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Tag Archives: netbooks

I was quite bored yesterday, so I decided, why not try to see if a virtual machine would run on a mere netbook?  Now, I must admit, I did upgrade my Acer Aspire One with 2gb of RAM, but RAM really isn’t too big of an issue.  The Atom processor is.

I downloaded VirtualBox from the official site and in about a minute or two, it was installed.  There is no need to compile it, as VirtualBox has binaries for most popular distributions.  The only step left is to add yourself to the vboxusers group which can be done by going to System and then Users and Groups.  After a reboot, you are ready to use it.

Before you even start VirtualBox, you should have an operating system ready to use, either as an .iso, a disk, or a virtual machine image.  On a netbook, I recommend you use Arch Linux, but if that is too hard to set up, Xubuntu works just fine, as does CrunchBang.  Once you have your OS, start up VirtualBox.  The main user interface should look something like this:

VirtualBox's User Interface

You are now ready to create a virtual machine.  To do so, click New.  The virtual machine wizard should come up.  Click Next and choose your operating system.  If your operating system is not listed, look in Other, or if it is Linux, choose the OS’s kernel version or Other Linux.

Choosing An Operating System

Now, you have to choose how much memory you want to allocate to the VM.  If you have 1gb of RAM, I would suggest 512mb maximum, but if you have 2gb, 1gb should be fine.  Next you are asked to make a virtual hard disk.  I recommend you just make a dynamically-expanding drive and leave it as the default size.  This way, if you run out of space in the VM, the drive will just expand.

You should now be done making your VM.  If you want to, you can change more settings by selecting your VM and clicking on Settings, but the defaults work fine unless you want to run a server.  Look in the user manual if you need an explanation of why.  When you are ready start your VM on your netbook, close all CPU and RAM intensive programs you have open, select your VM, and click Start.  It will ask you for an image, so just locate it, and VirtualBox will mount it for you.  You should be able to go on though the installation, albeit I little slower, but otherwise, everything should work the same.

After you have your OS installed, you should install the Guest Additions.  These are kernel modules that make VirtualBox smoother and more usable.  To do this, while your virtual machine is running, go to Devices, and Install Guest Additions.  It will mount an .iso image full of installation scripts.  On Xubuntu, it ran automatically, but if it doesn’t for your distribution, just go into it using the terminal, run chmod +x <filename> on the script for your operating system.

You can now use VirtualBox.  On my Acer Aspire One, it actually takes only 50% of my CPU, which is good considering how weak it is.  As long as you stay with either Windows XP and lower, an OS with a lightweight desktop environment, or no GUI at all, everything should run just fine in VirtualBox.  The ability to use VMs on a netbook is amazing for everyone.  Even if you aren’t a developer, showing your friends that your little $400 netbook can run VirtualBox is pretty cool.

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With netbooks becoming extremely popular, many are questioning their usefulness.  Some say that the screens are too small, others say the keyboards are unusable, and some critics say that they are just too slow.  When I read these comments or reviews, I start to wonder, have these people actually used one?

My first netbook was a white 16gb ASUS Eee PC 900 with Xandros Linux.  When I first pulled it out of the box, I did think that it might be too small.  I don’t think I had ever seen such a small keyboard.  Then I actually used it.  It was spectacular.  Everything was quick and functional.  It was completely usable.  With its portability, I took it everywhere I could.  Soon after I received it, I installed Ubuntu 8.04 on it.  It was even better after that because I could have all of my favorite software wherever I went.  I used it as my main development PC.  The only complaint I had was with the slow write speed which made Firefox page loads slow, but otherwise, it was great.

After having such a good experience with the Eee, I decided to buy an Acer Aspire One with a 10 inch screen.  All of my issues with the Eee are non-existent with the Aspire One.  Fedora 10 and the Ubuntu release candidate work flawlessly.  The keyboard is excellent and the hard drive is extremely quick.  It literally is the best computer I have ever used.  The screen produces vivid color and the battery life is spectacular.  This cheap netbook is just as close to perfect as one can get.

So when people say that netbooks are a fad, I just don’t understand.  They are excellent and are much more portable than a laptop.  You can do nearly everything you do on a desktop computer on a netbook as well.  So yes, netbooks really are useful.  You can blog on them, write documents, edit photos, write code, listen to music, watch movies, check e-mail, and just about everything else.  Netbooks are the future of portable computing.  If you don’t think so, try one.  While your doing that, I think I’m going to play Frozen Bubble, check my Twitter updates, and maybe watch Diggnation, all on my Acer Aspire One.