I’ve had my eye on a netbook for some time, while I like my 17 inch laptop for all day developing, it’s a bit large for lugging to code camps. In addition the battery life has slowly been dwindling over the years, so I wanted something with long battery life.
After some consideration, I picked the Asus PC 1000HE. It has a 10 inch display, it’s keyboard is 92% size and surprisingly comfortable even for my huge hands. The battery life so far has been phenomenal. Running on the mid level power setting with the back light at almost full bright and all the wireless turned on I still get over six hours. I imagine if I ran it in power saving mode, and doing the tweaks I could easily achieve the 9.5 hours of advertised battery life.
I did opt for the extra chip to expand to 2 gig, replacing the 1 gig chip with the 2 took me all of 10 minutes.
The unit came with XP Home, but I’ve been using Windows 7 since the public beta and couldn’t face going back to XP. Thus the first thing I did was install Windows 7 on the Asus.
So far, the only thing I have found that Windows 7 did not recognize was the hard wired Ethernet jack. This was easily remedied. I went to the downloads section of the Asus website and picked out my machine, with the XP Home system. I quickly found the LAN driver and downloaded it.
Since it was a Zip all I had to do was expand it, then I went into Windows 7 device manager and found the "unrecognized" Ethernet jack. I told Windows 7 to look for a new driver, pointed it to the folder where I had unzipped it to and boom it worked.
I have not had the opportunity to test the built in camera or microphones, but Windows device manager shows them as being present and fully functional.
So far I’ve installed what I call the Office "basics", Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Visio Viewer and all of them work. I installed Virtual PC 2007, and while it ran my virtual machines it was just a tad on the slow side. Not to be unusable, but a slow experience.
In addition I didn’t want to always have to lug around an external drive with my VPCs on it, so I went ahead and installed Visual Studio 2008 (with SP1) and SQL Server 2008 Developer (with the GDR extensions). So far both seem to run fine, although I haven’t put them to anything extensive as of yet.
In the short time I’ve had the machine, there are a few tips I’ve picked up that I would like to pass along.
Get used to the F11 (the typical shortcut), or "Full Screen" mode for your web browser. It makes browsing a very nice experience. Without it the tabs, url bar and window title bar, plus any of the extra tool bars that get installed will easily suck up 1/3 to 1/2 of the 600 vertical pixels. Full Screen mode makes this pretty much irrelevant. I can easily see everything I need to on a website in full 1024×600 mode.
Hide the Ribbon
In Office, you can hide the ribbon toolbar by simply double clicking on one of the ribbon tabs. When you hover over the tab the ribbon will appear. This saves a lot of real estate, but makes it quite easy to still use the ribbon. In addition you can easily toggle the hidden mode by double clicking a tab again to unhide the ribbon.
Hide the Taskbar
Right click on Windows 7′s taskbar, select properties, then check the "Auto-hide the Taskbar". While the Taskbar doesn’t seem to take up much room, you’d be surprised how nice having that little bit of extra real estate can be.
The one thing I don’t like about the design of the 1000HE’s keyboard is that the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys are not their own keys. Instead you have to press the blue Fn key, then the left, right, up or down arrows to access these often used keys.
Instead I use a little app called TouchCursor. With it I can setup alternate key combos for these and other keys so that I never have to move my hands off the "home" keys on the letters. By default the spacebar is the toggle key, so SpaceBar + I moves the cursor up one row, SpaceBar + K moves it back down.
(Note, if you are a fan of CodeRush, you’ll know it too wants to use the space bar. Fortunately TouchCursor is configurable, so I changed the toggle from the SpaceBar to the letter A. Now on my system A+I is up, A+K is down, etc. )
That’s all I have on the Asus for now, but I’ll soon be putting it through it’s paces. Thursday night I will be speaking at the BSDA, then Saturday I will be at the Atlanta Code Camp giving a 9 am presentation on SQL Server Full Text Searching. After that I’ll be sure to blog and let you know how having the small form factor laptop worked for doing presentations.
If you have any handy tips for using the small netbooks, please leave a comment with your tip or suggestion. I’d love to hear about them!