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back to article Ten Essential... Netbook Accessories

The arrival of second-gen netbooks with Intel's 'Pine Trail' Atom chips has seen the breed come of age. Not only can the latest 10in machines from Samsung, Dell and Acer run for up to eight hours on a full charge, but the combination of Windows 7 Starter and the N450 processor has finally brought a decent lick of speed and an up …

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Dongles

Dont know why you picked the Zoom one when nearly all Dongles available in UK are made by Huawei and ZTE, and when most of those are more or less given away on a data tarriff. Three has its coverage issues sometimes but their deals are pretty good.

BTW, most recent linux distros work very well with 3G Dongles and Huawei at least, work 'out of the box': just plug it in and wait for the config wizard. After that, it's just like selecting any other wireless network

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Paris Hilton

I had to have a little chuckle

One of the shopping channels on TV was selling the features of a new netbook just a few days ago.

Part of the dome included online video/tv of the iPlayer variety and while the sound quality seemed fine video display was oh-so-disgustingly choppy.

I had to have a little chuckle to myself and empathise with the demonstrators embarrassment (there were two of them forced into a 'moving swiftly along now' situation.

I can't say if they are all like that (netbooks I mean not live shopping channel presenters)

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Heart

EyeTV DTT Deluxe

You've missed a critical addition!

http://www.elgato.com/elgato/int/mainmenu/products/tuner/DTTdeluxe09/product1.en.html

Cases, USB storage, bluetooth and 3G are pretty much no-brainers - how about Freeview TV? The EyeTV Deluxe widget is awesome AND mini :D

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Silver badge

My top-ten bits of computer-related travel kit ...

1: A good insurance policy. Just in case.

2: 25 feet of wire for the POTS modem. Just in case.

3: 25 feet of wire for the 10/100 Ethernet. Just in case.

4: Spare, charged battery. Or two. Just in case.

5: Working pens & paper. Because "paperless" is a daft concept.

6: Leatherman multitool. Just because.

7: Gaffer's tape. Because it's always useful (ever trip over a wire in a hotel?).

8: AAA-powered single-cell Mag-lite. Little bits of good light are more useful than you might think.

9: Water. Water is always handy ... wetware needs it.

10: Spare identically configured Netbook. Just in case.

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Coat

Maglites are old hat

Get a nice Led Lenser P7- also AAA powered. Just, for the love of Bob, don't stare into the light. Seriously, you'll not enjoy that.

Retured all of my maglites now- have a nice 200-odd lumens P7 and a little diddy p3 that is kept to hand for emergencies.

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Silver badge

Might be old hat ...

But they work. And they last forever, good engineering it would seem.

I have about three dozen of them, got 'em free[1] just over two decades ago. I carry one in my pocket, there is one in the glove box of all the road-going vehicles and under the seat of the motorcycles, in each of the laptop cases, etc. I recharge the battery in the one in my pocket about every two months, and need to replace the bulb every couple years.

[1] CamelLites[tm] promo ... Free Mini-Mag bundled with three (two?) packs of smokes. I quit smoking right after the promo was over ... Cause & effect? Probably not ;-)

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Boffin

DVD on netbook

Working in a major retailer during what shall henceforth be known as "the rise of the netbook", I thought I should point out something we noticed. Connecting an external DVD drive, while fine for data use, was not so useful for DVD viewing. In practice, the reduced spec of the unit itself resulted in either no playback at all, just the audio to play back, or just the video.

That was on the Windows XP netbooks. Mine (one of the old AOA-150 Linux machines) can run youtube video and the like perfectly, something the XP ones could not, but I have never tried to watch a DVD on it (that's what the mammoth desktop is for!), so the Linux unit may perform better.

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I suggest...

...you should either stop believing your own (the companies?) sales twaddle or stick to the white goods section. I've never known any XP based Netbook to not play DVDs once DVD playback software (or more specifically, the DVD codecs) have been installed. Guess what, XP Netbooks will even do 1080p video too! And ANY productivity software you care to choose (albeit, in some cases, a little bit slower than a full-fat laptop). Not that the staff in a local major retailer will tell you that while simultaneously shuffling poor sods to the larger, higher priced (greater margin?) machines that they didn't really want further along the display.

