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Asus Eee PC - Impressions and request for ideas

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January 10, 2008 9:40:25 AM

Well my long term windows user of a brother finally bit the bullet and got a new PC last week. Much to my amazement he ended up buying a 4Gb Eee PC from ASUS. Now my brother is a reasonably well skilled Windows user, not a tech but well able to install an application change settings fairly easily so I was interested to see how both he and the little Eee got on. Whilst he has used my Ubuntu install before now this is his first forray into Linux land.

Initial Impressions on opening the box:

WOW! That is small.
WOW! That charger is small.
WOW! Not a serial number or EULA in sight!!

Part one of the mission- get it on the net:

Seeing as the new PC was wireless we replaced the USB ADSL modem with a nice £30 wireless router. A little bit of messing around (it helps if you can remember the password for your accounts!) router was up. Booted the box - BANG! 10 second boot. This is amazing.

The default shell is very simple, I can see that it would put power users off but most of the basics are covered. I clicked on the wireless networks icon, scanned and withing 30 seconds I'm on the wireless network. So far this is easier than Vista. Another minute later and I have YouTube streaming video to the new toy.. Hey it works!

Part Two - Moving forwards
Now my brother has been playing for about a week and so far is quite taken. I pointed him at the eeeuser.com site and he has been doing a bit of reading as have I. There are some things that the box would not do well, the screen is to small for graphics work of any seriousness and you are never going to set super pi records with this thing but as a general web client / word processor it seems to really have it covered.

My brother is now interested in having a play with a more complete and traditional OS. The easy option is to turn on the Full Xandros desktop (advanced mode) which we will probably have a go at today, this does however leave us on Xandros.. I've had a look at the eeexubuntu pages and as an existing Ubuntu fan this makes a lot of sense to me, certinaly the fact that it has been pre configured to work with the Eee would make life easier. I have also read good reports of Slax on the Eee. My concern of going this way is that last time I looked Slax seemed to be falling a little behind in terms of updates but if others know different please shout up as it fair flew when I had a play with it a year or so ago. I've not heard of any Gentoo goodness yet but I'm sure it will come.

So folks - Any of you running an Eee and if so what do you think would be the best fit OS wise for a moderate web based user?


January 10, 2008 10:57:48 AM

Awesome :) 

Don't have one, want one :) 

Ubuntu sounds like a great choice.

Fedora 8 would be cool too, it has some very cool features, kinda big though. You may not have enough storage for a full install.
January 10, 2008 11:18:51 AM

Your brother get the 2GB or the 4GB?

512MB or 1GB RAM?
Related resources
January 10, 2008 11:30:08 AM

linux_0 said:
Awesome :) 

Don't have one, want one :) 

Ubuntu sounds like a great choice.

Fedora 8 would be cool too, it has some very cool features, kinda big though. You may not have enough storage for a full install.


A bunch of people put 16 GB SDHC cards in the reader and leave them there. If you can't boot from the SDHC card itself, put /boot and at least /usr, /bin, and /sbin and maybe /etc on the HDD and everything else on the SDHC card, particularly /lib, /tmp, /var, swap, and /home. That way you should be able to get almost any distro installed.
January 10, 2008 3:17:08 PM

Great idea :) 

I guess you could add a USB device too for storage at the expense of portability.
January 11, 2008 11:10:07 AM

I've seen a few people mod the EEE to have a bluetooth adaptor and 16GB flashdrive wired up to the USB controller, all installed inside the case. Little fiddly when tapping the USB controllers, but it's a great way to add more capacity and function :D 
January 12, 2008 9:49:34 AM

Thanks for the input folks. Just to clarify things:

The Eee in question is a 4Gb model with 512Mb Ram. So far we only have a 2Gb SD card to hand to play with on this (the 8Gb and 16Gb cards are still a bit expensive for us to play with). We have not cracked it open yet to see if we have been lucky and landed one with a mini PCI slot as I hear some of them have.

