First weekend with the new EeePC – some random observations

I expect to put up a real page detailing my setup here and how I get various things to work on it, but before I go to bed, here are some first impressions:

  • The keyboard is, as I said, TINY. However, it’s turning out not to be a problem for me. I end up going at a little less that full speed on it, but I can still type plenty fast enough on it to be comfortable rather than impatient with it.
  • Arch Linux seems to be quite nice for a distribution that uses precompiled binaries…(Yes, I’m still a Gentoo fan…). It’s a lot like Slackware, except with a “real”, full-featured package manager. There seems to be a nice selection of user-generated repositories for various purposes along with the official one, too (including ones for Eee PC 901-specific stuff.)
  • So far, the wireless (802.11a/b/g/n) on this thing seems amazing. I’m getting a much stronger signal with it than ever got with any of the three different bits of wireless network hardware I tried with Igor (built-in wireless, Prism-based 802.11b PCMCIA card, and most recently USB dongle).
  • GIGANTO-FONTS! GTK+ applications – including Firefox – seem to have their own special places to define font sizes, I think – I had to modify “userChrome.css” to force the browser to use normal sized fonts rather than gigantic “RUN SPOT RUN, SEE SPOT RUN” “Easy-Reader” fonts on this screen. I still run into a lot of sites that display in annoying giganto-fonts. Liferea seems to have the same problem. KDE (4.2.2) initially had the same problem, but so far I’ve only had to tell it once to use normal-sized (for this screen) fonts and all of the KDE-related applications are behaving so far. KDE seems to run nicely on this system.
  • Incidentally, the browser in question is the Firefox 3.1(/3.5) Beta 3, compiled from one of the user-provided Arch packages. So far it’s running great.
  • Battery life is probably not outright AMAZING for people who have previously paid attention to maximizing battery life, but I do get 4-6 hours or so out of it, which compared to my previous lazy habit of demanding maximum performance and just carrying the power cord with me is really impressive to me.
  • The built-in webcam works “out of the box” – without doing anything at all to configure it, I just installed mplayer and “mplayer tv://” immediately lets me use my computer as a $300 vanity mirror…more practical uses to follow later. I’d love to design a periscope-like gizmo to hang on the edge of the screen such that the webcam would be recording what’s happening in FRONT of me, rather than recording ME.
  • Sound configuration is confusingly simple. I know that sounds strange, but the last two laptops I had displayed a bewildering array of volume and mute controls for the sound. Bit just has an “out” volume control, a mute for the built-in speakers, volume settings for the two built-in microphones, and a central “capture” volume control. I haven’t played with recording yet, so I’m not sure how the input controls relate to either the external microphone port or the built-in pair of microphones (stereo!), but playback seems to work fine. I’ve already installed Audacity, so I should be equipped to play with it when I get time. It’s slightly confusing that the master volume control is called “lineOut”, but only slightly…
  • The 1024×600 resolution usually works just fine and gives me plenty of space, but a few programs still seem to assume the screen is taller. Part of this is really the Giganto-Fonts problem – most of the windows seem to fit on the screen just fine once the fonts are made to display at a normal size.
  • Google Earth whines about the screen being “only” 600 pixels high, and at the moment the bottom of the window ends up where I can’t see it, but other than that it seems to run fine. Given that this is the only application I use at the moment that actually needs real 3D acceleration, this is good news to me. Once I figure out how to set a default window size for Google Earth and cure ITS GigantoFonts problem it ought to be perfectly usable.

The verdict so far: “Bit” is a ridiculously concentrated piece of portable computing power. The ability to easily carry a device like this that gives me a full-powered computer and internet connection made want to dig out my DVD’s of “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”. I also need to install some speech synthesis so I can make it say “Yes” and “No” in the proper voice-synthesizer tone…

More to follow…but now, bedtime.

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

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