Asus Eee

30.12.2007 0:34

A few days ago I bought myself an Asus Eee PC. It's a black 4 GB model with an integrated camera - the only model you can buy currently in Slovenia. I bought it mostly because I heard a lot about on various blogs and I was curious to try out Linux on such a little portable device. I also had a few occasions when I missed a little hackable Linux machine for some short term tasks. Since OLPC's Give one, get one program is only for people in U.S. and Nokia's tablets aren't much good for working in console Eee was the only way to go.

inches in front of 21

I only had the original software on it for one day, so I can't say much about it. What I saw of it was quite nice, especially the super-fast boot (Enrico Zini has a more detailed description).

I said I wanted a hackable machine and Eee is just that. All hardware works on Linux without problems. I had Debian installed on it in a few minutes and after a few hours of work every last bit of Eee worked, including Wifi in monitor mode, integrated camera, on-demand CPU frequency scaling and suspend-to-RAM. There are a few excellent sources of information available, like, Debian for Eee and Eee PC support for Ubuntu.

Debian installation took a little more than half of the built-in storage. I didn't bother a lot with X11 software since I mostly intend use this computer from the console (Firefox and Thunderbird are the only two X11 applications I think I will need). Just out of curiosity I installed a basic GNOME desktop just to see how it works. I'll probably replace that with Blackbox or something like that soon since GNOME seems a bit of an overkill.

So, the general impression from these few days is very good. Keyboard really is very small, but I got used to it pretty fast. On a few occasions I actually held the computer at the sides with palms over the keyboard and typed with my thumbs. Handy for a few keystrokes when you don't have a surface to put the computer down.

Display is surprisingly bright and clear. It's also big enough to comfortably browse the web and text-mode console is approximately the size of a terminal window on my desktop computer. The trackpad is small but does it's job well enough for me. Wireless reception is just amazing. From my window I see something like 15 networks from around the neighborhood where my Powerbook only sees my own access point. 512 MB of RAM seems little small by today's standard but it turns out that even with GNOME desktop running it's more than enough. So far I never used more than some 300 MB. The lack of RAM for disk caching is mostly irrelevant because of the speed of the built-in solid-state drive.

The hardware does show its cheapness in a couple of spots. One is the battery monitoring (through ACPI) which is very rudimentary. It seems that there is no actual hardware in place to integrate battery current and provide accurate maximum/remaining mAh readings. Instead you only get a charge estimate in percent (which is probably merely deduced from battery voltage). The other is the microphone which gives a really bad recordings. I tried to record my voice a couple of times and I could barely understand what I was speaking (there could be something wrong with my ALSA settings though).

So in conclusion it's a great little machine for 299€ and the QUERTY keyboard makes it way more usable than a palmtop or an internet tablet of a similar price (have I mentioned that it's also the ultimate way to play Nethack on the go?). I just hope that more computers in the future will be designed with Linux in mind like Eee.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life

Add a new comment

(No HTML tags allowed. Separate paragraphs with a blank line.)