Ode (dirge?) to Netbooks Part 1
Yes, the netbooks will eventually go the way of the dinosaur. But ask any 8-year old about dinosaurs and they'll tell you dinosaurs are pretty cool even if they are extinct. I feel the same way about my secondary system, an ASUS EEEPC 1000H that was part of the first generation wave of netbooks released a few years back. Today, everyone craves a tablet, but if I was going to teach Linux or Windows to students, I would hand out netbooks than tablets. They would certainly learn more coding with a solid keyboard than a virtual one.
I'm quite attached to my netbook and spend as much time on it as I do with my primary notebook. To wit, here's my ode to what is now considered an obsolete device:
1. They're real "laptops" - They don't heat up unlike my Acer Aspire and Lenovo Ideapad and you can literally place them on your lap while watching a movie or typing away without fear of laptop burns. They're much more quiet than the lumbering 15" or 17" desktop replacement notebooks equipped with noisy fans. And you don't have to hold it up to your face with your arms for long periods nor do you need to buy an expensive tablet stand. Coding or watching "Fringe" on them is comfortable too.
2. They're cheaper than ultrabooks - In a few months or so, ultrabooks with fancy Thunderbolt ports and SSD storage will be able to match the price of standard laptops. They're powerful machines and I'd love to have a Macbook Air or HP ultraportable myself. But the truth is my netbook's 6-cell battery is still chugging away (3+ hours with an openSUSE 12.1 install) and is still 1/4 (or less) the price of an ultraportable.
3. They're still more productive than a tablet - Even with a aged dual core Intel Atom processor, a netbook can run as a full system whether you have Windows 7 or Linux installed. Although there are less choices for netbooks today, MSI, Samsung, and Toshiba netbooks sport AMD processors or a better graphics chip for watching videos on the go and can even support casual gaming. As a technical instructor, I could certainly see doing volunteer work with a bunch of netbooks for my students. Tablets are great for consuming media but netbooks are efficient for coding and learning how an OS works. They're perfect for teaching Linux and markup language like HTML5 and DocBook.
4. They don't have clumsy keyboards - Unlike hybrid tablets that support docked keyboards or (worst) smartphone keypads, netbooks actually sport great keyboards by today's standards. I remember a time when everyone was complaining (including sanctimonious CNET reviewers) about the keyboards on a netbook. Reviewers complained about everything from the position of the number keys to the arrow keys. Ironically, very few gripe about the discomfort of a touchscreen keyboard on a smartphone or tablet, so enthralled are consumers with the touchscreen fad. Touch-typing with a netbook, on the other hand, is a breeze. It just takes practice if you have big hands.
5. They double as a portable USB charger and device manager - With a minimum of 3 USB ports and an excellent battery life, netbooks can charge several devices on the go. If you have Windows 7 installed, it doubles as an iTunes server. Even with openSUSE 12.1 installed on my EEEPC 1000H, I can charge and manage the content of my Sony PRS-600, Creative Zen, Nokia e63, and iPod Touch. And of course, there's the multi-card reader slot for my Canon Powershot A2000IS. Take that tablets!