Apr 09 2009

One step closer to a Ragpicker

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I write this column with a brand-new $280 ASUS Eee PC 901 netbook with an 8.9″ screen, a solid state drive, plus two distinct features. First: I doubled its memory out of the box to 2 GB. Second: I picked the Linux operating system over the nearly ubiquitous Windows XP.

Netbooks bring us one step closer to Jeff Dunte­mann’s vision of a full-blown com­pu­ter lurking under a Star Trek com­mu­ni­ca­tor…

I can already hear jaws hitting the floor at Microsoft HQ. “Linux?!? For one of Redmond’s staunchest proponents in the computer security arena? What did we do to turn you off, Rob?”

You did nothing, guys. Calm down. FYI, I joked as usual about the supposed superiority of Mac/Linux security in my recent comment to Mike Wendland. You’ll likewise recall the fact I ran Windows, Linux, and OpenBSD boxes directly behind the router in the “House 2.0″ antivirus research project.

It looks like a Playskool Learning Laptop, doesn't it?

It looks like a Playskool Learning Laptop, doesn't it?

The cognoscenti will suspect I bought this Linux edition for its larger solid state drive. Suspicions confirmed — anyone who can mind-meld Windows, OpenBSD, and Linux servers (and who rebuilds his laptop OS from scratch every New Year’s Day) will certainly know how to lay down the OS of his choice on a netbook.

I’ll also admit I picked a Linux model because I really want to see where commercial Linux has gone lately. In a word: “wow.”

This little netbook strikes me as very impressive. I bought the Eee PC 901 for its extremely small size and I certainly got what I wanted. Yes: the 92-95% keyboard makes it a tad difficult to use. But I don’t intend to write the great American novel on it. And hey, I’ve got a full-size USB keyboard here at the desk with three different KVM switches. I’ll use this netbook on the road to do things like find places of interest on Google maps.

The solid state 16+4GB drives (think of them as internal thumb drives) eliminate the notion of “moving parts” — they’re totally silent, they boot the OS at amazing speeds, and they draw less battery than a traditional magnetic media hard disk.

Three USB ports plus one MMC/SD slot means I can store files on four connected thumb devices at the same time. Now I just need to replace my PCMCIA aircard with a USB stick. Then I can surf anywhere in North America…

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