I had ordered an Asus Eee from Amazon way way back in July, to jump on the overcrowded netbook bandwagon, and to be able to flourish redundant technology on the tube with a knowing smile that within a year everyone's niece and nephew will have one at playschool. But the Eee didn't go "Eeeeee" all the way home. Instead, it was shipped elsewhere round the globe to a higher bidder. And then I saw a Very Special Offer from Dixons/PC World, the Asus Aspiring One SD card version for only £199! For my money, all 199 smackeroonies of it, the Acer pips the Asus on build quality, looks, stylishness and keyboard. It's about an inch wider, so alas it doesn't quite fit into my [Manly Bag]. But the keyboard is a delight really, considering its size.
The main reason for splashing out extravagantly at such a economically tight squeezing time is that I was doing a lot of travelling. The Aspire One is just over half the weight of my gloriously old-fashioned fullsome ThinkPad X60s, and as I ran for the train this morning, I really appreciated the trimness of it all.
But now, I am leaving The Ministry, leaving The Village and leaving The Cottage all behind. For reasons of an entirely personal nature, I will soon be moving to the South East, to a small coastal Kentish town. The Plan is to keep on working remotely for clients in London and make the hour+ trip in for meetings (as opposed to the 6 hour+ trip from Devon). I will also be setting up a web design company for small business, plus getting back into teaching.
Enough about me, let's get back to the sweaty business in hand. Of course, I decided that the installed Linpus Lite linux (based on the venerable Fedora), which works perfectly adequately, had to be ripped out and replaced with Ubuntu. It has become an obsession of mine, to install Ubuntu linux on everything. The fridge runs Ubuntu now, as does the PC and the mobile phone, and I'm considering an implant for the dog. There is an excellent guide from Ubuntu, plus some handy tips from AspireOneuser.com on how to install extra RAM and the like. But be prepared. I have frittered away hours on this task.
The netbook starts to become obsessive -- at the end of the Ubuntu howto there are details for installing Netbook Remix, which is all about minimising the vertical cluttter. There's a super compact theme called Human Netbook, an applet to replace the bottom taskbar called Window Picker (nice reference there to the Aphex Twin classic track;), and a couple of applets that I just didn't get on with -- Maximus, which maximises every window by default, and UME Launcher, which is a desktop based launching app. I uninstalled them both. I didn't realise that I don't want every window maximised. And I didn't realise how much I use the desktop for files which are there to remind me. How old skool of me...
This campaign for minimal pixel height reaches crazy crazy extremes in Firefox -- there is a Compact Theme which IMHO is pigporkerugly (sorry, I prefer iFox Smooth, even though it does have ugh aqua buttons), Personal Menu which moves the menus toolbar to little buttons in the style of IE7, and Stop-or-Reload which combines the stop and reload buttons a la Safari.
An interesting side-effect is the realisation that whilst tiny icons and minimal vertical cruft become de rigeur, you actually need bigger icons in some circumstances because of the wee trackpad (and also because I have, horror of horrors, started using tap-trackpad-to-click, because of the awkwardly placed trackpad buttons). What this lack of finesse and screen estate encourages is the use of keyboard shortcuts (System->Preferences->Keyboard Shortcuts), and programs that use keyboard shortcuts to good effect. I've just discovered a rather nifty text editor, terminal based, which loves keyboard shortcuts. It's named after a 20th century cleaning product called Vim. I think it might catch on…