Nine years ago I took the plunge and bought a notebook computer before leaving Durban for a life on the road.
The machine in question was a Toshiba Satellite 1800-100 and by today’s standards seems woefully underpowered (see here for my article from the time). It wasn’t the latest and greatest model but it still cost me the huge amount of R14000 not including the bag to carry it in, which cost nearly R600 more.
Anyhow, I was a pleased as punch with my new purchase and it came in very handy for most of the year I spent in Ireland and Scotland. I even managed to use it, after a fashion, to keep in touch via e-mail with friends and family back home.
This was before the days of really mobile Internet but I managed to connect wherever I could find a phone line that someone would let me use. In those days, Ireland and the UK had a system whereby your dial-up Internet connection was free providing you paid for the phone call.
Someone, most likely a teenage crack-head, broke into my Dumfries flat and helped himself to the notebook, and that was the last I had to do with portable computing until this year.
A computer crash left me without a computer for a week and it occurred to me that, as someone who makes his living with the things, I should really have a backup to use in emergencies.
I would like to say that I did a lot of Internet research, consulted experts and read the omens but, instead, I happened to be visiting Greg Arde and caught sight of his new netbook.
It is a Gigabyte M1022C netbook and looked too cool for words. It had a glossy white case with black trim and a nice roomy-looking keyboard; I was instantly smitten.
Netbooks are miniature notebooks and the original ones were really only for web surfing and doing e-mail. They had small screens and very limited memories, but they made up for their puniness by their compact size and long battery life.
How things have changed! My netbook has 1Gb of RAM, a 250Mb hard drive and 1.6Ghz Atom processor, meaning that, while you’re not going to be using it to edit video, you can get a lot done.
It only weights 1.26kg, has a great 10.1-inch screen and, very usefully if you’re a road warrior, it has a four-hour battery life. Included are built-in speakers, a webcam, three USB sockets, an external monitor socket, a network socket, a memory card reader, WiFi, and an internal socket for adding an optional 3G module.
Included in a deal was a docking station that will allow me to connect peripherals such as a larger screen, keyboard, mouse and whatever, but makes it easy to unplug the netbook and go somewhere else.
So far, so good. The machine is working perfectly for me and I find that the combination of the Gigabyte hardware and Windows 7 makes everything, including setting up networks, so easy.
I will be able to use it for most of what I do including downloading and reviewing pictures from my camera. My desktop will no doubt still see the heaviest use but the netbook will come in very handy when I need to be mobile, as a music player connected to my hi-fi, and for writing this column in a deck chair on the veranda, instead of being cooped up inside.
The netbook’s ergonomics are great and I really liked the keyboard which is compact but very nicely laid-out. I find I can use it on my lap or in bed with no great problem but, for extended periods of use, I prefer to sit at a desk.