Well, I finally went mobile. I got, from Woot, an Asus Eee PC 900A a couple weeks ago. The Linux edition, of course, because I’m sticking to what I said many years ago, and never giving Microsoft another dime of my money if I can possibly help it. It’s a nice little netbook, that I got at a bargain price (under $180 with shipping & handling).

The one problem I have with it, hardware-wise, is that the SSD (solid state hard drive) is only 4 GB. In these times of 1 TB (i.e. 1,000 GB) hard drives, it’s pretty amazing what you can do with just 4 GB. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough for me to do everything I want to do. I also wish there was a built in webcam. The wikipedia article on the Eee PC says that this model has a (fairly worthless) 0.3 megapixel camera, but it actually doesn’t have a camera at all. There’s a spot where a camera should be, but it’s covered up. On the “wow, that’s slick!” side of the coin, the touch pad on the Eee is multi-touch enabled. It’s easy to scroll down web pages by just dragging 2 fingertips down the touch pad instead of one.

Software-wise, the Xandros Linux operating system was… adequate. I didn’t keep it for long, though. It comes pre-installed with something called DansGuardian. This extremely annoying installed-and-enabled-by-default piece-of-shit software refused to let me access Facebook, telling me that it was “Japanese Pornography”. I tried to google ways to disable/remove DansGuardian, and the search result that seemed most likely to answer my question was also denied to me on the premise that it was “Proxies, Pornography”.  I decided that it would make my life a lot easier just to blast the whole OS away and install Eeebuntu NBR. And I was right. Sort of. It was actually a pain in the ass to install a new OS, because the netbook did not want to boot from USB, even though I put USB first in the boot order in BIOS. It turns out that in order to boot from USB, you have to disable “Quick boot” and “Quiet boot” from BIOS, and then hit the escape key when the screen prompts you to “hit <Esc> for boot menu”. It’s very annoying that the boot order in BIOS means absolutely nothing.

One of the major problems with Linux is hardware compatibility. That’s what makes an Eee PC so nice. Because they are sold with Linux, we know the hardware is compatible, and because there’s a large user base for this particular model of netbook, we have multiple distros out there that customize specifically for this hardware. And Eeebuntu NetBookRemix is far, far prettier than Xandros.

I installed Google’s Chrome (actually, Chromium) browser as my default browser, because Firefox is a bit of a resource hog, and also Chrome’s got the fastest javascript engine out there so far. With only 1GB of RAM and a wimpy 1.6 GHz Atom processor, light and fast is good. I can live without AdBlock if I must… I also installed Gwibber for microblogging, and Wine so that I could install PokerStars and be a mobile Hold’em player. Last but not least, I installed Puzzle Pirates. Of course, that wouldn’t fit… I had to remove some software from the stock Eeebuntu to make room for PP, and then when software upgrades became available I wound up needing to delete more software to make room to download updates. The good news is, I can double my drive space with a $17 USB thumb drive. Actually, if you hunt for good deals, I think you can double it for less than that. I recently saw an 8GB thumb drive for $20, so that’s triple my capacity. And the Eee has 3 USB ports. I believe I can also upgrade the SSD, but I haven’t really looked into that yet. I do know the 1 GB ram is upgradable to 2 GB.

In summary: If you want to go mobile, but don’t want to (or can’t) shell out a lot of cash, the Eee 900A is a lot of bang for your buck. But be prepared to install your own Operating System. Which should be very easy to do now that I’ve warned you about the BIOS settings. 🙂

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  • Jeff  On September 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Sounds great, thanks for the write-up and the BIOS tip. FWIW I just picked up an 8Gb thumb drive for $12.99 at Target.

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