My spouse’s notebook computer died a few weeks ago, about 1 year after the 1 year warranty expired. This was not very satisfying. I also had my notebook PC die this past year, so it is starting to look like notebooks are disposal devices. Funny, my desktop PCs just keep on going year after year without a problem. This probably has something to do with the abuse that notebooks get being carried around from place to place.

So if we are going to end up replacing these things every few years, I got interested in lowering the cost. There are a number of compact netbooks that typically run Linux on the Intel Atom and use a solid state drive (no spinning hard disk). We settled on the Acer Aspire One, which is $329 from Amazon (free shipping). This computer has a 1.6GHz Atom N270 Processor, 8GB solid state drive, 512MB DDR2 SDRAM, 802.11b/g, Ethernet, three USB 2.0, VGA output, 1.3 megapixel camera, SDHC and multi-format media readers. I popped an 8GB SDRAM card into the expansion slot and it now has 16 GB. It uses the Linux LinpusLite operating system. (Some netbook models are going with WindowsXP, but I think these minimalist machines are better off with the small footprint of Linux.) The only thing I wish it had was a good-old dialup modem for those rare times when you are stuck without a decent wireless connection. (I’d trade that for the VGA display output.)

It comes ready to run with Linux and the key applications already loaded. For web browsing (Firefox), email (Acer Email) and writing (OpenOffice), it is ready to go. I did decide to load Thunderbird for email (instead of the supplied Acer Email application). This machine is configured like an appliance with not much thought of how the user will add applications. However, a little fiddling around on the web and the use of my (cough) extensive (cough) knowledge of Unix commands got Thunderbird loaded.

So far, this computer has exceeded our expectations. It is really compact, has a great display and is easy to use. What it does, it does well. However, it is NOT a full-size, full-featured notebook computer. For the intended use of internet communications, email, web, basic document creation, it works great. I am hoping that the simple design, with no hard drive, with also last a little longer. Did I mention that this thing boots fast? Go, Linux.

I can’t get it out of my wife’s hands. Trust me, I’ve tried.

73, Bob K0NR

Followup Oct 11: I’ve noticed that the netbook product category continues to be dynamic with new products being introduced all of the time. Check out the latest offerings from Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, etc. before making a purchase.