As I dig a little deeper into Scribus, I’d like to take a detour to introduce all the writers on this site to your new best friend: the netbook. As many (if not most) of you know right now, there is a new class of portable computer bumrushing the technology sector. These so-called “netbooks” occupy seven of the top ten spots on Amazon’s best-selling laptops list, and they may just be the best tool that a struggling writer could hope for.

There is a great deal of controversy over what exactly constitutes a netbook (versus a “mobile Internet device,” or “MID,” an “ultra-mobile PC,” or UMPC, or any of a dozen other acronyms or buzzwords). But they can be easily summed up by three characteristics:

  • Cheap: Probably the main reason that this category of device took off was because of the price, which (although originally slated to be in the $200 range) averages anywhere between $300-$600. This is a far cry from the old “sub-notebooks” or “ultra-portables,” which ran anywhere from $1,500-$3,000.
  • Portable: Although there is much bally-hooing about exactly what the maximum screen size and/or weight is for a device to be considered a netbook, the only thing that matters is that you can throw one into a briefcase or day bag and completely forget it’s there.
  • Moderately-Powered: The trade-off with a netbook, compared to the old-style sub-notebooks, is that they don’t contain the same components as larger notebooks in a smaller package. Instead, netbooks contain lower-performance (and hence lower power consumption) parts such as the Intel Atom processor or solid-state drives instead of hard disks. But not to worry – read on about netbook performance.

So, having bought a new netbook (an MSI Wind) a few weeks ago, I wanted to outline the reasons why I feel it’s one of the best investments I’ve made towards my writing. I would recommend a netbook as a tool for any writer because:

  • It can go wherever you go. In the short time I’ve owned the Wind, there have been at least four occasions that I’ve been out and about when I had an idea for something.  I just broke out the netbook, and started capturing that idea within sixty seconds.
  • It holds everything you’re working on. Another thing that sets the netbook apart is that it will let you take all of your work with you. I have all of my writing “checked out” from my file server (more on this later) on my Wind.
  • Netbooks can do it all. Although with a device like the Dana (or, in my case previously, a Palm TX with an external keyboard) you can write the words (i.e. plain text), with a netbook you can write it, format it, find a market for it, and submit it. All from your favorite coffee spot.

But what about performance? Well, I’m happy to report that most netbooks will do almost anything you need them to do as a writer without getting bogged down. The only exception I can think of here might be heavy desktop publishing/graphics editing. But not only have I done the usual writing, browsing, and e-mailing from the Wind, I’ve also run web development software and moderate image manipulation.

It may seem odd to group this together with the other posts I’ve been doing on the “Moving to Linux” series. On the contrary, it’s very appropriate: many of the new netbooks coming out are pre-installed with Linux instead of Windows (to help keep the price down, among other things). So, you’ll be relieved to know that all the great tools we’ve been discussing will all be available on your shiny new netbook.

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