GEEKNOTE: Some months back, a very nice customer of mine came in and bought an Acer Aspire One, a cute little netbook with Windows XP installed. A week or so later as "CI" was leaving the house, he was distracted by his wife, put the netbook on the ground and forgot about it...right up until he heard it crunch as he backed his car over it.
He brought the crushed remains in for me to declare dead. We discovered that the hard drive with all his data was buried deep inside the netbook and there was no easy way to remove it short of completely disassembling the computer. This part at least was easy enough since it was already in several pieces when it came in and we really couldn't break it any worse than it was already broken.
In addition to selling Netbooks with Windows installed, somebody at Acer got the bright idea of selling netbooks with Linux installed, so they could sell them extra cheap (under $200). There is a special place in Hell reserved for the guys who came up with the idea.
A few weeks ago, I had another Aspire One come in for service. This one had a version of Linux installed and it the browser wasn't working. Adding to the challenge was the fact that the netbook's owner, who cooks at a local restaurant, had chosen "Italian" when originally setting up the netbook. The limit of my Italian language skills ends somewhere just beyond "lasagna" and "cannoli"... We got the netbook working, but it came back a week later doing a continuous reboot routine. I must say, I was tempted to follow the example set by "CI", but I kept my cool and went to work reinstalling an operating system.
The Linux version of this netbook comes with a Linux distro ("distro" is geek for "distribution") I'd never heard of. I did some research on it and found it online. I downloaded and burned a CD image, loaded it into an external DVD player (the netbook doesn't have an optical drive), and installed the OS. Worked great, except the camera, the network jack, and the wireless...
The second and third distros I found wouldn't even install.
Fortunately, I found another Linux distro that claimed to support netbooks. This time everything worked and I was able to reunite the netbook's owner with his machine. Total time to get this machine working again was somewhere north of 4 hours, which, had I billed for all my time, would have exceeded the new price of the netbook. Fortunately for my customer, I didn't charge him for the challenge.
At last report, the netbook is still working. The owner is getting lots of practice using English with his computer now.
There are several morals to this story:
-- I should have paid more attention to foreign languages in high school and college. I've also had a machine come in recently with the Polish version of Windows installed and we had a German couple come in a few weeks back. I've also recently learned that I have a pressing need to learn Japanese.
-- Linux is NOT quite ready for mere mortals. The various Linux distros are great for geeks looking for a challenge, but leave normal folks at a complete loss when something / anything goes awry.
-- Regardless of what OS comes with your new computer, make sure you get a DVD with the OS on it, or make a recovery disk set as the very first thing you do when you get it home. Linux, Windows, Android...doesn't matter. If you don't get disks or a way to create them, don't get the computer.
-- If your netbook breaks, consider it disposable. Please.
The experience wasn't a total loss. I finished working on the Acer the Saturday of Bike Fest and when I walked over to deliver the netbook to it's owner, I took advantage of my limited Italian and bought a slice of the pizza they were selling out in front of Mezzaluna's.
As always, feel free to drop me a note or give me a call if you have any questions about your computer or the Internet.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)