Tag Archive for: netbook

A Netbook’s Journey from Win7 to Win8 — and Back Again

22 Jan 2013
January 22, 2013

NB 255

I have been running Windows 8 full-time on my work laptop for several months now. Big fan and really like it.  On that hardware it seems to run better than Windows 7 did (not that I had any complaints). So that led me to the idea that it might be a good idea to upgrade my little netbook to Windows 8 as well.

That turned out to not be such a great idea.

The netbook doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive but that is easily resolved with the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool. That tool let me create a bootable USB to use for the Win8 install. The subsequent OS install was painless and quick as always. No worries there.

But once I had the OS installed I quickly noticed that I wasn’t seeing the anticipated performance boost. No, quite the opposite actually. No doubt in some part due to not having all the proper drivers installed. OK, no problem. I figured I’d sort that out later.

Then I hit the real issue: NO Modern UI apps would run at the netbook’s native 1024×600 resolution! Not a one. That freaked me out a bit… I mean, I don’t need all the Modern UI apps (or any, really…) but not being able to have any was simply distressing. A bit of whining on twitter netted me a helpful response with a link to an article on how to “overdrive” the native resolution to something that Windows 8 liked better.

A tolerable work-around, if a bit fuzzy…

But at the end of the day I just wasn’t loving the Win8 experience on this thing; it was time to regress back to 7. Which is when I realized I’d lost the ability to choose alternate boot devices when starting the netbook! I haven’t figured out why yet, but with Windows 8 on it those POST/BIOS-level options were simply gone. That made installing an OS a bit problematic.

I finally worked around that by borrowing a USB DVD ROM drive and starting the Windows 7 install from within Windows 8. Took the option for a clean install, let it reboot and Win7 very politely installed itself.

And hey, that option to select alternate boot devices when I turn on the netbook is back. How odd.

I went with a “real” version of Win7 this time – no more Starter Edition. It runs great and we’re quite happy together again.

Living with Win7 Starter Edition

18 Jun 2011
June 18, 2011

Toshiba NB255 NetbookSeveral weeks ago I received a little Toshiba netbook (model NB255). Last year’s model, but sporting the dual-core Atom N455 processor, 250 GB drive — and I upgraded the RAM to 2 GB before even leaving the store. Stunning how many netbooks with 1GB RAM that can’t be upgraded! It also has the 6 cell battery and I’ve ran it for almost 6 hours on a single charge.

I absolutely adore this thing.

I really do. It goes everywhere with me now; I leave all my other “klunky” laptops on their desks now. It is easy to type on, light-weight and I find that I can very easily adapt to the lower 1024×600 resolution when on the go.

I’m still running the Windows 7 Starter edition that it came with (and dual-booting Linux of course). Generally that is fine, but there are a few minor annoyances. However, it certainly gets the job done.

For instance, not being able to change the wallpaper shouldn’t be a big deal, right? But it drove me nuts – mostly because the default is just plain and boring. I found many options and hacks on how to set your own wallpaper and settled on StarterBackgroundChanger. Great little utility that, among other things, lets me setup wallpaper slideshows and such. Highly recommended. Now I’d love to figure out a way to get it to pull pics from a feed like the Bing Dynamic Theme does.

And you know what? Upon reflection that’s really the only thing I “hacked” about Starter edition.

One more beef though: Considering how many IT pros have netbooks (and no, I can’t quantify that statement at all), I was rather disappointed to learn that I can’t install the Remote Server Administration Tools with Win7 Starter Edition. That problem is solved with an “Anytime Upgrade” up to Windows 7 Professional. Granted, that’s $120 which is half of what I paid for this thing! Not gonna happen. I’d install a MSDN version of Pro first :-p

Revisiting Unity

10 Jun 2011
June 10, 2011

imageBack in the Ubuntu 10.10 era I decided to have a look at this new Ubuntu Unity thing that all the cool kids were blogging about.

