Look what I found in my loft: a 9-year old netbook

I splashed out a week or two ago, and bought a Samsung NC10 netbook – a bargain at under £300, and it runs Windows 7 really well.

Impressed with the size and utility of the thing, I recalled a forerunner of the netbook, so went rooting around in my “box of old technology that it pretty much useless but cost money so I can’t ever throw it away”, in the loft.

I came across an old laptop that in its time was known as a “sub-notebook”: we got two of these machines courtesy of Sony, to demonstrate Exchange 2000, specifically the Conferencing Server version, at a big partner event in Birmingham. It was, to date, the biggest audience I’ve ever stood in front of, at about 1,400 people. I had a few minutes to demo the still-in-beta Exchange 2000, and would be doing it jointly with the host for the conference, Jonathan Ross (gulp).

Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server – aka “Jasper”

I’m now struggling to remember when this was, but since Exchange 2000 released in November 2000 (as discovered by the very useful Microsoft Support Lifecycle page), I reckon it must have been early/mid-2000, which would mean the little Vaio has to be at least 8 or 9 years old.

Sony Vaio PCG-C1XN

The two Vaios we had were great – well, great for the time anyway, although even then they were very functionally compromised even when new. The one thing you could say about the machine was it was small, and cool.

vaioCertainly not fast – a 266MHz Celeron CPU (a cut down Pentium II, in essence, for our younger readers), 64Mb of RAM and a 6.4Gb hard disk.

The machines originally came with Windows 98, but we decided to put Windows 2000 on them for the demo; subsequently, I upgraded it to Windows XP and it’s probably a bit too much for the little mite. Suffice to say, it won’t be getting any further along the Windows evolutionary scale.

Other features of note were the webcam (one of – if not the – first laptops to come with one built in, which was the reason we wanted them for the Conferencing demo). A single USB port, FireWire (or iLink as Sony insisted on calling it), a PCMCIA slot, infra-red (you don’t get that any more now, do you?) and a dongle which had composite-video and VGA, complete the mix.

So for our demo we had to install an early Wifi network (it might have been the very first 802.11b from Compaq, costing hundreds of pounds for the router and at least £100 per PCMCIA card). All of this for 8 minutes of Woss-y glory, swept away in the sands of time.

Sony never did ask for it back – I hung onto one, and Steve kept the other. I bet he’s still got it somewhere too.

Dust the old girl off

Enough of this misty eyed nonsense. Amazingly, on plugging the machine in and powering up (apart from my going into the BIOS and setting the clock), it started to resume from hibernate – and dropped me back into the logon prompt for WinXP. I had some head scratching to do, to remember the password – but when I logged in, it was the first time for 6 years and 3 months.



Surprisingly, the Vaio is about the same thickness as my Samsung, so it doesn’t look quite as archaic as you might expect a 9-year old laptop to.

It could even be called a “Netbook”, except there’s no networking on the thing – certainly no wireless, and even dial-up would have required an old modem like the Xircom PCMCIA card I literally just found in my office drawer.

Probably the biggest difference is the price when new. Adjusting for inflation and taking into account what the Vaio would have originally cost, it’s probably nearer £3,000 than the £300 for my NC10.

That’s Moore’s law for ya.

Little pleasures in troubled times

Bar Craft Waiter's Friend Corkscrew

It’s funny how sometimes the little things can give you the most tactile pleasures. An example is one little device I picked up post-Christmas – we were in town trawling round the “sales” and the only thing I really wanted to find was a good Waiter’s Friend. This one came from John Lewis and cost the princely sum of £2.90, yet it is the best corkscrew I’ve ever used, it feels great (quite heavy, nice & grippy, solid) and looks good too. What a bargain.

I’m finding out things about Windows 7 every day, that have that same sense of quiet satisfaction about them – you know, you just smile to yourself and are pleased about them. I started using Windows 7 on my work PC about a week ago, and it’s just brilliant

See what Apple fan Don Reisinger over at ZDNet has to say about it.

Steve posted some more hot key tips last week, and the one I love the most is the Magnifier (key Win & + or Win & –) – it’s a bit like a cross between the magnifier that’s part of Intellipoint and the old Magnify “accessibility” function in Windows XP.

Some people use magnifiers because they have to in order to see, or because they’re doing something that requires particular precision (like aligning items or editing pictures). I think Magnify utilities should be mandatory for anyone doing a demo to more than a handful of people – it drives me crazy the number of times I’ll see someone running a laptop at some absurdly high resolution on a projector that isn’t capable of displaying it, and even if it was, you’d need to be 3ft away from it to be able to read anything.

I ranted about magnifying before, a couple of years ago.

Win+ will bring up the magnifier UI in Windows 7…


If you select another window from the little options palette, it turns into an semi-opaque magnifying glass.  If you minimise the little window, you can still imageuse Win+ and Win- to zoom in and out with nothing overlaying the display. And, for best of all for some demos, change the view to “Lens” and you’ll get an Intellipoint-style rectangle that zooms whatever is under the mouse, but leaves the rest of the screen as normal. The difference here is that it supports the Aero effects (unlike Intellipoint) and it allows animations of whatever is happening at the cursor (like menu flyouts, highlights etc) to carry on within the magnified area, unlike some magnifiers which just take a bitmap snapshot and zoom it in.


The new car smell in Windows 7 is a deep and rich, lustrous odour. And it’s still got months of finessing and development left to go. I can hardly wait.

Windows 7 tips & tricks, and Media Center tuner drivers

The Channel 9 guy loves Windows 7!I put Windows 7 Beta 1 on my home PC the other day (as a dual boot config with Vista x64) to see what it was like; I was very pleasantly surprised, with the exception of the fact that Media Center – much as it looks nicer – didn’t work out of the box with my Hauppauge Nova-T USB 2 tuner box that I use to record stuff on Media Center.

I have to admit to not using MC as the primary telly. I know some who do, but it hasn’t – yet – passed the “wife” test. So we have Sky HD in the main room for most TV, though I’ve sneaked an XBox in there with wireless connection to the home network, and it happily picks up stuff that the main PC records… sometimes unexpectedly.

Hats off to Hauppauge for their almost peerless support forums, and to “Mr X” for his enthusiastic sponsorship of the forums. There were posts late last week on their forums saying that the Nova-T tuner was blue-screening Windows 7; he said he’d try to get a driver up and running for download early this week, and sure enough it’s there and all is now well.

Today, I took the plunge and installed Windows 7 on my Lenovo Thinkpad X61 work PC – so far, so good – everything works, everything works well…

I came across ex-pat Brit and now Seattle-ite, Tim Sneath’s blog earlier today – it has some great tips for what Windows 7 beta is already doing for the end user experience. Reading the list might sound trivial, but reading it on a Win7 machine (which appears to run more smoothly and quicker than anyone might expect), it’s hard to stop the smile spreading across the face…

If you’re going to experiment with Win7, definitely check out Tim’s blog. Some great tips & tricks up there already, and hopefully more to come.