Just Me and My Netbook

By Susie Stageberg

Anybody who has tried to share a home with two teenagers and one computer can
understand why, a year or so ago, I put down my foot and shouted, “Enough!
I want my own computer.” My family greeted this announcement with
puzzlement: Mom has really gone round the bend this time. If we humor her,
she’ll subside into her normal self.

But subside I did not. I talked to some of my coworkers and learned that some of
them had recently purchased a portable computer called a Netbook. I was
intrigued, more so when one of my friends let me actually put my hands on a Netbook.

Netbook is a term used to describe a small laptop computer. Measuring approximately 10
inches by 7 inches by 1 inch, these diminutive machines might make you say
“Aw, it’s so cute” when you first see one. A Netbook’s screen is,
because of the size of the computer, smaller than a laptop or desktop computer
screen. The keyboard is more like a regular laptop keyboard than the standard
full-sized keyboard; it is flat, not tiered, and there is no number pad. The
mouse is built into the computer rather than separate from it. Netbooks
typically weigh a little over 2 pounds compared to 5 or 6 pounds for a standard
laptop. In short, it’s a compact little machine.

But the deciding factor was the price. The Netbook I bought cost around $400. I
already have my own copy of JAWS
for Windows
, so there was no extra cost for a screen reader. Within days of
my ultimatum, I was the proud owner of my very own Netbook computer.

My Netbook, like most, has wireless connectivity built in, so I can surf the Web or send
e-mail from my yard, at the kitchen table, or in bed. After some practice, and
with the addition of a few adhesive-backed dots to essential and hard-to-find
keys, I was able to type fairly well on the Netbook’s keyboard. If I want to
write something really long, I can plug in a standard keyboard to one of the
Netbook’s USB ports and type just as I would on a desktop computer. Since I
don’t use a mouse, I disabled the mouse on my Netbook. I put a password on my Netbook,
which nobody knows unless I want them to. The kids cannot get on and install
iTunes, Facebook, or war games. Even if they succeed in figuring out my
password, there’s no mouse for them to use, so they are effectively stumped. This
is all part of my evil master plan to keep my computer to myself.

How, you might ask, do they keep the price on this computer so low? One way is to
use older software. My Netbook came with Windows XP installed–fine by me, even
though the rest of the world is at least two versions of Windows ahead of me. The
small screen size is dismaying for people who want to look at the screen, but it
is no problem at all for me.

As with anything else, there are disadvantages to the Netbook. The speakers aren’t
very powerful, so if I’m in a room with a TV going and I want to read e-mail, I
have to use headphones. The initial Internet security program I installed did
not prevent the computer from getting a nasty virus that caused the whole
system to crash; this necessitated a re-installation of Windows (I changed
Internet security programs immediately). If you want refreshable Braille on your
Netbook, you have to have a separate Braille display, which cuts down on the
portability.

All of these negatives do not outweigh the positives. I can tuck my Netbook into a bag
or a suitcase and take it wherever I go without breaking my back. The built-in
wireless means I can do e-mail anywhere I can get a connection. All in all,
$400 well spent. And nobody uses it but me!

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