We did debate going to 2Gb of RAM as this would be a roughly £30 upgrade and very easy to do, but whilst in 'Basic' mode I'm really not sure the performance increase could justify the cost. In terms of addind extra storage the present plan is:

1. Get some 4Gb pen drives, whilst they do add bulk they are easy for my bro to logically seperate different things. If I was to do a full OS install then I would probably look to install to USB and then set the BIOS to fall back to the SSD if the pen is not present - ultra simple multi boot.

2. As soon as SDHC cards drop a little get the biggest we can easily afford and move internal

3. Add a small NAS to the home network for backup and media storage. This might yet be the old PC with Ubuntu Server or if I get brave maybe a sick BSD install.

Eeexubuntu is looking favourite at the moment, ultimately installed on the SSD although pendrive initial install testing phase. I'm still wondering about the 2Gb of RAM or if I would be better advising my brother to sink that cash into an SDHC card.... I guess that depends just how much pr0n he needs on the move...

Wish it was my box as I'd have already blasted Xandros off the face of the planet and be looking to the soldering iorn out! As it is this is my brothers main PC and the poor bugger has just thrown his back out so I'm having to tread carefully in my persuit of geek pleasures...

Maybe I should just stick XP on there and stop supporting the commies ;) 
January 12, 2008 9:52:06 AM

Forgot to add.. one of the issues we are finding with the default OS is support for external displays. The defult system just does not seem to want to let us run the local display and an external display at a different resolution. Anybody know if this is a hardware or a software limitation?
January 12, 2008 2:00:56 PM

audiovoodoo said:
Forgot to add.. one of the issues we are finding with the default OS is support for external displays. The defult system just does not seem to want to let us run the local display and an external display at a different resolution. Anybody know if this is a hardware or a software limitation?


I'm guessing that it has something to do with the Xorg.conf in that system or the version of the Intel graphics driver. The chipset in the Eee is an underclocked but otherwise standard Intel 910GML mobile chipset and those support external displays to at least 1600x1200, if not the 2048x1536 that the 945GM chipset in my notebook has. I'd try to boot another standard Linux OS like straight Ubuntu 7.10 i386 from a live CD or a USB drive and see what that does.
January 14, 2008 10:32:20 AM

Thanks MU - Much as I suspected on that one. We're hoping to get an external DVD purchased in the next week or so then the playing can really start.

Any thoughts on the merrits of the Ram upgrade?
January 14, 2008 4:04:36 PM

audiovoodoo said:
Thanks MU - Much as I suspected on that one. We're hoping to get an external DVD purchased in the next week or so then the playing can really start.

Any thoughts on the merrits of the Ram upgrade?


You'll want to as 512 MB is a little tight and 2 GB of DDR2 can be had for $35 or so.
January 14, 2008 4:25:37 PM

So as with many an IT project I now wait on the management for the budget request...

January 14, 2008 4:55:13 PM

lol :) 

always max the RAM if you can :) 
January 14, 2008 5:23:13 PM

Totaly off topic - I lost my job the week before crimbo so funding is now a huge issue on these sorts of projects. We'll have to see if I can crawl back into the world of IT... Anybody wanting to pay silly money for a half way humorous chimp to fettle their hardware just drop me a PM!!
February 14, 2008 8:23:52 AM

Small update:

After having had no end of trouble with a slightly strange Wireless router I got round to having another play with the Eee last night. Enabled full desktop mode using the guide on the eee user forum wiki. This has moved from 'simple' to 'advanced' desktop mode.

The interface is now KDE 3.4. I've stuck a copy of Opera on there for my brother and his initial impressions are very positive. The machine seems to have more than enough oomph to do all the basic tasks and he's finding the more windows based feel more to his taste. It has gone from being an internet appliance to a fully fledged PC.

Anybody who has one and who has not tried this yet I really do suggest you give it a go. The change is as simple as adding a new repositorty to Synaptic and installing one meta package. Non destructive and you just select which interface you want so switching between the two is a doddle. The guide is very clear and concise.

