I’m on my way to SXSW for 10 days. As I was packing, I had to make the decision whether to take my new ASUS 1000HE only, or also pack my MacBook Pro.
Ultimately, I decided to bring only the tiny ASUS. My back will thank me later. To “get by” I had to prepare the netbook for the trip before I left and I thought I’d share how I did that.
Free Is Key
I buy quite a lot of software for my Mac. It’s a well stocked machine. Since the netbook is not Mac, I wanted to equip it as cheaply as possible to do the tasks I wanted to be able to do on the road. That means trying to stick with as much open source software as possible. Being a netbook, I wanted to limit the amount of disk space I used for applications.
The ASUS 1000HE comes preinstalled with StarOffice. I’m writing this entry in StarOffice Writer and it’s just like having Microsoft Word as far as I’m concerned. (I do find it funny that it identifies ‘Microsoft’ as a misspelled word.)
Identifying Tasks and Picking Software
First I had to identify what I wanted to be able to do from the road and what tasks would have to wait until I get back to my production computer.
I don’t have an current open jobs requiring me to update or build Flash although having that capability in a pinch would have been nice, but the ability to build Flash had to go. I don’t own a copy of Flash for the PC and I still haven’t jumped on the Flex bandwagon, so building a Flash file while I’m away is not going to happen.
I do want to be able to update SuperGeekery while I’m away though. That should be fairly simple. I maintain this site basically through a web interface, something a netbook is perfect for. That’s fine when it comes to text, but I hope to take photos while in Austin and I’d like to be able to do basic cropping and editing. I’m a Photoshop guru but, as with Flash, I only own the programs for the Mac platform. I decided to try GIMP, the open source answer to Photoshop. I was happy to find out it only takes up about 37 megs on my drive as well. If I had gone with Photoshop, I assume it would be a much bigger drain on my available disk space.
Next, I needed to be able to import photos and videos from my Canon camera. On my Mac, this is handled through either Adobe Lightroom, iPhoto, or Image Capture. I didn’t know what my solution would be, but when I plugged my camera in with the USB cord, Windows asked me what I’d like to do with my photos and videos. I successfully imported a test batch with no problem. Cropping and resizing a photo with GIMP was easy.
My video file though, was an unrecognized file. I thought about downloading Quicktime, but I think that now means installing iTunes as well. That sounded like a very bloated chunk of software. For editing video, I’ve decided to rely upon YouTube’s basic editing tools that are now built into the system. I’m not sure how well they work, but I’ll find out.
Still, I’d like to be able to play the videos on my PC netboook without some bloated software. I decided to install the VLC Player. It took 60 megs of my disk space. I thought it should be able to play just about any video format though and a test proved that it did. Since I had the VLC player, I thought I might try bringing along a movie file I’d ripped from a DVD. Netbooks aren’t known for their video-playing capabilities though. I’m not able to watch a Hulu video full screen on the ASUS 1000HE because it simply can’t handle it. The VLC Player though must be written much more efficiently than the Flash Player Hulu uses because VLC plays full screen video flawlessly for me.
I also wanted to be able to log into several servers for sites I’ve got live around the web. On the Mac, I use Transmit several times every day. It’s an excellent FTP program. It’s also only available on the Mac. What’s a free Windows alternative? Filezilla. I’ve installed it and tried logging in and I’m set. I can do emergency maintenance if I need to and the fact that it’s free and a powerful program is nice bonus. It’s only about 9 megs.
Since I’m on a PC, I obviously need virus protection. I’ve got AVG Free installed. I’ve read it’s not the most efficient anti-virus, but it will do the job. At least I’ve got protection from viruses.
How will it work out? I’ll let you know.