Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Is the Netbook Craze Over?

Published by Sunbelt Software Manage Your Profile Privacy Policy
Vol. 2, # 55 - Jan 22, 2009 - Issue # 64 
 Is the Netbook Craze Over?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Is the Netbook Craze Over?
    • Follow-up: Lucky 7
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Networking in a Nutshell
    • Microsoft builds a store - but you can't shop there
    • Vista takes a back set to an OS that hasn't even been released
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • How to install programs in compatibility mode
  5. Vista Security
    • Conflicker uses Autoplay trick to infect computers
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Can I filter out the optional updates?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Can't configure Windows Mail to use a web-based account
    • Media Center won't correctly configure combo TV tuner
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Bejeweled 2 Deluxe: The Classic Jewel Swapper With More Gems And Twice The Fun!

VIPRE and AVG Resource Usage Shoot-Out

Many of you asked how VIPRE compares to the popular AVG. Well, we ran the tests and posted the results. The numbers tell the story. VIPRE took only 28% as long as AVG doing the deep scan. VIPRE takes only 38% of the CPU compared to AVG, and AVG takes 1.5 times the Memory compared to VIPRE. In short: both AVG "Free" and "Paid" use A LOT more resources to do the job, which can slow down your PC dramatically. Here are the details and the graphs:

Editor's Corner

Is the Netbook Craze Over?

The netbook was perhaps the tech industry's biggest success story of 2008. It all started in 2007, when Asus introduced the EeePC, a miniaturized version of the traditional laptop form factor. The EeePC differed from laptops on the market at the time in three important ways. First, it was smaller (the original had a 7 inch screen and weighed 2 lbs., whereas the smallest regular notebooks had 11 or 12 inch screens and weighed close to 3 lbs.). It was also considerably less expensive (from $259 to $399), whereas previously you had to pay a premium for small machines, with Sony's T series notebooks going for $2000 and up).

Those first two differences were great, and were important factors in the EeePC's success. The last difference might or might not be considered a good thing, depending on your perspective. Trimming down the size and cost had to come with a price, and that price was in power. The first netbooks had significantly lower specs than most notebooks. That original EeePC came with 512 MB of RAM and a 4 GB solid state drive instead of a hard disk.

Of course, this reduction in system resources meant that the little fellows couldn't run the same operating systems as their more robust counterparts - or at least, they couldn't run them well. So that first EeePC came with a very simplified custom version of Xandros Linux. The interface was tab and icon based and it came a number of programs installed: the Firefox web browser, OpenOffice, an IM program, a media player and a few games. These worked, but some of us who bought that first model found the software very limiting. Within two weeks, I had wiped out Linux and installed XP.

Asus had conveniently included a disc with XP drivers, and getting Windows to work wasn't difficult - but the specs still left something to be desired. Luckily, the computer supported up to 2 GB of RAM, so I spent over a hundred bucks to up the memory, and seventy-five more on a 16 GB SD card to increase my storage space. At that point, I had a pretty usable little laptop, but I was also into it for nearly $600.

I obviously wasn't the only one who missed Windows, as Asus soon came out with a new model that came with XP pre-installed, along with Microsoft Works. But they didn't stop there. Apparently many folks liked the idea of a small, lightweight, low cost system but wanted a bit more power. There were also complaints that folks with big hands had a hard time using the tiny keyboard. The 900 series of the EeePC, launched in April 2008, was a bit bigger and the weight was up to 2.2 lbs. They also come with up to 16 GB of SSD storage and are available in both Linux and XP versions. As the specs have improved, the price has crept up. The EeePC 1000 has a 10 inch screen, a 160 GB hard drive and costs around $450 for the Windows model.

Sales skyrocketed. Asus sold around 300,000 EeePCs in 2007, but that was up to several million in 2008. The company says they expect sales to double in 2009, to around 10 million:

Meanwhile, Asus has plenty of competition now that netbook sales have taken off. Almost every laptop manufacturer now has at least one netbook in its lineup. HP, Dell, Acer, Toshiba and others are coming out with their own incarnations of the itsy-bitsy portable PC. Even companies you might not have ever heard of, such as CherryPal, have thrown their hats into the netbook ring:

Even Sony, which usually aims for the more elite market, has come out with a new subcompact that's about two thirds the size of their T-series VAIOs and costs half as much: the P series sells for under $1000, weighs under a pound and a half, and has thinned down by omitting the optical drive and decreased its footprint by eliminating the touchpad (substituting a J mouse instead). However, they don't want you to call it a netbook:

Maybe that's because not all the news on the netbook front is good. According to a survey and analysis by Biz360, customer satisfaction with netbooks is not as high as the vendors might wish.

