2017.06.10

Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 Laptop

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My wife's old Dell XPS 15 was dying a slow death, and making a lot of fan noise while it did so. After taking the laptop apart and cleaning the fan with no change, I finally decided it was time for a new laptop.

It seems that over time all laptops eventually start making noise – either from a fan or the hard drive. With the advent of SSD's (solid sate drives), the hard drive is no longer a concern, but fan noise is still a ticking time-bomb in my experience. So this time I decided to get her one with no moving parts.

The other common issue I've had with laptops, is having the battery life go to hell pretty quickly. I think this is exasperated due to the practice of leaving most laptops in my house (I have a few) plugged in for long periods of time so the battery does not go through frequent drain/charge cycles. Having a longer batter life will help this as my wife will be more likely to leave it unplugged more frequently.

And my final criteria is that the laptop must run well with Ubuntu. I've had my wife using Ubuntu for many years now and have no reason or desire to move her back to Windows.

After doing some internet searches and reading some reviews I found the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 Laptop. And while it was a minimal laptop to be sure (only 2GB RAM and 32GB eMMC drive), it was good enough for my wife's needs. The main selling points of having no moving parts, a 12 hour battery life (that really is about 12 hours), and a price tag of about $120 on sale, made it an easy choice for me.

I liked it so much that I bought one for myself to use for long flights and any time I need to go long periods w/o a power supply. It really just has barely enough RAM to run one or two apps at once, but it's good enough for running Emacs and a browser which is what I spend most of my time using.

To install Ubuntu I followed Nicolas Bernaerts' excellent instructions. And while a 32GB drive is enough for my wife, I wanted a larger drive, so I bought a 128GB USB drive and followed these instructions on mounting it as my home drive. It just stays plugged in all the time. I probably could have just put the entire installation on it and booted from the USB. Maybe I'll try that at a later date as then my setup becomes a lot more portable if my laptop should die on me.

My only complaint about the laptop is with its keyboard. It is very stiff and I find it difficult to consistently have key presses register. I'm hoping this will ease up over time. Also, I would be happier with 4GB of RAM as the swap partition gets used a lot.

People think computers will keep them from making mistakes. They're wrong. With computers you make mistakes faster.

– Adam Osborne