Mast Kalandar

bandar's colander of random jamun aur aam

Mon, 05 Nov 2012

Two Cheap Computers


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The Thinkpad Edge 11 never gave the satisfaction of a ``real'' Thinkapd. Apart from the problems with the semi-supported wireless device (which also caused grief with suspend/resume), there were problems of over-heating, battery life etc. When part of the RAM gave up the ghost, it was time to move on.

After the Edge went over the edge, it was replaced by an Acer Aspire One (AOD270). (Price: INR 16000)

I had experimented earlier (for a full year) with an Acer Aspire One until it was time to return it to the IMSc computer center (since I had moved to IISER Mohali). Apart from having to deal with comments like ``How can you work with such a small computer'', my earlier experiences with it had been good. The new one hasn't disappointed at all.

First of all, it was amazing how quickly it got up and running to my regular working environment (Debian "testing", currently "wheezy"). All I had to do was to transfer the disk image from the Edge to the Aspire One and tweak the boot command line a bit to accomodate the annoying N2600 Cedar Trail graphics.

It was good that I had not done my research well, else, hearing all the complaints about the N2600, I may have skipped this machine altogether. However, if one uses Grub to boot Linux with a 1024x600 framebuffer, then X takes care of the rest. (It is nonetheless preferable to tune X to use the "fbdev" driver rather than "vesa" which it picks by default). Other people may be upset by the inability to run a full-featured Gnome Shell, but XMonad+LXDE works fine for me. The only remaining annoyance is that one needs to reboot into an 800x600 framebuffer to connect this to an external VGA. I tried (and failed) to fix this by installing a kernel from "experimental" (3.4.4-1~experimental); so currently no luck with "xrandr" based switching on/off the external VGA/HDMI.

Summary: This is a great netbook for people like me who are text and command-line folk. Moreover, graphics and video is "fast enough" for casual use.

With the "cheap tablet" revolution coming to town, I thought it should be explored. So I got a BSNL Penta IS801c as a gift for Sudeshna on the occasion of Dussehra. The comments below should be qualified by the fact that this is my first experience with a tablet. Some things about it are very pleasing --- a nice interface, root access to Android 4.0 by default and no bloatware! The Pantel guys seem to know what they are doing. The price (INR 10000) is also quite low for an 8 inch 4:3 screen.

Again, it was good that I had not done my research well, else, hearing all the complaints about the Penta tablet being unable to interfac with the Tata Photon+ USB dongle, I may have skipped this machine too. Luckily, it works just fine with the PPP Widget (freely installable via Google Play). Given that this tablet has a cheaper version (INR 6500) for a 7 inch 16:9 screen, I wonder what all the fuss around Aakash is about. (Pantel is NOIDA based and in that sense even more "Indian" than Datawind.) Root access means that it will be possible to run a Debian chroot in it some day!

Summary: This is a nice tablet for those (like me) who are using tablets for the first time.

Bottom Line: Do not do too much research while buying your computers. The fora are largely full of novices who are incapable of minor tweaks and only want "bright and shiny".


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