I bought a white 4G eeePC on Saturday (at the Good Guys Alexandria on my way back from Mascot after being given the run around by a luggage repair shop – sent me an sms saying come and pick up your bag, then when I get there the bag wasn’t ready. In fact the part wasn’t even in the State anyway…). Price for credit card was $455 (a $3 discount off the advertised price).
The shop assistant was pretty good telling me about the machine, including that it ran Linux (although didn’t make a big thing of it, nor that it wouldn’t run windows software). That said, he did say that if I got an SD card I would be able to load XP onto it. I suspect that the instructions in the manual on how to do this raise Trade Practices issues and may get around to posting a comment on that sometime.
It worked out of the box (battery was charged). I have spent a little bit of time coming to terms with it over the weekend. It comes with Xandros Linux, which if I recall correctly has entered a patent deal with Microsoft, so is therefore on the nose. I will need to work out how to hose it. The software available (and the set up with the unionfs) makes it clear that it is designed as an appliance, albeit a relatively versatile one. ASUS maintains a repository of programs, but it is very limited, so you need to add others to get a wider variety of stuff (a good starting point for things eee is the unofficial eeeuser site.
I had some trouble setting up networking, primarily because the cable wasn’t plugged in at the router properly. After the cable was plugged in it worked much better. I haven’t tried leeching off someone else’s wireless but there’s time enough for that.
The user is identified as “user” and it doesn’t come with an ssh server. I have downloaded the frotz z code interpreter and may take some IF games away with me [Note: to install frotz you first need to add other software repositories (and "pin" them). Once this is done type sudo apt-get frotz from a terminal (ctrl-alt-t) or install via synaptic.]
This post was typed on the eee. The keys are a little cramped (I don’t have big fingers), the right shift that everyone complains about is hard to hit, and the apostrophe is elusive. That said, typing isn’t too much of a strain, although I would be wary of using the keyboard for long documents.
The touchpad is small, but functional and just as annoying as any other touch pad. I will probably pack a USB mouse to take with me wherever I go. I guess I could also take a flexible keyboard that I have. The touchpad has a single button, but clicking on the left or right side makes it a left/right click respectively. The touchpad also has a scrolling area which works pretty well. I slightly increased the sensitivity of the touchpad.
Thankfully the keys aren’t as loud as normal keyboard keys but aren’t silent. While the screen is small the definition is still comparatively high, so there is enough stuff on a screen, although some fonts are a little bit hard to read. Battery lasted about 4 hours with minimal use. It seems to be pretty portable, but I haven’t taken it out yet to see. I may do that in the next 15 minutes.
Update – The Trip to the Coffee Shop
Well, I went to get some lunch and took some stuff to read (and the eee just in case). Got to the end of what I had printed and found I didn’t print enough. However, I had loaded the pdf of the doc onto the eee, so it was a good excuse to get it out and show it off – so I did.
The pdf reader (Acrobat 7) provides good readable text if you can master it. Ctrl-L for full screen, but this resizes the image to fit page – ie way too small. If you use ctrl-m to zoom you get good size fonts across the width of the screen.
So I sat and I sat. It was a quite time in the cafe so there wasn’t really anyone in the shop to show it off to. Until, that is, the owner came over and asked about it. He knew it was Linux and that you could load up XP on it. That the local coffee shop owner can not only identify the machine, but also that it runs Linux (in my view) speaks volumes for market recognition of both this device and Linux.
Misc Other Observations
I have run it now for about an hour this afternoon and the battery is at 80%
The manage photos app (gwenview) has a launch gimp menu item – but gimp doesn’t seem to be installed.
The fact that there is only 1 ctrl key annoys me (can’t ctrl-shift-select). Presumably there is a way to remap the right alt key to a ctrl key… However, the fact that the whole keyboard can be reached with 1 hand is great (for those times when you only have 1 hand free).
To boot from a fully shut down machine to a functioning workspace takes about 15 seconds (guesstimate) and from suspend probably under 10. The eee also renders the flash based traffic graphs (on WordPress) that I have never seen before (not having loaded a proprietary flash player on my other machines) and wish were just jpgs served by the server rather than awful Flash.
The more I use it the more I like it. Now I just have to find a way to make it a more ethical machine.
Finally (?) the eee is pretty much the only electronic device in the house (including my mobile phone) which has correctly negotiated the change in daylight savings (which is to say it didn’t incorrectly think daylight savings finished yesterday).