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I bought a netbook for myself for Father's day and I'm using it now. I've wanted to get one for a few months: they're just so cute. I resisted for a long time, telling myself it was stupid to spend money for a computer that would be just like my Macbook only slower and with a smaller screen. But when the wireless card on my Macbook started to fail (I think the antenna is loose or something), I decided I could justify getting myself the netbook so I could have something when I need to take the macbook in.

I looked for a long time trying to find someplace that would sell me one with linux. You can find places to order linux ones online, but it's nearly impossible to find anyplace where you can put your hands on one. No place local that has computers will carry a model with linux: not the campus book store, Best Buy, Staples, or the litte place downtown called "Left Click". They seemed like the kind of place that carry something like that -- indeed there's a little place in Nashua, NH that will sell you a netbook configured to dual boot or even triple boot. I thought about driving the two hours to get one, but decided it was just too far away.

Instead, I went to Walmart and I bought a netbook with Windows. I was glad I did it that way, in fact, because the first one I came home with didn't work right: the keyboard wouldn't print k's or v's or a half-dozen other letters. So I exchanged it. They didn't have any more of that model, so I traded up and got a red Acer Aspire One D250. It's not a bad little computer. It's a great little computer for $300. However...

I can date when I started using Linux pretty completely by saying that I pretty nearly hosed my first system trying to update from libc to glibc. That would have been in 1997 or 1998. Since then, I've used linux frequently as a server, sometimes as a desktop, and I've tried 3 times to have a linux-based laptop that I could actually use to get work done. The laptop thing didn't really worked out the times before. I had a tibook with linuxppc and a special kernel that was pretty good. But there were significant limitations. To change my wireless configuration, I had to hand-edit a text file to comment out the name and password of one base-station, uncomment another, and then restart the networking. I also found that it didn't pay to spend much time trying to configure the windowing environment, because one false move and the setting would get borked and you'd have to start over. At least, that seemed to happen to me fairly frequently. For a unix geek, it was perfectly usable, but it was like using a wrench to open a valve and drinking from a hose, rather than having a sink with faucets and glasses -- and maybe even an icecube, like when using a Mac. Don't get me started talking about what it was like trying to use the laptop with a projector.

It's been three or four years since the last time I tried a linux laptop. I had seen that things were better when I went to Libre Graphics. It was a challenge for people to make their laptops work with the projector, but we succeeded nearly every time.

I made an ubuntu netbook remix installation thumbdrive, booted the laptop from it after a couple of tries (trying to figure out the byzantine BIOS interface -- whoever wrote that pile of steaming dog turds ought to be shot), and ran the installer. Half an hour later, I rebooted the machine and logged into my new laptop. Stuff mostly just worked! Mostly.

It turned out that the ethernet card didn't work. Well, that wasn't difficult -- I found a page that said where to download a driver. I downloaded it, compiled it, installed it and, voila, it worked. The same page warned that the microphone wouldn't work either and said where to get drivers that would work. I checked, got the drivers, but they didn't compile cleanly. I searched around, found another page that explained what other packages you needed to install to compile the sound drivers, installed them, compiled, installed. Then there were more pages for the choppy video, etc, etc.

I had forgotten how much time you can spend trying to get a non-macintosh all tuned up. It's actually rather fun -- I remember a TA who complained about Macs because you couldn't do stuff like that to "make them better". I said, "You don't like Macs because they just work?"

It's really quite functional. Just a few things that don't quite work like they're supposed to. And I think I can actually be perfectly productive with this laptop running Ubuntu. I don't really *need* anything else.

I could try installing MacOS on it -- making it a Hackintosh. But I don't really want to bother. If Apple made a netbook that was reasonably priced, I might buy that. But they don't. And I like using Linux. It's fun and cool. But it's not a Mac.