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Three months with the Eee PC

I've had my ASUS Eee for about three months now, and I'm still loving this miniature marvel. If you didn't see our review in LXF 101, here's a recap: the Eee is a mondo-compact Linux notebook, cramming a 900 MHz Intel CPU, 512MB RAM and 4GB flash drive into something a wee bit larger than a couple of DVD cases stacked up. It runs Xandros Linux, and can be snapped up for around £220 (although its popularity has led to widespread stock shortages, so you're most likely to see it around the £250 mark). A slightly trimmed-down version, with 2GB flash and no webcam, is available at £199 if you can find it!

The customised Xandros install is geared towards casual users who want to do a bit of typing (OpenOffice.org) and internet stuff (Firefox, Pidgin) on the go; there's also a media player and some games. But this isn't a crippled, stripped-down PDA -- it's a proper PC, and you can install other Linux distros (or even Windows) if they take your fancy. There's even a special version of Ubuntu, imaginatively named eeeXubuntu, which includes Eee drivers for a decent out-the-box experience. Personally, I'm really happy with the standard installation, plus a few extras: I've enabled the Xandros package repositories, and added AbiWord, Gnumeric, Gimp, GCC and some other bits 'n bobs.

A couple of weekends ago, Paul and I headed off to Brussels* for FOSDEM, and the Eee proved to be invaluable. I didn't want to haul about a hulking great laptop, nor fight my fellow attendees for a seat at the net terminals, so a micro, WiFi-enabled Linux notebook was the perfect solution. We planned our talks-to-attend in Gnumeric, and I could take take photos and post to this blog while watching a presentation. Outside of work, the Eee has been fantastic for coding on the train, taking up north and watching films while curled up in bed. And while I don't want to sound wasteful, it's cheapness is a massive plus -- if it gets broken or nabbed, it's not a huge deal, unlike losing a £1,000+ Sony sub-notebook. Plus, the solid-state drive alleviates the fear of giving it any big bumps or knocks.

But best of all, it's a portable SNES. I'm looking forward to taking this over to my brother (with an extra controller, naturally):

So I really recommend getting one if you're looking for a cheap, super-portable Linux box. Even if you don't like the default Xandros installation, you can install nigh-on any other distro -- just run a script to tailor it for the Eee. As of this blog entry, a whopping 95% of Eee users are happy with their purchase on the EeeUser.com forums; however, if the 7" screen puts you off, then it's worth waiting out for the upcoming 9" model with a higher resolution display. These Eee 900 machines will apparently sell for the equivalent of £305 -- but given the usual UK price bumps, I suspect £350 will be closer. We'll see...

On a completely unrelated note, here's a list of things to watch out for if you suspect that your friend or neighbour is a terrorist. I won't get into an "It's 1984!"-style rant, and I admire the hard work our police force do to nip some things in the bud, but the list at the end is entertaining. Before you click the link, guess which of these statements appear on the page:

  • Terrorists need to travel.
  • Terrorists stay in hotels.
  • Terrorists use computers.
  • Terrorists buy food.
  • Terrorists need to travel.
  • Terrorists speak English.
  • Terrorists need transport.
  • Terrorists like bouncy castles.

OK, so the last one isn't serious. And you have to love the picture of the credit card at the bottom -- I'm sure that these chaps will be thrilled for the publicity. But that MET police page will only serve to swell up chronic fear in some people: "Aaargh! He has a van and a camera! TERRORIST!" etc. Then again... maybe... that's what they want us to think. Please excuse me while I get my tinfoil hat.

Which I designed on my Eee, of course.

*NOTE: Before anyone gripes about the supposed luxurious and cosmopolitan lifestyle of a computer journalist, note that we had to get up at 4:45am in order to get our flight. What larks.


Your comments

Um, I think you went a

Um, I think you went a little off-track there at the end, but still, pretty good job, and that's what you do. I'm very excited and looking forward to getting one of these Eees (currently I just don't have the money). but I may end up getting the Elonex One instead, which seems promising. ( http://www.elonexone.co.uk/ )

Catch you later

The eeepc is a godsent gift.

The eeepc is a godsent gift. I've had mine for 2 months with eeeXubuntu since I replaced the 512 MB RAM stick with 2 GB and I really can't complain about anything. I had to run a few extra scripts to get OSD working, and some windows are too large for my tiny screen (which forces me to resize them), but that's not bothering me too much.

An intresting sideeffect of the eeepc is all the attention it gotten me. Every student at my university, regardless of sex, gets fascinated by it. People should toss their dogs out of the window and get a eeepc. At least if they got dogs to hook up with other people ;-)

Ah, I hadn't seen the Elonex

Ah, I hadn't seen the Elonex ONE before -- thanks for the link Dan. I'm slightly puzzled by the CPU though: 'LNX Code 8'? The only references I can find to that chip are in stories about the Elonex ONE. I wonder if it's an x86 implementation...

M

Mine just arrived yesterday

Mine just arrived yesterday (it's actually not for me, but my daughter's first pc). I made a slight mistake and got the 4GB Surf though. So on that note, do you find you use the camera that much (as that seems to be the only difference)?

Thanks.

Nope, I don't use the

Nope, I don't use the camera, although it's handy to have on the move (my mobile doesn't have a camera!). The other difference with the Surf is that some models don't have a RAM slot underneath, so the memory isn't upgradeable -- but 512MB is still fine.

M

Three months with the Eee

Three months with the Eee PC, Three months with Dndrew Aenyer's Curb your Enthusiasm season 6 box set more like!

Three months, and I have yet

Three months, and I have yet to see a Eee PC in the stores. I am surprised Wal-Mart has not come across this machine yet. This would be a perfect machine to sell in their stores.

I've been quite surprised at

I've been quite surprised at all the press attention that has been devoted to the EeePC, from items in The Guardian and online by Stephen Fry, to several mentions in a recent issue of PCW (their 30th anniversary issue). I don't remember anytihng Linux based getting quite this much (largely positive) attention before.



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