** Heads off to hunt for work to fund purchase of EeePC for himself **
February 22, 2008 12:28:09 AM

Just had an EEE turn up at the local PC stores, had my joy of playing with the demo model and confuzzling the staff...

I've already got a Think Pad X23 (12.1") and really really need a new server, but I can so see me buying the EEE and living without a server for another 6 months :D 
February 22, 2008 8:58:26 AM

They are just such a cool toy. Sorry to the world that I harp on about them but having gotten your hands on one I take it you understand my rants.

My problem is that the one I have to play with is my brothers and his main machine so I can't afford the couple of days without service that I would doubtless get if I started having a real play. If I get a new job before my savings run out then let the fun commence!
February 24, 2008 8:53:47 PM

They are just so much fun to use. I found it hard to put the little fella down and go back to work... They just seem to appeal to everyone, the average user chasing a cheap laptop that just "works", the tech on the run who wants to be able to keep documentation of jobs while on the fly, the hardware hacker who enjoys pulling things apart and putting as many extra features into a device which has features leaking from the seams already...

The EEE is just brilliant, I'll be buying one in the coming months, my X23 is great, but the EEE is more up to date (The X23 has PC133 ram, ever tried to find that stuff in 512MB sticks in SODIMM?!) and will handle my needs a little better (screen size isn't ideal, bit useable).

Xubuntu + EEE = teh big winz0r! :D 
February 25, 2008 7:01:36 AM

$EEE=awesome(); :) 

The keyboard is a bit hard to get used to and the LCD is a bit small but it's still awesome :D 

It's very light, small, doen't get in the way and runs pretty fast and smooth.

What more can you ask for?

Well, ok I would like to see them come up with an AMD version too ;) 
February 25, 2008 8:45:49 AM

To my mind I think they should scrap the internal SSD and have either a CF of SD card slot in addition to the existing SD slot. Lots more flexibility and a lower base cost.

** Ponders for a moment... **

Actually make that 3 SD card slots and RAID support in BIOS ;) 
February 27, 2008 4:13:40 AM

Now that would be interesting.

SDRaid (TM) :D 
February 28, 2008 5:36:16 AM

Did someone forget about my thread HERE about FlashRaids :D 

Random idea...

Remove the standard SSD, fit in 4GB of DDR2 ram. Impliment 2 SD Card slots. Use 2-3GB of the RAM as a iRAM esque setup, loading the saved OS into RAM on boot up from an SD card (Flash is fast to read). When you shut down, it re-writes all changes in the OS back to the SD card... Use second SD card for storage... Maybe Raid it with the first SD card if you have enough space on them...
February 28, 2008 7:17:21 AM

Oooopps.. And I even posted in that thread :( 

** Passes trade mark rights from Linux_0 to Knightrous **
February 28, 2008 10:27:04 PM

** Passes Trademark rights to GPL **

Quote:
Or you could be a sick puppy and do it with floppies:

http://ohlssonvox.8k.com/fdd_raid.htm


You know, I have around 20 floppy drives here at work, and I just happen to have found 20 new floppy discs in the archives :lol:  Floppy Raid, here I come!
February 29, 2008 7:20:08 AM

I tried that once with my then girlfriend after a heavy night of drinking. She tells me a solid state device is far more enjoyable... :/ 

March 5, 2008 10:06:09 PM

Looks nice, but I think the price tag is starting to get a bit high.. $600USD is a fair bit of cash...

I'd rather see the v1's get a bigger battery (Even if it extended out the bottom and made the back end sit another 10-15mm high and touch screen would be nice... Remove the webcam and replace it with Bluetooth. Mmm... Now I'm getting all hot for the EEE again :-( Damn bills and low salary.... :-(
March 14, 2008 6:12:22 AM

This just in!


Hardy Heron supports 800 x 480 natively :D  Yay for EEE users! Well that my random post for today!

