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Should I use a netbook as my main development platform?

8 replies on 1 page. Most recent reply: May 11, 2009 2:44 AM by Nicola Larosa

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Michele Simionato

Posts: 222
Nickname: micheles
Registered: Jun, 2008

Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? (View in Weblogs)
Posted: May 7, 2009 12:38 AM
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Summary
Last week my MacBook died of a premature death at age 2. Out of necessity, I have been forced to borrow my wife's EeePC for a while and to use it as my main development platform. The unexpected thing is that it just works perfectly.
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So far I have been using my wife's EeePC as my main platform for four or five days. I have installed on it a lot of software I use for writing my articles, including

  • emacs
  • latex
  • python2.5
  • python2.6
  • python3.0
  • numpy & matplotlib
  • sphinx
  • sqlite
  • postgresql
  • PLT scheme
  • Chicken scheme
  • Ikarus Scheme
  • Larceny Scheme
  • Ypsilon Scheme

and many any other things. I have compiled from source most stuff, without any issue.

Right now I am preparing my talk for the Italian PyCon, when I want to demonstrate, running live from the EeePC, matplotlib and sphinx.

What can I say? The EeePC is not fast as the MacBook, but perfectly usable anyway, and everything works. I did try to use my old Compaq laptop first, but I could not use Ikarus on it, because its Athlon process was too old and had no support for the SSE3 instructions required by Ikarus. The EeePC instead works just fine and it actually much faster than the old laptop (FWIW, compiling Larceny took less than half the time) which costed something like 1500 Euros.

Now I am thinking if it makes sense for me to buy another "serious" laptop and to spend something like 800 Euros or if I can just buy another netbook for 300 Euros and be done with it.

The netbooks have really revolutioned the market and they are certainly not good only for surfing the Internet.


Benjamin Smith

Posts: 1
Nickname: 53181
Registered: Jan, 2008

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 7, 2009 2:45 AM
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I bought a Dell mini-9 a few months ago, thinking I was getting a "new toy". Mostly I figured on it being a way to easily carry Emacs org-mode with me wherever I go. Now I find that I spend more time on it than on my MacBook. I didn't expect that I'd be able to develop software on it as well as I can. I develop in Java and Python and a little C. I use Emacs, Maven and even some Eclipse on that little thing. Works fine.

At home I'm able to hook it up to a big screen when the built-in 1024x600 becomes too cramped. NXMachine also works well allowing me to access the netbook from a second machine with a larger display.

Anthony Roy

Posts: 1
Nickname: antroy
Registered: May, 2009

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 7, 2009 4:34 AM
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I currently use my Acer Aspire One (Running Fedora 10 rather than the preloaded Linpus) for all of my home development. I generally code in Python using vim on these projects, but have also developed small JEE apps in Eclipse on it!

The disadvantages I've found is that it won't do a great deal of heavy processing due to the limited threading supported by the processor, and the fact that IDE's are a bit of a pain to use, as you need to hide a lot of the toolbars and windows to get enough useable editor space. Not a problem in Vim of course!

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 7, 2009 9:14 AM
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> The netbooks have really revolutioned the market and
> they are certainly not good only for surfing the
> Internet.

I'd love get an inexpensive linux based laptop but I'm not interesting in something with a tiny screen and keyboard. I'm bad at typing as it is and my hands are fairly large. What I'd like is a lightweight laptop with a full sized keyboard and large screen somewhat like a Macbook Air but without the hefty price.

Nemanja Trifunovic

Posts: 172
Nickname: ntrif
Registered: Jun, 2004

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 7, 2009 1:55 PM
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> I'm not
> interesting in something with a tiny screen and keyboard.

Confirmed. I have a Lenovo netbook, and love the portability, but using it for development is a real pain (yes, I've tried it). Even web browsing can be ugly at times - most web sites don't display well on a 10" screen.

Vincent O'Sullivan

Posts: 724
Nickname: vincent
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 8, 2009 4:25 AM
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It's one of those problems with no "correct" solution. All you can do is looks for an acceptable set of compromises.

A laptop should be as small as possible with a screen and keyboard that are, at the same time, as large as possible. It should be (thermally) cool but pack the fastest CPU. It should be light (weight) with gigs of ram and teras of disk space and a stonking great battery (that is also tiny and light) and can power all of the above, all day. It should be (socially) cool and also be cheap.

As to eeePCs; Both of my kids (12 and 13 year old girls) have one (one black, one white, otherwise identical). As a result, they don't have radios, TVs or CDs. And if I knew how to set up so that it could be turned off at night but still function reliably as an alarm clock (I sure it's very simple but it's way down my priorities list) then the only other electrical item left in their bedrooms would be the desk lights.

Vincent O'Sullivan

Posts: 724
Nickname: vincent
Registered: Nov, 2002

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 8, 2009 4:30 AM
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It must be an age thing.

My kids don't buy CDs because they listen to music using Deezer or Spotify. I buy more CDs than ever... ...because I have started listening to Deezer and Spotify.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 8, 2009 9:55 AM
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> A laptop should be as small as possible with a screen and
> keyboard that are, at the same time, as large as possible.
> It should be (thermally) cool but pack the fastest CPU.
> . It should be light (weight) with gigs of ram and teras
> of disk space and a stonking great battery (that is also
> tiny and light) and can power all of the above, all day.
> It should be (socially) cool and also be cheap.

What I am saying is that I would be fine with a slower CPU, less RAM and a small HD but I still want a large screen and keyboard. There seems to be a perception wit the manufacturers that there's no market for that kind of thing but I think there is.

In other words, I'd buy a netbook if it weren't miniaturized. For me it's not the screen as much as the keyboard. I want a full sized keyboard and I don't mean standard laptop sized. I'd be fine with a wide and short screen. You could even split the screen in half as if you had two monitors.

Nicola Larosa

Posts: 9
Nickname: teknico
Registered: Jan, 2006

Re: Should I use a netbook as my main development platform? Posted: May 11, 2009 2:44 AM
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Look for the recent 12" models. Dell sells one with Ubuntu on it, display is 1280 pixels wide; I don't know about the keyboard.

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