Dell Inspiron Mini 10v – Part 3

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

In Part 2 I unveiled my evil plan of crashing SolidWorks 2010 on my lovely brand new Dell Inspiron Mini 10v. This is what happened.

One of the reasons of doing this was to determine whether it was even possible to use a netbook to simply view large data sets. But at that time, my problem was that I did not have any large assemblies at hand to find out whether the software and operating system, given the hardware it had to rely on, could handle it. So I decided to create my own large data set. I didn’t have the time nor the patience to create a bunch of large parts and assemble them together. So I decided to make just one large complicated part. This is what I came up with.

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Here is a closer look.

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Something as weird as this needs explanation. Basically, I created a rectangular slab and sketched a tiny ellipse at one of the corners of its top face. I then used the ellipse to created a 40×33 rectangular pattern to get 1320 ellipses, which I then used to do a “Through All” cut. That went smoothly. I expected a crash in the next step, not here. Next I sketched another tiny ellipse on the right face of the slab and use it to create a 33×2 rectangular pattern, with the idea that after doing a “Through All” cut, the elliptical holes created would intersect those made in the first operation. SolidWorks cranked for while and surprisingly succeeded making the second cut. Frankly, I didn’t think I would reach this far. Finally, as a last step, I created a 40×2 pattern of circles on the front face of the slab and did another “Through All” cut so that they intersected the intersections of the previous two cuts. This time SolidWorks went for a long walk. And so did I. When I returned, to my utter amazement, I found that the third cut operation had succeeded as well. So basically I had successfully managed to cut a total of 1466 circles and ellipses intersecting each other from three directions.

Hats off to the Parasolid modeling kernel for even allowing me to do something this crazy. That too on a netbook. I simply wanted to create a model with a lot of topology (faces, edges and vertices). I believed I achieved that because, thanks to the circular and elliptical edges, the 3D solid had a render mesh of over 2.2 million triangles and the resulting SolidWorks part file was 35 MB. As far as navigating around the model is concerned, I don’t think you can do much with a 6 second gap between consecutive frames. Given that the Intel Atom processor that the netbook uses is about half as powerful as a regular processor of the same clock rate, this is to be expected.

Well, so I failed in my attempt to crashing SolidWorks on the Mini. Maybe I could try shelling the solid to a thickness of 0.1mm. But I think I have already put the hardware and software through enough misery for one day. Moreover I have better things to do with my time.

In summary, for what it is designed to do, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v (and I guess other similar netbooks as well) are just fine. They are extremely small and easy to carry around. Mine came with a 6 cell battery which gives me about 6 to 7 hours, which is great because my HP tx2000 used to die in a hour. I got a nice tight fitting case from the dealer that also had a pouch for the charger, which I must say, is quite small. So after everything is packed this whole thing turns out to be way smaller than a regular laptop bag. Extremely convenient.

Obviously you cannot effectively do real engineering kind of work on these netbooks and neither are you expected to. But, as I found out, you can run a bunch of CAD applications and they respond pretty well. You may even be able to push them to do some complex stuff like I did if and when the need arises. But it would not be wise to rely on them for doing actual work. Netbooks are primarily meant for easy traveling, that’s all.

I am eagerly looking forward to using my Dell Mini during my upcoming US visit which includes SolidWorks World 2010 and a visit to Autodesk. I think the thing I will like most is the 6 to 7 hours of battery time. No more hunting for places to sit that are close to power outlets. Travel unplugged.