My backup laptop during the last two years has been an 11,6″ Acer notebook in a netbook size. “Backup”, as in “a second computer that works when machine no.1 doesn’t and else works as a logbook for amateur (ham) radio and other experiments”. Armed with an 1,5 GHz Intel Pentium 987 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and an SSD, it scored okayish on Geekbench and also has a very portable power supply (which in my mind is one of the most important aspects of mobile computing). The Acer, however, lacks VT-x, which prevented Virtualbox from running properly. And the irony is that I also have an identical Acer Chromebook C710 with a partly broken screen that I had bought for spare parts and managed to restore – which has a Celeron 847 CPU and thus an enabled VT-x. Continue reading “Dell Latitude E6220”
Netbooks = AfriGadget
Over at AfriGadget, we usually call something an AfriGadget if it is a DIY solution to a problem or situation to which there just isn’t any ready-made solution available.
In places where you just can’t go to the next hardware store and buy a ready-made solution, an AfriGadget is such an attempt for a working alternative.
I would even go as far as saying that Germany, for instance, is a very modular country (with many regulations & technical norms) and consequently offers many ready-made solutions that can just be purchased and instantly used. Spare parts for cars, houses, technical equipment – you name it, there’s a norm on it and a place where you can buy it.
Erik of WhiteAfrican recently argued that “If it Works in Africa, It will Work Anywhere”.
You may or may not agree with this provocative thesis, but it also shows that we are still consuming many products in the “developed” countries which were actually made for our consumer behaviour. And these things are also exported to Africa.
Anyone in the diaspora who has ever exported his older laptop for members of the extended family back home also knows that it may probably be broken once he/she returns during the next holiday.
Most conventional laptops are just too fragile to withstand the heat, dust, unstable power supply, malware and other threats the relatively rough life on “the dark continent” has to offer. And battery runtime with an average of max. 2h is often below par.
Netbooks are different.
Netbooks are simple, often light-weight small computers with a simple (but modern) CPU, enough RAM, a harddisk, a small screen (7″-10″), 2-3 USB ports, a sound card, WLAN connection and a card reader. They sometimes even come with an internal Bluetooth adapter so you can connect your mobile or other Bluetooth-enabled equipment to such a little machine. Oh, and it also has a webcam which is neat.
Most importantly though, many current netbooks are quite durable and even survive rough conditions.
Take my netbook, for example. I’ve purchased this used Asus eee PC 901 a month ago – and while I am still struggling with it’s tiny keyboard layout – I just can’t stop thinking that it could or should actually be THE killer device for use in many developing countries.
My netbook doesn’t have a conventional magnetic (rotating) hard disk, but instead comes with (slow) SSD flash memory. Like the one found on USB memory keys. 12 GB for the operating system, programs and some private data. Battery runtime is beyond 5h on this little baby – which means that it’ll even survive the next power failure. And since the tiny CPU inside doesn’t consume too much power, it could also work from the electricity generated via solar panels (a technology that’s already quite popular in many rural areas).
And here’s the bonus: most future netbooks will be sold with an internal UMTS modem, so you just insert your SIM card and go online. From anywhere where there’s network coverage. (I am actually saving on an Asus eee 1000H Go which has a 10,2″ screen, a better keyboard and an internal 3G modem).
The term “netbook” may be a bit irritating though (besides of this legal battle) as we all know that Internet broadband connectivity is still very limited and expensive in many developing countries. Instead, these little computers are much more than just very mobile computers with very good battery runtime: they are sufficient for most needs.
I’d say that at least 90% of your average tasks can be done on such a machine. Surfing the www, checking your e-mails, writing texts, spreadsheets, games – you name it, it does it. The only thing it doesn’t have is an internal DVD player, so your illegal DVDs purchased at that junction downtown probably won’t play – unless of course you connect an external DVD player via USB.
As long as the iPhone or maybe also some new Google Android phones are the only mobiles with a decent web browser (@Nokia: the S60 browser is NOT a decent solution), netbooks may be the perfect alternative platform and substitute the missing alternative.
“If it works in Africa….”….no, if it works anywhere else, it will also work in Africa.
“70% of Netbook sales so far have been in Europe“ – where they are often only used as second computers or desktop alternatives to those who just want to surf the net from their couch.
In many developing countries though, Netbooks could imho be the entry platform and substitute the otherwise missing or broken (older) computer system. Why? Because they are cheaper, more durable, come with their own power supply and are mobile enough to be shared by many different members of a family or local community.
And that’s why I consider netbooks to be real AfriGadgets. A solution to a problem we have in the past often tried to cure with mobile phones and their still ailing browser software.
Frankfurt 101 and the mouse
Bought this mouse for the netbook today – an A4tech X6-60MD in black – which has this retractable USB cord and comes with a somehow smarter “GLASER” diode/sensor which is said to also work on a glass table (most optical mice don’t).
X6-60MD mouse compared to the wireless desktop mouse
Attaching the mouse to the netbook actually adds a lot of convience to the system – the keyboard and tiny (yet brilliant) screen, however, aren’t that comfortable to work on. The keyboard on this 8,9″ netbook has the same size as the one on 7″ netbooks – next step would have been a 10,2″ netbook though which again adds another 0,3 kg. So this combination will have to do fo the moment. Connecting the netbook to a UMTS phone is a matter of seconds, so it really is a perfect NETbook – even on the road.
I’ve btw stayed with WinXP on this netbook (instead of EasyPeasy 1.0 or eeeUbuntu Standard) because of the special function keys that just work perfectly well with WinXP. Resizing the screen resolution to a compressed 1024×768 (instead of the normal 1024×600) is a matter of one key press. This may of course also be possible with a tuned Ubuntu, but again: not as easy as with XP and I just don’t have the time these days to figure it out. Besides, some of my fav. apps only work with XP and not under (the Windows emulator) Wine.
Sooo….blogging from the netbook (I am currently writing this post on the eee 901) is ok, but due to the keyboard not as convenient as it should be. You’ll quickly end up using 3-4 fingers only. :-(
Someone from Asia also needs to explain to me one day why there’s so much plastic involved in the packaging of such gadgets. A simple cardboard box would have done as well! At least this one could be opened easily and didnt require the scissors. Stupid.
Another thing to note about A4tech products is that their drivers are much better than the Logitech software package which bricked my desktop system the other day.
Oh, and it’s really amazing how long the battery lasts on this netbook. @E-Nyce: the wear-out level is down to 93% on this used battery/netbook, which is still ok I think.
Once my 15,4″ notebook (= desktop PC with an external 22″ monitor and external keyboard/mouse) retires (hopefully not too soon), I’ll probably go for a 12,2″ or 13″ notebook from either HP, IBM or Samsung and also make sure that it has a bright enough screen (= not as pale as the one on my 15,4″ notebook).
Took this snapshot earlier this week right here in Frankfurt am Main because it reminded me of Taipeh 101.
I am now officially registered as a resident of Frankfurt/M. It may not be the best city to live in, but it has Germany’s biggest airport and is located in the middle of Germany which means I can reach Hamburg or Bremen (in the North) and Munich or Freiburg (in the South) in 3-4h only. Strategically convenient.