8 May 2012

Spaces - The Final Frontier

Netbooks are perceived by many as unrealistic for real work but with a bit of application can be a most useful bit of kit. I'm particularly fond of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, predominantly for its seamless capacity to run OSX but also for its amazing portability, price and robust build quality. My latest (No.4) is spec'd out with a 16GB SSD, 2GB DDR & integral 3G/HDSPA card (which I'm hoping will come in handy for Berlin this summer). This weekend I road tested it for AWS admin, with surprising results thanks to a realisation from an under used OSX utility.

Previous incarnations I've only ever pushed to OSX10.6.3 however with a bit of R&D (and a legacy kernel) I managed to get a stable install of OSX10.6.6 running, which is nice as it provides App Store connectivity and my version of Transmit FTP will run on it (I swear by Transmit).

As I work mostly with Linux the bulk of my AWS admin is carried out through terminal, which on a 1024 x 600 screen is more than useable. Firing off new instances through the online AWS GUI is easy enough though and RDP via CoRD to MS instances is fine also as CoRD offers a full screen option. Even so there's no doubting 1024 x 600 can feel a tad claustrophobic and a few slices of added real estate would come in handy. Fortunately with OSX releases up to 10.6 you get desktop 'Spaces', a feature I never used once on a regular desktop (or laptop) but have since discovered to be a real netbook game changer.

For anyone who doesn't know, spaces (basically) provide extra (virtual) desktops which you can switch between. You could have your email open in one space, a browser on another, multiple terminal windows on a third and 'something' else on the other(s), I'm quite happy with just 4 windows but you can generate up to 18 separate desktops providing an almost IMAX-esque 9216 x 5400 of screen acreage. Not bad when you consider the top end Apple Cinema HD is only 2560 x 1600. Yes, the HD screen is a single span, but you get my drift, and spaces really do make a massive difference.

I was (for one deluded moment) seriously contemplating an £800 11" MacBook Air to see me round the Berlin cafes and co-working but I'm more than happy with the Dell as it is, and I'm sure the extra £700 I've saved can be put to good use elsewhere (they do sell beer and food in Berlin, I know, I've seen it).

For anyone who's geeky enough to be interested the Atom equipped 1.6ghz Mini 9 boots to the desktop in 35 seconds from the SSD, beating My 2.8ghz/8gb MacBook Pro by a full minute. Obviously the Pro is a touch snappier once it's running, but even so, the Mini 9 is a really surprising, under-rated unit and I'm honestly looking forward to seeing what I can achieve on it.

I'll still be taking the 17" of course, you know, for 'best'.

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