Friday, January 15, 2010

Is the Reign of the Netbook Over and Out?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 10, #2 - Jan 12, 2010 - Issue #412

 Is the Reign of the Netbook Over and Out?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Is the Reign of the Netbook Over and Out?
    • Follow-up: Technology Trends for the Future
    • Quotes of the Week

  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • New PCs to include free (ad-supported) version of Office
    • You can still get netbooks with XP
    • Does your Kia run Windows?
    • Project Natal to come to market this year

  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to get rid of the logon warning in XP

  5. XP Security News
    • Be on the lookout for fake Microsoft Outlook Web Access alerts

  6. XP Question Corner
    • Can't get my computer to go into standby or hibernate

  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • exFAT update for XP and Server 2003
    • Code 10 errors

  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

  9. Product of the Week
    • Award Winning Your Uninstaller! 2010 "ALL New" Version Just Released

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 Editor's Corner

Is the Reign of the Netbook Over and Out?

2009 might appropriately be called the Year of the Netbook. The tiny computers sold like hotcakes, and as with hotcakes, many people didn't stop with just one. A friendly told me how he walked into Best Buy a few days after Thanksgiving, walked over to the display of an HP mini, and told the clerk: "I'll take five of those," thus completing his Christmas shopping in one fell swoop.

For a while there, it seemed that hardly a day went past without someone telling me that he/she had bought or was contemplating buying a netbook. I got lots of requests for advice on picking the best one, which presented a bit of a dilemma because the one netbook that I had, I didn't like much. I jumped on that bandwagon early and got one of the first EeePCs. Loved the size, loved the weight; hated the very sparse specs.

Although I was able to upgrade its puny 512 MB of memory to 2 GB, I couldn't really overcome the limitations imposed by its 4 GB (yes, four) solid state drive, even with a 16 GB SD card to supplement it. Maybe the fact that I have almost 2 TB of storage on my primary desktop system and three quarters of that is full should have been a clue that I wasn't going to fare well with only 20 GB of space at my disposal. Sure, I remember when 20 GB seemed huge, but by the time I wiped out the Linux that came with the EeePC and installed XP, then installed Office, Corel PhotoPaint, and a few more "essential" programs, and loaded some of my favorite media files onto it, things were really cramped. And it ran sooooo slowly. I don't expect Nehalem-like performance from a $300 device but seriously, the battery could run down completely while I was waiting on Outlook to open.

Now, that was back in 2007 and many of the problems inherent in that first model no longer plague today's netbooks. Most of the new ones were made to run Windows and come with XP or Windows 7 installed. Many have big capacity hard drives - 160 GB or even more. I guess vendors found that size really does matter, and faced with a choice, most of their customers prefer a large traditional hard drive to a faster but much smaller SSD.

Even though netbooks are getting more powerful, in the last few months I've noticed a trend - at least among people I know - away from the fascination with the smallest and cheapest portables. Yesterday, I went shopping with my cousin and her daughter; the goal was to find the daughter a portable computer for school (college). When I asked if she was looking for a netbook or a full fledged laptop, she didn't even have to think about it - she was willing to pay a little more for a laptop. And she wasn't the only one. At the electronics store, the netbook displays were practically deserted; people who were looking for computers were looking at the more expensive notebooks.

I didn't interview everyone at the store, but I would be willing to bet that at least a few of those who were buying new laptops already have netbooks at home. In fact, I've heard from several folks that their netbooks, like mine, are sitting on a shelf somewhere, never used. And those aren't all the first generation "early adopter" models, either. It seems many people bought these with high hopes, only to find that they just don't quite fit the bill when you hit the road.

It's not hard to understand why some folks are dumping the netbooks and looking for slightly less portable and more costly but also more functional laptops. That's especially true when you compare the price to power ratios of the two types of systems. No netbook in that store had more than 1 GB of RAM and all had Atom processors. Most of the hard drives were 120 or 160 GB. Prices ranged from $279 for an EeePC model 1005 all the way up to $599 for the Nokia Booklet 3G (yes, I took notes).

