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June 7 2011

In today's blog entry, I discuss pasting in X, Windows 8, and the System76 Netbook.

X middle-click pasting

The "normal" way to do middle-click pasting in X is to click on the middle mouse button. This doesn't work very well with the two-button mice, so there is an option to have clicking on both the left and right button at the same time simulate a middle button click. This mouse click chording, alas, doesn't work very will with touchpads where it's impossible to click both the left and right button at the same time.

With such touchpads, the solution is to hit "Shift + Insert", which functions like a middle mouse click in X. I wish I knew this trick six months ago.

Windows 8

Ever since Microsoft released Windows 95, the Windows user interface has basically been the same: A start button in the lower left corner, a taskbar to the right of the start button, and a clock as well as a "system tray folder" on the lower right corner. Aero, Windows 7's interface, has this same basic paradigm.

Microsoft wants to move away from this paradigm with Windows 8. With the rise of smartphones and the iPad making tablets friendly, Microsoft is following the trends by making their Windows 8 interface more like a touch screen interface.

I do not think smartphone-based and tablet-based computing is going to displace desktop computing, for the simple reason that tablets and smartphones are for consuming, not creating content. I can read an ebook just as well on a tablet as I can on a computer with a keyboard; I can not write this blog entry on a tablet as effectively as I can on the Lenovo S10-3 netbook I'm using right now.


System76 makes a netbook called the Starling. This is a Linux-based netbook which comes with a dual-core Intel N570 chip. With a six-cell battery, this computer costs some $444.00--quite a bit more than getting an ASUS 1015PX netbook with similar specs for about $340 (the system costs $320, but a 2GB memory expansion costs $20 more).

So, what do you get for $100 more with the System76 Starling? First of all, it appears to weigh less than the ASUS 1015PX; the ASUS 1015PX is 2.8 pounds with a six-cell battery, which the Starling is 2.0 pounds.

To be honest, I'm a skeptical about the stated 2.0-pound weight of the Starling System76. The lightest mainstream 10-inch netbooks out there weight about 2.4 pounds with a three-cell battery.

Considering that ASUS had to remove the hard disk, as well as having only two USB ports and a single audio jack, to make their X101 weight 2.1 pounds (still more than System76's claimed weight), and considering that System76 is not marketing this as a special ultra-light netbook, but as a Linux-compatible Netbook, the 2.0-pound reported weight of the Starling may well be, say, its weight without a battery.

Since System76 doesn't have to deal with Windows 7 Starter's limitations, the system comes with 2GB of memory already installed. Indeed, if desired, it's possible to get a 600GB solid-state drive (SSD) for the Starling--at the right price.

This looks to be a very good system to have to have for someone who wants to have a Linux system without having to bother with installing Linux and hoping their drivers are compatible. For example, while Linux works nicely on my Lenovo Netbook, I tried two different WiFi cards; neither supports being in "Master"/"Access point" mode for using the computer as a WiFi hotspot, even though the underlying chipsets support this. If a System76 Starling Netbook had this issue, or any other Linux-compatibility issue, I could call up their technical support line and get more than "I don't support Linux" from them.

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