Tag: Netbook

Weeknote #29

Weeknote 29This week I have been mostly…

Getting JISC-y with it

It’s finally finished! The mobile and wireless technologies review I’ve been working on for the last few months is finally ready. I’ll not link to it until I’ve presented at next week’s meeting but, at 17,000+ words it’s a fairly substantial piece of work.

I also attended the JISC Online e-Learning Conference this week. It was variable.. Keri Facer’s keynote on the future of education was awesome, as was Anne Miller’s session on innovation and barriers. Graham Brown-Martin’s session on mobile technologies was entertaining and I wish I hadn’t been commuting during the session on Open Educational Resources. There’s not point linking to the sessions I didn’t like; suffice to say that I’m not fond of people bigging themselves or their institution up and delivering little in the way of new ideas or sharing good practice. Overall, worth virtually attending though – more on my conference blog. 🙂

Trudging through snow

It’s a winter wonderland up in Northumberland at the moment. It won’t be long before I’ll be able to do this again (January 2010):

Receiving a free netbook

I’m not sure whether it’s because I spoke at BETT a couple of years ago on netbooks in the classroom, my pre-release review of the LG Shine from a few years back or uncomissioned videos such as my hands-on review of the Dell Streak, but I was approached this week to review the Dell 2110 education-focused netbook. It was delivered yesterday so expect a review soon!

Planning a conference

Andy Stewart and I are planning a conference. No, I’m not going to tell you when, where or what it’s about. Suffice to say these things take a fair amount of thinking about. Good grief. If you’ve experience in these matters, feel free to get in touch!

Top 10 links I’ve shared this week

The following links were those most clicked on (according to bit.ly Pro‘s stats) when I shared them via  Twitter this week. I don’t include links back to this blog.

Links given with number of clicks given in brackets:

  1. Telegraph | 200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant (83)
  2. Spin Collective | Sea mural sticker set (49)
  3. Guardian | Students protest (40)
  4. hu2 | Water Cycle wall sticker (35)
  5. The Importance of Teaching – The School White Paper 2010 (27)
  6. BBC News | Teacher training at heart of schools reform (25)
  7. Twitter | Alfie Kohn: critique of Math instruction (25)
  8. Literature and Latte – Scrivener (21)
  9. Through The Phases (18)
  10. Amazon.co.uk | Boettinger: Moving Mountains (9)

HOWTO: Tether an iPhone to a netbook running Jolicloud

Introduction

I mentioned in an earlier blog post my favourable early impressions of the ‘cool new operating system’ Jolicloud on my Acer Aspire One. One thing that I wanted to be able to do with it is to ‘tether’ my iPhone to it for 3G internet access. This was easily done under almost any operating system when I’d ‘jailbroken’ my iPhone (through PDAnet) However, it’s not so easy with an iPhone running the standard firmware and a netbook running Jolicloud. This is for two reasons:

  • An unjailbroken iPhone can only tether by USB or Bluetooth, not wi-fi.
  • Jolicloud does not come with access to Synaptic Package Manager, trading this for ease-of-use.

Tethering an unjailbroken iPhone to Jolicloud is still possible, however, if you’re prepared to copy-and-paste some lines into the Terminal. Here’s what to do…

How to tether your iPhone under Jolicloud

1. Activate tethering on your iPhone. You should really go through your contract provider for this, but if you’re naughty – or feel overcharged as it is – then try emailing to your iPhone and then running the relevant .mobileconfig file found at http://www.benm.at/help/tethering.php

2. Install ‘jolicloud-netbook-config’. To be honest, I’m not actually certain this step is necessary. But it can’t hurt! On your netbook, open up the Terminal (found under the ‘Accessories’ menu in Jolicloud). Copy-and-paste this: sudo apt-get update (then press ‘Enter’) followed by sudo apt-get install jolicloud-netbook-config (Enter). You may get errors. Ignore them. 😉

3. Install Blueman. Whilst still in the Terminal, copy-and-paste this: sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/blueman/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main' >/etc/apt/sources.list.d/blueman.list" and then hit Enter. Follow this typing sudo apt-get update (Enter) and then sudo apt-get install blueman (Enter). You’ll get errors, but don’t worry!

