Saturday, September 6, 2008

tt4t_053 The Mini Laptop Competition Heats Up

It’s Saturday, September 6th, 2008 and welcome to Episode 53 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week has witnessed more news on the mini laptop / netbook front as Dell has now entered this arena with its own entry. The Dell mini 9 netbook comes in three versions and all are under $500. There are also rumors that Michael Dell may have something in the works that will offer a subsidized deal on netbooks in the future that could also offer broadband Internet access in a package deal. Several links are provided in the show notes to more information about the Dell mini 9 netbook. The Dell netbook will definitely be competition to the ASUS eee PC’s and other netbook competitors as this category of laptops is getting crowded.

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Dell Inspiron mini 9

The first article in the show notes is about a european story where the Dell mini has built in wireless and 3G access with service provider Vodaphone.

A similar rumor here in the United States from an updated Gizmodo article states that the Dell mini is described as having built-in 3G wireless. The models pricing ranges from $349 to $449 and models are currently available in either white or black and offered with a choice of Linux or Windows XP Home operating systems.

To make matters even more exciting there is a special deal going on until September 9, 2008 according to an article that cites Dell’s own blog as the source, where you can get a Dell mini netbook for only $99 if you buy another Dell Studio 15, XPS M1530 or XPS M1330 laptop from Dell. A link to this article is also provided in the show notes.

Michael Dell has also been in the blog rumor mill with a possible subsidized netbook similar to the European Vodaphone deal coming to the states.

Reading between the lines I think it is possible that we may see a subsidized version of the Dell netbook in the near future. This would be great as I am currently in the market for a wireless broadband card from my carrier, Verizon, but just haven’t been able to pull the trigger and buy a two year contract, especially since there is a 5GB bandwidth cap. If Dell’s netbook is subsidized by Verizon and say the cost of the mini laptop goes down to less than $100 for the netbook itself then I will really be tempted buy an offer like that. Of course Verizon would also win because they would get the revenue from a two year data service contract. Who knows if any of this speculation will come true but I do think that having broadband Internet access on a netbook makes a lot of sense. I just hope it can be affordable.

One trend that I do not like in the Internet Service Provider area is that of capping bandwidth usage and limiting bandwidth availability. The Internet has been a great equalizer in many cases but there seems to be a recent trend of capping bandwidth usage. A 5GB monthly bandwidth limit may not seem like a lot but for a family with three or four Internet users this could be regularly reached. Comcast has also recently set a 250GB monthly bandwidth cap for users of its high-speed Internet service.

If bandwidth becomes a pay-as-you-go model then the digital divide will certainly increase. I am really getting worried about this new business model that seems to be on the rise. It will certainly have educational implications for schools that can consume massive amounts of bandwidth.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

I have a couple of entries for my Technology Pick of the Week this week. My first pick is a fun little Web 2.0 application called Wordle. This application has been around for some time now but I ran across it again the other day and many teachers are crazy over this application. Wordle allows you to paste a block of text and the Wordle application will analyze the text and make a Web 2.0ish word cloud out of it.


I used Wordle to make a word cloud from the transcript text of last week’s TechTalk4Teachers Episode 52. I have a couple pictures of the results in this episodes TechTalk4Teachers blog entry so be sure to check it out.

The second pick of the week is a revisit of Google Docs applications. At the beginning of the semester I usually poll my students about their knowledge on tech ability and applications. Rather than use a piece of paper this week I used the Google Forms feature of Google Docs and Spreadsheets. The form was very easy to setup and once I had the form created I emailed my students the link to the form. Since I teach a computer lab class I had my students use this form in class. I have to admit I was a little skeptical that is would work because I had approximately 20 students using this form all at the same time. Much to my amazement it worked and best of all the students answers were automatically inserted into a Google Spreadsheet. A link is provided in the show notes to an article from Google’s blog about Google Forms.

I would not recommend collecting or placing confidential or proprietary data into the Google Docs family of applications or other Web 2.0 services just yet but for many tasks Google Forms may be a legitimate option for collecting information.

That wraps it up for this anniversary episode 53 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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