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Arise, Lazarus May 5, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Developments, Hardware.
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So I’m back.

Didn’t think I’d be back this soon either, but nothing like a line refresh to get the blood blog going again.

I knew this blog’s still got some life in it.

Yes, I got me an EeePC 900 today. It’s a review unit, and they want it back before the official launching Monday next.

Sure. As soon as they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.


Actually, they said I can buy it if I want – at the usual press discount? – but I dunno yet.

Anyhow, expect some input here again. At least for the duration.

Unboxing pics are coming up later, when I get home.


The next generation March 4, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Developments, Hardware.

The only thing that’d possibly get me to sell my EeePC is coming out: another EeePC. New and improved.

DailyTech confirms the new EeePC 900, which is coming out in a few months.

8.9-inch screen, 1024×600 resolution, a 12gb SSD, a bigger touchpad, a gig of RAM. It might use a different processor (likely the Intel Atom, also known as Silverthorne), and might have a different software bundle.

It’ll be a little thicker and a little heavier, but everything I’ve been grousing about is fixed. (It’s as if Asus was actually listening!) Although the deal breaker might be the eventual price. If it wanders off the value-for-money sweet spot, I might hold on to the 701 longer yet. Reports put it at US$600. Hmm…

RAM and storage are moot; we’ve found alternatives and solutions we can live with. But damn. 1024×600 on 9 inches. Bigger touchpad. Oooh.

I hope there’ll be black ones too.

UPDATE: Engadget‘s got a photo gallery! (It looks almost exactly the same save for the bigger parts; in one photo we see they took out the modem hole entirely.)

UPDATE II: It’ll have a better webcam too. 1.3mp, as opposed to the original .3mp. Nice. And Xandros’ll still be the default OS. (Hopefully an improved distro?)

Report Card February 2, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Ramblings, Review.

It’s been a month for me using the EeePC today. Happy Anniversary!

Still top marks. Learned a lot, from a rudimentary grasp of Linux to learning how to hack into the system to get it to do things Asus never meant for you to do. And everything in between.

It’s still a computer worth getting. A month hasn’t dimmed its value or usefulness. If anything, it’s gotten more valuable over the past few weeks.

It still turns heads in public, up to now. The shortage of stock has made it even more desirable, and people are combing the stores for units. Preferably the Galaxy Black version, which is number one with a bullet (although having been up close and personal with a Pearl White, I wouldn’t mind owning one instead).

If you’ve been reading the comments here, you’ll note the quick conversions people have once they see it in action. Windows die-hards, Mac blow-hards, non-geeks, even Luddites. I’ve more than one friend pick one up after seeing mine, and I sometimes get calls from co-workers and friends asking me the precise model and price because they were at the mall hunting one down and didn’t want to make a mistake.

The most heard (and telling) comment? “My phone costs more than that, and I can’t even do a thing with it!”

I often forget that I’m carrying one in my backpack, I’m so used to heavy laptops. I’ve gotten a lot more personal work done on it that I’ve ever been able to do with the MacBook or the Thinkpad, precisely because of the reasons I’ve enumerated on this blog. My brother says he’s never been happier with his purchase, and doesn’t regret buying one at all.

I’m happy because it delivers. What I set out to do with it I did. And I didn’t even need to convert to Windows or anything (which is one of the better perks). I’m walking proof that the open source model works – everything I need I got out of the box or from Synaptics. Well, yeah, some outside of repositories. Let’s not split hairs. But I haven’t needed to purchase anything, and I’m able to do 98% of what I need to.

The niggles are still there, of course. Small screen, small keyboard. Small everything, really. No big hard disk, no optical drive. But you can live without these things, and eventually realize that that’s perfectly all right. That’s the nature of the beast. (As Microsoft likes to say, they’re not bugs, they’re features.) Literally and figuratively, the EeePC is no burden at all. Even if you don’t think you need one, you probably do.