***Posts from inside VM @ 800 x 480 resolution to tame his EEE urges****
March 14, 2008 8:10:43 AM

Mmmmm... and with NDIS Wraper 8.04 is now looking like it could be run natively on the Eee.

** Heads off to check prices on 16Gb SD cards and 2Gb SODIM **
** Tries to think of excuse to get his brother to upgrade from Xandros **
** Decides to scare brother with made up story that Xandros steals your beer and makes your willy shrink **
March 18, 2008 4:12:23 AM

Thought I'd throw this one up too... There is now a "Hardware Test"





March 19, 2008 2:40:24 PM

Well, i wasn't sure whether it was alright to ask this here since I was afraid it would be considered thread-jacking, but since audiovoodoo gave me the green light, here goes. Do you guys think that this thing is impractical or do you think that it works just fine? I can understand that people want things to be very portable, which is what the eee PC is, but I think that portability comes at the price of practicality/useability. I think this thing might be an interesting toy to play with, but I have a hard enough time with laptops as it is, so isn't making them even smaller a bit of a step backwards in terms of practicality?

I guess at the core of all this is my concern with the trends that the laptop market is currently exhibiting: make it thinner, smaller, lighter. I think there should be a limit to as to how far those things should go: make it too small and you will have a hard time reading things on the screen and using the keyboard; make it too thin and it will break easily. The only one of those three trends that has no ostensible drawback is making it lighter, so the limitations here are purely physical.

I don't want to come off as an eee PC basher or anything, indeed if I had an extra 400 bucks, i'd get one because i think it would be a neat toy, and it would certainly be a better investment than one of those iWhatevers that apple puts out in an almost weekly format, but I am not sure that something like this would make for a very good workhorse laptop.

-Zorak
March 19, 2008 11:06:20 PM

Quote:
I guess at the core of all this is my concern with the trends that the laptop market is currently exhibiting: make it thinner, smaller, lighter.


This is only in the portable segment, the other side of the laptop segment is "Bigger, Better, Faster"... I've seen laptops with 17" screens, 8000 series video cards and more grunt then my current pc... These are desktop replacements...

So you have to draw the line on what you need it for and take your side :p  From a personal perspective, I would buy a EEE for the mobility factor, small, light and good battery life. I would use it for tuning my car, since I run software to access maps and tune settings via the ECU, so something small that I can sit on the dash and tune with is great. I would use it when travelling around, dropping into friends, digging up some funny videos, sharing some music, even a bit of light gaming (Freespace 2 :D ).

I guess what I'm saying is, if your chasing a workhorse laptop, don't buy a mobile laptop, buy a desktop replacement laptop. The EEE is aimed at being cheap, functional and mobile. Don't expect it to pull of miracles ;-)
March 20, 2008 2:23:53 AM

perhaps by the term "workhorse laptop" was ill-suited for the purpose to which I employed it...

As much as I love powerful machines, I don't understand the super-duper-laptop-as-a-tower-replacement idea either. Personally, I like desktop machines over laptop machines, so no matter what i get in a laptop, i will still feel that it is not "a real computer". To that end, I suppose what I consider to be appropriate for a laptop is something that is going to get decent battery life, has a screen that won't make me search for a magnifying glass, is sturdy enough so as not to break if i accidentally drop the case it's in, and is powerful enough for very light gaming (for games that have system requirements <= those of Warcraft 3 at the very most). Also if it is lightweight and doesn't take up too much space, those are nice bonuses.

I suppose that I really view laptops as just a way to get at my wonderful tower at home when I need to (and obviously I am not at home), and in truth I didn't remember about these "desktop replacements" until you mentioned them, knightrous.

Maybe I am just a weirdo, but I don't think laptops need to be THAT powerful because if you make them too powerful it kinda defeats the purpose. After all, what is the point in having a mobile machine if you have to plug your machine in to use it b/c the battery life sucks? At that point, it is really only moderately more useful than a stationary desktop machine, and has less capability to boot. Of course, I am not advocating that we all switch to machines equipped with 80286's and 2MB of ram; I think mid-powered machines really fulfill the niche that laptops are meant for.

