Saturday, April 09, 2011

A rather geeky post while out of Cyprus

Long-term readers of this blog might recall that, almost two years ago, I introduced Ezekiel, my Mac mini computer. It didn't take me long to adjust to using a Mac, despite having been a Windows user for many years, but I didn't find myself suddenly loving all things Mac. It didn't seem all that different, really.

Fast forward eighteen months, or so, and I started thinking about the fact that I would be spending five weeks in the UK in April, and at least two at the end of October. I don't like laptops, and never wanted one... but I have to admit they're useful when travelling. Yes, I can always ask to use someone else's computer.. we always stay in households where there's at least one available, and that's fine for catching up with my email, or Facebook, or even writing a quick blog post.

But if I want to put photos in a post, that means I have to upload them onto someone else's computer. And if I get the urge to do some other writing, or to update one of my websites, well... it just isn't easy. And I can't necessarily fit all those things into a tidy hour or two - I tend to sit at my computer at home at all random times of the day, when something occurs to me. Ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there, a couple of hours later on... and that doesn't work well for borrowing other people's.

As those thoughts were buzzing around my mind, Amazon showed me a recommendation for a 'netbook' computer. A small-size, light laptop. I also realised that I still have quite a bit of birthday money left from a year ago. Idly, I browsed the Amazon Netbooks, and was surprised to find that they're relatively inexpensive, and yet have considerably more hard disc space than any computer I've ever had. I knew I could, just about, deal with a laptop keyboard even though they're a bit smaller... and, reading reviews, it seemed that on the whole people who had bought them were pleased with them.

I discussed it with friends and family. Some said, 'go for it!'. I'm not good at spending money on myself, so they thought it a great idea. Others told me I probably wouldn't use it much. Others said that if I really wanted something for travelling, I should get an iPad. I did investigate iPads online, but all I could see were several disadvantages. Touch screen. Ugh. No Flash capability - so I wouldn't be able to play Facebook Scrabble. Far too many things I wouldn't use, and it would be difficult to use software like KompoZer (for websites). Even the e-book reading capability didn't attract me, since I have a Kindle which I was given for Christmas. And they're about twice the price of the best value Netbooks.

So, to cut an already long story slightly shorter than it might otherwise be, I ordered my Netbook a couple of weeks ago. Tim took delivery, and installed the extra RAM that everyone seemed to recommend for it (very easy, he told me) and he used Skype on it, to show that the webcam worked. He said it was surprisingly light, and his only complaint is that it's very small.

Before I even flew to the UK to meet my new acquisition, it was clear to me what its name must be. Our family computers (and Richard's office ones) are all named after Old Testament prophets. Or somehow related to them. But my new venture into the laptop world, and the fact that it's a very little computer meant that there was, from a Biblically aware point of view, only one possible name.

So without further ado, let me introduce.... Zacchaeus:

Tim installed Firefox for me (although I'm glad that it has Internet Explorer, as I don't have a modern version of that on my Mac, and always like to check that my sites work in what is still the most popular browser). However I don't use Firefox on my Mac as I find it slow... and on little Zacchaeus, it's even slower. So in that photo I was downloading Chrome, which is, indeed, considerably faster than Firefox.

As well as the Netbook and RAM, I ordered a case as recommended by Amazon:

It took me a little while to adjust to the slightly smaller keyboard - at first I kept missing the right shift key, as it's smaller than I'm used to. But that wasn't difficult, and I can now touch type pretty fast.

However I do NOT like touch-pad mice. I can use them, but it felt slow and klumky. So my first task yesterday morning, in the glorious sunshine that greeted me - yes, this is England in April, but the skies are blue and the weather warm - was to buy myself a mouse. I went to Argos, and bought the cheapest USB one, which works extremely well.

Windows 7 starter is easy to use... the mouse installed itself when I plugged it in, as did the memory stick (on which I brought copies of my sites and documents) and even the camera. I suppose it's different from Mac OS, but other than the X key being in a different place, and a few other slight variations, I'm hardly noticing it.

So... the only problem was where to use it. I don't like laptops on my lap - they get uncomfortably warm, and I don't find it easy to type like that. I tried it on the dressing table, where it was a good height for reading, but rather awkward to type.

So I opened a drawer, put a box inside for stability, and am using it like this:

.. which is fine for typing, but awkward for reading. I like screens higher when browsing/reading. So, on top of the dressing table for reading, on the drawer for typing. The fact that I like my screen considerably higher than my keyboard is another reason why, in general, I am not a fan of notebook computers. An iPad would be even worse. But, for times when I'm out of Cyprus, this is about as ideal a situation as I've ever had and I'm very pleased with little Zacchaeus.


Anvilcloud said...

If you can't find Zacchaeus, look up into the nearest tree. It's possible.

Rosemary said...

Pop to IKEA and buy Zacchaeus a bean-bag based laptray designed for a computer. Not much use in your luggage but at around £10 you might justify one just for the time you are in UK.

Sue said...

Well.. interesting idea. But, alas, Ikea is more than a 'pop' away from here. 45 minutes drive, probably a great deal longer by bus. I did see that Argos do a beanbag tray for laptops which is actually slightly bigger (and similar price)... but neither would be wide enough for me to use a mouse, and I really don't like having a computer on my lap. So, probably not, but it was interesting looking them up!

Mark said...

We have a similar theme with our computers. Our laptop is boaz, the mac mini is micah, my iphone is elisha, the external hard disc is adullam and the time machine is massada. It suits us but I do feel very odd typing this!