Netbooks were never intended to function as full fledged desktop replacements, but it seems some buyers had high expectations. At first glance, or when playing with one in the store, they seem fantastic. But when you get it out into the field, you may find that you're suddenly making lots of typos because of the small keyboards and it's hard to multitask (even if you have the computing power) because of the tiny screens. One reader told me that netbooks may be just the thing for teenage girls, but for "big, old guys with gnarled knuckles and bad eyesight, it's a nightmare." In some cases, usability has been sacrificed for the sake of keeping it small. Many of the netbooks place the mouse buttons on either side of the touchpad, instead of underneath it as most of us are used to with traditional notebooks.

Another complaint we've heard has to do with the quality and durability of the small systems, or that they just "feel and look cheap." Well, heck, they are cheap. I don't expect my little Saturn to feel and look like a Mercedes SL when it costs tens of thousands of dollars less. I do expect it not to die on me as I'm driving down the road, and you shouldn't have to worry about your netbook suddenly going black and refusing to power on two months after you bring it home.

Yet another problem with some of the netbooks is low battery life. Netbooks are billed as "go everywhere" computers, the systems that you can take along when you wouldn't ordinarily have taken a computer. But if you're going to be taking it with you all the time, you need the battery to last through a day. The dilemma is that high capacity batteries add extra weight, size and cost - exactly what you don't want in a netbook. Some of these small fry can only muster 3 hours or so before the battery conks out, although some of the later models are reported to get up to 6 or 7 hours of battery life. Just this month, HP announced that their new model, the 2140, will last for a full business day (8 hours) before needing recharging:

As their name indicates, netbooks are designed to be somewhat dependent on the network and used primarily (or only) for accessing the Internet. Browsing the web and checking email are things that they do fine, but almost none of them have a CD/DVD drive, since that adds bulk, weight and cost. Of course, you can buy USB optical drives for those occasions when you need to install software from disc. But it's not easy or convenient to use a netbook to watch DVD movies, for instance. All this leads Peter Glaskowsky to post on CNET News recently that "the Netbook is dead. Long live the notebook!"

Glaskowsky cites the high return rates for the early, true netbooks. His premise is that the small computers that are now being called netbooks are really much more than that. Even Asus has discontinued the basic series and is now marketing much more powerful and feature-laden machines. They just recently came out with a convertible Tablet, the T91, that's slated to hit the stores this spring.

Perhaps one thing that distinguishes netbooks from notebooks is that you won't find the former shipping with Vista installed. Oh, a few brave souls did actually manage to install Vista on the original EeePC, but it was more a proof of concept than a case of actually using the machine with that configuration.

Some of the new small quasi-netbooks do in fact come with Vista. The HP Mini-Note 2133, with prices starting at $399, comes with Vista Business or Home Basic (other options include XP Pro and SuSE Linux). Some are calling it an Ultra Mobile PC, but it's bigger than what we usually think of when we think of the UMPC form factor; in fact, it's the same size as most of the XP based netbooks on the market now.

Since the release of the public beta of Windows 7, there has been much talk on the 'Net about how it's expected to play nicely with the netbook crowd. In fact, some pundits are predicting that Linux faces a huge challenge in that market when Win7 comes out.

Win7 was actually designed with netbooks in mind, and since many folks who buy netbooks are put off by Linux (as illustrated by the fact that many more Linux- based EeePCs have been returned than Windows models), it's likely that it will be a hit on the small systems. In fact, techies are already eagerly installing the Win7 beta on their EeePCs, as evidenced by this thread in the discussion group:

I'm planning to give it a try in the next couple of weeks, and I'm even thinking seriously of installing Win7 on my Sony TX. It came with Vista but performance was awful when I got it, and although some tweaking and removal of Sony's proprietary software has it run at an acceptable speed now, my experiences with Win7 on other computers suggests I could make it both faster and more reliable by upgrading to the new OS.

