The EeePc

I am embarking on some research into adapting E-Learning material for use with small non-standard systems. The first attempt was to port a course for the Playstation Portable. The results: nah. The screen is too small and without a keyboard it is just too difficult to use.

Next up is the EeePC by Asus. I ordered one back in November, it was finally delivered the end of January. No, I did not get pink, I got a black one. This is serious research.

The machine weighs in at just under a kilogram and is a bit larger and bulkier than a DVD case. It has a full keyboard, although the keys are a bit smaller than normal, a tiny touchpad (I am soooo spoiled with my MacBook Pro), and a 9cm x 15,5 cm screen squeezed between two loudspeakers. A little camera is installed at the top of the screen.

It had 3 USB connections for plugging in external hard drives, etc., an Ethernet connection and built in WLAN, connections for external microphones and loud speakers, and a VGA connector. The latter makes it conceivably possible to take along for giving a talk, saving lots of space in your luggage.

It boots blindingly fast, and offers pre-installed the Firefox browser, the OpenOffice suite, and some games. There is about 1 GB of the 4GB flash memory free for storing files internally. The fast booting makes it interesting as a Videotext substitute. As it was sitting on the living room coffee table doing the battery tests members of the Wise family would pick it up and check the scores of this or that major-league match.

The battery is a disappointment. Fully charged I get about 3 hours out of it. But even when it is turned off (and powered down), it still sucks electricity. Turning a fully charged EeePC off when you go to bed and just leaving it closed all night is enough to empty the battery. I've tried turning off the WLAN, doesn't change much.

The WLAN took me an hour to configure for home use. The little "details" window announces the wrong MAC address.... It also forgets the WEP password often enough to be annoying. I have tried to configure the WPA for connecting at school, I downloaded the certificate, but there is no place to attach the certificate, it just wants the shared secret. I've found some scary things-one-can-do on the net, I'm not quite prepared to do any of them yet.

I tested using the EeePC to take notes at a talk last evening. There were no table, so I had to have it on my lap. It just sort of balances on the tops of my thighs, I have trouble typing 10-fingers with it, though. Hunt-and-peck works fine. It just barely made the 3 hours of the discussion. The battery status is a bit confusing, there are 4 bars, the first one disappears quickly. When only the last one is shown, the mouseover says "40% remaining", which is not true. I would prefer it to tell me how many minutes I have left instead of some meaningless percentage.

When starting a connection to GoogleDocs this morning with Firefox in order to upload my notes, Firefox crashed badly, freezing its frames. I tried the little "SOS" box, which did let me kill the browser process without having to restart the system. Upload was fast and efficient.

The pre-installed Skype only worked for the chat, not the video conference. But there was an update available, and after installing that, I could hold a decent video and audio conference with one other person. The picture quality is not the best in the world, but you can see that it is me. The picture broke up on occasion, but the audio was good.

I tried to watch some YouTube videos on it. You have a choice of either seeing the entire video, or of having the controls on the screen, but not both. Even removing the navigation strip does not enable me to have the video and the controls visible at the same time, which is a bit nasty. Colors and audio are okay, though.

Is it good value for the 299 €? Don't really know yet. But it is a nice toy.

No comments: