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Old 03-29-2009, 04:21 PM   #1
jgray
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Cheap netbook/ereader

Some of you may have already seen those Chinese netbooks that have a MIPS processor and run Linux. They sell for around $169 and are sold under several brands (Alpha 400, CnMBook, Elonix, etc.). The hardware is made by one Chinese company and the Linux is mostly the same, but slightly customized for each brand. They have a 7" screen and are about the same size as the original eeePC.

The reason I mention this netbook is that for the price, it makes a pretty good ebook reader. Surprisingly, it comes with FBReader preinstalled (although an older version that has some options removed).

I recently got one of these netbooks in a trade and found it to be quite acceptable for ebook reading. It is smaller and lighter than my eeePC 1000HE. Since I already had the 1000HE, I sold the Linux netbook. However, I was tempted to keep it because of the smaller size/weight. The advertised battery life is four hours. With the WiFi off and the screen dimmed, this is achievable.

There are some online resources for adding additional software, hacking, getting root, etc. If anyone is interested, I'll post the URLs that I found. There is even a full Linux distro that someone has developed. The Linux that comes preinstalled only allows you to run the preinstalled programs via large icons on the desktop (Abiword, Gnumeric, Firefox 2, FBReader, etc.).

If I had kept the unit, I was going to see about installing a newer version of FBReader. I found a MIPS version of the program, so it should have been just a matter of creating an installation package (the netbook has its own package format).

BTW, the vendor that sells the CnMBook version of the hardware has the most information, software and patches on their web site. Since the hardware is the same, any of the Linux images can be flashed, regardless of which brand Linux netbook you bought.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:22 PM   #2
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Interesting! I take it this works well for PDFs?
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:25 PM   #3
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It has a PDF reader, but the program is a bit quirky. Also, I wouldn't recommend reading PDFs because of the 7" screen.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:39 PM   #4
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I've been looking at the Alpha 400 for a while now. I used an NEC Mobilepro 780 for years until I dropped it (sad panda). The Alpha would be a very capable replacement, and lots of fun to fiddle with, but money is tight atm. I'd replace the native Linux with the 3MX Linux that's been developed.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:46 PM   #5
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I'd replace the native Linux with the 3MX Linux that's been developed.
OK, you officially are a member of the techno-geeks You already know about that alternate Linux distribution.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:51 PM   #6
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I've been looking at the Alpha 400 for a while now. I used an NEC Mobilepro 780 for years until I dropped it (sad panda).
(Serious mode enabled)

The brand that I briefly had was the Alpha 400. I flashed it with the CnMBook image and added some other themes/wallpapers. The default themes/wallpapers were too cluttered for my taste.

As for the Mobilepro 780, I used to have one of those. It was a very nice unit and the keyboard wasn't too bad for typing. You know, even back then, I mostly used it for reading ebooks.
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