What about you? Did you give in to the craze and buy a netbook? If so, were you disappointed or do you love it? Did you buy too soon, as I did, and miss out on the extra features and competitive pricing that came this last year? If you haven't bought a subcompact, are you thinking about it? Or do you, like my husband, think "bigger is better" and prefer your 17 inch, 8 pound behemoth of a laptop? Is the price right for netbooks now, or are you waiting for the mythical $100 model to become reality? Would you consider a Linux-based netbook, or do you insist on Windows? Are you holding out for the Window 7 machines that are likely to reach the market late this year? Let us know about your opinions and experiences at

Follow-up: Lucky 7

In last week's editorial, the release of the first public beta of Windows 7 freed me to finally write about the new operating system without worrying about NDA issues - and I've been writing furiously about it ever since. Check out the many recent posts on my blog at

I'm hearing from lots of readers who are trying Win7 out for themselves. Kiwi said, "Having used this new OS for the last week or so, I'm almost loath to go back to Vista. Everything about this OS is so intuitive, from setting up my wireless network connection to being able to do and add anything I want. Everything about this OS is just so slick, polished and the finishing is excellent. Win 7 is going to ship with all the drivers you could ever need by the looks of it, which is a huge improvement to when Vista shipped. It may be built on the same Kernel as Vista, but I think MS got it right with this one."

Adrian S. wrote: "As of writing this I have been using Windows 7 as my only operating system on my main PC for an entire week and I have to say I am very impressed. A clean install on Vista usually takes me about 2 days to get all the programs and settings tweaked to just how I like them, with Windows 7 it took about 6 or 7 hours. Another bonus is that with Windows 7 being so similar to Vista, I have yet to find a single program or driver that works with Vista that doesn't work with Windows 7, getting rid of the main problem that early adopters of a new operating system usually face, Will my [insert random hardware here] work with my new OS?"

Alvin wrote: "On my 3rd. day with Windows 7 installed on a HP laptop with P4 and 1 gig. mem. 100 gig. Hard Drive. This is an older Laptop (ze5460us) and I must say runs 7 very well. The built in Sound Card caused some major crashes, but I disabled the card and now works great. Even with Aero on it is a good experience. The Computer came with XP and was not fast with that one. So I have been using Linux (Freespire) which is very good for older computers."

In fact, many of you were impressed with the beta's performance. José G. wrote: "I have been using Windows 7 64 bit Edition on my home desktop's second hard drive for 9 days now. The improvements are completely refreshing. First of all, no formatting was required. Windows 7 loaded the OS and the file format from a raw, unformatted hard drive. The actual install only took approximately 22 minutes. Second, the boot up and shut down was so much quicker. My home machine boot's up 48.5 seconds from a cold start. Windows 7 boots at 30 seconds, cutting 18.5 seconds off the boot up. Windows 7 shuts down under 10 seconds."

It didn't go smoothly for everybody, though - at least at first. Ken S. wrote: "I decided to take the plunge. Using a Toshiba A205 laptop. I created a new 43GB partition for Win7 32b. First problem: I downloaded the iso image and burned it to a dvd. then ran the install. It crashed. Then I tried to go back to Vista to figure out why and could not boot into Vista.I burned a 2nd iso from the orig download and it to crashed. I used another laptop to download a fresh iso and burned that to a DVD and re started the installation for a third try. that went perfectly and soon I had a Win 7 32b and a Vista Home Premium 32b dual boot (Vista was back!). I like it real well."

And not everyone was impressed. Craig H. said, "As a casual computer user looks like there pulling the wool over our eyes again. Surely it will not be worth the $200 price tag they will stick on it. The only thing I liked about it is the boot time is faster than Vista, but as I say I'm just a casual user. I installed it on a 30 gig HD and put it in my 3 ghz with 2 gig of ram and got a user rating of (2). Guess I need a good video card to improve that. Like I tell my friends, If you are a casual user STICK WITH XP ..."

Carl B. had this problem: "I have downloaded Windows 7 Bets 32 Bit program through your web site. Now that I have it, I copied it to a CD. But each time I try to install it, the program takes me to Roxio Easy CD Creator. I have down loaded the programs twice, on two different computers, with the same result. I think that the program is in the form of an image disk." To use an .ISO image, which is an archive file like .RAR and .ZIP, you need to burn it to disc with software that will extract the image and turn it into a regular DVD with separate files . You can find a link to a free program called ImgBurn, along with instructions, here:

Readers still had some "wish list" items. Stephen E. misses the Vista sidebar and wishes Microsoft would make it an option. Cameron C. wants a "medium size" setting for taskbar icons. Several of you who have older computers (five years or more) found that some of your cards - usually network adapters or sound cards - don't work with Win7. A good rule of thumb is that if there are Vista drivers for your device, they will probably (although it's not guaranteed) work on Win7. If there are only XP drivers, you may have a problem. Some folks also mentioned problems with a few games. Otherwise, the consensus seems to be that Win7 is a winner. But we got mail from several people who have no plans to try Win7 at all; they're happy with their XP and/or Vista computers.

Thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. - David Brin

The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves. - William Hazlitt

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. - John Adams

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your PC. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example; Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, The Sunbelt Personal Firewall looks carefully at the data leaving your computer, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, phone numbers, and social security number do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


Rip DVDs for your iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV, or iPod Video Nano. Bundle includes video converter too! Free Trial:

Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Synchronization isn't like backing up, it's better! Easy too!

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to legitimate software that runs all day. Why? To get your speed back!

One easy to remember password gives automatic access to all my online passwords and usernames. I love the autofill feature.

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Networking in a Nutshell

Want to know more about how to set up, configure and use the networking components in Windows Vista? Here is an excellent, illustrated article excerpted from O'Reilly's Windows Vista in a Nutshell that covers most aspects of networking, from managing wireless connections to changing your TCP/IP properties. Check it out at

Microsoft builds a store - but you can't shop there

Unlike Apple, Microsoft doesn't operate any retail outlets where customers can go to find all their products in one place. Recently, however, the Redmond based company spent millions of dollars to build a store that they call the Retail Experience Center. It consists of 20,000 square feet of displays and technology - but you can't buy anything there. Unfortunately, it's just for show, a way for Microsoft to show retailers and computer vendors how Microsoft products should be displayed. Read more about this phantom store here:

Vista takes a back set to an OS that hasn't even been released

This past week, as I've gone through the tech industry news sites for links for the newsletter, I've been struck by how little anyone is writing about Vista anymore. Even if I do a search for "Windows Vista," I get mostly articles about Windows 7 that mention Vista in passing. And those articles that are about Vista are asking what's going to become of it in the wake of all the positive press for Win7. For example:

How to: Using the New Vista Features

How to install programs in compatibility mode

If you have a program that used to work in an older version of Windows, but it won't install or won't run after installing on Vista or Windows 7, you can try installing it in compatibility mode. This will (sometimes) fool the application into thinking its running on the older OS and it will work fine. Here are the steps:
  1. If you're trying to install the program, right click the Setup file. If the program is installed already, locate the executable program file (usually somewhere in the Program Files folder) and right click it.
  2. In Vista, select Properties and then click the Compatibility tab. In Windows 7, select Troubleshoot Compatibility.
  3. In Vista, check the box that says "Run this program in compatibility mode for" and choose the OS on which it worked before from the drop-down box. In Windows 7, a wizard walks you through the steps.
  4. Click OK, and try to run the program again.
This little trick enabled me to install the Creative SB X-Fi drivers for my sound card in Win7, when I had first received an error message that my operating system was not supported.

Vista Security

Conflicker uses Autoplay trick to infect computers

The Conflicker worm (also known as Downadup) has a number of different methods for infecting computers, and even though a patch for it was issued in October, it continues to spread. One trick that works on both Vista and Windows 7 systems exploits the Autoplay feature to con you into running the viral payload when you think you're just opening a folder to view files. Read more about it here:

Vista Question Corner

Can I filter out the optional updates?

I use automatic update on my Vista Ultimate computer but I would like a way to just see the important updates, not all these "optional" ones. Is there some way I can filter the view to just show me important/critical updates or at least to not keep showing me the same ones that I chose not to install? Thanks so much! - Ross L.

If you have optional updates that show up every time you run Windows Update and you never want to install them, you don't have to keep looking at them. You can hide them. In the list of updates, just right click the one(s) that you don't want to see anymore, and select Hide Update. Now they won't show up every time. If you should decide that maybe you want one of those hidden updates after all, you can click Restore Hidden Updates in the left pane and it will put them back in the list (unfortunately, it will restore all of them, not just the one you want).

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Can't configure Windows Mail to use a web-based account

If you use the built-in Windows Mail application for your email, you may find that you aren't able to configure it to get mail from your web-based accounts (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.). In fact, you get a message that says "Windows Mail no longer supports HTTP servers used by Hotmail and other web- based email providers." What to do? Find out the solution in KB article 926374 at

Media Center won't correctly configure combo TV tuner

If you install a so-called "combo" TV tuner (one that supports both NTSC and ATSC signals) in your Vista Home Premium or Ultimate computer, you may find that Media Center doesn't detect it or doesn't correctly configure it. You may be able to view only analog channels even though it's configured to also pick up over-the-air digital TV. Installing the latest service pack should fix the problem but what if you have a computer that, like one of mine, refuses to install the service pack? In that case, there is a hotfix available that addresses this specific problem. Find out how to get it in KB article 929011 at

Fav Links

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

Disclaimer: VistaNews 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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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.