liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] liv
I found a netbook replacement. Thank you all for helping me figure out what's out there. I ended up poking about on eBay and found a last year's model mid-range 11½'' netbook going for £100, so I snapped it up. It's an Acer V5-121, not exactly the model that's listed at that link but something pretty close to it (the processor is AMD C72 not AMD C70, but I can't imagine I'll notice the difference!)

I feel like I've done well because even at a year out of date that gadget is retailing for £200 - £250, so to get an as-new refurbed model for half that was an unusually good deal. And certainly better than the kind of tablets or mini-netbooks you mostly see in that price range. And wow, jumping forward five years of advances in technology feels like a revelation. I have named it Little Plans, following my G&S naming scheme (previous laptops were Little List and Little Craft, and the big computers are Silver Churn, Sally Lunn, Placid Flame (sic, that's a misquote) and now Ocean Blue.)

Form factor: it's a really pretty colour, much more vividly turquoise than you can see in those images. It's a bit curvy and cute, very slim, quite a bit lighter than my old Eee. The difference between a little over 10'' and a little over 11'' is very noticeable. It's just a bit too big to sling in my (capacious) handbag, so I think I'll probably need to get a proper carrying case. And it's just a bit too big to fit on a flippy table on the back of a train seat. But the difference in screen real estate is just amazing, it's rather higher resolution than the Eee as well as being physically bigger, and honestly I feel like I am working on a full-sized screen rather than feeling cramped. I can just about manage it literally on my lap, so it's ok that I can't quite balance on the flippy tables any more.

The keyboard is one of those modern style ones with chiclet keys, which I like less than the older kind, but it's perfectly serviceable and I have had no problems bashing out several thousand words on it on journeys so far. And the fact it's just that bit bigger makes a lot of difference to typing comfort. The mousepad is more comfortable than any I've ever used before, and that's speaking as someone who generally dislikes mousepads.

It actually has five hours' battery life, and when I switch it on freshly charged with the screen dimmed and WiFi off (which is how I mostly work when travelling anyway), it claims 7 1/2 hours. I haven't yet needed to run it right down for 7 hours without charging, so I haven't actually tested this claim. This is the biggest reason why I'm glad I made the decision to upgrade rather than try to repair my Eee; 5 realistic hours of battery life means I can use it to take notes at conferences or for long journeys and it's just not a pain. I think with the bigger screen and the much better battery life it's usable as a work machine when I'm away from home, I wouldn't want to do serious graphics on it but it's fine for having multiple windows open and designing Powerpoint slides and so on.

The main downside is that with 2GB of RAM it's kind of struggling to run Windows 8. Oh yeah, and it has OEM Windows 8. I am considering whether I should wipe it and install one of the slimmer Linux flavours, partly because that would allow me to escape from Microsoft, and partly because it is just noticeably short on memory, even as a new (refurbed, but not full of accreted clutter) machine. Against that, if I'm going to be using it for work there's something to be said for having a standard OS that's compatible with the software everyone else uses.

So, questions:
  • Who has a link to a good tutorial to make Win8 not suck? Either by changing my use patterns or changing the settings. I am somewhat amused in a rather eye-rolly way that it has an app for turning the power off... It would be good to get rid of the weird tablet-style start screen (which is particularly useless as this model doesn't even have a touch screen anyway), and replace it with a more familiar way of finding and running programs.
  • What anti-virus protection and general security software should I be using? I understand that contemporary versions of Windows have a reasonable firewall, do I need anything beyond that? It's preloaded with McAfee and a 40 day subscription, but I don't know much about McAfee. In principle I'm willing to pay for anti-virus but only if it's actually better than the free alternatives. I use AVG on my main computer, mainly out of habit; should I be investigating a better option.
  • Any suggestions of good places to buy laptop cases? I probably want a soft case because I don't want to defeat the object of having a highly portable machine by adding extra weight and extra bulk. But I'd quite like something a bit pretty and not too generic. I know Etsy sometimes has good stuff, does anyone recommend a particular seller?

Not Helpful

Date: 2014-07-24 02:46 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
The first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this post was Daniel Burnham saying "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood..."

(Daniel Burnham was the lead planner for the White City at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, and latter wrote a plan for the City of Chicago, which was the 1st comprehensive plan for US city. It was all very City Beatuful, a movement that loved neo-classical white civic centers.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-24 04:04 pm (UTC)
ofearthandstars: (happiness loading)
From: [personal profile] ofearthandstars
Oh, new toy excitement! It sounds like an excellent find. For anti-virus protection, I use Avast (which has a free version), and I am happy with it. (I used to use AVG but for some reason it kept crashing our systems - no such problems with Avast).

I have no advice on Windows 8, as I am still running 7 on an older laptop.


Date: 2014-07-24 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
A. I was advised not to pay for an anti-virus program since none are 100% safe, but to rely on free downloads.

B. Mum has just bought a refurbished Toshiba laptop running Vista for £100. We must compare notes.
(Of course, her needs are different. She will be using it to take notes at meetings. Light weight and long battery life are less important.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-27 01:18 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] flippac
Once you've got the update to Win 8.1 down, there's an option to boot to the desktop rather than the start menu. There's a start menu replacement available from that does the trick.

In the long run it might be worth considering more RAM, as another 2GB can be had for <£20 these days? But running linux certainly makes sense too.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-28 07:43 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
If you can install more RAM, do so. Whatever you run, it's going to help, and 32-bit Linux isn't limited being able to address 4Gib = the 3.25GiB RAM that 32-bit Windows is limited to. (You get a slightly slower system compared to 64-bit, but one that uses memory significantly more efficiently.)

Definitely look into being able to dual-boot into something like Lubuntu.

The way to make Win 8 not suck is to install Win 7 over it.

Not very technical advice

Date: 2014-08-10 10:20 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
My massively non-technical advice says switch to some flavour of Linux. I find that mint cinnamon is a very good replacement for windows. I would also suggest the debian edition because it will a. make you cool, and b. has a good package management and update system.

But seriously, stop using windows for emails and word processing. Windows is no better than open source alternatives. My knowledge of computing extends to being able to do a web search and I have had no problems with installing and using a variety of linux flavours. Microsoft are in cahoots with the NSA, they have a business model more evil than Google's, their products are insecure, for a notebook used to compose emails and blog posts and take notes on a train they offer no advantage over linux.



Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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