Christmas 2008
Elder Music: 27 December 2008

My Cool New Tech Toy

category_bug_journal2.gif All my computer time is spent on an IBM (now Lenovo) T60 laptop. I’ve had it for nearly three years and it is a workhorse of a computer with plenty of memory, speed and ease of use (if you don’t count my perpetual problems with email - an issue I would rather not discuss).

I’ve schlepped this laptop all over the country - on and off airplanes and trains, in hotel rooms with dubious internet connections and it always delivers. It’s been banged around a lot with nary a complaint (except for those email screw ups and one major crash a year ago).

But the operative word in that paragraph is “schlepped.” It weighs a ton and it has too many cables plugged into it so I am tethered to the desk in the library when I would rather be in the kitchen or bedroom or outdoors on the deck with it sometimes.

Not long ago, Frank Paynter of Listics posted a story about a tiny laptop Dave Winer had bought. Apparently, they are called “netbooks” by the initiated and as small as they are, they have about a zillion times more of everything than the first computer you ever owned and, aside from a smaller hard drive, maybe even any average computer today of the non-gamer variety.

I was ecstatic to read about it and I zoomed around the web checking every story, critique and review I could find.

What I would gain with it, I found, is a much more powerful network capability (even when I occasionally dragged my laptop to the back deck on a fine summer day, I could barely get a signal), along with Windows XP, a 160 gig hard drive, 1 gig of RAM, three USB ports, an SD memory card slot (for my camera), built-in webcam (I'll finally try Skype video calls now) PLUS five or six hours of battery life. AND it weighs only four pounds.

I mean, I could toss that little baby in my handbag and not notice it’s there.

Now, as the delighted owner of an Asus 900HA Eee PC, I can. It arrived on Monday, I spent most of Tuesday (between snow shoveling sessions) setting it up, downloading the programs I use and generally behaving like a kid with her first bicycle.

It is 8.9 inches wide, 6.7 inches deep and less than an inch thick. What about the size of the keyboard, you may ask. It’s almost three inches shorter in width than a standard keyboard, but I’m accustomed to it already and seem to have no trouble switching between sizes on the two machines. The screen is much smaller too, but it is also brighter than the T60 and I have no difficulty reading on it.

Normally, it is considered gauche to discuss price, but I gave this to myself as a holiday gift - justified by how frugal I have been in 2008 - and you will be amazed: $325 - about one-seventh of what I paid for the Lenovo.

Frank Paynter posted a photo of Dave Winer’s little netbook sitting next to his honking big Macbook Pro. And here’s a shot of my mine next to my normal-sized laptop


Or better, perhaps, here is a closeup with a coffee cup, pen and mouse for size comparison.


Now, if I can survive winter (see Wednesday’s story), you’ll be getting a lot more blog posts from outside on the deck next summer.

What’s your favorite electronic toy?

ADDENDUM in the "mysteries of computer life" category: My laptop email program, Mozilla Thunderbird, has refused to retrieve email for two weeks and I haven't found time to fiddle with it, so I've been stuck using the clunky web email program at my domain registrar's site.

After I downloaded and set up Thunderbird on my new toy, copied over my settings, address book and calendar, suddenly my laptop copy of Thunderbird fetches mail again. I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm curious about why. If there are any geeks out there who can explain this miracle to me, I would most appreciate it.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, continuing our week of Christmas stories, Dani Ferguson recalls A Christmas Memory.]


Love that you "spoiled yourself" with a current iteration of that first bicycle. I get that enduring thrill each time I upgrade (Mac) machines. My next two fave e-toys are a tie between my Lumix Panasonic digital camera and iPod.

(I have not read or heard the word "handbag" in ages, and loved its appearance in this post, bringing me back to my first Schwinn bicycle, first Nancy Drew books... delicious associations.)

One of the reasons I haven't had or wanted a laptop is that they were too heavy!

I tried The Man's EEE PC when I was in Motown last summer and liked it and have been trying to save for a little Acer ever since. Unfortunately, my lil' red car has been eating my cash for repairs so I have to wait until I can afford one. It's okay -- with winter here, I'm hibernating. One thing I've had to learn is patience and I'm getting better at it.

They are so much fun to use!

Gee.if I had that little gem at the
Rehab Center I wouldn't be so far behind in posting.

My Christmas present from my son was a new CD player with good speakers so I guess that will be my favorite electronic toy for now.

I love the price! I presume you will keep us all informed of the plus's and minus's of the new machine? A sort of rolling review?

