Years ago my mom bought a tiny Sony Vaio PictureBook PCG-C1VN . This was the second sub-notebook computer I had ever seen: the first was a Toshiba Libretto owned by another guy at the consulting company I was working for at the time. The PCG-C1VN was perfect for my mom, who only needed a computer to give her PowerPoint presentations when conducting a training or retreat. Remember, this was years ago, before the proliferation of USB media. She learned pretty early that simply burning her presentations on CD was insufficient because while every facility had a projector for her to use, not every facility had a computer to connect to that projector, and when they did they didn't always have PowerPoint. So she bought the PCG-C1VN and took that loaded with her presentations. All in all, this worked out extremely well for her.
Late last year, during the height of the One Laptop Per Child Give One Get One program, I bought an XO-1 laptop for myself. I used it off and on for a couple of months, and finally sold it to a friend of a friend. It's a terrific piece of hardware, with some very clever software, but it's not really something I need. I occasionally sat on my porch using the XO-1, but as often as not it sat powered off in my office.
The XO-1 isn't exactly a netbook, but that's how I was treating it. Sometimes I don't want to lug my laptop around with me, when all I really need is something on which to check email, or occasionally ssh into a server somewhere. I can, of course, do both of those tasks from my phone, but anything more than just skimming the contents of my Inbox from my phone involves too much typing on the infuriatingly small keyboard on my Palm Centro.
So last night, with help from Mike, I installed Debian onto the PCG-C1VN. It, too, isn't quite a netbook, but it's closer than the XO-1. The Sony has a Transmeta Crusoe CPU running at 800 MHz, and while it only has 512 MB of RAM, I think I can install a slim window manager (matchbox, openbox, etc), a small terminal, and the Epiphany browser to get most of what I need out of this small form factor laptop. It won't be a speed demon by any stretch, but it should be satisfactory.
I thought long and hard about installing Ubuntu onto the PCG-C1VN so that I could try out the new netbook remix, which puts a nice netbook interface over the top of a standard Ubuntu installation. The netbook remix looks slick, but, alas, I think that running a standard Ubuntu installation would be too much for the poor little PCG-C1VN to handle.
Or maybe I'll break down and finally buy a true netbook, like the Asus Eee. Everyone I've seen using the Eee seems to really enjoy it.