BUT, like i said, I certainly think an eee PC would be a nice toy to play with and I certainly wouldn't complain if I suddenly received one. ;) 

-Zorak
March 20, 2008 2:38:57 PM

I am not sure if you are a gamer, but have you attempted to see what sort of performance it can get? Obviously, it won't play newer games, but I wonder how it would run World of Warcraft (or similar aged games).
March 20, 2008 8:05:51 PM

Well, I know that last question was not directed at me, but I do know for sure (based on a video that I saw) that a guy was able to get at least DirectX 7 games like the original Unreal Tournament running on this thing. I would think that it may be capable of a little bit more than that, but not much, since the emphasis is on portability rather than power.

-Zorak
March 20, 2008 8:44:27 PM

Zorak said:
Well, I know that last question was not directed at me, but I do know for sure (based on a video that I saw) that a guy was able to get at least DirectX 7 games like the original Unreal Tournament running on this thing. I would think that it may be capable of a little bit more than that, but not much, since the emphasis is on portability rather than power.

-Zorak


Yeah, I know it wouldn't play anything with crzy high FPS. But, if it could play WoW, it would be awesome for me. In theory, based on the specs (and if you up the ram to 1-2 gigs) it should be capable. But, I wonder if it actually is playable. Also, I have heard that you can up the clocks on the CPU to their original speeds (it is underclocked). That would probably help a bit too. But, whether or not it will overheat, I don't know.
March 21, 2008 4:06:31 AM

The cooling on the Eee is weak and the onboard graphics wouldn't win any contents that's for sure, it has an Intel 915GM/PM/GMS/910GML chipset / VGA.

It's ok if all you want to do is use it to access your desktop / main computer / HTPC remotely.

:) 
March 21, 2008 7:52:15 AM

I suppose this thing and that "macbook air" are very much niche products after all. They are built for people with portability fetishes ;)  haha i kid i kid! I wouldn't want this nice little thread to become more like this one: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/236349-50-hans-reiser...

-Zorak

P.S. Nice to see you are back from oblivion (not the game), Linux_0. Welcome back!
March 21, 2008 10:54:25 AM

Sometimes the fact that I live in the other does tend to show in my threads :p 

I've found the cooling on the Eee to be fine. Yes, it does get warm after a few hours but not stupidly so. If you need more graphics power some of the Eee type machines that are now starting to appear will give you a little more, but at a price.

Oh.. and for the true HW perverts that hang out here there is still one ultimate upgrade to the Eee: http://tigeroneeepc.wikispaces.com/

Yes folks - MacOS on the Eee.
March 21, 2008 11:13:29 AM

Well, I dug a little and it looks like people are playing WoW on it.
http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?pid=62934

Interesting... I may need to think about getting one of these.

Here is a video of it in action. Not too bad... wouldn't probably work good for 25-40 man raids (if you know what that means...). But, they look like playable FPS otherwise. I just like how small this Eee is, and if I could play my favorite game on it, it would be nice.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKNRxuqmHa8
March 21, 2008 9:01:19 PM

Well, it is ok to have a hardware fetish, but I think flirting with apple products and the mac os is bordering on heresy! ;D In all seriousness though, apple represents the antithesis to everything I happen to value in computing systems as well as the antithesis to my ideology so that is why i don't like them, but if their stuff floats your boat, i suppose anyone should be free to make that choice.
March 22, 2008 1:25:56 PM

You note that I said HW Perverts! ;) 

I share a house with a couple of Mac heads (music production mainly) and I have to say that the more I see of MacOS the more I am interested. Yes it would involve the selling of my soul but I could see myself having a play with it at some time. One of my housemates has just picked up a G4 off fleabay for £45 delivered to our door which is a lot of toy for the money.

