Trying Out The Asus EEE PC
When looking forward to Palm Foleo I said "Anyone who is interested in green computing is trying to get as much as they can out of as little as possible, the least power consumed, the least hardware on their desk, the most flexibility from their components." It never arrived, but the Asus eee has, and I am writing this post on it.
The opening screen shot
First thing that must be said is that it is surprisingly tiny. I am a ten finger typist and while I am using them all to enter this post, it is slower and less accurate on such a small keyboard, but is getting better with practice. I suspect big handed people would be in serious trouble.
The screen, at 7", is also small, and one is not used to seeing so much black plastic around it; I suspect a larger screened version is in the works although Asus denies it. The screen is incredibly crisp, and easy to read my text as I enter it.
The software is a version of Xandros Linux and out of the box is intuitive, easy to use and loaded with a good choice of open source software like open office, and special buttons for Google Documents and igoogle home pages; the learning curve for this thing is nonexistent.
It is also completely silent and seems to be very cool running, and feels solid. A little more practice with this keyboard and I can see using this a lot.
1) One gets the sense from the marketing that a camera is standard; it is not and the unit I bought does not have one. This was not clear.
2) It does not appear to remember wireless wep codes when you turn it off.
3) Unlike Ubuntu Linux where adding software is a snap, Asus does not let you load anything but what they have put on their servers, which isn't much. I could not resize the picture for this post on the software they supply. Evidently one can go to sites like asustweak and learn how to use the command line to get software like Gimp, but I have not gone that deep yet.
4) There is not a lot of memory left in the 4 Gig flash drive after the operating system and the programs, but in the age of google docs and picassa, how much does one need? However if you are into music hang on to your MP3 player.
5) A lot of websites are going to need a redesign if this takes off; cinema proportions on a 7" screen means that the window in full screen firefox is only about 400 pixels high, making treehugger look really ugly and hard to view. Out of full screen mode it is almost impossible.
In ourgreen notebook computer buying guide I said "Under two pounds, the size of a paperback book, wifi built in, this may be the perfect mix of portability and price. Our bet is that this will be huge, with all kinds of aftermarket software being written for it. This could be the palm pilot of the decade."
I think that this may well be the case. Why struggle typing on a Blackberry keyboard when you can see the real gmail, type with ten fingers and basically have the functionality of a full notebook computer in a package the size of a paperback book, for three hundred and fifty bucks. As a true portable or for kids needing a computer for school that you don't have to worry about, this could be close to perfect.
Next step: can I hook it up to a Voltaic backpack and go completely wireless?
UPDATE: Odograph offers more information and useful links.