28 August 2010

ZaReason Terra HD

Jono wrote about his new ZaReason Strata, and Rich wrote about his new ZaReason something-else, so I figured I'd let you all know about the ZaReason Terra HD I said I wanted to order, now that I've had it about a month.

Typing has turned out not to be a problem. This makes sense, if you compare the size of the keyboard to the one on my other ZaReason laptop, a 13" they sold in 2008 under the moniker "UltraLap," but which I call Betty. The only diffrence in width is the extra column of home/pgup/pgdn/end keys, which are Fn keys on this keyboard, and I got used to the gaps between keys.

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What's confusing me the most is that this has the Ctrl on the far left of the bottom row and Fn to the right of it, while on my old Gateway (Ada) and Betty have Fn on the corner and Ctrl to the right of it. I use Marlyn (the Terra, named after Marlyn Meltzer, another ENIAC programmer) a lot when on the bus to/from work, though, so it's actually on the other laptops that I screw up a lot. Oh, can you guess which thumb I use to type space?

"Why do you use it on the bus to/from work?" you may ask. Well, it has a 3G modem built in! So, within an hour of taking it out of the box, I found myself at the T-Mobile store signing up for a SIM card. Some people say "eww, T-Mobile," but they're charging $40/mo for 5GB bandwidth that when exceeded just gets slower, while AT&T wants $35/mo for 2GB followed by overage fees or $60 for 5GB followed by overage fees. Easy choice there! Oh, and the other night when CopyNight was held at Teaism in Penn Quarter (yummy food, recommended!), I was the only one with reception in the basement. That's where I was when I posted the last blog post, actually. I like being able to IRC from the bus! This will be very handy when I'm at a family reunion next weekend with no wifi and Ohio LinuxFest (where I am speaking) the weekend after that, since the conference center always wants to gouge OLF for Internet access by charging thousands of dollars more than the con can afford to pay to provide access to attendees (resulting in wifi being unavailable).

The one little thing bugging me is the MacBook-like lid. That is, it can't be laid out all the way flat like my other laptops' lids can. MacBooks always make me worry that someone is going to throw a shmooball or other projectile, hit the screen, and either A) snap it off or B) knock the laptop over. I hope B is more likely than A.

I got it with Kubuntu Netbook Edition pre-installed, though I have since upgraded to Maverick which doesn't differentiate between plasma-netbook and plasma-desktop at install-time (meaning I have both interfaces available and can press a button to switch). As far as I know, ZaReason is the only company pre-installing Kubuntu or really any KDE-based distro. When I ordered it, I told Jonathan Riddell (Canonical's Kubuntu hacker), and his first question was "what OS is it coming with?" I said "Kubuntu Netbook," and he boggled and requested confirmation that I was serious.

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Not sure what else there is to say about it. With Firefox running and so refusing to let my SSD sleep (for some reason, Firefox writes to disk every few seconds) or give my CPU a break (yeah, don't get that one either), I get about 5 hours of battery life. I really wish Firefox wasn't such a resource hog. I may have mentioned before that they had a suspend/resume bug to fix before release. I actually ordered a red one and told them to send it unfixed, but the timing on red parts being shipped to the ZaReason shop was perfect for Canonical to inform them that some BIOS tweaks needed to be made and for them to get the parts manufacturer to do it before shiipping! So, I can reliably resume from suspend when I click the suspend button in the battery applet. This uncovered a new bug though: the fact that I have to click that button. I don't care, it's how I usually suspend anyway, and the "suspend if left alone and unplugged for >15 minutes" setting still works so it doesn't end up causing problems anyway.

More pretty photos! I don't think my camera did a good job of showing how metallic the lid is or the fact that the wrist area is slightly rubberised you get a good grip when holding it. Oh, and I love that the power cord plugs in on the side instead of in the back. I like to be able to see where I'm plugging things.

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Oh yeah, I always see people comment on blogs where Linux-laptop vendors are mentioned that they wish there was a company in their country selling these. Guess what? ZaReason ships internationally!


16 comments:

gamerchick02 said...

Wow, that's an amazing laptop. I almost wish I had that instead of the Starling, but I can drool right?

Have you thought about switching to Chromium? I'm using it on both of my computers, and it's really fast and light. Firefox does have a larger extension base though. I've been slowly and surely reducing the number of extensions I need. Sometimes less is more.

My next laptop might come from ZaReason. I'm not in the market right now (both of mine are only a year old) but I'll think about it when these get too old for service; probably in 5 years or so. :-P

Thanks for the great review!

Amy

hhh said...

Nice looking comp! The website says it comes in red and black, I take it you have the red one? It looks distinctly orange in your pics (I like orange). Also, how close to the $449 pricetag did you end up paying?

How much processing is Fx using? Unless I'm running Flash (I just learned about Gnash and haven't checked it out yet), it uses no more than 20% of my 1.8MHz CPU with a half dozen tabs open. The folks at forums.mozillazine.org can help you figure that out.

$480 a year for Internet access. Open source may have made a dent in Microsoft's coffers but it isn't doing squat to the communication companies, is it... that sucks. And no wifi at a Linux convention? Isn't that sacrilege or something?

Fun post, I'm jealous;^)

Mackenzie said...

hhh:
It's ruby-red. The orangeyness is just the magic of incandescent lightbulbs. And as far as $480/yr for Internet access... broadband is $30/mo for the first 6 months and $60/mo thereafter when I've had it. I don't have it at home right now, but I live really close to a Starbucks and a Cosi, so at least I'm not buying it twice. Keep in mind this is a netbook, so it has an itty bitty Atom CPU. I use a server when I want to do builds. I paid $660 including a RAM upgrade, 3G modem, switch to SSD, and a carrying case.

And yes, gamerchick, it's the extensions keeping me on Firefox. I love having tabs in a tree layout on the left side of the screen and being able to eliminate the tab bar on top.

Embedded SPI said...

Regarding L-Ctrl and Fn: Remap the keys - xev to find the keycode of each, then xmodmap in your x startup script to remove/add mappings from keycode to keysyms. Outside of x, figure out where loadkeys gets its mappings and alter them. I'm a gentoo person, so I'd head into /etc/conf.d/keymaps.

Then you could swap the keycaps physically, they look the same size. If not possible, stickers ;)

Worth a try at least, good luck!

hhh said...

Oops, my processor is 1.8GHz, (1.8Mhz would be tiny by today’s standards, wouldn't it?). So I'd think your CPU consumption would be comparable to mine.

Thanks for the reply, it's a purdy netbook.

hhh (Has, short for Hasan)

Mackenzie said...

hhh:
Yeah, I figured you meant GHz. It's a common misunderstanding to think that clockspeed is the most important thing with a CPU. The heat wall was hit nearly 10 years ago. Clockspeeds are not increasing anymore. In fact, the more you increase clockspeed, the more often you'll have missed instructions, so it's a tradeoff really. The actual organization of gates on the chip is different. That's why, for example, PowerPCs with slower clockspeeds outperform x86 CPUs with higher clockspeeds.

hhh said...

And so begins a violinist's introduction to Moore's Law and the power wall. Thanks for the mini-master class!

amysramblings said...

Interesting about having the tabs along in a sidebar. I've never tried that; might have to go back to firefox to see if that works for me. :)

But like I said, I've been trying to consolidate extensions and work with some bookmarklets instead of extensions within Chromium. Works for me, and I'm on the daily-ppa for Chromium. Nothin' like living on the edge!

Amy

jonas.bardino said...

Regarding the Firefox disk hogging especially the first tip from
http://www.avinashtech.com/internet/10-ultimate-ways-to-make-firefox-perform-blazing-fast/ may come in handy (the title should say increase snapshot _interval_ instead of 'frequency', but the instructions are correct and help limit the writes at the cost of slightly older crash recovery data).
It's a trade-off, but raising it to something between 30000 (30 seconds) and 300000 (five minutes) will likely give you a better browsing experience and battery life.

If that doesn't help enough you can perhaps move parts of your local firefox profile in .mozilla to a faster disk or use a ramdisk for the browser cache.
http://wiki.debian.org/DebianEeePC/TipsAndTricks#SpeedupsluggishIceweasel.2BAC8-Firefox3
http://gadgetmix.com/netbook/ramdisk-setup-on-eeebuntulinux/

no_nickname said...

Does it have a glossy or a matte screen? If it is glossy, I won't consider it a good choice for me, since I would mostly use it on the road where the light often isn't perfect and glare is a problem.

Mackenzie said...

no_nickname:
It has a glossy screen that's bright enough to give me no problems in daylight. ZaReason's been selling another netbook called the Teo that has a matte screen and is slightly smaller, but it's temporarily out of stock (sold like hotcakes, apparently).

Bibo said...

Well it appears that they don't have the Teo on the site anymore which is odd because two weeks ago I asked them if they could put an option for an 80gb SSD. Oh well, I'll just get the Terra.

Mackenzie said...

From what Earl said, it sounds like it's off the site pending receiving more parts.

Vincent said...

Thanks for the review, I've now ordered one with Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.10 and can't wait for it to arrive here in the Netherlands.

Vincent said...

Oh, and also: do suspend and hibernate work?

Mackenzie said...

Vincent:
Suspend works, not sure about hibernate. Use the button inside the OS to do it though. It doesn't sense the lid closing properly to do it that way.