In terms of the Eee I think it is interesting that the OS will run quite happily on such minimal hardware. It makes me wonder why Apple are taking so long to get a tablet solution out there when there are plenty of OEM's that could produce the HW without much effort.
March 22, 2008 9:27:04 PM

So, just out of curiosity, what is it that you use your eee PC for? Do you actually do any coding on it or is it just a toy for you?
March 23, 2008 8:37:05 AM

I don't own one, my brother does. His use is mainly as a web client, streaming audio and the odd bit of office productivity. Really it's not being pushed to anything like its limit. The fact that it is not mine is what is holding back the development plan - I'd love to have a propper play over a few weeks but this would leave my brother off-net which strangely he's not to up for. :/ 
April 13, 2008 11:31:14 AM

Hmmm.. How to take the edge of a machine that is only 3 months old. SSD failure :(  It looks like the SSD has developed some serious issues. Last night when we tried to get some SomaFM goodness Amarok started behaving most strangely. I thought it might be down to the recent set of up updates that I had applied for my bro so I set to having a look.

I tried to update via synaptic and was informed I had a broken package, ahh this could explain things. Selected to re-install the affected package and was then advised that the disc was full. Hmm... Checked with df and du and there was a good 300Mb left on the internal disk. Just to be on the safe side I tried to move some docs and pics over onto the SSD card but file copy just refused to work. I tried to just delete files and got some very strange messages that the disk was full and that there was not enough free space to delete the files?? Yeah, that made no sense to me either.

I rebooted the box and used the ctrl-f9 to bring up the boot menu and run fdisk through on the disk, hoping it was just a file system issue. First run it reported a few i-node errors but completed ok. Rebooted and system failed to start (disk full error). Ran fsck again and the same i-node errors were reported again :( . On 3rd run it gave no errors but no improvement in situation either.

We decided that as there was nothing that important on there to just do a system restore back to defaults using the boot option. The disk activity light went mad for 30 seconds or so, despite being plugged in the battery light came on and then it tried to boot into advanced mode like it had been configured. Again, disk full error.

I'm going to try and borrow a USB dvd drive today and restore from the supplied DVD and see if we get any joy. Given the nature of the errors I want to be sure that the SSD does not have problems. I suspect that the supplied dvd is unlikely to have a good range of tools to do this so was wondering if anybody has any good ideas on how to make sure this isn't terminal. I have a copy of eeeXubuntu that we were talking about trying anyway and this might be the time to do it. I just don't seem to recall having badblocks as part of the default live CD and I've no idea if you get SMART monitoring on the SSD with the Eee.

Any ideas or suggestions folks? My brother is digging out the receipt just in case this turns into an warrenty claim :( 
April 14, 2008 10:21:19 PM

Booted up Slax off a pen drive and managed to mount the SSD. Slax reported that there was 280Mb free but still the same issues. I had a dig around the home area and found that Opera had gone crazy. Over 29500 files in the cache directory. For some reason there were nearly 6000 files in the /home/user directory. All the files were 0 bytes and clearly not right. Having made a backup just in case I spent the next hour deleting files and then managed to get it booted.

Synaptic was reporting a couple of broken packages. I managed to fix one of these and the other was non critical so we removed it. Ran through fsck a couple of times from Slax and also the version supplied on the Eee and all seemed right. Strangely enough the whole system seemed a whole lot quicker too.

I have not got a clue what had happened. All the hidden zero byte files were from a range of dates and all seemed to be from Opera but I can't be sure of that. Strange is not the word... Opera is now removed and we're just going to see how it goes for the next few days. I might have a look at running some other tests to double check the disk but for now it's up and running.
April 19, 2008 11:04:25 PM

I wish to sell notebook eee to have me. for interesting please contact me

goods still has just, have never been applied.

I wish to sell my Asus Eee PC 4G notebook. For interesting please contact me.
Goods still has just, have never been applied.

Price:$345,00

Contact me:keane_joeke@yahoo.com
!