After weeks of deliberation, I’ve finally ordered a netbook! It probably won’t ship by my birthday next week, but it will hopefully arrive by the end of the month– and certainly before the 21st Century Learning @ Hong Kong Conference in September. I settled on the Dell Mini10V for several reasons, including:

  1. Great keyboard size and feel: It’s 92% of full size, and this is critical for me since I plan to do a lot of blogging on it at conferences and other events. Most netbook keyboards I’ve tried (including my XO Laptop) have a keyboard that would fit a child’s hands and fingers but not mine.
  2. Unlike the HP Mini 1000, which also has a 92% of fullsize keyboard, the Dell Mini10V does NOT require a video adapter dongle (like all Mac portables do, incidentally) to plug into an external projector / display. I’ve usually managed to remember my video dongle when I use a Macbook or Macbook Pro to present, but at least twice I’ve forgotten to bring it, and that was a BIG hassle.
  3. The size and weight of this netbook are just fantastic. I can’t wait to travel with this in my backpack instead of my MUCH heavier Macbook Pro. I LOVE Macs as much as ever (see below) but I really dislike lugging a heavy laptop around on my back when I’m traveling. The Macbook Air IS amazing and light, but it costs $1100 more than the Dell Mini10V I ordered.
  4. I was able to order mine in PURPLE. :-)
  5. The prospects for Mac OS X compatibility are excellent. Note I am NOT endorsing violations of Apple’s EULA for OS X here, I’m just noting “prospects” as I’ve seen them. (I’m also not saying I’ll be making my netbook into a hackintosh.)

My Dell Netbook configuration

I ordered my Dell netbook with Ubuntu pre-installed. I have no desire to work with any variant of MS Windows unless I absolutely HAVE to (as I do frequently in our “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” project) and I’m delighted Dell offers a customized version of Ubuntu. Dell provided a nice guidance page to address comparative advantages of running Ubuntu instead of Windows XP Home.

Reasons to buy Ubuntu on Dell

I did make four “customizations” to my Dell Mini 10V, making it cost about $100 more than the base price:

  1. I upgraded to the longer lasting 6 cell battery.
  2. I opted for the 250 GB rather than 120 GB hard drive. (For just $15 more, how could I go wrong?!)
  3. I added Bluetooth.
  4. I ordered it in purple. (An extra $40.)

I was interested to learn, amidst my searches for Linux netbook info, that a “Ubuntu Netbook Remix” distribution is available. That Linux distro, along with many others, can actually run directly from a flash drive, so it can be “test driven” before it is installed.

Long-time readers of my blog may recall that I last dabbled seriously with Windows-based computers as possible replacements for my Mac in the fall of 2006, after I joined the AT&T education advocate team and received 3 Windows-based laptops to use: A Dell and two HPs. See my August and September 2006 posts, “Instructive experiences with WinXP and a tablet PC” and “Back on the MacBook!” for that history. Those experiences did give me good chances to use and play with several distributions of Linux, and I definitely liked Ubuntu best. Linux operating systems have matured and evolved considerably in the intervening three years, and I’m eager to experience those improvements first hand. (I acknowledge I could be running Ubuntu Linux on my Mac now, as Miguel Guhlin does, but I’ve been too addicted to Mars Edit and Skitch to consider making that change if I don’t have to for hardware / legal EULA reasons.)

At the end of July this summer, I posted a summary of my thoughts regarding netbooks, 1:1 computing, and Mac tablet / jumbo iTouch rumors in the post, “Thoughts on Macs and Netbooks.” My decision to order and start using a netbook for at least SOME of my computing needs flows from several of the ideas I shared in that post. Netbooks offer today and will continue to offer an outstanding level of functionality for CCC learning at an extremely low price, and anyone interested in educational technology can’t afford to ignore them. I am contemplating the formation of an Oklahoma consortium of open source, netbook using schools similar to the one Maine educators have created, and I’ve got to get more literate and experienced myself with Linux and netbooks in order to pursue that idea seriously.

Am I abandoning the Apple platform? Of course not! I love my Macs more than ever. Just as a traveler working or living in a foreign country should try and speak at least SOME of the language of the country s/he is visiting, however, I need to become much more fluent and conversant with Linux and netbooks than I am today. As I’ve noted previously, it’s silly to ask someone to to compare operating systems when they only “truly” know one.

My netbook adventure will begin soon, and I’m enthused! No Lenovo or HP for me, however!

Holding James Deaton's new Lenovo Netbook

Wes Fryer with the HP Mini 1000 netbook

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  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com David Warlick

    Wes,

    Contrats on the new Netbook, and especially on attending the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong. A conflict prevents me from going and I’m bummed. HK is a magnificent city with one adventure after another — especially the eating ;-)

    I’m loving my Netbook (Acer), though I’ve finally had to settle on Windows as my primary OS on it. There is some sort of conflict between Ubuntu and Wireless card in the computer. It works with some sites but not others, and you just don’t need that kind of iffy with your computer. But I love having a much lighter and smaller machine when I’m attending a conference. But I still rely on the Mac for me presentations. Just too much multimedia…

    — dave –

  • http://freetech4teachers.com Richard Byrne

    Hi Wes,

    I think you will be happy with your Dell. I considered that before purchasing my Acer. The keyboard feel was better for me on the Acer. I’m just curious, what made you go with the Dell over the other netbook options on the market?

