Netbooks: The Missing Manual

Disclaimer: I recently received this book from O’Reilly for free. Thanks O’Reilly!

Let’s see.  The only thing going on in my life right now is work, work, and more work.  I did install Windows 7 on my Mac recently; I’ve totally dropped everything Mac-related, and this change to Windows (if you know me well) is quite a surprise.

However, I’ve been reading Netbooks: The Missing Manual from O’Reilly Publishing, in order to get a better idea of issues that Sonia and I should keep in mind with her netbook.  This summer, I bought her a Lenovo IdeaPad S10; great machine, great price.

The important thing to keep in mind with netbooks is that they’re like “Computers: Lite Edition” and need to be treated as such.  If you want speed, you should plug it in; otherwise the processor might slow itself down (a lot) to save battery.  If you want to use external data, optical drives are sometimes out of the question.  Data storage can be limited, and even movie playback can cause your fans to whir at high speed.  that being said, they’re great for those who want to be able to travel around with some of their data, and always have a connection to the Net, or have a way to take a few quick notes.

This book does a pretty good job of helping those new to netbooks keep these things in mind.  Here are my main thoughts about the book.

Up-to-date information about the Netbook craze. The book came out in August, and it’s very clear.  New laptop models are listed, Chrome is touted as a reliable browser, and the hardware specifications mentioned are very useful.  This being said, the book might not be as useful in about 6 months, when new netbooks have been released; new specifications become “sufficient” and “top-of-the-line”, and the instructions listed might fall out of date – especially in terms of the Operating Systems that are talked about.  We’re going to put 7 on her Netbook at some point, and the instructions are written assuming that the user is using XP.

Full of information about using your computer’s OS. This in and of itself is a great thing for a novice user.  However, it doesn’t go into much more detail than a normal “how to use your computer” book; while some of the instructions are be tailored towards netbooks (i.e. Chapter 1: “Buying and Setting up your Netbook”), they are few and far between.  A user who is experienced with Windows/Linux might not find major portions of the book to be useful.  This being said, however, a user who wants to experiment with Linux on his netbook would find this to be a great resource.

Pictures! It’s a black-and-white book, but the pictures are very illustrative of each instruction.  Screenshots are clear and big enough; other pictures serve as a good illustration of the topics covered.

All in all, I’d recommend it for the user who’s not very experienced with computers and just bought a netbook, or for the user who is thinking about taking the Linux plunge on one.  Others might not find it to be as useful.

~Chris

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