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My New Eee, and the Forced Adventures Thereof

I purchased an Eee PC last week, and it was delivered yesterday for me to ogle and admire ceaselessly. Unfortunately, I had multiple pressing engagements last night that kept me from getting to enjoy it much. So, because I was excited about it, and because I promised some people a look, I brought it to work with me today. In keeping with my naming convention of volcanoes, I named the little guy ararat.

I the course of my normal daily routine, I kept turning my attention to my new little laptop, and set about customizing it until it became clear to me that the default graphical user interface was not going to cut it for me. On a Linux-powered laptop, I require 7 relatively simple things: a web browser(firefox), console access(xterm), ssh(openssh), instant messaging(pidgin), perl, image processing(imagemagick), and the ability to play media(SMPlayer). These things are all arranged in difficult separated-out places in the default simple configuration, so I decided to start reading some of the startlingly abundant resources out there for hacking/customizing an Eee PC.

I quickly decided that I wished to use fluxbox instead of the default interface, and found a pretty detailed page on how to make this happen. I followed it closely, rebooted, and found that somehow, the setup I had followed caused my X server to break. On a normal Linux machine, if the configuration is broken, it tries a couple times and then stops, informing you that there much be something wrong, and that it's been disabled until you fix the problem. Not so on the Eee. It just kept trying and flickering and restarting X until I got tired of waiting for it to quit.

The Eee ships without the ability to have virtual consoles, so there was nothing I could have done even if it had disabled X. I had an unusable machine. Through a labored process, I finally managed to get a System Rescue CD loaded onto a USB thumb drive. I was able to get in, mount the root filesystem, and undo the changes that had been made.

Through some actions that are definitely not within the scope of novice computing, for which the Eee is targeted, I was able to restore operability on my computer. That said, most novices aren't going to mess with the system's settings either. There are lots and lots of resources out there for customizing Eee PCs, so I'll have to be more careful when I read them, at least now I have a bootable rescue disk on USB.

It's remarkable how fast the system boots. Except for one slow spot when my debbie-downer cube neighbor, Wayne, was watching, it takes literally under fifteen seconds to go from powered off to ready to use. Shutting down takes about five or six seconds. The system has a sleep/suspend capability, but it takes about ten or fifteen seconds to recover from it. With that in mind, I think it makes more sense to just shut down when I'm done using it, and turn it back on when I'm ready to use it again. It's a total difference of perhaps ten seconds between going to low battery consumption and just turning it off.

From my experience of using it for the last ten hours or so, I would highly recommend it. The solid-state drive is whisper-quiet. The fan, when it eventually kicks on, is imperceptably quiet. All that indicates to me that a fan is even running is a slight warmth on the left side of the keyboard.

Anyway, give one a try. I think it's great.

3:41 PM, Apr 29, 2008

1 comment

Brian was sure you'd want to know:

Specs, yo? Which model did you get?

10:30 AM, Apr 30, 2008

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