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    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    My New Samsung N310 running Windows 7...

    UPDATE - My Experiences after a week or so with the N310

    I'm on the bandwagon and well, my netbook of choice was the Samsung N310. A relatively new netbook by a manufacturer with a history of good, solid netbook designs. The NC10 is a popular samsung netbook, and the N310 is essentially a redesign of this netbook. As you can see from a lot of review sites, the company made a big thing about handing the netbook over to top designer Naoto Fukasawa who came up with this pebble concept (apparently it looks like one!)

    Anyway, enough about the design. You can judge that for yourselves at the flickr album page, lets just say that I like it! The idea behind me purchasing this netbook was with the view of upgrading the RAM to a 2GB stick and installing Windows 7, to cut a long story short upgrading the ram was a peice of cake. It literally is a matter of unscrewing one screw, popping open a hatch, swapping the ram stick, and screwing the hatch back on! Nothing like the process needed for say, the Dell Mini 10v.

    Anyway, with a 2GB Ram stick installed and working, i plugged in an external DVD drive and set about installing the RC of Windows 7. The install was a breeze, all of the main components worked immediately after installation, which took about 20 minutes to complete. It might be worth noting for anyone who intends to install Windows 7, that amongst several minor things the Fn keys do NOT work straight away, you need to install Easy Desktop Manager for Windows Vista. Click the links (Repeated at end of post) to head to Samsung download page).

    A few other drivers are needed for 100% functionality in Windows 7; The Windows Vista Synaptics touch pad driver is needed to enable the scrolling functionality of the touch pad. Some people have also suggested that you install Realtek's sound drivers as Windows 7 drivers sometimes cut out after sleep (This is not something that I have experienced).

    So thats functionality dealt with, onto performance. I have as of this moment only had limited experience with the netbook, having had it for all of 3 hours! I will be sure to post again within a few weeks regarding performance and overall stability. However, initial impressions are good! Windows 7 with 2GB of RAM and the Intel Atom 1.6Ghz CPU seems to be a winning combination. The included 720p 'Wildlife' sample video within Windows 7 played back flawlessly in windows media player, this was with Aero enabled which incidentally also runs fantastically well!

    Aesthetically the netbook is pleasing, it also feels great to type on. I have always been a fan of 'chicklet' or 'pebble style' (as Samsung likes to call it) keyboards, and personally think its a win win situation for netbooks. I have yet to hit a wrong key on this keyboard, and my hands feel anything but cramped. The only gripe i have is with the small shift key on the UK keyboards, click here for picture. Having seen some of the US/Foreign models reviewed, I prefered the combination of longer shift key and single row enter key, but other than that, the keyboard wins my praise.

    The touchpad is very nice, the texture allows your finger to move smoothly (unlike some of the glossy trackpads favoured by other manufacturers) and the rocker button has a distinctive (if somewhat cheap) feel. The real gem of this netbook though is the 10.1" glass to glass covered screen. It is bright, crisp, and very sharp. Text is easily viewable, I will be testing some professional quality photographs a little later, so stay tuned for my verdict on that. The screen has a native resolution of 1024x600 which I prefer to the 1024x576 that Dell and others use in their netbooks. Whilst i appreciate that 1024x576 is in a 16:9 ratio for HD content, i will put up with the black 'post-box' type effect when (if) i choose to watch movies on this machine.

    A few other features worth mentioning, the power lead comes with a traditional style laptop 'brick' rather than the wall converter that Dell uses (see picture below). If carried around this adds to the bulk of the netbook significantly. Some have complained about the size of the Samsung logo on the lid, it doesn't bother me that much, infact I think Samsung shows confidence in their netbook by doing this. The status LED's are a very welcome addition to this netbook allowing you to easily see whats enabled (Something which frustrates Dell mini users). The netbook also comes with built in webcam, microphone, bluetooth, and 2.1 style speakers.

    Which reminds me, i'll end this initial review on a bizzare note. When the laptop arrived (running XP before I installed Windows 7) the audio was all panned hard left, meaning when I plugged headphones in it would only come out of the left ear! Easily fixed by panning the audio to the center again, but this was just a strange anomaly in what has otherwise been a very smooth, enjoyable, and... well fantastic netbook experience really!

    If there are any questions, leave a comment and i'll be only too happy to try and answer them!

    More Photos are available on the flickr Page - Here

    UPDATE - My Experiences after a week or so with the N310

    - Fantastic form factor
    - Screen
    - 'Chicklet' style keyboard
    - Added extras (Status LED's, Bluetooth, etc)

    - Power Brick
    - Small right shift key (UK Keyboard only)

    Download Links

    - Easy Display Manager for Windows Vista
    - Windows Vista Synaptics touch pad driver
    - Realtek's sound drivers

    Other Useful Links

    - Sammy Netbook Forums
    - Windows 7 & Samsung NC10 Blog post
    - Flickr page of Samsung N310 initial Photos

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    The Netbook Bandwagon

    Netbooks; Where did they start?, Why do they exist?, Why have I jumped on the bandwagon? All questions I intend to answer within this post...

