This is the forth part of my netbook related tale telling the story of my travels through France with a netbook, and we are continuing on the road with my netbook on my lap and a glint in my eye. If you missed reading “Travelling With My Netbook — Part 1”, “Part 2” or even “Part 3”, be sure to read those first!
Onwards we traveled to our destination at Cap Ferret, netbook in hand (or to be more exact on lap), and soon enough we arrived and set up camp. As you can imagine exploring isn’t too easy with crutches, but fortunately it didn’t take me too long to find what I was looking for despite the fact that we were on a campsite in the middle of nowhere — WiFi.
Now this was a surprise to me, whilst you can expect hotels and the like to have WiFi you don’t normally think of laptops and ‘techies’ when it comes to camping but it would appear that Continental Europe is quite a few steps ahead of us with regards to this (I later found out that this wasn’t even a new feature, it had been present at the campsite for three years now).
So, satisfied I logged onto the free WiFi and sat there happily surfing around, feeling pretty smug but admittedly a little lonely — I mean who I their right mind would bring a laptop/netbook to a campsite? Well it would appear that it was quite a few… I sat down at 9am and I was on my own, by 9.30am there was 8 (bearing in mind this campsite accommodated for around 100 people) and by 9.45am there were 15 of us sitting on benches in the sun and people were giving up as the router refused people access as bandwidth ran out.
Not only was the volume of people using WiFi much higher in France (which may well be correlated to the amount of free WiFi available) but the make up of machines was also interesting. Over the week I was staying there I would say it was split pretty evenly between full size (15″ plus) laptops and netbooks which surprised me a little as I am used to being surrounded by businessmen and gamers with massive laptops at the WiFi hotspots in the UK.
As far as netbooks were concerned by far the most popular model was the Acer Aspire One appearing in the adorable blue which I own as well as the relatively fetching red (it appears the stereotype of the stylish French extends to netbook/laptop colours as well), followed by the Asus Eee PC (with representatives from most of the screen sizes) and various other types including the new Archos 5 and MSI Wind.
So, both WiFi and netbooks are more popular in France but how did the Aspire One fare? Well in my time there I managed to find two rather irritating disadvantages, but again a few more advantages that keeps the Aspire One up there with the best:
The two most irritating things are related to the keyboard and trackpad: whilst in nearly every other way the keyboard is absolutely faultless the placement of the delete key right next to the small backspace key meant that when erasing lines of text I was constantly pressing delete instead and erasing the wrong bit. The second thing is the trackpad — although it looks lovely with no lines (and you quickly get used to the buttons being at the side) the lack of section set aside for scrolling up and down really is missed when you are trying to look through large documents.
But to be honest these are really minor qualms and they pale into insignificance when you consider the great screen, solid design and otherwise faultless keyboard as well as the relatively quick boot and ease of use; and I found that after a while I was the person getting looks of envy from other netbook users!