In anticipation of a summer of traveling — vacation in Portland, Eugene and Cannon Beach, Oregon; and academic conferences/presentations in Barcelona, Florence, and Chicago — I bought a Samsung NC10 Netbook so as to avoid lugging around my albatross Dell Latitude laptop. Not only is the Samsung Netbook perfect for traveling, I love it so much that I now use it almost daily. Other than adding a 2 GB memory upgrade (from Crucial of course), my unit is stock (Win XP Home, etc). The battery life is amazing (7-8 hours). The nearly-full-sized keyboard works great.
As part of the transition from laptop to netbook I decided it was time to get rid of some of the bloatware applications I have long taken for granted. By bloatware I am referring to applications that chew up lots of computing resources or lots of economic resources — or both.
My first worry was keeping my email in sync across two laptops. Since most of my email is picked up using POP and not IMAP, I knew keeping two copies of Outlook in sync would be a pain. But as I longtime Outlook user I was very reluctant to consider giving it up. After considering a bunch of options I decided on Gmail. I had signed up for a Gmail account circa 2005, but had not opened it in years. After about 4 months of using Gmail exclusively I have become a total Gmail convert. I do not miss Outlook at all. More impressive, I even managed to use Gmail’s IMAP support to push my most recent 2 years (about 2 GB) worth of email from Outlook to Gmail, putting it all in the cloud for easy access anytime, anywhere. Another plus is the Gmail “offline” feature which allows you to compose and reply to emails offline — just like Outlook. Similarly, I now use Google Contacts and Calendar.
My second biggest concern was having access to all my files from both laptops — and easily keeping them in sync. For this I decide on a program called Windows Live Sync. This free application (formerly called Windows Live Foldershare) does an amazing job of synchronizing several gigabytes and several thousand files across both machines. Now, I can work on any document I want from either machine. The only thing better would be having all my documents in the cloud, but I could not find any free services offering enough storage space.
Some other new found favorites: For browsing I use Google Chrome exclusively. Not only is it the thinnest and lightest internet client available, it also takes up the least screen space. With only 600 vertical pixels on my Netbook screen every pixel counts — and Chrome lets me see more of the pages I am browsing than Explorer, Firefox, etc. I also replaced Adobe Acrobat Reader (something like 90 MB) with Foxit Reader (closer to 5 MB). For virus protection after the 90 day free trial of Symantec expired I switched to AVG Antivirus Free Edition. For opening and creating file archives I use 7-Zip, an open source application which not only reads .ZIP files, but also .RAR and about a dozen others. For FTP I use another open source package called FileZilla. Finally, for photo management I love Picasa 3 and its companion Web Albums. And for photostitching I found a terrific free program called Autostitch. For example, this panoramic picture of the Villa La Pietra gardens stitches together 9 different photographs.