Saturday, 21 August 2010

Xandros - an OS too far?

So, finally i got myself a netbook. In the shape of a second hand Asus EeePC 701, i hit the road running. Well, to be more accurate, i get to sit on the sofa and try to get to grips with not only the smaller than usual keyboard but also a new operating system in the shape of Xandros Linux.

Two days in, how am i fairing? Well, not too badly to be honest. I have managed to get my Vodafone 3G dongle working with it, so i now am able to get online. I am still finding my way around Linux, and especially the limitations of the “easy” version of the OS that it boots into by default. I have tried to get the “advanced” desktop working, but so far have failed. I gather that this would give more the look and usability of a Windows XP type system.

In all fairness, it isn't a major issue. This version of Linux has virtually everything that you could wish for – after all, there's not much point being able to install Photoshop on a computer with a screen this small – you are not really going to do much photo editing on a 7” screen!

It has Firefox built in, so web browsing is sorted, there is a full blown email program, but as i always use webmail these days, that is of no real interest to me. Open Office is also installed from the off, and while this isn't anywhere nearly as nice as MS Office, it is almost as powerful, and does everything i need from it, and more besides.

The big question (as already asked by Sally!) is what will i use it for? It can't do anything that i cannot already do either with my PC or Mac, and it especially isn't a patch on the latter – once you have used a Mac and fallen in love with them, there really isn't anything on this planet to touch them.

The Asus is amazingly small, yet still very usable. Even the smaller than usual keyboard is actually surprisingly easy to type on, and as long as you use a sensibly sized font, the word processing aspect of the machine is actually pretty good. This is a major advantage, as that is exactly what i plan to mainly use this machine for. Having a computer that is small enough to have no excuse to not have with me could possibly be a bit of a turning point to my writing ambitions. How many times do i think of something when i haven't got the ability to bash it out? Or am i just looking for an excuse?

I will be able to take it away on holiday with me now, smaller, lighter and less precious to me than the Mac, this could end up being my holiday blogging device of choice. It will also prove useful to look at the holiday photos on a better screen than the camera itself offers. Indeed, this will probably accompany me to Vicki's wedding in three weeks time so that i can check the photos i will be taking on my first “assignment” as a wedding photographer!

There is part of me that wants to learn more about the insides of Linux, but i really should just use this for what it is – a small simple device that does virtually everything that i need it to, and be happy at that. After all, just how many operating systems does one really NEED to know????

Mind you, i gather from YouTube that it is actually possible to install Mac OS-X on one of these........yummy – now that is what i call a handy portable computer!!!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


It has been a while since I went into the city centre, not since before our holiday in fact. Not a lot has changed, just a few more empty shops and a bit more grime around the edges.

One of the reasons for this shopping trip was a visit to Ikea for some glass storage jars for one of Sally's craft projects, but of course I took the opportunity to have my favourite Swedish meatballs and gravy for lunch.

I had never seen the cafe so busy before, it was a struggle to find a place to sit. With the school holidays I suppose it is a fairly inexpensive place to take the kids to for a bite to eat. The special offers on certain meals probably helped too - ten meatballs and chips for £1.50!!!

So, just what is the appeal of Ikea then? (aside from the cheap food) Is it the quality of the furniture? To a degree yes - it is mostly of a pretty reasonable quality at sensible prices. Their sofas are not particularly comfortable, but in fairness that accusation can be leveled at an awful lot of shops in my experience! Why are most sofas so uncomfortable these days? Don't they want you to sit on them?

Is it the designs? Possibly. There is definitely a trend towards the more minimalist Scandinavian designs in lots of areas now. Take jewellery and watches for instance, where less does appear to be more. The problem with this theory is that if the consumer wants simple minimalistic furniture, why do most people not only fill their rooms to bursting point with it, but also clutter it with their junk completely destroying the simple design ethic that moved them to buy it in the first place? Why chose simple designs in light woods and then hide it all underneath books, CDs, DVDs and trinkets?

Could it be the whole eco friendliness that Ikea tries to exude? This falls down when you discover that the majority of the products are made in the far east by cheap labour and then transported to the other side of the world to be bought by us. The carbon footprint must be rather a large one. Not quite so green now are they?

I think it is partly down to the low prices they charge. Everyone wants a bargain don't they. So what if you have to tie your bootlid down with string on the way home, and then spend several hours swearing over the baffling instructions with a hammer and a screwdriver.

Mostly though, i believe it is down to the subconscious cravings we have for the "perfect life" - you know, the one we see in those popular TV shows. If you watch an episode of Friends, it would seem that if one of them ever needed to move house, they could fit all of their belongings in an estate car. No removal vans needed for them!

The idea of the smart, uncluttered lives we see on the TV has us desiring that level of living perfection too, never mind if we have nowhere to store our undies and our DVD collections.

It's just a shame that, in this country at least, we simply can't pull it off in our real lives - we just have too much stuff - much of it not needed, but all of it wanted, and most of it piled high on our Scandinavian designed, mass produced furniture.

Now, where's my catalogue? I saw a nice coffee table while i was in there today........