    So i finally decided to make the purchase. Mostly for practical purposes, and maybe slightly out of pure curiosity! I want to know just how much of my every day computing can be carried out on these little devices, and possibly how far they can be used in portable recording situations.

    The first netbook is a debate which has been going on for a while within the tech community. Many think the netbook revolution really started with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Project, which aimed to bring computing to developing countries in an attempt to bridge the digital divide. The aim with this project was to create a fully functional computer for $100. The end result was a 366Mhz AMD Geode GX2-500 CPU, 128Mb of RAM, and 802.11g Wi-Fi. The significant detail here really has to be the Wi-Fi, it surely has defined how these small computers are intended to be used, and indeed the name itself! Netbook, implies the device should be used for browsing the net!

    The OLPC Project is a debate within itself, whether it was a success or not, well, it's not for me to say! But it is safe to say that this very small, light weight, budget laptop was what inspired Asus to believe that there was a market for this sort of laptop within developed countries. Their first attempt at a netbook was esentially a clone of the OLPC Project, with slightly higher grade components, and a less rugged case. And guess what!? It worked!

    The Eee PC series was born, with the 700 series being announced in September of 2007. The Price was set at $245 and that got you a 900Mhz CPU, 2GB SSD, and 256MB of Ram. It was released with a linux operating system, but Asus soon performed a swift U-turn and sold subsequent releases of Eee PC's with the option of Windows XP as an operating system.

    A trend which has unfortunatly continued. Windows XP remains the default operating system for netbooks, purely because of the speed with which it runs on limited hardware. Windows Vista (XP's big brother) is widely known and criticised for it's lack of speed and compatibility with old hardware. As a side note, I believe this has provoked manufactures to sell higher specification machines at a lower price, so may not be entirely a bad thing. Anyway, i digress... Windows XP remains to this day the default OS of many netbooks, but due to liscencing issues Microsoft is limiting its usage to machines with less than 1GB of RAM. A decision which, in my opinion, is holding back netbooks from reaching their full potential. Some manufacturers have countered this by providing easy access to the RAM within the netbook to allow the users themselves to increase the amount (Something I intend to take advantage of as soon as my netbook arrives).

    Windows 7 is the new XP, when it is released on the 22nd October 2009, is set to rock the netbook world. It will be provided to netbook manufactures in a starter package, bascially a 'dummed-down' version of the operating system designed to run on less powerful hardware, Microsoft has made an interesting decision with this OS release, to limit the number of programs that can run [on the starter edition] at any time to 3! (NB: This is rumoured to have been dropped from the final release) Something I feel would again, limit the potential of these netbooks!

    When my netbook arrives this week, i intend to fully test the machine with XP. I will then install Windows 7 RC (Which will eventually be Windows 7 Ultimate Edition) and test the machine again. This post will be continued towards the end of next week, where I will reveal exactly which netbook I purchased (Clue: It's only been out about a month in the UK) and there will be plenty of photos to look at!

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Portable recording on netbooks...

    I just wanted to share this blog post with you guys, its all about turning a netbook into a portable linux based recording system! Click link to visit original post!

    While an Asus EEE PC is perhaps not best suited for full-on intensive music production, it does have values which make it an ideal solution for portable recording. This tutorial will show you how to install and setup a linux recording environment...

    +224 people dugg this story.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Bad Microsoft Design...

    I speak with regards to Windows Live Messenger, a free download is available to all windows users. No doubt every single person who reads this blog will know of this program, and will have probably used it at some point in their life!

    Well as some of you may know, I decided to reformat my PC and install Windows 7 RC to see what improvements had been made since vista (there are many!) but more on that in a later blog post. Anyway, as part of my testing / daily computer tasks I will be using WLM. So i downloaded the web installer and set to work, installation went like a dream so no problems there. The problems start when I run WLM for the first time, I was presented with this...

    Yes, thats right, out of around 200 of my contacts I can see only 1 person. This is just completely stupid. Fair enough, Microsoft may have a new idea about how we should all organise our contacts, into groups and favourites and whatnot but seriously, the implementation couldn't have been worse. After about 5 minutes of tinkering I was able to make it look like this...

    Now I don't know about the rest of you, but this is certainly what I would prefer to see immediatly after instalation. Maybe have a tutorial popup which helps users migrate their contacts to the new group and favourite system? Wouldn't that make more sense? I guess not, afterall what would a 19yr old fresher know about design...