the Citrix ICA client on a fast LAN to access our corporate systems seamlessly. I wasn't running a heavyweight laptop - the Amilo uses a 1.6 GHz Atom processor, and  has just 1 GByte  of RAM and a 60 GByte hard disc.

 

Intel is worried that we are happy with NetBooks. It is worried people won't buy machines that use its expensive Core 2 mobile processor chips, rather than the cheap and cheerful Atom-based NetBooks 

 

Don't be fooled into thinking the NetBook isn't particularly powerful. They are not as fast as a state-of-the art laptop, but I think they do most things reasonable well. Okay, so the screen may not be that great, sound may be tinny, touch-typing is tricky but all of these problems are not show stoppers, particularly when a device that costs around £200 and weighs 1 kg is revolutionionising portable computing..

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