4. Configure Bluetooth Manager. Make sure you have Bluetooth turned on your netbook and both Bluetooth and Tethering on your iPhone. The ‘tethering’ option is found withing Settings / General / Network on your iPhone. On your netbook, go to the Preferences menu and then click on Bluetooth Manager:


4. Connect to your iPhone. Click on Search within Bluetooth Manager. Your iPhone should be listed. Click on it, then Bond. You’ll have to do the usual thing of setting a passcode to be entered on both devices, etc.


5. Set up your iPhone for ‘tethering’. Within Bluetooth Manager click on the Trust button to save time in future. Then click on Setup and keep pressing Forward until your iPhone is ‘tethered’ (i.e. set up for 3G internet access with your netbook).


Your iPhone should now have a blue bar at the top that says Internet tethering (see image at top of this post). Open up a browser and surf away! 😀

Finally…

To reconnect on subsequent occasions, make sure that Bluetooth and Tethering is active on your iPhone. Then go back into Bluetooth Manager on your netbook, right-click on your iPhone and select the option to re-establish a Bluetooth connection. An icon should pop-up indicating you’re connected and, of course, the blue ‘Internet Tethering’ ribbon should appear to the top of your iPhone! 🙂

Many thanks to the author of this blog post (which has some additional steps you may want to try which forces Ubuntu Netbook Remix – on which Jolicloud is based – to configure the connection as an ‘official’ Mobile Broadband connection)

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Jolicloud: my first impressions of the ‘cool new [social] OS for your netbook’

A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Which is the best netbook operating system? The result of my experiments were rather skewed having neither access to a netbook at the time (I used virtualization on my Macbook Pro) nor to the promising Jolicloud operating system.

Built upon Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an operating system which I already have a lot of respect and time for, Jolicloud is another ‘layer’, as it were. It treats web applications and desktop applications as if they were the same, so to install OpenOffice.org and ‘Google Reader’ is achieved via the same one-click interface (shown below)

I bought myself an Acer Aspire One netbook, for the bargainous price of £99 + delivery on eBay. There was nothing wrong with it at all. I’ve simply added 1GB RAM (c.£11) to make it a bit more speedy.

As you can see below, you ‘sign in’ to Jolicloud and can follow other users. This means you can see what apps. and other things they’re using.

Signing in also lets you check if there’s any updates to Jolicloud (I’ve just upgraded to Alpha 2c)

If you have more than one computer running Jolicloud, you can see the on the screen below. I assume this will lead to the ability to ‘sync’ them in future?

WINE, a Windows emulator for Linux, is also a one-click affair. This means that you’ve got access to the excellent Spotify, quickly and easily! 🙂

Below you can see some of the applications I installed via Jolicloud and how they showed up under the ‘Internet’ tab.

I was delighted to see that the Jolicloud team have included a development build of Google Chrome. It’s a great browser and, in fact, I’m using it to write this blog post! 😀

Finally, another ‘application’ – this time newsmap. Jolicloud simply opens it full-screen in a window.

Finally, just a note to say that everything – and I mean everything, works out-of-the-box. The latest release even has a drop-down menu at the top-right to select what speed you want the processor to run, or if you want it to run ‘on demand’. Legendary.

Suffice to say it’s staying installed on my netbook for the foreseeable future! :-p

Which is the best netbook operating system?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The above graph is known as the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and is an approximation as to how new types of products and technologies are adopted. I’m usually in the left-hand 2.5% for most technology-related things (well, I’ve got to be honest!) This post is about Netbooks, small form-factor devices used primarily to access the internet and run lightweight applications. Since 2007 I’ve had three netbooks: an Asus Eee 701 (with stock Xandros Linux), an Advent 4211 (MSI Wind clone upon which I installed Mac OSX with some success), and an Asus Eee 1000 (running Ubuntu Netbook Remix). The latter was a fantastic netbook and I was disappointed when I had to return it to my previous school upon leaving.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a (very) cheap netbook with which I can mess about. If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these then I’d recommend first having a look at the excellent comparison of netbooks on Wikipedia. The problem with having a £1500 Macbook Pro is that it makes you rather reluctant to take it to places like the beach (now only 1.5 miles away from where I live!) In addition, my line manager at my new job as well as my father have been asking for advice regarding netbooks. As a result, I thought that now would be a good time to look at the best operating system to run on a netbook.