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WTF?

Well actually...

That was my own and one of my fellow (equally technical) employees view after much testing on both customer returns (they were not happy that the two did not work together) and the brand-new units (to confirm). As a disclaimer I feel I should point out I am no longer working in retail and am in my own field (software engineering), and therefore no longer (not that I ever was personally - come to me and you got honest advice) biased towards selling better products.

If you noticed, there were a range of problems I mentioned, and of course we had firstly replaced the playback software and codecs.

Sounds like someone has a *major* beef with retailers...

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How about a Linux 3G dongle?

Nice line-up and there are a couple of things there I may buy now I have been alerted to their existence.

However, would it have killed you to include details of a USB modem that did run out of the box on Ubuntu? A little note in the review of the 3G dongle would suffice and would be a great help to those of us who like the idea of 3G but don't want to purchase a device only to find it doesn't work.

@AC 26th April 2010 08:23:

iPlayer looks fine on my EeePC 1000 running Ubuntu. Watching DVD's from ISO images works well too.

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

A car mount? If you were that desperate for 10 items...

I'm sorry to say my choice of mobile mouse is wired - the 'Genius Navigator 365'. Excellent laser tracking on shiny things or even the not-so shiny side of your jeans if you're short of flat surfaces. However, it's ultimate trick (that makes it worth the cable) is the clamshell gamepad hidden inside.

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Benefit of a wired mouse

You won't leave your mouse behind on a train or in a meeting room if you use a wired one - my preferred choice.

And always pack a USB to mini USB cable in your bag in case your phone goes dead and you need to make one last desperate call using the charge from your netbook's long-ish life battery.

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John Barnes 1994 world cup?

England didn't qualify. He had plenty of other opportunities over his career to be a let down for england though

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Bluetooth dongle

I prefer the more rounded style of Bluetooth USB dongle - equally small but less likely to get caught on stuff. Especially when you can snag one that works perfectly well for about £1.50!

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Alternatives

For a very small speaker, although it's not stereo it packs a decent sound. Look at the Xmini II here:

http://xm-i.com/shop/product.php?productid=16149&cat=256&page=1

And an alternative TV Tuner and PVR that will take a standard RF connector so you can plug it into a wall socket here:

http://www.hauppauge.co.uk/site/products/data_hvr900.html

I can recommend both of the above.

And carrying an RF cable.

And the little mini mouse and cable sets that you get from the likes of Maplins or Aldi/Lidl.

<scottish> What's a World Cup? :-( </scottish>

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Does anyone make a generic docking station lap "table"...

...to include optical drive, cooling fan, plus hub / card reader?

I found a fan / hub / card unit at Maplin. I suppose the problem with adding a drive is powering it, or alternatively incorporating a power supply to drive the notebook.

My Samsung Q1's own fan died; I assume that using an extra external fan will reduce dependency on and increase lifetime of your netbook's built-in fan, and it's easier and cheaper to replace. Currently I can run the Q1 with an external fan, otherwise it overheats in about 15-20 minutes.

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Logitech Lapdesk too big, at 37 x 26mm, to stow in a case?

Dang! That's not even big enough to put my mouse on, let alone a computer.

What's your computer case? A wallet?

/tongue firmly in cheek.

//yes, copy'n'pasted from the, er, copy.

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GPS and TV

I have an EeePC 900 and use a Globalsat BU-353 USB GPS and a Gigabyte U7000 USB DVB-T tuner. Both work well with Ubuntu. I use Me-TV for TV viewing and Navit with Openstreetmap for the GPS. Navit takes a bit of reading to set up and download the maps. I also have a Huewei E169 HSDPA USB modem that is plug and play with my provider here in Australia.

The uses for a netbook are only limited by the imagination, but IMHO what they are not good at is being small cheap notebooks - there are plenty of "real" cheap notebooks for that.

I do like the windscreen mount thanks for the tip

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Bronze badge

£16 for a Bluetooth dongle??

