I unexpectedly acquired an Asus EeePC 900 last weekend. Lovely piece of hardware.

The Xandros distro was okay at first (IceWM brought me fond memories of the year 2000, when I used it). Then I started longing for Firefox 3 and the aesthetics of GNOME applications. Finally, when apt-cache search told me there was no SSH server package available, I gave up and installed Ubuntu Eee from a SD card. The software selection is incomparable (Asus/Xandros: 870 packages available, according to apt-cache stats. Ubuntu: over 30,000 packages.) Also, yay rotating cube desktop!

Things I like about the Eee:

  • Small! Lightweight! Beautiful white colour!
  • Small pixels are pretty! 1024x600 at 8.9" is 133 dpi. Not quite the 225 dpi of a Nokia N810, but nicer than the 100 dpi of my T61W or the 85 dpi of my 19" external LCD.
  • The keyboard is much better than I expected. I hate those laptops that squeeze Home/End/PgUp/PgDn in an extra column on the right. Asus didn't.
  • Web browsing is much more pleasant than on a N810. It's faster for AJAXy sites such as Google Reader. Also, Firefox 3.
  • Video watching is much more pleasant than on a N810: no need to convert anything.

Things that are bad:

  • It gets hot. Either the hardware is not power-efficient, or the software isn't doing a good job.
  • Only 2 hours of battery life (plus an extra 40 minute safety warning with the blinking red battery low light). This is during normal usage (WiFi on, Compiz, Firefox, no CPU-intensive Flash plugins).
  • No integrated Bluetooth. Therefore you have to lug a dongle around if you want to use GPRS/EDGE/3G when there are no WiFi access points around. I hate dongles.
  • Doesn't come with Ubuntu preinstalled.
  • Not all hardware works in Ubuntu:
    • Even after using the Eee version of Ubuntu I had to manually tweak config files and compile kernel modules to get volume hot keys working.
    • No webcam or mic for me, though others report those working.
    • Touchpad is not configurable and doesn't do wheel emulation on the right edge, although most other gestures work.
    • Sound needs a module reload after suspend/resume, which causes an irritating error dialog from the volume control applet).
    • Video playback sometimes shows a blank black screen until you move a window to overlap part of the picture.
    • Firefox scrolling/redrawing under Compiz is noticeably slow sometimes (I don't know if it's because I enabled CPU frequency scaling, or if this is a problem with the Intel graphics driver problem.).
    • When I unplug a Bluetooth USB dongle, a btdelconn process starts eating 100% CPU time in the kernel and cannot be killed. Did I mention my hate for dongles?

My workhorse, a 14" Lenovo T61W, now seems huge by comparison:

Nokia N810 on top of Asus EeePC 900 on top of Lenovo ThinkPad T61W

I'm not going to stop using my N810 (which fits in a pocket, has a much longer battery life, and is more convenient for e-books or NumptyPhysics). I'll stop lugging my T61W around instead and start leaving it at work. The EeePC is an almost-perfect travelling laptop.

The upcoming Asus EeePC 901 is going to fix the lack of internal Bluetooth and the battery life. I wonder when it will become available in Lithuania. (The 900 is displayed in almost every electronics shop here. Yay Asus. Boo Nokia for not doing this with its Internet Tablets.)