Gareth Rushgrove

Happy With My Eeepc

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I like small. I have a macbook rather than a macbook pro because it’s smaller. Especially now I’m wandering about more often with work (and play) lugging a machine around is less and less appealing. So, armed with that excuse I felt justified in going out and buying a new Asus Eee PC. I managed to just walk in to Micro Anvika in Newcastle and buy one from a bemused staff member who was pretty shocked to find one in stock and not allocated (sorry Rey).

For anyone who hasn’t seen one before, the Eee PC is a tiny linux laptop a little like the One Laptop Per Child machine but aimed more at traditional computer users (at the moment read early adopting geeks). The distro is setup to be pretty user friendly for those pesky Windows users but a little hacking turns it into a pretty darn nice machine.

My new eeepc with an apple logo on the back

And yes, I have stuck an apple sticker on back. I’m sure that should get some entertained looks next time I’m at a relevant event! I think the machine itself is actually pretty good looking, but the default desktop themes are all pretty uninspiring.

I’ve stuck with the appliance like IceWM window manager and the launcher application as it makes starting things up from the keyboard with one hand pretty fast. I then jumped into various hidden away files to get the desktop setup how I like. The wiki over on eee user has a number of useful tutorials; customising easy mode and the debian repo from a ruby tutorial were particularly handy.

Minimal IceWM desktop with Asus Launcher

Still lots more I could install (this is Linux after all) but so far have installed Ruby, Rails, Python, Django, Erlang, MySQL, SQLite, Apache2, PHP5, PEAR and symfony all without a hitch. I do love apt when it just works. I’ll try and get Mono and Java on their as well just for completeness when I get a moment.

The only thing I can think of that I’ll really miss at the moment is Keynote. It has a VGA out port (which not even the macbook has) which will support a decent resolution for presentations. But Keynote is so pretty and easy to use compared to the alternatives. We’ll have to see next time I have to do a presentation.

I can see lots of places (past the obsessive tech geeks like me) where a machine like this will be really interesting. Obviously the low cost of the machine means that schools might just get interested in Linux. For people who prefer a desktop machine as their main computer and only occasionally need a laptop it’s a pretty cost effective option. As a machine to experiment with Linux it’s pretty useful too – I’d recommend being familiar with basic commands on Linux to anyone doing web development work for instance. With so many possible audiences, and what is already a pretty nice machine, Asus might be onto something here.