You must be mad. This one from DealExtreme costs £5.50, is the same size and works perfectly out of the box with Ubuntu on my Aspire One, connecting to my Dell mouse and Nokia phone (at the same time):

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.12696

But I'm sorry - the annoying flashing LED is green...

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Even better...

And this one is a quarter of the price, works equally well, and doesn't have an annoying flashing LED. :)

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.11866

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Stop

Windscreen mount

Would be interesting to see the effect of a passenger side airbag on that netbook mounting kit if the car crashed

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Bronze badge

Windscreen smash

...which is of course much more likely to happen by the driver being distracted by the ridiculous contraption.

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Stu
Boffin

GPS tip

If anybodys looking at adding GPS, have a think back about whether you bought a bluetooth GPS receiver for a ye-olde smartphone prior to GPS being built in. I have one of the Holux GPSlim models.

If ever I want to add GPS to a PC, provided it has Bluetooth, I just pair that up, and it should show up as an RS232 style serial link, as COM#, probably COM4 or nearabouts. To see whether it works, connect into it with HyperTerminal (I know its gone now in Windows 7) and you should see a stream of incoming NMEA strings.

Any GPS software, including some freebies (Google Earth I think?) should work with it.

No need for a USB GPS dongle, it saves the need to drape a USB cable over to the receiver on your dash. You might even be able to pick up a secondhand BT GPS receiver cheap off Ebay, cheaper than a USB model.

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Silver badge

I don't get it

If you are adding accessories to your portable computer, won't it get less portable?

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Boffin

Best accessory I ever bought...

The best accessory I ever bought is a U2o external battery pack - it will power my Acer Aspire One for several decades (OK, about 5 hours), has a 5V USB output just in case your mobile phone, Nintendo DS, PSP or other gadget needs some juice PLUS because it's a generic battery and the output voltage is adjustable it can be used with other DC-powered devices too - it sure beats buying a spare laptop battery that will only fit one thing.

Long link warning:

http://www.ultimate-netbook.co.uk/info/reviews/netbook-battery-reviews/18-4winmobile-review-of-u2o-13200-netbook-battery.html

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Silver badge
Stop

Wireless Mouse and Keyboard

I laughed in disbelief at £70 for the Logitek wireless optical mouse.

Go to PC World and spend £18 on the PC-Line wireless keyboard and wireless optical mouse kit.

It may not be stylish and the keyboard action is clunky (it's slim and small and neat though); but it does the job very well and it's only £18 for keyboard and mouse !!

I often use this arrangement at home with my netbook connected up to a 19" LCD monitor. Apart from the speed of the netbook, it's just like using a real computer :)

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So with all those USB devices...

Where's the ultimate in netbook USB hubs to connect all of those things up at once? :)

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Silver badge

http://www.amazon.com/Kikkerland-006-USB-Hubman/dp/B000YHBCJC

http://www.amazon.com/Kikkerland-006-USB-Hubman/dp/B000YHBCJC

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Gold badge
Happy

Two birds, one stone.

http://www.msi.com/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=131&prod_no=94

Yup, a USB hub with Bluetooth built in. Adds Bluetooth connectivity and gives you two* more USB ports thrown in for free. I have one, works a charm.

*Yes I know it has three, but you just used one to plug it into, didn't you?

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Busbi Mini

Is this useable as a bootable USB drive for a linux install? I want to shove eeebuntu on the machine and this looks like a good way of doing it.

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USB ports and packing all this stuff up

Okay; 3G Modem, Mouse, 8GB thumb, DVD Drive, bluetooth adapter. That's five USB slots....

Where the USB Hub "Essential?"

Lapdesk, Speakers/Soundbar... These are not "Essential."

Okay: $400 Netbook, $500+ of "Essential" netbook accessories. Then you suggest a case that doesn't even have space for all the accessories as being "Essential.".

I get the size factor of the netbook, but if you have to make all the additional purchases listed here, why not just buy a decent laptop for $900 and I'm sure they'll throw in a free case. If I had the time to break-down and pack the 9 "essential items (and a USB hub) in this review into a case to go on the road, I'd go insane.

Great product reviews and plugs for the various companies, though. But nothing on this list is "Essential."

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