As being able to stay functionally connected while traveling is an important part of my work1 and having drooled over one of these for nearly a year, I finally took the ultra-portable plunge and picked up an Asus eee pc laptop (900 series) off ebay. Boy is it small:
I got the 900 eee with Linux (Xandros), quickly activated the “advanced desktop”, and by the next morning had already determined to install Linux Ubuntu 8.042 (Note: Ubuntu on the eee marked my first Linux OS install) so I could run compiz fusion3 and have greater program flexibility.
There are ample reviews on the 900 eee (as well as the 700 series), so I won’t get into all of that here. However, I’d just like to share a couple of first impressions:
- Size. It is difficult to appreciate the size of the eee from pictureas on the internet. I don’t have particularly big hands. The phone in the picture is a Blackberry Curve. The nearest everday-object comparison would be to take two DVD cases in your hands. The eee is only a smidge bigger. It is awesomely tiny. The 8.9 inch screen is solid, packing in 1024×600 pixels, which makes web browsing easy, with little (none so far) side-to-side scrolling
- Typing. Review upon review critiqued the keyboard as small and difficult to type on. I was a bit concerned that the keyboard would be difficult to touch-type on. I was happy to discover that concerns were entirely misplaced. There is certainly a learning curve on the eee’s diminutive keyboard; however, rather than let words convince you, here is some hard data:
- I completed the “Enchanted Typewriter” at typingtest.com on my full-sized laptop keyboard at 99 net words per minute.
- Within 30 minutes of starting up the eee 900 in Xandros, I got 65 net wpm on the “Zebra” test.
- A couple days later, I’ve managed 78 net wpm on the eee 900 with mixed use (flipping between the full-sized laptop and the eee laptop.
My only difficulty on the eee’s keyboard has been the apostrophe key, which I frequently miss for enter. With a little practice, I figure that won’t be too “small” a problem to overcome!
- Linux » Ubuntu: A complete Ubuntu noob, I’ve been pretty solidly impressed with the ease of installing Ubuntu on the eee. I’m eager to try sticking Ubuntu on my Asus G1S-B2, and thanks to pendrivelinux.com, it seems I can do this without having to reformat the harddrive! More and more I believe that Microsoft and Windows are going the way of the dinosaur. Innovation is in the open source community!4
It will take a bit more use to form a conclusive opinion of the eee 900, but so far, I’ve been nothing but impressed. Ultra-affordaable5 ultra-portability? Done. And if the emergence of competition is any indicator (it is), this market is only going to keep growing. Yay for technology!
1 Though I regularly work on a full desktop-replacement lappy (Asus G1S-B2, quite a powerful system for graphics processing), it weighs in at over six pounds and as its over twice the dimensional size of the eee, it requires its own backpack. As such, its hardly conducive to traveling. As it’s a fairly powerful machine, it’s also not cheap — almost 4X the cost of the eee. This simply makes me even more wary of traveling with the G1S in fear that I might lose it or have it stolen.
2 Here is a list of sites that I ended up using to get Ubuntu Hardy working smoothly:
- Ubuntu 8.0.4 Hardy and the Eee PC 900, Start to Finish: this how-to covered just about everything. THe wifi fix here didn’t work for me though.
- Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) on the Asus Eee PC: off of eeeuser.com’s wiki, this little ditty covers a number of things that you might find useful if you’re trying to get Ubuntu up on the 900.
- Enabling Compiz-fusion desktop: If you want to get the uber-cool compiz fusion GUI, which includes the rotating desktop/cube, this how-to is very helpful.
3 This is a lot cooler than it sounds — “compiz” is a GUI that does a number of things, one of the coolest being that it allows you to rotate amongst the four desktops on a cube-like interface. To see what I’m talking about, check out this video. It puts Vista and Apple O/S to shame.
4 What does that tell you about the “benefits” of intellectual property law? Microsoft was built on IP law — meanwhile, Linux is thriving entirely without IP law and the rent-seeking behavior it induces.
5 The eee 900 can be had for $550 or less. Mine was purchased off of ebay and is the 20 gb version.