Why Linux?

You may be wondering why I don’t automatically recommend Windows 7 for netbooks. That’s because I’m a great advocate of Open Source Software. In the past, it was difficult to hand-on-heart recommend Linux (an Open Source Operating System) for the average person. I’ve used Linux since Red Hat Linux in 1997 and it hasn’t been until the dawn of Ubuntu Linux around 5 years ago that I’ve been able to recommend it to, for example, my parents (who have run it on their laptop for the past 3 years).

Linux is more flexible and configurable than Windows. Oh, and it’s free. 🙂

What to look for in a netbook operating system

To my mind, a netbook operating system should be:

  1. Quick to boot-up (from cold, hibernation and suspend alike)
  2. Work with no glitches (i.e. support hardware out-of-the-box)
  3. Intuitive
  4. Aesthetically pleasing
  5. Easily configurable

The contenders…

Below you’ll find quick video demonstrations of the following operating systems that can be installed on netbooks:

Why have I chosen the three above? There’s no sound, scientific reason apart from that a) 3 is a good number of options to give to people, b) I’ve used Ubuntu Netbook Remix before and have an interest in test-driving the other two, and c) Jolicloud, the other OS I wanted to test, won’t play nicely with virtual machines.

Oh, that’s the other thing. This is completely unscientific as these videos demonstrate how these operating systems perform within a virtual machine within my Macbook Pro. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. The videos are simply there to give you a taster… :-p

Easy Peasy (Ubuntu Netbook Remix)

gOS

Linux Mint

Conclusion

So… which is best? I’d love to be able to say gOS (or Jolicloud if I could get it to work). I love the idea of the netbook being a device simply to connect you to cloud-based working. However, practicality is the order of the day. You have to be able to work effectively offline. Whilst all OS’s will allow you to do this, Ubuntu Netbook Remix allows you to do this in a straightforward and streamlined way.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix – via Easy Peasy if you have an Asus Eee – is the winner! 😀

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I’ve sold my Asus Eee 4G. What now?

I’m a bit of a sucker for gadgets. I keep telling myself that I should hold out for the second generation of things, but I just get carried away again and again. That’s not to say that I don’t buy quality stuff; quite the opposite in fact. Yesterday I sold my Asus Eee 4G to @moodlehotpotato (Mary Cooch) after a brief Twitter chat, Skype chat and Paypal payment. It wasn’t because it didn’t serve a need – it was because there was so much potential there I wanted something that could fulfil that need to the max! 😀

There’s many sites and blogs that have waxed lyrical about the Asus Eee 4G. From a teacher’s point of view, this is what I liked about mine:

  • The size and weight mean I can carry it one-handed from one classroom to another. As I teach History in my classroom and ICT in various other classrooms, this is great.
  • Internet connectivity is great: wi-fi is painless to set up
  • I could take it to meetings instead of a pen and paper.
  • My use of it makes staff and students alike want one. It makes the school purchasing a set more likely.
  • It runs a version of Linux customised for that particular device. Anyone who’s used OSX on an Apple computer knows the difference this makes… 🙂

So if it’s so great, why have I sold it? Well, three reasons:

  1. The screen, whilst useable, is a bit small. Newer models have 8.9″ screens instead of 7″ which enables them to utilise a 1024 pixel-width resolution. This makes all the difference when web browsing. Who designs sites for 800×600 in this day and age? (my web stats show that less than 2% of visitors to this site, for example)
  2. It hasn’t got Bluetooth built in – I purchased a micro-USB dongle, but it was a hassle to setup. I want things to be straightforward. Newer models have Bluetooth built-in.
  3. Battery life, whilst acceptable at a shade under 2 hours in normal use, could be better. Newer models, based on Intel’s Atom processor, promise to drastically improve on that.

