Netbooks

I have been interested in the idea of a netbook since they first appeared. I can see the advantage of a small portable computer especially since laptops seem to be getting larger. I remember many years ago using a 486 laptop that only ran dos but was small and light. It was the ideal travel companion. So recently I decided it was time to add to my collection of pcs.

The new unit is Kogan Agora Pro from Kogan, an Australian company. At under $500 it is the cheapest netbook available in Australia but despite that is well equipped. It has a 160gb drive and 2 gig ram as well as the standard Atom processor. Graphics are Intel 950 which support 3d, transparency etc. OS is gOS a version of Linux based on Ubuntu with a emphasis on Google.

So how good is it? It is only available online which is a bit of a concern. I like to see and touch before I buy. However there were several good reviews online so I took a risk. It arrived in a couple of days. Just a plain white box with the usual hardware but no manual. That is only available on the website. Kogan proudly state they are a paperless company. It had a Windows XP sticker even though it came with Linux, that went very quickly. My first impressions were very good, it runs well and seems well made.

I was not so impressed with the operating system though. It seemed to be an older version as it contained out of date versions of OpenOffice and Firefox. The getting started guide recommended against updating it too. Seems that causes problems with the wifi driver. To add to that it didn’t recognise my wireless broadband so I couldn’t get online.

My next move was predictable I guess. gOS was gone and Fedora replaced it. Most things worked out of the box including wifi and my wireless broadband. I was surprised how well it ran even with KDE 4.3 installed which is a bit resource intensive. Even the desktop effects worked. It didn’t take me long to have the desktop customised the way I like it. Later I added the Xfce 4.6 desktop and that runs even better. I will give Fedora’s new Moblin spin when that becomes available after the release of Fedora 12 in about a month.

I have used it around home, in meetings and when out and about. It has prove a worthwhile investment and a useful tool.

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4 thoughts on “Netbooks

  1. Jim

    This looks good and I am impressed by your generally favourable review. I might have to drop some hints for the Christmas list, though, can’t afford $400+ at the moment.

    “gOS was gone and Fedora replaced it” – forgive my ignorance, is that an easy thing to do? And what about installing Windows 7, I have no experience of other systems (except, oddly enough, DOS – in the heart of Africa, 22 years ago now). Is Fedora a better choice than Windows? (Stoopid question, I guess there’s no doubt in your mind about that). I guess Fedora is free/open source?

    Hope you are well, cheers,
    Adam

    • Hi Adam
      Yes it is a good unit, takes some time to get used to the smaller screen but that is not a fault with the computer just what I’m used to. It is very portable even with the bigger battery.

      It isn’t difficult to replace the operating system. You need a usb stick large enough to hold the installation disk as there is no optical drive but even brand name ones with 4 – 8 gb are available under $20. I have a Kingston 4 gb I paid about $15 for. The web site, http://www.kogan.com.au/shop/category/netbooks/ has info on how to install Windows XP and I believe Win 7 can be used too. However you need a spare Windows licence so that is an additional expense.

      Fedora is indeed free / open source. I think Linux is better suited to netbooks as it runs well on slower hardware. There is a new version called Moblin which is designed for netbooks, Fedora 12 will have it available as an option.

      You don’t need to change anything on an existing computer to try most versions of Linux as a “Live” cd option is available that you can try just by downloading it and booting from the cd (or usb stick). Lets you see what it is like and how it handles your hardware.

      All well here and with you too I hope.
      Jim

  2. This is a me-too! I got mine just before my once-in-a-lifetime trip around Europe. Nice little unit – I stayed with the default gOS Linux but I plunged into my usual ‘apt-get update’ download-fest and had to back out to the original kernel. I think the wifi driver was a bit special.

    I was just a little disappointed with the wifi range and stability – when I got home I contacted Kogan and they sent me a new wifi card which seems to have fixed all my woes. Typing on it now, no problems at all, and I hear they’ve dropped the price by $100!!!

    I’m wondering what version of fedora you ended up with. I’m _thinking_ of dropping -12 on it.

    • Hi Bob

      Thanks for your comments. I’m running F11 at the moment with Xfce as the default desktop. I am intending to install F12 and try the Moblin desktop as soon as I get time.

      Living with it for a while now I find it is still good. I particularly like the matt screen and battery life. I get 4 hours plus.

      I rarely use the wifi but it seems to have a reasonable range. It required no configuring in Fedora. It is listed in NetworkManager and selecting it gets it connected. However I wish the wifi button would turn it off and not just the light.

      The built-in speakers are a bit tinny but I don’t use them anyway. I haven’t tried it with headphones, probably would be better.

      Thanks

      Jim

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