Thursday, November 29, 2007

Asus Eee PC: First Impressions

Good heavens, it's small, and I got the one with the whiny fan.

The screen, while low on density, is easily readable indoors, and adequate for my needs. The LED backlight is adjustable via Fn-F3/Fn-F4. It goes to sleep via Fn-F1 in about 3 seconds and comes back with the power switch in about 5 seconds.

Typing is... challenging, although I suspect I'll adapt with a few days use... So far the only stumpers have been the right-hand shift key (it's small, and I often hit the up-arrow by mistake), the number keys, which are shifted a half-key or so to the left, and re-training the fingers to not track as far--the keys are quite close together.

Ctrl-Alt-T brings up xterm; I replaced that by editing my ~/.icewm/keys file to use konsole:
key "Ctrl-Alt-t" konsole

Setting up virtual desktops was also straight-forward; I edited ~/.icewm/preferences to include them, and a start menu:
WorkspaceNames="1", "2"

Putting the unit to sleep seems to mess up wireless connections; it's irritating--hopefully I'll figure out why that's happening so I don't have to keep typing in my ridiculous wireless password (it supports WPA, which is handy).

A real desktop can be had by installing kicker:
apt-get install kicker
apt-get install ksmserver

I had some issues with the task bar in full desktop mode that haven't been resolved yet; it redraws incorrectly when there's more tasks than taskbar. I may actually stick to "simple" mode for the time being.

While some have panned's performance, it's not that bad. I probably won't use it very often, but it's nice to know it's there. AbiWord is another option. VIM comes pre-installed... while I'm an Emacs person, I'm a little scared to even try it (I dread an even more-cramped Emacs claw), so I'll probably stick with something else on the little guy.

When my OLPC arrives I'll be comparing the two to see which will be my "drag it around" machine--the Asus is light but I suspect not as robust as the OLPC, and I really like the OLPC's screen.

For now the Asus will serve as a note-taking little-bits-of-work machine used during commutes. Battery life will be an issue; my MacBook Pro 17" Hi-Res will go round-trip w/o recharging, about 2.5-3 hrs, doing word processing and Java web development. The Asus is claimed to last 3.5 hrs and I doubt I'll be doing any Java development on it, but I may be able to continue using OOo for some books-in-progress.

It will also make an interesting hackery platform.

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