It pains me to say it but I’m a Gen X-er – admittedly I’m towards the younger end of Gen X but I’m there nonetheless. As such I’m no doubt seen as prehistoric, decrepit and pretty much due for the scrap heap. Despite all of this I’m fairly certain I’ve got a couple of years productive life left in me so I thought I’d advocate a little for the *aged* amongst us.
A few months ago, and a little fatigued from carrying my functional but heavy Dell Vostro 1500 around the world for conferences, I decided to go down the netbook route – wanting something small, lightweight and easy (and seeing 90% of what I do is online anyway). Not being sure if it was a winning strategy for me, and having some contacts within Dell, I arranged for a review loan to try out the netbook style of working.
I’m conscious of the amount of time I spend behind a screen and hence wanted to avoid too much eyestrain – I thus decided to chose the biggest machine that would fulfil the netbook description. To be honest I don’t understand how people can spend anything more than a few minutes at a time behind something smaller than 12”. Anyway, a Dell Mini 12 arrived all shiny and nice (and with an XP up/downgrade to boot) and I used it for a couple of months but it didn’t quite gel for me for a couple of reasons;
As alluded to before, being thirty-something one starts to think about health and wellbeing a little more than in one’s youth. After a few hours behind a 12” screen my eyeballs feel surprisingly like they’re packed with road grit (and yes, I DO know what that feels like but that’s another story). My normal set-up is a 15” laptop and a 19” external monitor. Working with a single 12” display is just too hard – both in terms of eyestrain and screen real estate.
As Zoli has said on numerous occasions, we’re moving to a world of situational devices where we’ll have a plethora of devices for specific use cases at different times. While I agree with his contention, when I travel overseas I prefer to have three devices maximum (camera, mobile, small laptop) hence the situational device way of working kind of falls down.
I’m a firm believer in the ascendency of dumb terminals connected to smart web-apps. But those dumb terminals still need enough processor speed to handle all the techy stuff that makes up a smart web-app. I found the Mini with its Atom processor a little laggardly when using half a dozen different web apps – this despite the fact that I’d gone for a leaner XP operating system. Having said that the current progress being made towards more lightweight netbook operating systems (Moblin, Linux and Android) may well help with this, not to mention Microsoft’s own Windows 7 product.
13 Inches – The choice of an old generation?
I then moved onto a Dell Studio XPS 13. It is admittedly a move away from the netbook form factor but to my mind “netbook” refers more to a way of working, than it does to a rigid physical definition. Until operating systems lighten up (which it seems might well be imminent) a 13 inch laptop has (in my mind) the perfect compromise between light weight, screen real-estate, and processing speed.
It’s admittedly a move away from cheap, ubiquitous and near-throwaway devices back to the era of shiny and treasured tech – but it’s a move that is, for this Gen X-er anyway, more inline with where the use case is today…