During my Summer Solstice Lord of the Rings party and ritual, I dubbed this the Summer of the Netbook. Shortly thereafter, I ordered one, an Asus EeePC 1000HE. It ranks as the number one best seller on AMazon, and it has a long battery life. Users have also had good success installing Linux on it, which I plan to do. This seemed good enough for me.
Two days ago, I received it. I felt impressed by the unit. It has a keyboard with 92% the size of a normal one. Typing feels very natural, not cramped at all, something one would expect on a laptop. I still have to figure out a few of the buttons and a switch or two, and I will document my findings to benefit the blind. I just need to figure out how to disable the touch pad, something sighted users will not have to worry about, but something which will annoy blind users.
Unfortunately, it runs Windows right now. I will change this as soon as possible. It has a recovery feature, hitting f9 thrice reinstalls the stock image, which I had to do once already after getting it locked into a loop after trying to alter the boot settings without sighted assistance. Bad idea! Installing Linux will require this.
Currently, it runs Windows XP (not Vista!). For a screen reader, I use NVDA, an open-source screen reader. It works very well, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and an eye. I used Windows Narator and System Access to Go to get NDVA installed, and now have a fully accessible Windows system without shelling out any more money, which I feel at least somewhat proud of. I figured if I had to run Windows for a few days I’d at least make it more tolerable, so installed Firefox 3.5.
And as I relight my pipe and enjoy the outdoor ambience, I reflect on the implications of this wonderful technology. I never used wireless networking before, largely out of paranoia, but grudgingly activated it and now I can effortlessly use my netbook while sitting on my back deck, smoking tobacco and drinking a fresh cup of Cacao. The air feels slightly humid and warm, with a pleasant breeze. This has become the Summer of the Netbook indeed. NVDA provides wonderful access with Firefox, at least I can write this entry for now. I just touched the touchpad with my thumb, damn!
Now that I have gotten my feet on the ground so to speak, I must consider my options to install a more mature operating system. I have a few options, including Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and some other related projects, including Easy Peasy, and Eeebuntu. Vinux also deserves a mention. I will probably need some sighted help to get it booted properly, then hopefully I can get Orca running and install from there. We shall see.
In conclusion, I love the hardware, and have made the software tolerable for now. The 1000HE has a great battery life, and a 160GB hard drive, partitioned into 2 80GB ntfs partitions by default. I look forward to upgrading the operating system.
I wonder how its mobility will effect things. For example, how will writing outside change blogging? Perhaps the altered and relaxed atmosphere will inspire some interesting entries. Only time will tell. I certainly feel freer. Now I can get some fun in the sun and still do computer things. Very cool! Everyone should get a netbook! Eventually, I’d love to market netbooks for the blind running Linux, but I will save that for a different post and site. I welcome any suggestions, tips, links, experiences, and the like.