Ubuntu Plus the Asus EEE PC 1000: Happiness?

Sunday Sep 21st 2008 by Paul Ferrill
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The new hyper-charged Asus EeePC 1000 from ZaReason, customized with Ubuntu Hardy Hero: Do a beefier CPU, more RAM, goodies like a Webcam, Bluetooth and a larger solid-state hard disk play well with Ubuntu?

The original Asus Eee PC was the spark that ignited a forest fire of sub-mini notebooks from second tier providers to high end players like HP and Dell. Asus did so well with the original Eee PC they decided to release other models with similar design goals but minor tweaks of the hardware specs. The Eee PC model 1000 sports a robust list of hardware features sure to make your mobile computing experience a pleasant one.

For this review ZaReason provided an Asus Eee PC 1000 loaded with Ubuntu Hardy Heron. Basic specs for this unit include a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of memory, a 40 GB Solid State Disk (SSD) drive and a 10-inch screen. A 6-cell battery is standard and provides up to 6 hours of run time depending on usage. Networking support includes 10/100 wired Ethernet plus 802.11n and Bluetooth.

Boot time with the SSD is quick. I had a login prompt in about 45 seconds from pressing the on switch. It took another 30 seconds after entering my login credentials to bring up the main screen. Total time from power on to logged in and ready to go is under two minutes assuming you type your password in correctly. Speed and power are two definite advantages of SSD equipped laptops.

Software

ZaReason ships the Eee PC with a standard install of Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04). Basic software packages include everything a typical user will need including Evolution, Gimp, Open Office, and more. You'll get Firefox 3.01 out of the box along with the F-Spot photo management tool, Pidgin instant messenger client and Cheese for taking photos or videos with the built-in 1.3 MP camera.

Ubuntu's auto update feature ensures your Eee PC has the latest security updates available. The Synaptic Package Manager is the easiest way to find and install additional software. I was able to get the latest version of VLC for the Eee PC using this method. Command line software installation using apt-get is another option for installing other applications. I used this approach to download and install the Banshee music player.

For connectivity to Windows machines there's a Terminal Server Client application that will allow you to use the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect to a Windows-based machine. This is one of those applications that doesn't fit on the Eee PC's screen. At startup you're presented with a dialog screen with entries for the computer name, user name, password, domain and client hostname. The bottom of the screen containing the buttons to either exit or connect doesn't show although you can barely see and click on the tops of the buttons. Guessing that the bottom right most button was connect got me connected to the remote computer. Once I was logged in I wasn't able to see a full screen, and there was no way to scroll it either.

Carrying the Eee PC 1000 around won't strain anyone's back. Total weight comes in at under three pounds, including the six-cell battery. The Eee PC 1000 sports three USB ports making it possible to actually connect a keyboard and mouse with an extra USB left over. The 40 GB SSD is split into an 8 GB system partition and a 32 GB user partition which should make it easy to do system backup and recovery should the need arise.

With a default screen resolution of 1024 by 600 you will find some applications that extend beyond the screen. The good news is that many of the Compiz functions like screen rotation using the ctrl-alt-arrow key combination work well. Connecting to a wireless network is a piece of cake with the built-in tools. I was able to quickly connect in multiple locations with no problems.

My first attempt to connect a Jabra BT-620S Bluetooth headset was unsuccessful based on an obscure error message and no audio through the headphones. After a little help from Google I found a good set of instructions on the FOSSwire blog including a shell script to make it all work.

One thing I miss on the trackpad is the scrollbar feature found on most HP and Dell laptops. This handy feature lets you scroll up and down on a window by sliding your finger up and down on the right hand side of the trackpad. Then I found out that you can accomplish the same thing on the Eee PC by using two fingers on the trackpad. All you have to do is use two fingers slightly spread apart on the trackpad with a downward motion away from the keyboard to scroll down on a page and inward toward the keyboard to scroll up. This feature works great and makes it possible to accomplish the desired scrolling function without taking your hand away from the trackpad.

I was really impressed with how little heat the Eee PC puts out compared with the HP MiniNote. I found the MiniNote to get hot especially when attached to AC power. Not so for the Eee PC. It does run a little warm off AC power and when charging but nothing like the HP. The cooling fan is quiet and in my usage never ran very fast at all. Again, the HP MiniNote could pump out a good bit of heat with the fan running at full speed.

The Eee PC 1000 is a real joy to use. With the exception of a few minor annoyances having to do with the screen size, it handles most any task you would expect of a machine this size. Coupled with a reasonable price, long lasting battery and you've got another winner for Asus. The Ubuntu installation from ZaReason makes this machine even more inviting.

Resources

These websites have lots of information and links related to different models of the Eee PC:

Wiki.Eeeuser.com

EeePC.net

The price starts at $599. Upgrades are additional.

ZaReason

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