We have an excuse, we are videographers. That said, we have every high tech tool (hmmm, toy) you can imagine. I work on a brand new MacBook Pro which is so powerful I carry it to work and hook up to a large monitor and hard drives to edit video. We have a Time Machine for back up and the latest pro HD tapeless video cameras and I just got a Canon Eos 5D Mark II SLR which also shoots HD video. (that last bit is mind boggling if you know anything about cameras). It's an entirely new way to shoot video.
You can add in ipods, Blackberry, web server, every piece of Mac software ever invented. And a couple of music keyboards worth a small fortune.
The wonderful thing is seeing it get faster, more capable and smaller every year. I could throw most of what I need to work in a backpack. I keep telling Olof we don't need to haul a trailer anymore but then, there's the darn lights, tripods, dolly and jib.
It's amazing stuff. Love it.

Looks small and light. Sure wish we had those sorts of prices in Europe. Well, do enjoy and here's hoping that your old one still gets put to good use in an charity agency or some school.

We travel a lot and enjoy emailing home, but some of the email cafes have teens playing games, or people lined up, or, the worst- dirty keyboards. If we wanted to write something longer, or take time to edit, we felt rushed. Plus, the $ adds up using email cafes every few days. So last winter I searched the internet for a tiny laptop ONLY for travel. Came up with the Asus eee one which fits easily in my purse, and It's great- but I don't use it as my main computer. Most motels, hotels, etc have wii, so last summer we took a trip to NYC and I took the eee for a maiden run. Worked Perfectly! It cost $399 in Canada, and it's a little gem. Keyboard and screen are tiny, but I'm only using it to do emails, and check news, etc. It has lots of ports. I'm happy with it. I also like the Acer Aspire, but it wasn't out when I got the eee.

I'll never travel without it. Oh, and it fits easily in a hotel safe. Bonus.

I'm not getting rid of the T60. It is still my main machine. The eee pc works wonderfully, but when I'm really flying on the keyboard, I want it to be full size.

One little problem is that in making a smaller keyboard, Asus has placed the up key between the question mark/slash and the right Shift key which I have not yet incorporated into my brain well enough, so the cursor suddenly moves up when I really want a capitalized letter.

There are a couple of other minor differences that are irritating right now, but I'm sure I'll become accustomed to them.

I also have an older laptop which is too heavy to carry anywhere, and a smaller one that's a bit more portable. But since I have fingers like ham hocks, I use a wireless desktop with each and that way I can type comfortably and use a regular mouse, instead of a touchpad (which I'm also not crazy about).

I'm not a techie, as you know, but this has worked for me when Thunderbird decides to take a holiday: my IP is Earthlink, but like you I don't care much for web mail, so I have my Earthlink e-mail forwarded to the T-bird. If a message is corrupted, it won't download, and blocks all the messages that come in after it. So when T-bird won't download, I have to sign into my Earthlink account and remove the oldest unread message (I move it into a file titled "undeliverable mail"). After I do that, the rest of the new messages will download. I'm sure I don't get anywhere near the volume of mail you do, but it still happens to me about two or three times a year, and this has resolved the problem each time.

I just love this place you have made! I am so grateful to Jeanne Follet for steering me to this wonderful place. I just cannot tell you how much I appreciate waking up to my early morning computer time, and finding email from TGB and Elder Blogger. Makes my day....:*))

Boy that sounds like a great tool for trips. I take a laptop for downloading photos from the camera but mine is bulkier and heavier. The price makes this very tempting. I don't like typing on a laptop anyway; so I'd have no bigger difference than my usual gripes when I am on a trip (I use one of the split keyboards and it's hard to use anything that isn't)

Interesting. I have been checking these little netbooks out over the last couple of months also. We do a fair bit of travelling to out-of-the-way places and like to travel really light, with just a backpack, so one of these, weighing in at just 1kg, would be ideal for me. I've read every review I could find and have decided on the MSI Wind, which has a larger keyboard than the Asus and is really comfortable to use. They are available for £280 here in UK. (And PC World has the same model, rebranded in UK as Advent-4211, for the same price). I am waiting to see if the January sales bring the prices down even lower, as I won't actually need it till the Spring. So I'll be keen to see how yours performs. Please keep us posted.

Simply wonderful. My G will be traveling on business this year, and the heavy old Dell we have isn't worth taking. Our blogger friend Ruthe, just back from China and Japan, took a tiny little note book with her but had problems with the firewall in China.

Reading backwards.......

Ooh, I wish Santa had brought me one of those!! It is much brighter than the other screen.

Season's greetings, friend Ronni. I'm sending you some California warmth.

I have a MacBook Pro (upgraded the old G4 for my birthday last month). I also have a wheeled bag with backpack straps -- mostly I wheel.

What I'm lusting for now is a Flip video camera. Mmmmm.

Got a new Dell PC for Christmas & altho' it's not so sleek & tiny as yours it is a welcomed relief after the last Dell which was over 8 years old! It was slow & took up too much space so we opted for this wonderful new one & I'm delighted. Not one to take a small pc with me anywhere for various reasons of inconvenience for either of us, I've settled for this & both of us are delighted. My daughter was with us for the holidays & her gift to us was to set up the new, give the old away to a deserving young woman & then proceed to update us on this latest addition. You're right, Ronni: I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. What a great feeling! So glad we both decided to give ourselves such a "snappy" gift.

