Wednesday, 21 November 2007

ASUS EEE PC, Overiew and running other Linux distros on it.










The ASUS EEE PC 701 'laptopsicle' running Linux: an overview

by

Anthony Johnson


Released in the UK on 12 November 2007, I purchased an ASUS Pc 701 on the 14th . I bought it purely on the strength that it came with a Linux OS (Operating System) pre-installed and was so small it weighed a kilogram, WiFi ready and all for £219. Its specifications are as follows:


Intel 900MHz Celeron M CPU
512 MB DDR2 RAM, expandable to 2GB
Intel GM915 graphics shared
Intel High Definition Audio
Atheros 802.11g wireless LAN
4GB flash drive, half of this is occupied by the OS and a recovery partition. Very useful. Higher sizes also available
built-in web camera , 0.3 mega pixels. Records in ogg theora format
x3 USB 2.0 ports
audio and microphone jacks
ethernet port
modem port* (blocked with rubber object. Presumably redundant though featured.
VGA out port
x1 flash card reader slot (MMC, SD)
4 cell battery with 3 hours of life
a custom tabbed Xandros Linux OS
DVD resource disc with installation instructions for deploying Windows XP plus drivers. On same disc original EEE PC OS recovery. Utility for enabling booting from a USB flash drive, which the BIOS supports. Very thoughtful!
software pre-installed and packages such as OpenOffice, games ; such as penguin racer, frozen bubble, crack attack, communications packages such as Skype, Firefox, Thunderbird, media software such as Amarok for playing mp3 and Totem for movies. Lots of formats are supported such as MP3, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG 4 SP, Xvid, avi, Ogg Theora, Ogg Vorbis, wav, PCM, AAC, WMV, WMA and DVD from an external USB DVD drive or copy on a USB flash.
most photo formats supported except PSD.
available in five colours

For its size and price, the Eee PC 701 is phenomenally great value for money. ASUS even assumed some users would want to install Windows XP on the EEE PC 701. The pre-installed customised Linux OS ( a kind of Xandros with tabbed access to packages works very well and OpenOffice 2.0 is highly serviceable and reads and enables you to create Word, PowerPoint and Excel files.

This 'sub-sub' notebook, for it is a notebook, will appeal to a broad cross-section of users. ASUS' advertising compaign features children prominently and it will certainly appeal to the 'little people' and above to their parents' budgets. The idea of one laptop per child is now a reality. It will also appeal to another group-, the senior or elderly user. The layout is sheer simplicity. ASUS in its advertiseing campaign claim that this computer can be used without reference to the manual. It is that intuitive.




And what of experienced users? Apparently other Linux distributions can be installed, notably Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10, Mepis and Mandriva. It should be noted that some devices such as wireless and wired ethernet, the graphics and audio cards will not work or at least not properly. Even in the simplicity of the pre-installed OS a geeky user can still press CTRL +ALT+T and access the command line interface of shell.
I did manage to to load Ubuntu 7.04 on an 6GB Sandisk SD card. It worked and the GRUB boot-loader allowed for dual booting with the original factory installed OS. The ethernet and wireless facilities did not work, however, and the screen is not as clear as it is the proprietary software. Mepis was very clear and but again the same regarding the communications facilities. These anomalies can probably be fixed in the course of time. Also, a word of warning: the fan works a lot, lot harder under the above named Oses. Further, if you write the boot-loader to the removable SD disc, it will have remain there permanently for booting purposes. An extra drive can be placed in some EEE PC models such as the 701. The only problem is availability. Its appears to take a PCI SD device. I've not been able to determine quite what it is.

In all, I award the EEEPC 701 8/10. Easy, Elegant and Eminently user-friendly. A simple quirky Linux for everyday use. Linux is finally ready to take its place in OS the world and do what Windows Vista has failed to do -, put the fun back into computing.




Anthony Johnson
20th Nov 2007, London UK

2 comments:

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rax said...

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