Nearly straight As. One B- for the screen size, which, unlike the keyboard, could be a bit bigger. (Really now, Asus. We know you were keeping the costs down, but I think we wouldn’t have have minded springing a bit more for an additional inch or so of LCD. Things would’ve been so much nicer.)

And a point off for the modem hole.

Eeecast January 25, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Apps, Asus.
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One of the niggles of the included apps of the Eeep is the Pearson Longman Mobile Dictionary‘s usability – in a word, limited.

Since Asus is a Taiwanese company, it’s no surprise that their dictionary app is Sino-centric: English-to-Chinese, Chinese-to-English and English-to-English (in Traditional and Simplified Chinese at that). Which is fine, but the menu options are in Chinese out of the box, so English users are SOL.

There’s a way around it though – and it’s simple enough if you read Chinese to begin with. If not, here’s the fix: click on the wrench icon in the lower right corner of the dictionary window. In the dialog that pops up, there will be two drop-down menus (in Chinese, of course). Drop down the upper one, then click on the first of the three choices. Voila! English menus.

Now this isn’t too intuitive, especially for non-Chinese readers, unless you come across it on a website or someone tells you the trick.

For me it was the former – I was specifically looking for an EeePC podcast (it’s a no-brainer that there’d be one or two out there already) and stumbled across the companion website of The Eeecast, which is run by geekgirl Jacqueline Moody.

This post isn’t about the Longman Dictionary – it’s about the podcast, but I just thought I’d mention it and give credit where it’s due. Jackie’s site had the tip you just read. Which is what podcasts are usually great for. (Although in this case it was her site that gave the tip.)

I’m a podcast slut. I listen to a lot, and regularly. Coming from a talk radio background, I love these things.

The Eeecast isn’t too regular (it’s got three out at the moment, the last one released Jan. 7), and it isn’t too techie and geek-deep, despite the fact that Jackie calls herself The GeekGirl. (A plus was actually getting to listen to Neil, the Brit moderator from eeeuser.com, who guested on Episode Two.)

It’s sort of roundabout and leisurely made – sorta like this blog, come to think about it. Jackie’s manner is also slow and deliberate, as if she was reading from a script (which is probably the case), and it’s pretty short too. The last one was barely 4 minutes. To someone used to nearly two-hour long programs like TWIT and MacBreak Weekly, EeeCast is just a burp on the net.

But I’m glad its around. It’s a sign of things to come – Art and I already recently recorded a podcast episode that was all about the Eeep. Here’s to catching more EeePC-centric shows soon.

If you want to listen to The GeekGirl’s show, head on to eeecast.com to get the podcasts.

Inscrutable January 12, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Macs, Ramblings, Windows, Xandros.

One of the things I’ve been spoiled with using Macs is the simple, logical, almost street-language, gut-feel interface of Mac OS X which you can intuitively wing. That’s why Macs don’t come with much documentation. You try to intuit how to do something, and usually you end up being right.

Being spoon-fed for years with this sort of personal computing, you’re in for a major shock when you have to get your hands dirty with the command line interface in Linux.

Not that you have to really get your hands dirty when you buy an EeePC. You can always just live in the child-like universe of Easy Mode, or if ever you break into Advanced Mode go no further than its faux-Windows GUI interface, which is vaguely comforting in a guilty sort of way.

But to squeeze more out of an EeePC and Xandros, to go beyond what is safe and easy, you’ll have to crack open a console window at some point and deal with commands like “sudo” (which I’ve previously said sounds like a martial art where you use your intuition’s own weight against itself).

One of the more bracing things is the inscrutability of the commands and the syntax. It’s shockingly counter-intuitive especially if you’re coming from a cold start in Linux, like a dash of ice-water in your crotch. Even if you’d used DOS commands before, stuff like “home/user> sudo dpkg -i opera_9.25-20071214.6-shared-qt_en_i386.deb” looks downright terrifying. Not a single friendly phrase in the crowd. More so if your idea of installing an app is just clicking the mouse button on a pretty little icon.