Compare that to the array of more powerful systems from HP, Dell, Toshiba, Asus and Sony just one aisle over (that would be the crowded aisle). Here you'll find systems with dual core processors, 4 GB of RAM and 320 GB hard drives, for $479 to $549 - less than the highest priced netbooks. Of course, they're bigger and heavier, too, but with that comes a larger screen and better graphics adapters and sound systems, for easier multi-tasking and a better multimedia experience. And while bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to a computer that you lug around with you all day, there is a point where "compact" turns into "too darn small." Several of the people who have told me they never use their netbooks are males, big guys with big hands who discovered that they just couldn't type accurately or comfortably on the small keyboards.

I'm not the only one who thinks the netbook craze may have played out its hand. Andrew Brust, in a recent "predictions for 2010" blog post, speculated that netbook sales will recede while sales of thinner, lighter full fledged notebooks will gain in the coming year. And as he pointed out, we might not have the latter if the former hadn't paved the way. Thus the netbook phenomenon was a very good thing - for consumers because it forced prices of compact notebooks down, and for the vendors because, while it lasted, they sold a lot of netbooks during an economic recession when more expensive systems might not have moved very well.

Now it's time for the Next Big Thing. Many tech pundits think 2010 will be the year when the tablet's time comes, at last. That's mostly due to the anticipation of the debut of the long awaited (at least in some circles) Apple iSlate, which - according to the current rumors - will be officially unveiled in late January and hit the shelves in March. If that product is a success, it's sure to inspire many competitors (as the iPhone did), which means it will be good not only for Mac fans but for those of us who are longing for a better Windows or Linux tablet. In fact, last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Microsoft and HP announced a slate-style tablet PC that's obviously intended to cut the iSlate off at the pass:

I have a feeling that within a few months, many of those netbooks on the electronics store shelves will be replaced by various tablets. And that's one reason I'm holding off a little longer on buying a new portable computer. Meanwhile, for an interesting take on tablets, see David Berlind's Information Week column at:

How about you? Do you think the surge in netbook sales was just a phase that the industry was going to, and that it's coming to an end? Or do you love your netbook and plan to hang onto it until they pry it from your cold, dead hands? If you never caved in to the hype and bought a netbook, why not? If you did get one (or more), did it live up to your expectations or have you pawned it off on one of the kids and gone back to a heftier and more powerful system for your on-the-go computing needs? If you gave up on your netbook, was it because of the cramped keyboard, the low powered processor/memory, the "cheap" build, or something else? If you're ready to move on, what do you think the next "must have" device is going to be? Are you looking forward to a tablet? If so, what's on your "wish list" for the perfect tablet device? We invite you to discuss these questions and more in our forum at

Follow-up: Technology Trends for the Future

Last week, I took a look back at the last decade and promised that this week, I would make a few predictions about the future. You read two of my predictions in the foregoing editorial: netbooks sales will lag, and we'll be inundated with tablet style computers. Here are a few more:

  1. More TV watchers will abandon the cable companies. We've had numerous problems with our cable service over the last few months and we're fed up. I've talked to many others who feel the same way. There are now many viable alternatives, depending on your location. FiOS and Uverse channel selections, picture quality and user interfaces blow cable out of the water. Satellite is available to many who can't get the fiber optic services. Some people are willing to settle for the low quality - but free, if you have unlimited Internet service - TV programs that can be downloaded or streamed from various web sites, or just wait and buy the DVDs. Cable companies are used to operating with the monopoly mentality ("We don't need no stinking customer service") because of the franchise arrangements they've had with municipalities, but now that they have competition, they're going to have to make some big changes or lose a lot of business.
  2. 3D may finally come into its own. Movie makers have flirted with 3 dimensional technology for decades, but it never caught on. The popularity of the recent 3D movie Avatar, coupled with a big push by TV makers to create televisions that will bring 3D home, might result in this technology finally reaching critical mass. However, you'll notice that I'm qualifying this prediction with words like "may" and "might" because I'm not yet entirely convinced. Many folks only in the past couple of years finally broke down and upgraded to HDTVs. I think we're going to have to see a big improvement in the economy before a significant number will be willing to replace those with new, probably more expensive 3D sets.
  3. On the business front, Outlook will become less necessary for business email users. I say this because with Exchange 2010, Microsoft finally got Outlook Web Access (OWA) right. You can get your mail for your Exchange account via your web browser and have the full, rich Outlook experience without having Outlook installed. Will I give up Outlook? Probably not - but many folks will be able to without any degradation in productivity.
Those are just a few of my thoughts about what's going to happen in 2010. Share yours with us in the forum:

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

"The future is much like the present, only longer." - Dan Quisenberry

"Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons." - Popular Mechanics, March 1949

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay

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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

New PCs to include free (ad-supported) version of Office

You've probably already heard that Microsoft will have a free web version of Office 2010 (Office Web Apps). Now Microsoft has announced that when the next version of Office is released, they will be including an advertising-supported version of Office with new PCs, in place of Microsoft Works, which is found pre-installed on many new computers. The new Starter version of Office will only be available on new machines, and it provides limited-feature versions of Word and Excel. Read more about it here:

You can still get netbooks with XP

If you're one of those I mentioned in the editorial who's still taken with netbooks, and if you're in the market for a new one, you may have noticed that it's getting hard to find one that comes with XP instead of Windows 7 Starter edition. However, it's by no means impossible. HP just launched their new Mini 210, and it comes in two different configurations, one of which runs XP Home (the other runs Windows 7). In fact, the XP version costs less. As netbooks go, it's a nice looking model. Check it out here:

Does your Kia run Windows?

Microsoft has teamed up with the car maker Kia to create something called the UVO interface, which includes Bluetooth, a rear-view camera and voice recognition, along with an "intelligent jukebox" music system and a touch screen. It may not be Windows, but it definitely takes the Korean automotive company's vehicles a giant step forward in the high tech world. Read more about the system, which was introduced at CES, here:

Project Natal to come to market this year

We've been hearing for months about Microsoft's new Natal technology for the Xbox 360; it's a motion control device that will reportedly go further than the current Wii technology in integrating you into the game. The good news this week is that no, you won't have to buy a new Xbox to get the Natal technology, which is expected to launch in time for the 2010 holiday season. Find out more here:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to get rid of the logon warning in XP

Recently a reader asked me how to get rid of the dialog box that pops up at logon, which was a leftover from when he used his computer at work. This message does not appear by default but an administrator can apply it. If you have an administrator account, you can also get rid of it, but you'll have to edit the registry to do so. Here's how:

  1. Open your registry editor.
  2. In the left pane, navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows NT \ CurrentVersion \ Winlogon
  3. In the right pane, double click the item LegalNoticeCaption
  4. Set the data value to 0
  5. In the right pane, double click the item LegalNoticeText
  6. Set the data value to 0
  7. Close the registry editor
As always, exercise care when editing the registry. Note that if you reconnect to your work network and the warning was enabled through Group Policy, it will probably be reapplied.

 XP Security News

Be on the lookout for fake Microsoft Outlook Web Access alerts

Remember those viruses that popped up messages designed to look like Windows dialog boxes? The latest phishing efforts use a similar tactic, popping up what appears to be an alert from OWA (Outlook Web Access) that urges you to run a file to update your email settings. What it actually does is implant a Trojan on your computer that steals your banking credentials and allows the bad guys to access your accounts. Find out more here:

 XP Question Corner

Can't get my computer to go into standby or hibernate

I recently had to reinstall XP on my computer after a program that my son downloaded corrupted the drive. I formatted and reinstalled clean. Everything works now except one. I can't get the computer to standby or hibernate anymore. I like to do this instead of shutting it down completely (and don't like leaving it on all the time, wastes power). I don't want to have to reinstall the OS again. Can you help? - Don L.

In order for XP to be able to use the power management features, you have to have hardware that supports them. If your computer was able to go into standby and hibernation before you reinstalled the OS, your system has the hardware support. The next suspect is an incompatible video driver. Your video driver has to support power management. When you reinstalled XP, it's possible that the correct video driver wasn't installed, even if your video appears to display properly. Try installing the latest driver for your video card, from the vendor's web site.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

exFAT update for XP and Server 2003

What's exFAT? Nope, it's not somebody who successfully completed a Weight Watcher's regimen. It's the new file system that's the successor to FAT32, which is designed to handle larger files and allow you to use the same files between your XP computers and your portable music players and similar devices. The exFAT update is for Windows XP SP2 and SP3. You can find out more about it in KB article 955704 at

Code 10 errors

Have you ever gotten a "Code 10" error from XP Device Manager and wondered what it means? All it says is "This device cannot start (Code 10). That's not very helpful. This happens when Device Man doesn't have enough information to tell you what the problem really is, or if a driver doesn't start. The usual solution is to update the drivers, but sometimes it's difficult to know which driver is at fault. To find out more, see KB article 943104 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

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