As some may know, I’m involved in astronomy. I especially enjoy doing solar astronomy. Seeing the sun up close with special equipment is amazing. And, sometimes I I do imaging which requires the use of a laptop.  But I don’t want to take my “work” laptop outside. It’s too important. And sometimes, on work trips I wish I had a simple, lighter laptop.

Well, because I have a need for a cheap laptop for astronomy, and because I want a light laptop for those working trips where I am doing mostly writing, I decided to try a Netbook.  A Netbook is a small, inexpensive Laptop.

I wanted to see how cheap I could go and still have a reasonable laptop. I also considered retiring my current HP laptop and getting a new power horse. I could use the HP for astronomy and have a new laptop for work. But I wanted SMALL and light.  Back to the netbook idea.

I bought a Hanspree netbook from Costco. $249.  I had low expectations. If it will do email and run a camera, great, need met.

Well, I was very surprised at the quality and versatility of a $249 netbook! It came with a mere 1 GB memory and no CD drive. The hard drive is 250GB. Built in wireless, webcam and lots of USB ports too. AND an amazing 6 hour battery life. The battery life is real. I’ve never worked long enough to run the battery down! The keyboard is a nice size and hte whole laptop is light as a feather.

The performance is great too. Sure, a Netbook isn’t a powerhouse, but I can get a lot of work done done one my $250 Netbook.

To get some work done, I started with a browser. Firefox is my browser of choice and it’s free. Thunderbird is a great email program and it’s free too.

AVG Free took care of my anti-virus needs.

Finally, to get some real work done, I downloaded Open Office. It’s free too. Open Office includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and  presentation program. The programs are about as good as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I haven’t tried the database yet. Open Office is compatible with MicroSoft Office too.

I bought the Netbook for fun. I wanted something light and simple for working on the sofa or taking on a short business trip get email and make notes. Instead I got a really slick light-weight computer with all the software I need on a portable computer. Total investment: $249.

Actually, I spent $500 because I bought a second Netbook a week later! I use the other one with my astronomy camera. It processes images in avi format as fast as I can take them.

Chris Reich