    Richard

  • Maxwell

    Congratulations on the new Netbook. I just recently purchased a 10v with dell version of 8.04. I love the laptop but after a couple of weeks I found dells version of 8.04 somewhat limiting on trying to get the latest applications and features the Ubuntu 9.04 has to offer.

    I suggest that if you also find Dells Ubuntu limiting that you might want to check out Linux Mint (www.linuxmint.com) it is based on Ubuntu but I find it is more user friendly.

    Check it out and good luck with your new purchase!

    Oh… you may also want to check out http://www.mydellmini.com they have a lot of great user guides for the 10v.

  • http://cunningham.ccisd.us Bob Caro

    Thanks so much for your enthusiastic endorsement of the Mini10. I will be meeting next week with the tech department for my school district, where I will be suggesting the purchase of 200 Mini10’s for my school’s 8th graders. I was already leaning toward specifying the Mini10’s, but your opinion might help the decision-makers agree with me. I always enjoy your Tweets and Blog posts. Please continue the work you do. We teachers in the trenches count on you more than you know.

  • Matthew Miller

    Another great linux distribution for netbooks is Puppy Linux, which can also run directly from a usb stick (and runs from the CD while saving changes to the usb for even more flexibility, and the option to use it on whatever machine you have handy, with all your customizations etc. in place!). I liked it so much it’s my primary OS now. http://www.puppylinux.org.

    Looking forward to your further comments on the Dell and on Ubuntu.

    -Matthew

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    @David – Thanks, I am really looking forward to the HK trip! Wish you were going to be there too. I was hoping to take my wife and one child but that isn’t going to work out either. It should be a great conference though. I need to work on my Mandarin though!

    @Richard: The main things for me were keyboard size / feel and the direct VGA connector without a dongle required. The only netbooks I’ve personally touched that “felt good” from a typing standpoint were the HP Mininote 1000 and the Dell Mini10. I haven’t been able to actually touch the MSI Wind yet, so I didn’t consider it. The five reasons I outlined at the start of the post were really the keys for me.

    @Maxwell and @Matthew: Thanks for the distro reccs and links! Both look good.

    @Bob: Good luck with your proposal! Thanks also for the feedback and kudos. I really appreciate it. :-)

  • http://thetechcurve.blogspot.om Kern Kelley

    Hey Wes, I’ll be very interested in your thoughts on the Dell as you use it out in the field. Not only size, but if you ever do get to a point you want dual boot. (maybe Ubuntu/Win 7 or something)

  • Maxwell

    One more thing you might be interested in…. I noticed that you deal with education… you should also check out http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick

  • http://dougpete.wordpress.com dougpete

    Good choice, Wesley. I opted for the lime green one and went to the Ubuntu booth at NECC to test the 9.04 remix. It works very nicely and its layout is optimized to give you the most on your screen. I think you’re going to be pleased with your decision. Hope to hear more about your learning.

  • http://mguhlin.org Miguel Guhlin

    Howdy, I have to agree with other commenters–Ubuntu 9.04 is the way to go. You can run some simple Windows apps running WINE, and it just works smooth. I recently loaded Fluxbox GUI–as opposed to Gnome or KDE–on my Ubuntu install and it’s bare minimum of what is needed, works great as a light-weight GUI, but it did take some getting accustomed to.

    The menu is easily customizable…right-click on the desktop and you get a list of relevant links (I have Firefox, Thunderbird, Twhirl (tweetdeck doesn’t work on Fluxbox, as far as I could see), etc. along with a wealth of other applications.

    Just for you, I’ll have to do a quick blog entry on customizing your Ubuntu 9.04 install (I have no doubt you’ll soon dump your Dell ubuntu install).

    Warm regards,
    Miguel Guhlin

  • http://leadingfromtheheart.org Tracy Rosen

    Congratulations! I’ve had my dell mini9 since it first came out, last October or November, and I love it. It runs Ubuntu, as does my bigger dell inspirion 1525 (my only computers). At 2.5 pounds it fits in my purse, making it easy peasy to bring it to school/work/presentations/meetings/coffee shops :) My baby is white.

    A side bonus is dell’s amazing customer service. The battery pack stopped working in the spring. Within a day I had a new one, it was covered by warranty. It still wasn’t working. So within 2 days I had sent my mini9 to dell and had it returned with a brand new motherboard – all, including boxes and shipping, covered by dell. And I worked with 1 member of the support team who called me daily to touch base throughout the process. Very impressive.

  • http://[email protected] Roscoe

    The Dell Mini 10v with Windows is the same price as the Mini 10v with Ubuntu. I am thinking about getting the same setup but think if they are the same cost why not go with the windows version and then install Ubuntu 9 as a dual boot when it arrives.

  • http://leadingfromtheheart.org Tracy Rosen

    Roscoe, really? It is the same price? That seems very wrong. When I got mine it was definitely less expensive.

    Oh, and to answer your question… the reason why not is because it is Windows… :)

    But seriously, I choose Ubuntu because the company’s philosophy fits nicely with my own. We want education and learning to be accessible and collaborative? I choose to use an operating system that is as well. Simple as that.

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