Posts Tagged ‘EeePC’

Asus EeePC 1000HE, and The Windows Journey

I recently became the proud owner of an Asus EeePC 1000HE. It claims to boast a 9.5 hour battery life, comes with a 160GB hard disk, a 10″ screen, a modern keyboard that is about 92% full sized, as well as more sensible Shift key locations. Compared to the first generation EeePC 701 that I have, this is by far, a much better machine.

Incidentally, it also comes preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Home. Part of me writing this, is to log the fact that I am going to try and use Microsoft Windows, and report back if its even usable. It turns out, that the battery life is supposed to be better when you’re using Windows, as opposed to switching to Linux. So let’s see how long this flirtation lasts, before I decide its time to install Linux.

The build quality seems to be quite high. Its black in colour, but the issue there is that it loves getting fingerprint smudges — so after a while, cosmetically, it looks rather dirty. It comes with an SD/MMC slot, which can be useful with consumer cameras and video cameras, though all the little video cameras I’ve been experimenting with come with a USB slot. It has 3 USB ports. Holding conversations with the built-in speaker and microphone, seem to work well too, so no complaints there. At some stage, maybe I should try recording a podcast “on the go”. The 1024×600 resolution is great — its hard to read and do anything with just 800×480.

Windows First Impressions

I’ve not used Windows on a desktop, since Windows 3.1. Nowadays, at most, I use it in a VM, because I need it for testing. But in these last few days, I’ve been occassionally using Windows, and its been an experience.

First up, I ran Windows Update. Then I installed the following:

  • Avast! – this is for anti-virus protection. I used to normally install AVG-Free on Windows machines that I came into contact with, but it seems that Avast! is all that and more. So far, it seems to be getting virus definition files updated almost daily.
  • Firefox, and the Flash Plugin – just because
  • Evernote
  • Google Chroome – not essential, but I’ve always wanted to give it a try, ever since it was announced.
  • PuTTY – its crucial for SSH access, which seems to at least give me a semblance of what I’m familiar with
  • Dropbox – now my files are synced across my Linux and Mac boxes
  • Notepad++ – On Linux, I use vim(1). On the Mac, I use TextMate. And on Windows, it seems like NotePad++ might be what I’m after. Is it? I’m unsure, but so far, I don’t mind it — it has text completion, it can be configured with plugins, I installed aspell so I can run a spell-check (how I wish it would show me an error while I type, as it does in TextMate).
  • 7-zip – In the old days, you might think of WinZip. Today, there’s 7-zip, and now I can access my .bz2 or .tar files. Its also opensource software, and I like this, naturally.

You know what I do miss? Keyboard shortcuts. I’m so used to hitting Ctrl+A, Ctrl+E, and Ctrl+K, in the command line, that I can’t seem to get the same responses in Windows. Ick.

What about remapping the Caps Lock key that I never use, to being another Control key? For that, I had to edit the registry! Seriously, what world do we live in?

REGEDIT4 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout] "Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,1d,00,3a,00,00,00,00,00

The PowerToys set of tools seem interesting. I installed the Virtual Desktop Manager, which makes Windows more usable – I can now have several workspaces, and move around by pressing the Windows key+1,2,3,4. This is like, and like virtual desktops that you see in GNOME.

I miss Quicksilver. Just hitting Ctrl+Space, and entering the name of an application makes so much sense — does this exist in Windows land?

I have no idea how to perform backups in Windows. What’s the Time Machine or rdiff-backup equivalent?

I find it funny that this little laptop has more disk space than my MacBook Air (which I paid a lot more for). It has a 1.6GHz Atom processor, and its mostly incapable of playing back HD video (stuff that comes out of my Kodak Zi6 for example). But for most purposes (browser, SSH, NotePad++, Evernote) it seems to be fine.

What about the battery life? So far I’ve noticed:

  • 5 hours 40 minutes with Skype video running
  • 7 hours 50 minutes with just a browser, NotePad++, SSH, Evernote, running

I think I can considerably improve the battery life if I disable Avast!. But should I? I mean, this is Windows, and I am deadly scared of catching a cold.

So there, I’ve been using Windows XP for about two weeks now. It worked wonderfully well while I was at the conference. The laptop is light. I can type on it easily. It seems to do everything I need it to do. I wish there was a real shell (PowerShell, people tell me to try — I will soon), but PuTTY puts me in control of other machines so I just get stuff done.

Would I recommend the Asus 1000HE? Yes, I would. Go forth and buy it!

Netbook shopping

I was in MidValley today, looking for a tiny power adapter for the power adapter on my Eee PC. After much searching, Ace Hardware seemed to have what I was after. However, post-dinner, it became clear to me that walking by the IT Mall there would be kind of useful.

Walked into the Acer shop to check out the Aspire One. I had seen one at, and Ow had recommended it to me. They were retailing at RM1,499 and were unfortunately out of stock. I walked by and saw the Dell Mini 9, and wasn’t impressed by the overall size of the unit. Heck, the keyboard seemed like there was little improvement from my Eee, and if I were buying Dell, I’d hold out for the newly announced Mini 10. I mean, who wouldn’t want a TV tuner, built in GPS, built in 3G and more, right?

The Eee PCThen, it was into the Lenovo shop, and I was taken away by the Lenovo IdeaPad S9. This is a tiny cute little machine, that has an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, with 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard disk, and a lot of ports. Its also dead light, but gets heavier with the 3-cell battery attached. I’ll admit to actually liking the Lenovo S series quite a bit, The keyboard was of the right size, there was tactile feedback, I could type normally, and I even managed to crash the built-in Internet Explorer! Yes, it comes with Windows XP, which can be a minor annoyance, but I think I could live with it.

