Netbook woes

I’ve had a netbook, an Acer Aspire One, since early 2009. In that time I’ve learned the following:

  • AWOL webcam: The webcam on the Aspire One is in the lid, just above the screen. If you’re a little rough as you’re carting the netbook around, the camera connection within the lid has a tendency to shake loose, causing the camera to disappear from your list of devices. You have to go through a slightly frightening process of squeezing the front and back of the lid together to the right of the webcam (until you hear a snap)  in order get the connection back in place.
  • Dead batteries: Unlike most notebooks and netbooks, the Aspire One continues to leech from the battery even when the netbook is turned off. If you don’t use the netbook frequently or keep it plugged into the power cord all the time, this continual leeching will eventually drain the battery completely. Unfortunately, the Aspire One also has a problem dealing with a completely drained battery — it can see it but it can’t do anything with it. The support forums are full of helpful suggestions for fixing the problem, usually involving a lot of unplugging and plugging back in of both AC adapter and battery. The solution for me ended up being flashing the BIOS to 3.10. Once the BIOS was up-to-date, the system recognized the battery and charged it properly. Such a simple solution, once you dig through the other stuff to find it. Maybe the netbook will finally start recognizing it’s original battery as well (when I find it). Now I just need to remember to pop out the battery if I’m not going to use the netbook for awhile so that the leeching doesn’t occur.
  • Tiny drives: The specific Aspire One that I have is the one with two 8 GB solid state drives, running Windows XP. The benefit of the solid state drives is that you *can* toss the netbook around a lot without having drive read/write problems. The down side is that 16 GB is not very large. Windows XP takes up almost half the C drive, leaving very little room (relatively speaking) for applications. A surprising number of programs, including Firefox and Adobe Reader, give you no option to choose where you want to install them but rather just install automatically to Program Files on the C drive. This means that you regularly run out of space on that drive, which in turn affects the operation of Windows XP. If you’re smart, you download a program like Application Mover that helps you to move files from one drive/folder to another.  But it still requires continual juggling and monitoring.
  • Slow as molasses: This particular netbook only has 1 GB of RAM and a 1.6 GHz processor. I never thought I’d see the day when 1 GB of memory wasn’t enough to function properly. That says a lot about how bloated both Windows and applications that run on Windows have gotten over the years. (I still use Paint Shop Pro 6 — despite having purchased upgrades up to PSP X — on my main computer because of its relatively small footprint, both in terms of hard drive space used and memory required to run.)

Given my experiences with this Aspire One so far, would I ever buy another one? I honestly don’t know. There’s something to be said for going with the devil you know. If I did get another one, I’d probably pick one with a larger, regular hard drive rather than the smaller solid state drives.

Purple 10.1" Acer Aspire OneA year and a half is forever in the world of technology. Acer now has bigger, better Aspire Ones to pick from, including a new 11.6″ ultra slim model that looks quite nice and a pretty purple 10.1″ model in the old, slightly chunkier style. (Be still my heart — I’ve desperately wanted a purple computer ever since the grape iMac came out many years ago. I haven’t gotten one yet, though I did manage to get purple MP3 players. Have I mentioned I love purple? )