And BTW, isn't it great to have Darlene back, also with a new toy. Dee


I've had four laptops in the last ten years and none of them really delighted me. I would love to get an eee. Maybe in 2009...

Regarding email: all my problems went away when I shifted to gmail. If you send me a message at the sandhilltech address, I get it in a gmail account. I figure there's a trivial difference in privacy between Google and rolling my messages through some ISP's mail server and downloading to my local client. And I'm not sure whether Google isn't maybe more private than the mom and pop ISP down town. I recommend gmail--never lets you down, at home or on the road. I'd guess that you already are feeling the discomfort of email on two machines.

Have a ball with your eee, Ronni. The days are getting longer. It'll be warm on your deck pretty soon.

I think my desktop may be suffering from decrepitness, so appreciate reading about some of the computer variations I might want to consider.

Glad you're having so much fun with your new toy.

Every once in a while a younger friend says, "I wish my mother was as savvy as you. She won't have a computer or a cell phone in her house." Well, I have to admit that I was dragged kicking and screaming into the youthful world of technical gadgets. I would still rather write on beautiful stationery with my blue Sheaffers fountain pen that I used to fill with ink from the bottle on my desk. At least this was an improvement over the quill pen that George Elliot used in writing her novels. In those days people didn't have television so they welcomed the latest output of the woman who had to take a man's name to be published.

I remember when I used to bawl out my grandchildren for not writing us letters. I was told that young people don't write. They use email or cell phones. Just to prove that I could compete technically with all the young people in our family I recently sent the family reunion invitations to the family email list. Little did I know that there were still some people who don't screen their emails very often or who have spam filters and so don't always get important invitations.
So here was grandma using the latest technology to communicate and it fell through the cracks. Now get this! One of those techie young people on our email lists reminded me that Emily Post and Martha Stewart both say that email is informal and that formal invitations still have to be sent through the mail.

Maybe there is still room on the library shelves for another etiquette book about the way to communicate when people don't check their email or answer their cell phone messages or even answer a letter. Wonder if information about such a book would have to be circulated online or by flyer in the mail? In techie times it seems there is no best way to reach everyone.

SOLD! ('s not a Mac) I read about these a couple of months ago...just before ronniecat over at HEARING LOSS asked for suggestions for a new laptop. But I've never seen a great review like yours, and the photo of the two screens side by side is very helpful. May I ask you WHERE you got this wonder? Best Buy? Circuit City? I wanna go look at it myself.

I hope Apple is paying attention. Less than $400!! Wot's not to like? I use Firefox, btw, and LOVE it. I know it's part of the Thunderbird service.

Happy hols....

In the words of a blessing "Thank you God for keeping me alive to reach this moment" in a new improved computer life. Well sort of...Enjoy Enjoy....what I know about all this stuff fits a thimble...just so long as I can pay my credit card bill in my "bloomers" (before they call and say all the bad stuff in a language I don't understand) and post it to my ledger in excel - I am happy!!!!????

I love my computer for all the reasons many have stated above, though mine is beginning to display some unusual symptoms of something. And I love my digital camera.

But my current favorite new tech toy is my Wii and the WiiFit. Mad crazy in love with 'em.

(I talked this up with Beth today, and waddya know! I'm getting one from Amazon for my birthday! Thanks for taking a lead on this, Ronni. DW should be getting commissions!)

Hurray, Frank. I just hope your birthday arrives before next November.


Glad that you like your new toy. Two questions:

1) How green is your netbook?

2) How well does your netbook's screen work with Photoshop Elements? I remember a few months back you wrote a post about usability issues with the new version of Photoshop Element you used.


1. I have no idea how green it is.

2. Photoshop Elements, with its white on black text is impossible to use and I ditched it long ago.

Now I use a wonderful (and free) open source photo editing program - There is even a plugin that allows editing of Photoshop (psd) files. (This is NOT the Paint program that comes with Windows.) does everything I need simply and easily.

Also, on the new Eee PC, I'm using the open source OpenOffice program instead of Microsoft Office. Like, it does everything I need, is compatible with other office software and works beautifully.

A big problem with new PCs today is the way various companies split the HD between C and D when D is basically inaccessible except by folders.
None of my stores have the minis to look at but I just looked at an
ASUS desktop unit and the HD was
split very small in C and huge in D.
Let me know how your ASUS Eee is

Interesting toy..I have been checking these little netbooks out over the last couple of months also. We do a fair bit of traveling to out-of-the-way places and like to travel really light, with just a backpack, so one of these, weighing in at just 1kg, would be ideal for me...

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