Netbook For Your Lock-down or Break-out Laptop of Destiny?

I’m starting to think about how this Fall and early Winter will look if we see more cases coupled with seasonal cold and flu outbreaks in my area. I work in the north and miserable weather is the norm, as are colds and flu season surges every year.
The cold and wet end of the year has traditionally been the most prominent time for sickness and misery for those who try to keep working even when bed rest and hot tea would be more appropriate. Summers are short and humid with lots of mosquitoes, so many who don’t have to be outside stay indoors most of the year. This may be the reason we see a lot of cold-related illnesses, not from being outdoors, but from being indoors. As luck would have it I usually spend a lot of time outdoors in the rain and snow……loving it! Actually more so because usually, not many people are around when it’s cold and miserable. This also gives one a better appreciation of dry boots, warm socks, hats, and mittens – not something you may be thinking about right now……..but it’s going to get cold soon enough.

So to begin, as I often suggest; I’ll stock up on tea and coffee and check my supply of chicken soup.
I have to keep working so I make sure I have everything I need to be productive. My computers are all working and their security patches are up to date, but if one should fail I’ve made sure my spare netbook is in good shape.
Yes, I did just refer to a once-promising portable PC form factor that sort of got left behind when iPads took off.
Many times I have pushed my old computers beyond their expected life span. I’ve dropped them in the snow, used them in the rain, the heat and the freezing cold. Now is a good time to think about replacing one if I need to update my hardware for the next extended pandemic wave.

My coffee machine is still working, thank goodness! My coffee thermos is still somewhere around here, and my tools are all in good shape. The truck still runs, but not as often as before last March. If I need to be on the road, I make sure I won’t need to stop until I get to and from my destination. Having my laptop fail in the shop or out in the mountains is never a good thing…especially now.

Now there was a time not too long ago where a netbook was a handy small laptop I could take on the road and carry around with me if I was going to a meeting, job site, or convention and still get some work done. A netbook provided an efficient way to check on or troubleshoot remote equipment or decode a file sent to me to help diagnose an issue. You could often find them marked down to a reasonable price in some big box stores with XP or Win 7 preloaded, which was useful when both operating systems were supported and not very resource hungry.

These handy small form factor laptops allowed me to stay in touch with people and remain available for support as long as I had a phone and my netbook. The netbook had resources enough to handle some basic tasks and handle encryption with very minimal impact. It wasn’t super fast at all tasks, but it got the job done. Since I work mainly from a command line or a shell, graphics weren’t usually necessary. They were rugged enough for most situations.
I could run Linux or Windows, or dual boot both.

Nowadays I use my phone more than any laptop while I’m out and about, but I do occasionally bring a Chromebook or my Linux Daily driver – but if I’m not traveling as often or too far from home I don’t need much more than my phone. I could use a tablet or an Ipad, but I like the clamshell form of a laptop – just not the huge screens of a desktop system.

Today I thought I’d see just how much I can still do with my old netbook besides playing around with lite weight Linux distributions.
I’ve done this a few times already using previous Windows 10 versions, but today I loaded Version 2004, and it took a while. (a long while!)
From writing over my AntiX drive to a complete 64bit Windows 10 with the latest updates seemed to drag. The update process was the biggest delay.
Comparatively, installing most lite weight Linux Distros is much quicker, possibly because I use Apt to update and upgrade once the basic OS is installed.

After spending the better part of the morning setting up the old netbook, it has become painfully obvious to me that this latest version of Windows 10 is not going to cut it. It’s very slow on my netbook, much more sluggish than it was with AntiX or even Xubuntu.
I guess it’s better to go through this exercise and get this all sorted out before the hammer falls and stricter lockdowns are instituted for my area. If you had to run Windows 10 on an older netbook and didn’t mind waiting for applications to start and could live with a slow experience, it does work for very basic computer tasks.
For me this wasn’t really a waste of time, I am able to multitask on multiple projects because I have other machines running, but I figured enough was enough and reloaded the latest AntiX release back on the netbook.
It was nice to be back to a smoother quicker responsive system…even on an old netbook, which may do more for me than serve as an emergency.

First off, I can already do more right out of the gate on this old netbook running Linux than most corporate PCs many companies deploy to their workforce, so I don’t waste time dealing with an IT department help desk for silly stuff – that’s an avoidable time waster for sure. Company issued laptops are usually locked down simply because they don’t trust their employees to make good decisions (that’s basically it in a nutshell)
I can’t really blame them, who needs the liability? If you connect directly to a corporate network you should use the “officially configured and secured laptop or PC you were issued” even if it’s a convoluted process. That’s usually the rule!

On the other hand, if you are more or less the company – you get to call the shots, otherwise, follow the rules and be happy. You don’t want to lose time waiting for someone else to fix your issues if you don’t have to. If the problem’s really bad – call a friend, or switch to your backup (in this case your older somewhat more reliable gear.) For me, that usually means a Linux machine. That’s just the way it works out.

If I’m working on my own project in which I am working on my own systems and network than I have a little more control over how my laptop is configured. That’s where much of the efficiency comes from. If I break my system, I have to fix it myself so I try to avoid breaking it accidentally.

Having a fully updated OS installed on my old netbook is a nice safety net. I don’t have to necessarily use AntiX, but it works for my needs. I have come to the conclusion that old netbooks are still useful tools for anyone who is comfortable running LINUX. I can see this machine as a nice addition to my “Fall 2020 preparations”.

There are a lot more people thinking about prepping in some form or another than before this current pandemic hit.

Linux is a “prep worthy” tool to have on hand because of the minimalist approach you can take with some setups. Netbooks seem to be nicely positioned at this time to facilitate a very simple thing you can have on hand as we head into another possible span of doom and gloom.

Cheer up, now you get to use some of the skills you’ve learned from the last few months of lockdown. If you have any free time while you’re stuck in some form of isolation you can always start reading up on Linux. Keep the coffee or tea hot and make use of this opportunity. A good book on a cold stormy night can be quite relaxing...a netbook.

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