So what am I going to buy? Well, a post about 4P Computing over at OLPC News (Price, Performance, Portability and Price) showed that only three met the criteria for a true Netbook:

4PC Name Power Perform Portability Price
Asus Eee PC No Yes Yes Yes
Classmate/2Go PC No Yes No Yes
Elonex One Yes Yes Yes Yes
Everex Cloudbook Yes Yes No Yes
HP Mini-Note PC No Yes No No
Norhtec Gecko Yes Yes Yes Yes
OLPC XO-1 Yes Yes Yes Yes

Of those, the Elonex One only actually has a 300mhz (must have been a mistake), the OLPC XO-1 is garish and not easy to come by in the UK, and the Norhtec Gecko only has a 7″ screen. It was obvious that I was going to have to cast my net wider, which is where the Low-Cost Laptop Cheat Sheet over at Laptop Magazine proved helpful. I’ve taken off the column about US availability as well as removed any that aren’t available in the UK (at least not according to Google Product Search). Finally, I took off any that had 7″ screens, changed the price to GBP, added the Asus Eee 900 and HP Mini-Note, and reproduced what’s left of the table below:

Laptop Name Price Operating System Processor Storage Display Size Webcam
Asus EeePC 900 £329.99 Linux/Windows XP 900 MHz Intel Celeron-M ULV 353 12GB SSD (WinXP) 20GB SSD (Linux) 8.9″ 1.3 megapixels
HP 2133 Mini-Note £349.99 Linux/Windows Vista Via C7-M 1.2Ghz 120GB HDD 8.9″ 0.3 megapixels
Asus EeePC 901 £499.99 (pre-order price, likely to be c.£400) Linux/Windows XP Intel Atom 8GB SSD (WinXP) 12GB or 20GB SSD (Linux) 8.9″ 1.3 megapixels
MSI Wind £334.95 Linux/Windows XP Intel 945GMS Atom 80GB HDD 10″ 1.3 megapixels

I paid £219 for my Asus Eee 701, so as you can see my next purchase is going to cost me at least 50% more. But which one shall I choose? Here’s the main positive/negative points about each one as far as I can see:

Asus EeePC 900

Advantages: Available now, multi-touch trackpad, lightweight, same size as 701.
Disadvantages: No Bluetooth, 901 coming out shortly.
Reviews:

HP 2133 Mini-Note

Advantages: Sleek metal body, WXGA screen, huge hard disk, optional Bluetooth, available now.
Disadvantages: Some users complain of fan noise, processor quite slow.

Reviews:

Asus EeePC 901

Advantages: Bluetooth, Intel Atom processor (improved battery life).
Disadvantages: Potentially expensive, not available now (early June).
Pre-release specs: I4U (unconfirmed)

MSI Wind

Advantages: Bluetooth, 4-in-1 card reader, 10″ screen, Intel Atom processor (improved battery life).
Disadvantages: Not available now (early June), likely to be significantly bigger than Asus Eee.

Pre-release specs: PC Advisor

The Verdict

It looks like if I’m going to buy now, it’s the HP 2133 Mini-Note or the Asus EeePC 900. If I can wait until mid-June, I’ve got the option of Netbooks with the new Intel Atom processors – namely the MSI Wind and Asus EeePC 901.

I’ll probably wait. But if I don’t, then here’s the HP and Eee 900 head-to-head:

Feature HP 2133 Mini-Note Asus EeePC 900
Dimensions (WxDxH) 25.5 x 16.5 x 3.3cm 22.5 x 17 x 3.4cm
Weight 2.63lbs (1.27kg) 2.2lbs (1kg)
Screen size 8.9″ WXGA 8.9″
Processor Via C7-M 1.2Ghz Intel Celeron M ULV 900Mhz
Memory 1GB 1GB
Operating System Linux or Windows Vista Linux or Windows XP
Battery Life c.2 hours c.3.5 hours
Storage 120GB HDD 12GB or 20GB
Bluetooth Yes No
WLAN 802.11a/b/g 802.11b/g
Keyboard size 92% 80%
Multitouch trackpad No (scroll zone) Yes
Webcam 0.3 megapixel 1.3 megapixel
ExpressCard/54 slot Yes No
SD card reader Yes No
Case Anodised aluminium Plastic

I reserve the right to make a carefully-considered, well-researched impulse purchase… 😉

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