How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate My Netbook

Readers inclined to trawl back through the Low End Mac archives may know that one of my Macs is, in fact, no such thing. It’s actually a Dell Mini 10v netbook. (See Why I Didn’t Wait for the Apple Tablet.)

Dell Mini 10v installing OS XHow this machine came to be my primary working computer is a story in its own right, involving arrant stupidity in dealing with software (specifically the erase function), damage to hardware, and a distressing lack of funds. One inopportune data disaster too many and a bank manager with an angry look on his face (or so I assume – it’s not as if anyone ever meets the bank manager anymore), and I needed a new Mac immediately. As in that very day.

I bought the Dell Mini 10v because I knew it could run Mac OS X, because I could afford it at the time, and, most of all, because if I broke it – and I’ve broken more than a few laptops in my time – my career would not come crashing to a halt.

In fact, this last reason was the key to the decision: I wreck laptops. It’s not that I’m particularly careless, it’s just that my job does at times involve rushing madly about without much in the way of prior warning. Even if I don’t destroy a computer, I still need one whose loss or damage is mere inconvenience rather than a cause for mourning.

I am pleased to say that the little machine that could (run Mac OS X) still works, and I am still using it daily. The honeymoon period, however, is most certainly over.

What’s wrong with it? Nothing serious – but lots of small things.

For one, updating to Mac OS X 10.6.3 was a major ordeal involving all kinds of USB flash drive acrobatics that I don’t want to go through for a mere point upgrade – it is an unsupported machine, after all.

And with its 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU and integrated GMA 950 graphics, it’s also a touch on the slow side, something I didn’t really notice at first, but it is beginning to irritate me.

What else?

  • Sometimes it won’t wake from sleep – and sometimes it will, for no reason I can fathom.
  • Plugging in a USB mouse and closing the lid guarantees the need for a reboot.
  • Sometimes the sound doesn’t work, again for no reason I can adequately explain.
  • The battery, never great to begin with, now only gives me 30 minutes of power.

And then there are problems I knew about when I bought it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth, and the 10.1″ 1024 x 600 resolution screen is too small.

Perhaps I’m veering dangerously close to whining here. The screen is both a bonus and a drawback. It is, of course, central to the machine’s portability. It’s also a nightmare when I’m working late at night with tired eyes.

In truth, my Dell Mini 10v has served me well – the point of this machine, after all, was to be transportable and, apart from battery woes, it is just that.

No, the problem is not the computer, it’s my expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. I own other Macs, too. Principally a MacBook Pro that I plan on using as a desktop machine (wireless is broken – my fault, again – as is the keyboard) and the aforementioned functional MacBook that I erased the hard drive on entirely by accident and was unable to get repaired there and then as I needed to retrieve vital data first.

All of which brings me back to the perennial whine about Apple: “Why don’t they release a computer that does exactly everything I want and does it at low price?”

Why, indeed? Where is the true “low-end” Mac?

Well, in this case, it’s probably not possible.

If Apple had released a netbook, it probably would be marginally better than Dell’s effort. But not enough. So for now at least, I’m stuck with the Dell. Still, it does the job – and I’ve finally got around to sending my MacBook in to have a new hard drive fitted.

As for my next Mac, well, I don’t plan on buying one soon – a when I do, it will most definitely be an Apple.

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