Thursday, March 27, 2008

Small but perfectly formed - Asus Eee PC

I have recently been able to get my hands on an Asus Eee PC - the 4 gb version. This little notebook has proved to be an ideal travelling companion. You can read all about it here

Running a version of Linux, the initial screen is fine for many users - simple, effective and easy to navigate. It is possible to install Windows, but lurking behind the set up is a full desktop that will give a Windows feel without hogging valuable memory. So my first stop was unlocking this (you will find all the links to be able to do this below). Once the desktop was up and running (and it includes a toggle to get back to the Easy Desktop) I started on some of the other changes to really make the Eee PC a useful piece of kit.

Having forgotten to power off after a meeting in Manchester and drained the battery, my next task was to force a shutdown when the lid was closed. This is great for a quick exit to catch a train, although most times I do try to go through a clean shutdown. If I forget or am in a hurry then I know no harm will come to the notebook. It does tend to get warm during use, and if you put it away in its protective pouch without shutting down you will end up with a pretty good handwarmer. Best to be safe!

I noticed that some windows were too large for the screen and I had to guess where the OK button was. For some reason the window would not move above the top of the screen. Again this was fixed after a visit to the unofficial website set up for Eee PC users. Now if I want to move a screen to find the lower command buttons I hold the ALT key while moving. Works perfectly!

Getting the webcam to work with SKYPE was just a case of updating the shipped Skype program. If this still does not work for you then follow the link below this post to install Skype Beta 2.0.

Before you do anything else it's probably a good idea to buy a chunky flash drive. I invested in a 4gb from JOGR, copied all my files from my main machine, and now use this as my work drive for all my machines. But make sure you back this up - I have a briefcase on a Freecom 80gb external drive to my main PC - so just plug in the flash drive and back it up at the end of every session. So I am not using any of the spare memory on my Eee PC.

I also store additional programs on the flash drive. Which brings me to the next task. Getting windows programs to run on a Linux system is quite possible using a piece of free software called Wine. This took longer to set up but I proved the potential by downloading and running Hot Potatoes happily. Photostory 3 still won't run - I suspect Microsoft have something embedded that stops it, but if you know how to do this then let me know!

To make Wine work easily I downloaded Rox-Filer after fully installing Wine. Now, if I want to run a windows program, I use File Manager to navigate to the .exe file and double click. This brings up the Run With window - just pull down the Open With box and select Wine. Not all programs will run correctly, but most seem to be fine (Sadly not Snippy). Incidentally, don't put a short cut on the desktop to un programs unless you are sure that you will always have your flash drive as the same drive letter.

And to crown it all I use my Eee PC as a dumb terminal for a citrix link via to my office machine. So I can demonstrate and use any software remotely, including Office 2007. If you are worried about screensize for presentations then another miracle of the little notebook is the fact that it reconfigures its display when linked to a projector. You can set up the display manually as well just by going to the control panel on the start menu and selecting display.

Do I like it? Yes - and the rest of the family are fighting me for it!

Rather than give you direct links for each of the topics mentioned above I have given the link to the main Wiki of the Eee User site. Just scroll down looking for the links on the left hand side of their site to find the topic you want to work with. You don't have to do everything in one go - start with a simple one like shutting the lid. It might be best to get your full desktop up and running with the moveable windows before trying to work with Wine - as it is easier to follow the onscreen directions.

Here's the link to the Eee PC User Group