Netbooks: The Missing Manual

Author: J.D. Biersdorfer
Publisher: Pogue Press, 2009
Pages: 332
ISBN: 978-0596802233
Aimed at: New netbook users, ideally new computer users
Rating: 3.5
Pros: Useful general information for new computer users
Cons: Not much that is netbook specific
Reviewed by: Sue Gee

Part of the Pogue Press Missing Manuals series, this title is about netbooks, currently a desirable gadget. Smaller and less powerful than a laptop computer a netbook is very portable and potentially convenient for a range of tasks including email, web browsing and word processing. The author points out in her introduction that the book is not intended as a guide to a specific model but rather a guide to the hardware and software realities of this type of device that points out its potential. Like other titles in the series it provides additional information on a book-specific area of the Missing Manuals website which is referred to as the "Missing CD". This includes links to manufacturers website and thus provides some of the buying advice not included in the book.


The slim book is divided into four parts: Meet your netbook; Taking your netbook online; Working with your netbook and Taking care of your netbook.


Chapter 1 emphasizes how a netbook differs from a notebook - in particular by having a limited screen size. It also considers the limitations of a netbooks's keyboard in terms of layout and type of mechanism, its typically less powerful processor, the trade-off between battery weight and operating time and the choice of hard drive available – a normal "spinning" disk or a more expensive but more robust solid state drive or a hybrid model. One tip included here is the potential usefulness of an external usb drive for copying and transferring files to your desktop PC and for backup.


The book looks at the two operating system choices on offer: Windows XP (mention is made of Windows 7 but the title predates its launch) and Linux. A chapter is devoted to getting started with each of them. The last chapter in looks at using peripheral devices including external drives, printer, mouse and an external monitor or TV. The second part of the book has a chapter on how to get online covering both wired and wireless networks and another on email and Web browsing.


The third part opens with a chapter on business use of a netbook and briefly covers Office Live workspace but this is disappointingly short for a novel topic that is potentially useful. The chapter also mentions Microsoft Office, OpenOffice and Google Docs and includes discussion of syncing contacts and calendars. However, the chapter fails to point out the frustrations of small screen and mini-keyboard while discussing business use.



The next chapter, Collaborating with others, looks at Instant Messenger and Skype, returns to briefly to Google Docs and to other online collaboration sites and also mentions social networking sites. The chapter Multimedia fun is largely about photo sharing and also covers music and video. In Playing Games there is emphasis on the limitations of the small screen and suddenly you are reminded that rather than just being about computing in general this is about using a netbook.


The two chapters in the final part go back to being about computers in general. In Protecting You and Your Netbook there are ten tips for online safety and a discussion of viruses and the use of firewalls and a page is devoted to ergonomic issues of prolonged computer and keyboard use. In Troubleshooting Your Netbook there is advice about Windows' and Linux' built-in Help files and about Remote Assistance for Windows and Ubuntu Remote Desktop for Linux. Re-installing both operating systems is also mentioned as the method of last resort and there's advice about seeking help and information online.


Despite the repetition of "Your Netbook" in chapter titles, very little in this book beyond the first chapter is netbook specific. Indeed, if you are already a computer users there's little in that will come as 'new information'.



Last Updated ( Saturday, 21 November 2009 )