Since we were going to be spending so much time on the road this year, Vanessa and I bought a $300 netbook to bring with us. (Rationale: I didn’t want to bring something heavier or more expensive all over Asia and South America; I also don’t want to type any of my account passwords into any computer I don’t control.)
Well, I found netbooks starting at $300, but at the time I was looking (March 2010) there were newer models available with double the battery life, which seemed useful for traveling, costing $350… and that’s with Windows 7 Home Basic edition, and 1GB of memory.
First things first, running Windows 7 in 1GB is an exercise in pain. (Well, running it on a slow netbook will be anyway, especially once we try to do photo processing in Lightroom, but so it goes; again we didn’t want something heavier or much more expensive. But the memory we can do something about.) So we upgraded it to 2GB of memory for $40 — this part at least we figured out before we left home.
What I hadn’t predicted was how limiting the Home Basic edition of Windows would be. Two Windows features that are really valuable for travelers sharing a computer are
fast user switching, so two people can switch between their own accounts without completely logging out
internet connection sharing, so if one person is using the computer, the other can use a spare smartphone like an iPhone over the same network connection
and it turns out these features are only available in the Home Premium edition of Windows 7. Microsoft lets you upgrade between editions at any time, but charges $70 for the privilege.
So, the $300 netbook turned into a $450 netbook. It works a lot better now, though.