SD card slot, check. USB slots, check. It even comes with an ExpressCard slot, and for a little over RM600, I can buy a 3G modem, pop by GSM chip inside, and never have to worry about the USB modem ever again. I was almost ready to make an impulse purchase, when I thought I’d give it some time, come home and give it a little research.

Good thing I did that. I found it quite limiting that both the S9 and the S10, have a resolution of 1024×600. One of my main gripes with the Eee PC 701 is the fact that the resolution of 800×480 just doesn’t cut it – I can’t even read my feeds in Google Reader! (unless I use the mobile version, which also means I lose my keyboard shortcuts). Worse, it seems that the 8.9″ screen and the 10.2″ screen mean you pay less for the S9, but the physical dimensions of the units, are exactly the same!

Come on Lenovo. What kind of scam are you trying to pull? The price tags are just a couple hundred ringgit apart, but the physical dimensions are the same, just that the screen is a little smaller? Good thing I waited, because if I do go out and buy something from Lenovo, its definitely going to be the IdeaPad S10.

However, upon further searching, it seems that the battery lives on the IdeaPad’s aren’t so hot. It seems the Eee PC’s with the Atom processors and SSD’s or flash drives are much better. And primarily, my goal for even wanting a netbook of sorts, is to ensure that the battery life completely rocks.

I have an external APC battery pack, which I use with my Dell laptop. From what I understand, it will probably also work with the IdeaPad’s. I don’t know if it will work with the newer Asus’s. It doesn’t with my Eee 701, the last time I checked.

Then I prodded further. (All on my Eee PC 701, running Fedora 8, might I add). It seems that the Asus Eee PC 1000HE is the latest model that they have, which claims about 9.5 hours of battery life! All for under USD$400 (I’ve not seen this unit in Malaysia, so to speak). It comes with Windows XP, and its the recommended OS. For battery life, I just might keep it – I’ve seen the comparisons with Linux, and the battery lives are remarkably shorter. One wonders why?

So the 1000HE is heavy (1.45KG – even the IdeaPad is lighter), but has an impressive battery life. Choices, choices. Netbooks are becoming so commodity-like now, there’s plenty of choice everywhere, with plenty of configurations. I’m glad I didn’t make an impulse purchase, because there’s been much change in the world of netbooks.

Dell Mini Inspiron? New Asus EeePC’s? Its the keyboard, silly

So, it looks like Asus is rolling out more Eee PC’s, with bigger screens – up to 10 inches. They’ll be loading it with an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, and they’re promising 7.5 hours of battery life.

Now we’re talking. The Eee 701 that I own is piss poor with regards to the battery life. And the other thing that has annoyed me for a while with the Eee, is the keyboard. Its just simply too small. I try to touch type with the Eee, and its not that my fingers are fat (really, they’re comparatively thin and long), but its just difficult. The new Eee’s don’t have such an improvement.

They’re still going to be shipping with 12 or 20 gigabyte SSDs. One thing I notice with the Eee is that for critical bits of information, I definitely do not even need more than 4GB of storage.

I think I’m over the Eee. I’ll probably run OpenSolaris on it soon (I wonder if ZFS performs well on flash based storage?) and dock it with a real keyboard, mouse and monitor. And I think that’s where the Eee could shine (or where OpenSolaris could shine) – support a limited set of hardware from a few laptop manufacturers, and one might be a great success if everything “just works”.

What’s caught my fancy this week? The Dell Mini Inspiron. There are photos, and the specifications according to Slashdot (take it with a grain of salt) state:

  • Atom 1.6 GHz – just like the newer Eee’s
  • 3 USB ports – Apple better start worrying… Seems nicer than the Air, but naturally, OS X simply rocks
  • Ethernet
  • Card reader – I’ve found reading SD cards really handy
  • Mic/line-out
  • VGA port, with screen resolution at 1280×800 – winner! It sounds like this might actually be a 12″ screen, which I like

All for under-USD$500? Eee and Macbook Air killer. Of course, no mention of what kind of disk storage will be available. Frankly, I don’t care if its not flash or SSD; throw in an 80GB 4,200rpm 1.8″ drive even. SSD is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist today for laptops (it offers next to no benefit to hard disks, in battery life or performance).

So Dell, you’ll have my business, plus the extended 3-year “everything” warranty if you come up with something like the above. Make sure the keyboard is usable. Heck, if you can fit 1280×800 on something smaller than a 12″ screen, that’d be fabulous. And don’t forget to throw in WiFi and Bluetooth. Forget an optical drive. Pack it all in with a 7 hour battery life, and you’ll be selling Mini Inspirons like there’s no tomorrow.

Heck, bring back the idea of docking stations! (I realise that a lot of young folk reading might have no idea what a docking station is, but these were fairly popular in the 90’s for laptops, to “enhance” their capabilities with parallel ports, serial ports, an optical drive, etc.) Charge us a whole bunch more for a sensible docking station. The Mini Inspiron might not be someone’s only laptop, but neither is the MacBook Air.

No mention of what OS will be on it. I don’t really care what flavour of Linux comes with it, I’m probably rooting for Ubuntu LTS, but if it comes with something crap like Xandros (aka Eee PC), its easy enough to replace it with something more sensible.

All I can say is that the next couple of months should be real fun for mini-laptop purchasers. It almost seems like you’ll end up owning several mini-laptops, keeping them in various parts of the home… after all, as we all move online, everything we need will be within a web-browser, right? :)