All posts for the month August, 2008

I’ve been following the ASUS Eee PC, ultra portable laptop since it came out. but I felt the original 7″ screen was a little small and the storage capacity limited. That changed when they came out with the next model. I finally gave in and ordered a Eee PC 901 on August 20th. I got the 1.6GHz 20GB, Linux model and it arrived on Tuesday.

My first impressions are quite favorable. It’s fast and lightweight. The 9.8″ screen is bright and very readable. The Linux distro it uses is a version of Xandros and it is very complete. I have had no real problems with any of the numerous software packages that are pre-installed. It is easy to set up and use.

Best of all, it boots up like lightning – maybe 30 seconds total. Not quite instant on, but close. It is very practical to keep it handy and turn it on just to check the weather or news and then flip it off again. No agonizing wait for boot up or shut down.

Some of the features of this machine I really like are:

  • 3 USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet port and an SDHC card slot that allows up to 16GB of additional, removable, storage.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 20 GB solid state HD (no shock and vibration worries) and 1GB RAM
  • Skype pre-installed with a built-in Web Cam for video calls
  • About the size of a hardbound book – 2.2 pounds with battery.

There were only a few problems:

  • I had trouble getting the Wi-Fi to work. Then I found out I had set up the wrong type of encryption for my network. Once that was fixed all was well.
  • I had a lot of trouble with the “tap” feature of the touch pad. I finally had to disable that since I was forever clicking when I didn’t want to. An external mouse is still a nice addition. The touch pad is okay for a quick check of email or a web site but I’m much slower using that compared to a mouse.
  • Using Thunderbird for email and USENET. It just does not have all the features I want. Maybe a later version will fix some of its problems but right now it is a bit of a struggle. On the other hand, it does work with no real bugs that I have found.
  • I haven’t found a version of TrueCrypt that can run in the GUI on this machine. The command line version is too cumbersome for me. This is minor but a nuisance as I worry about keeping unencrypted private info on a laptop.
  • the shutdown process hangs if you have Wi-Fi enabled. I think this is a known bug and there will probably be a fix one day. The work-around is to either be sure to turn off Wi-Fi before shutting down or to use the “emergency shutdown” (manual power switch).

Here are some pictures of the unboxing. Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

After opening the outer boxWhen I opened the outer box I was dismayed that Amazon had not filled all the empty space with plastic air bags as is there usual procedure. Still, everything looked to be in good shape.

Inside the boxHere is how the inside of the box looked. Very well protected and everything intact. I guess the lack of padding in the outer box was not a problem.

ContentsEverything from the box spread out on the table. The battery is not installed in the PC so the back edge looks a little strange.

Eee PC screen and keyboard

This is a shot of the screen and keyboard after I booted it up for the first time. Worked like a champ – looked cool.

In summary, I would recommend the Eee PC to anyone who wants a light, simple machine for email, web surfing and basic computing while traveling. You should not be afraid of Linux in this application. It works well and is easy to get used to. ASUS has put a lot of effort into making the interface as user friendly as possible while still retaining the parts that makes geeks love Linux.

I should caution that my personal biases should be considered before anyone takes my recommendation too seriously. As they say, “YMMV”.

  • I’m not a fast typist and don’t mind the small keyboard.
  • Low weight and small size are highly important to me when traveling.
  • I’m looking for ways to wean myself of Windows and Microsoft.
  • I am a nut when it comes to cool gadgets.