Thursday, November 27, 2008

Notebook to Netbook

My present HP notebook bought 14 months back costed me 45,000 Rs, weighs 3 kgs, runs Windows Vista(TM), boots in 4 minutes, shutsdown in 90 seconds, uses 65% of 1GB RAM without me running a singe application.
For my usage that is mainly entertainment, I surely don't have to incur so much of cost. The cost is not just the price I pay but also the weight I carry, the speed (or lack of it) that I put up with. I think I can reduce the costs in the following ways.
  1. Replace Windows Vista with Ubuntu Linux - Vista Home Premium costs around 7000 Rs, uses atleast 12 GB Hard disk space, uses atleast 500 MB of RAM, wants to confirm every time if I am sure I want to run an application program. Opening a folder with 40 files takes a noticeable amount of time not to mention the boot and shutdown time. Solution is to customize the free and open source Linux to include only those modules that I need. I tried doing that but couldn't get the Display driver and Wireless Network driver.
  2. Use Online Productivity suite instead of Desktop Office Softwares - Whole MS Office Professional bundle costs 25,000 Rs, though minimal student ones are available for 8000 Rs. It takes around 1 GB disk space, each program like word or excel uses 50-100 MB RAM space depending on file size. Significant amount of time too is required to open a file. Free alternatives like OpenOffice and StarOffice don't give much respite either. Online office suites like Google Docs, Zoho move the computing from the PC to their servers freeing up the resources at the PC end. Inherently online office is the best way to share and collaborate. The documents can be accessed from anywhere and edited on any OS and Browser. Any updates in Desktop softwares have to be done by applying a patch or reinstalling, while in online it can be done continuously and without intervention of the user.
  3. Install Basic Softwares - Have basic softwares to only read pdf, xls, doc, ppt files. Simple mp3 player, video player and photo viewer. This is to do something when I am not connected to internet.
  4. Remove Anti Virus - It is one of the most annoying softwares. It will add 30 seconds to the boot time, runs in the background, pops every now and then and ask you to register, update, scan and restart. Thanks to the security provided by Internet Explorer and Windows, Anti Virus has become a necessity. I will not need it anymore.
  5. Change from Hard Disk to Flash - NAND Flash is almost as fast a RAM in read, so I can imagine opening a file from it. It has no moving or rotating parts like Hard Disk that's why it is called Solid State Disk. Power Consumption is one tenth of Hard Disk. Weight and space is vastly reduced. With bloated OS and softwares gone, the space requirement is also reduced and a 32 GB Flash Drive should be good to keep even photos, music and videos. If one likes to keep lot of data like movies then an external Hard Drive should be good.
  6. Have an external CD/DVD - This again has moving parts and removing it reduces lot of space and sheds weight. I don't use CDs and DVDs that often and if I do require I can use an external one.
  7. Reduce the screen size from 15.4" to 12" - This will make it more portable without compromising on the display effectiveness. Power will also be saved.
  8. Remove some of the connection slots - Slots for Memory Card Readers, PCMCIA, Serial Ports, Parallel Ports, 1394-firewire, PS2 ports etc are not required. If required, one can always buy those converters for 150 odd rupees. This does away with having the necessary controllers, drivers and hence cost. I only need 4 USB slots, 1 network slot, audio output, voice input and Wireless Network capability.
Having simplified so much, the RAM of 512 MB and 1 GHz processor should suffice. And yet I can get desired performance of 30 seconds boot time, 15 seconds shutdown, fast enough run time performance and increased battery life. The price can be brought down to 10,000 Rs and weight down to 1 kg. The basic requirement is a decent broadband connection.
What I have actually done is to reduce a notebook to something more simpler but optimized for internet usage which is called Netbook. ASUS Eee PC is the pioneer and leader in this market. Nova netPC is the brainchild of Rajesh Jain for Indian market.
Personal computer market growth started with Desktops. Now the baton is passed to Laptops or notebooks. Following the trend of more compact, simpler and affordable PCs, I believe the next growth will come from Netbooks.


  1. It is all fine. What happens in reality is that you want something some of the time and something some other time. Best is to run all programs on the net and the net itself should be quite fast. Storage also on the net.
    One doubt : With all memories (photographs) going digital, is there the real risk of losing the digital files to unsupported/virus-hit/outdated programs? Or something else? Even as more and more information and knowledge get digitised, some are getting created only digitally - what if there is a sudden burst of gamma or some other rays on the planet and wipes out digital memory? It will be virtual loss, eh?

  2. 1. Storage on net - It is a good idea to have a backup of our data there. Also those data that are accessed by online applications have to be online like doc, xls, ppt etc. But access and control of data is best when it is local on the computer.
    2. Risk of loosing data -
    a) Risk of loosing data is lesser in digital form than in paper form. Data in digital form can be copied and backed up. The data doesn't "decay" with time as in paper. Organizing and Searching for data is easier in digital form.
    b) In digital form, the risk of loosing is lower when it is online than when it is local. When data is online it is being managed by experts and safety measures like Anti-Virus and Backups are taken. But it is very important to select the right online data storage vendor as it is very common for them to delete the data without any notice. When it is local in a CD, DVD, iPOD or Hard Disk they can always fail.

    When something of the nature of gamma rays strike the planet, our lives will be gone before the data itself ;-)

  3. Single most use of Windows for me on my laptop is to watch live cricket streaming. Most sites only work with IE, unfortunately. Otherwise, I pretty much survive on free software for Mac OS X. I don't have any commercially distributed software.