Jan
07
2009
2

How to Buy a New Computer: Part II Netbooks

New Laptop

New Laptop

Yesterday I discussed the basics of buying a new computer.  The most important first step is figuring out what you need and what you want out of a new computer.  There are three main types of portable computers available these days: netbooks, basic laptops, and high-end laptops.  Today is all about “netbooks.”[1]

(Scroll to the end to see my picks…)

Netbooks

A netbook is a very small laptop designed to extremely mobile and portable.  They are optimized for portability and wireless connectivity.

Netbooks typically have a display of 10″ or less. [2] They usually don’t have any CD or DVD drives. [3]  They usually have very small solid state drives or mid-sized hard drives.  On the plus side, they usually have bluetooth, media card readers, and WiFi.  They’re typically between 2 to 3 pounds, depending upon brand and type of battery.  They’re also relatively cheap – between $350 to $500.

My requirements may differ from yours.  If I were to buy a netbook, I would want:

  • Minimum 2 USB ports, preferably 3
  • Minimum 100 GB hard drive
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Bluetooth
  • WiFi aka 802.11a/b/g, and preferably also 802.11n
  • Ethernet port
  • Modem port

Other things people might care about (but I don’t):

  • Webcam
  • Keyboard size
  • Monitor size

Keep in mind, I’ve never used any of these laptops – I’m just evaluating them based on their prices and my own opinions as to their respective brands and specs.  Although, I’m enough of a nerd that I put together a spreadsheet to compare those five netbooks as well as about another dozen or so models and submodels.  If anyone is interested in seeing the spreadsheet, mention it in the comments below or drop me a line.

Dell has a new netbook too, but it only has solid state drive options – which are too small to be of use to me. [4] However, I’m sure it would be perfect for some people.

My picks are, in rough order of preference:

If I were to buy a netbook today, I’d probably go for the Acer Aspire One.  It occupies a sweet spot in terms of price, is a decent brand, and has very comparable specs to the higher-end models.

Next, basic laptops!

  1. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  2. TV’s and monitors are always measured by the diagonal. []
  3. This means they’re no good for watching DVD’s or playing CD’s. []
  4. 8 GB of hard drive space is barely enough to run an operating system and a few programs these days… []
Nov
13
2008
1

OpenOffice v3.0: Helping with EAMS

MicroSoft has no one to blame but themselves for my deleting MicroSoft Office.  Well, its partly Dell’s fault too, but that’s a long story I’ll tell some other time.  (Short version: Dell repaired a prior laptop and shipped it to a construction site in Oakland.)

Once I tried OpenOffice, I never looked back.  Its my preferred word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, office suite program.  Not only is it better than MicroSoft office in just about every way, but its also completely free.  You might be interested in trying it out because I believe it will help you tremendously with EAMS.

OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org

OpenOffice.org released version 3.0 of their program on October 13, 2008.  It was so wildly popular that their website was crushed under the overwhelming demand.  The three most important things to know about OpenOffice are:

  1. Its open source, so its completely free.  So, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
  2. It can open, edit, and save to any MS Office 2000, 2003, 2007, and WordPerfect formats.
  3. It can print or export any file to a PDF.

If you’re a Workers’ Compensation professional in California, you’re probably dealing with EAMS.  Since filing things with EAMS means working with a lot of PDF’s.  In order to keep from reinventing the wheel, it makes sense to save those PDF’s of the document cover sheets.  But what if you need to make a small change later on?  Well, OpenOffice v3.0 can help with that too.

Using an extension ((basically a small program)) OpenOffice can open and edit and re-save a PDF file. Not even Adobe, the company that promotes the PDF format[1] , does a good job of opening and editing PDF’s.

This is a really big deal to me because editing saved PDF’s is going to save me a lot of time editing settlement documents and various pleadings.

Update

I wrote the above about a month ago while I gave OpenOffice 3.0 a shot.  It won’t install on my Vista laptop but works great on my XP desktop.  I’ve reverted to OpenOffice 2.4 on the laptop while I wait for a fix.  OpenOffice 2.4 is still free, but it won’t open MS Office 2007 formats (which not everyone is using anyhow) and cannot edit PDFs.

  1. I know that’s redundant. []

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