At first glance it looked like just the thing for netbooks. My resulting blog post on the topic was so incredibly negative that I ended up deleting the post and just decided to never speak of Unity again…

Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan. It was really that bad.

I’m glad to say that my opinion has changed. On a whim, I installed Unbuntu 11.10 on my new netbook earlier this week. I don’t recall if it was a conscious decision or not, but I ended up with Unity. So far I’m digging it quite a bit.

What’s changed? Usability.

For instance, adding and removing icons from the launcher is easily accomplished with a right-click. Running apps show up in the launcher. If you’re running something  that you want to keep on the launcher just right-click on it and choose “keep in launcher” – a lot like “Pinning” in Windows 7. Remove items from the launcher from the right-click menu as well.

Want to shuffle things around? Click and hold (or click and drag slightly to the right) and then move and drop it where you want it on the launcher.

Those two things alone are dramatic improvements. If they were possible when I first looked at Unity I sure never figured out how.

After I installed it, many of my “typical” Netbook Setup steps still applied so I was able to quickly get to something I was comfortable with.

Do I love the launcher bar on the left? At first I didn’t think I would like it but it works really well with a widescreen. Even one as small as 1024×600 like the netbook has.

Oh, and speaking of the netbook, the dual-core Atom proc seems work well with Ubuntu 11.04. Not a power-house but not gimpy either. It gets the job done just fine (and I bet the upgrade to 2GB RAM doesn’t hurt!). I’m pleased.

Now if I could just solve the Exchange client thing…

Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Setup

20 Nov 2010
November 20, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 NetbookOver the past year I have developed quite a fondness for Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook edition. Most of my laptops dual-boot it and my wife runs it full time on her little IBM Thinkpad X40. The Netbook edition works great on the 12” or smaller monitors.

Thinkpad x40I briefly tried Ubuntu 10.10. Netbook but very quickly removed it. Let’s just say that I really really didn’t like it and leave it at that.

When I setup a 10.04 Netbook edition there are a few steps I do each and every time. Figured I could take a moment and jot down some of the steps to save me some time next time around.

Firstly, the 10.04 download link can be found here: http://releases.ubuntu.com/10.04/ (courtesy of jacevesl via Twitter). Grab the Netbook live CD iso and burn it to PC or USB – the Universal USB Installer makes creating a bootable USB stick very simple.

I’m not going to cover the install here. Just boot it and run the installer directly or boot in “Live CD” mode, play around a bit and then run the installer application. If dual-booting be sure to pay attention to some of the early steps and don’t smoke your other installed OS!

Once installed, connect to your network and run the Update Manager to get current. Reboot while making the obligatory “this is just like MS Windows” comment… sorry, couldn’t resist.

The default screensaver time is at 5 minutes. This drives me batty. So the next stop is to System (left menu) and then Screensaver. I usually slide the idle timer up to around 60 minutes. Up to you if you want to keep the “Lock screen when screensaver is active” or not.

Now I head back to the Favorites menu and clear out everything except Firefox and Ubuntu Software Center. Just right-click and “remove” to get rid of the others.

For a terminal I like to install Guake Terminal. I just fire up the afore-mentioned Ubuntu Software Center and type it into the search field and then click Install. Once that finishes, head to Accessories and start it up. That’ll put the guake icon up in the top bar. Click to get your terminal and then right-click for Preferences.  In the General tab I like to click “Hide on lose Focus.” Instant F12 access to a nifty little tabbed window terminal. Head to System -> Preferences -> Startup applications and check the box by Guake. Now it’ll autostart as well.

Now I have to clean up a bit. I don’t use the built-in IM and email stuff so the “indicator applet” isn’t necessary and just takes space. Fire up the Ubuntu Software Center again. Click on “installed software” in the left pane and search for indicator-me and indicator-messages (for some reason, sometimes that latter search just has to be “messages”). Lose ‘em both, log out and back in and admire the much more svelt toolbar.

And there we go, the initial steps I do almost every time. The rest depends on how the machine will be used – alternate browsers, Dropbox, etc.