There is no real peg in the example to even tenuously hang your geek gut instinct on. Which to some people is an interesting challenge, but for most, a clear signal to put their EeePC on EeeBay while it can still go for a reasonable amount. Either that or fall sway once more to the oily lure of Windows XP, which is at least a devil you know (as a couple of my friends have done).

As a Mac user I see where Apple has done a good job. The underpinnings of Mac OS X is this exact same unknown bedrock. To harness the efficiency, economy and reliability of Unix yet make things as simple as clicking the mouse button on a pretty little icon and marry it to their own hardware, Apple’s done things right. As opposed to the original Wintel hegemony, where everything was all over the place, and nobody got along.

The EeePC under Xandros is essentially what Apple is doing, minus Jonathan Ives, orchestrated keynotes and done on a shoestring budget. Which is why despite the inscrutability I’m still willing to try and learn the martial art of sudo. At least I’m buying into a world where people know what they’re doing.

I just hope this old dog can still learn some new tricks.

Asus presscon: WiMAX, bigger screens, Windows January 9, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Developments, Events, Updates, Windows.
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I don’t intend to make pEeePCeee a news blog, it’s more a rambling, introspective, reflective kind of thing, but now and then if something is newsworthy, I’ll make an exception.

Like now.

At the Asus press conference at the WiMAX convention yesterday, they announced that the EeePC is their most successful product ever, and proceeded to announce, among other things, wider screens, WiMAX …heck, it’s all in the picture I cribbed from Engadget, which did a liveblog from the event.

No other details, really, as in when these things’ll be released, or how much, but at least it puts to bed all those rumors.

Commentary on these developments next time. Gotta rush to work.

Whither EeePC? January 4, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Ramblings.
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My wife hosted the formal launching of the EeePC a couple of months ago at a ballroom of one of the big hotels here. Before she got her scripts, she had no idea of what product she was launching. She’s not a geek like me at all, and she really couldn’t care less.

It’s just a new laptop, she said. From Asus.

OMG. It’s not the EeePC, is it?

I tried to explain to her why it was an important launch, that it was a big thing in the community, blah blah blah, and in the end she said, yeah, whatever.

I couldn’t go to the event myself, and when she came home after hosting the event, I asked her how it was. Oh, nice. Went well. Lotsa people, lotsa food, she said. I meant the laptop. Oh. Ok, she said. But it was small, like a toy, and was meant for kids.


Apparently aside from the size, the Easy Mode interface made it look to her like one of those V-Tech faux laptops kids are crazy about. After a while I gave up explaining why it wasn’t anything like those.

Actually, if you think about it, she was partially right. As a quiet and low profile exponent of the OLPC (one laptop per child) movement, the creation of the EeePC was meant for kids and teenagers on a budget. (Not for aging techies like me.) The stupid name is a concession to that – Easy to learn, Easy to play, Easy to work. EeePC. Eeek.

At the launching, it was packaged as something that kids could easily use, complete with a cute little dramatization of that fact on stage. Asus’s own worldwide campaign used lots of children and young people. There are lots of publicity photos of kids carrying white EeePCs color coordinated with their attire.

But unlike the real OLPC which really looks like a toy with its garish colors and design, the EeePC looks like a Thinkpad left out in the rain to shrink. Which makes it attractive to any self-respecting geek.

I think Asus hedged its bets and deliberately designed something that could go either way – OLPC or UMPC. It looks like it’s taken the latter route, and is on the verge of dropping the pretense altogeher.

Even the new models coming out seem hardly kid-friendly; the updates coming out at the WIMAX event and CES in the coming weeks will bear this out, I think. All the hullabaloo in the grownup IT community about the EeePC has drowned out any noise about the kiddy OLPC part.

My wife, who’s in the market for an update for her aging iBook, is saving up for a Macbook, and I keep trying to convince her to just get an EeePC. For the budget, she could get three of these things. But first impressions last, and it will forever be a toy to her.

Until I said, you do know it comes in pink, right?

That got her thinking.