The last couple of days been just gorgeous outside. Now that I have a newly hackintoshed Dell Mini 9, I’ve spent the last couple of days outside with it instead of indoors with the big machine. I have to say that, for my needs, the device has worked admirably as a stand in for the big machine. It blows my mind the number of negative reviews there are out on the internet about the device.
Yes, it’s underpowered. Yes, it does have a small screen. Yes, it doesn’t have a large hard drive. Yet, these are the things are also it’s strong points. Having such an “underpowered” machine makes you really think about what you’re going to be able to do with the machine. It forces you to make compromises – which in the end, doesn’t really affect the quality of your work, but may end up saving you a ton money.
For instance, I knew I didn’t have enough space on the drive to install CS3 or MS Office. Since I’m out of licenses for those items anyway, I was forced to look at alternatives. While I haven’t replaced all of CS3, I’ve easily replaced Photoshop with GIMP. I don’t really plan on working on any coding while on the machine so there wasn’t really any need to get a replacement for DreamWeaver. For Office, I installed the Aqua version of Open Office. It seems to run pretty well once it is loaded. Since it does have a long start up time (same with GIMP) I just leave the application running. In any event, even with family plan/student plan pricing, I’ve easily saved a few hundred dollars in software licenses.
The netbook has also forced me to look at Google Apps a little more seriously — in short, I LOVE Google Apps! It does most of the work I need done and it’s stored in the “cloud”. Now that they have offline capabilities, both the netbook and the same machine are setup with offline Google Apps. However, for any “serious” work I may want to stick with a local word processing program – hence Open Office. At least I will have options whatever tool I decide on using.
Another thing I found out about my work – my documents are not that large. I hadn’t plan on doing any photo editing or major graphic work on the machine, so my needs are pretty basic – word processor and small spreadsheets. Both produce really small data files. Given that, I decide that it was okay to start using the local SSD disk for storage as oppose to keeping a USB stick plugged in for data storage.
Of course, I had to tweak it – there was no way I wanted to syncronize the data on the netbook with the big machine on a daily basis manually. I had to find an automatic solution – I decided on Dropbox. Dropbox allows up to 2 gigs of data to be stored in the cloud for free. They are compatible with a number of different operating systems. In a nutshell the software will create a folder on your machine that is intelligently syncronized with the cloud version. All changes are then replicated to other downstream machines. I liked it so much, I’ve posted a referral link on my website. (The referral is pretty good too! For every person that signs up, that person gets 250 megs of extra storage, and so do I – up to 3 gigs maximum. So you really only get credit for 3 referrals as you then max out. You get the first 250 meg b/c you signed up as a referral.) Check it out, it’s very cool.
Since I was doing some additional blogging from the machine, I had to load up a decent FTP client. In this case Transmit – but I may end up switching over to Cyberduck. I’ve had some problems with Cyberduck in the past with large FTP jobs, but I’ll give it another shot.
The last great bit of software I’ve added is GSync v1.01 – a free tool that will sync your address book up with Google contacts. Very simple design. It doesn’t even have an automatic mode, you have to manually set it every time you use it. Which is fine by me, it’s free.
Lastly, the performance of the box is great. I was able to video Skype with a friend of my in Florida for about half an hour. The only issue was that the microphone was picking up too much feedback and I had to make changes in the sound preference pane to correct for it. I’m using a behind-the-neck collapsible bluetooth headset from Bluetake called the i-Phono Plus. I love the hide-away mic boom and the long, long, long battery life – 7 hours! The only downside is that the headset registers itself as a headset and headphones. So you really need a program like SoundSource to make quick adjustments to device that will be responsible for sound input/output.
The only thing that I’m thinking about getting for the Dell Mini 9 now is an extended battery. I’m burning through the stock one too quickly by using it day after day. I would love for it to go all day long and only have to recharge it once. According to this The AppleBlog article, I can get a battery that will go for 7 hours on ebay. However, the cost of the battery is 1/3 the cost of the entire machine. So I’m hesitating a bit.
In any event, I’m very happy with my purchase. It has gotten the appropriate amount of oohs and ahhs from friends and family – so the ego is appeased.