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89 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Good but room to improve, buyer be aware (not beware)
on August 27, 2008
If you are looking at buying a eeePC 900 or 1000 series there are some things you should be aware of as of Aug 27,2008. I'm reviewing the 1000 but there are some common issues that relate to a 900 series as well. I'm writing about the Linux models so Windows may vary.
Amazon has some good screenshots of the desktop to give you an idea of what you get right out of the box. Take a good look to see if it's enough for you to work with because there are issues making it hard for some users to expand beyond them on the Linux models.
Immediately upon boot up you'll start to see an icon saying there is an update available, in fact there are several but the main one of concern is the Asus System update. When you go and process it the update is rendered as broken and in the work area the file manager disapears. Now one would think something like this would have been fixed but in fact it hasn't and the error relating to this file lies in the repository (where linux gets new files and programs if you aren't familiar with it).
Hence the problem is at the Asus eee PC site not on the device itself. I got mine about 3 days ago but apparently this has now been the case for a couple months. I would point out this seems to be true at least on the English language versions, not sure about the Chinese and there seems to be a CN version of most things out of the box. If you are fluent you might want to look at those support/discussion sites to check if it's a universal issue or just say North American/UK.
So without this you can't update, add new programs, or fix bugs in the software essentially. You can still update the installed programs like the antivirus but one of the main draws for many people in having linux is the 20,000 or so open source programs. It is possible to use a command line to install but the programs still won't show up in the graphical menu tabs. So you should be familiar with command line to run those programs as well as some that are actually there but don't show up.
An important element of Linux is it's command line functions and the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the eee PC does not provide you with access one via an icon. You will need to hit CTRL-ALT-T and then you are presented with one that lacks a menu bar or any of the things your favorite interface has if you are a Linux user. You can type say Konsole and get the K desktop interface because KDE is there but then you will have two windows, and should you close that first one you lose the second one. The same will be true of each program called this way, and the command window is in use until you close the called program so you need a window for each. Hence the big deal about them failing to fix the add/remove feature.
That said there is an advanced desktop, but again it is no longer easily accessible for beginners or possibly intermediate computer and linux users. You have to circumvent it via command line and changing the code. Of course I'd rather do it on this units hard drive because if a mistake is made it doesn't take very long to reinstall.
The reason I say be aware as opposed to beware is the unit is still very useful, in fact I'm writing this on one. It's a solidly built unit that serves the main purpose I bought it. I am a photographer and I also got it a matching black usb powered hard drive. In field testing I was impressed with the speed from SD cards to the USB drive or the SSD and the smallest cards I use are around 2GB. An issue with this does come up in viewing raw files, it does not include the capability to view this so command line is needed. Again GIMP is there (the linux Photoshop equivalent) but it's not available except by command line out of the box though ironically it is listed as an external app by the viewer (attempts to call it as an editor failed on this machine). If you shoot in JPG or want to use it to present portfolio work to clients it's fine.
The keyboard is not bad compared to some minis I've seen but might take some getting used to. The trackpad is responsive but you will need to watch your text most likely as bumps to it and hitting the up arrow key will often put you up and having you erasing a few keystrokes and moving backdown. For extensive writing I'd recommend just plugging a larger keyboard into one of the USB slots. I've noted no lags in the typing speed while playing music and typing even with several windows open. Though as noted below music playback requires a certain technique to avoid hitches.
With a larger keyboard you really could write really write all your term papers or other documents on it as the screen is quite sharp. I haven't done a lot of outside typing but I'd imagine it would work well there as well, though as always with LCDs on cameras or whatever if they seem a bit dark and you were glasses it may be the photograde (more common to digicams but I've heard of larger screen coatings doing it now and then).
It plays music though again codecs may be an issue with some lossless formats, but MP3s work. You'll find when web surfing the playback hitches when you use an arrow key on the keyboard or in the bar on the screen. In fact it will often pause the player until you let up on the arrow. This is likely hardware based and is remedied if you use the page up page down function instead which is achieved with the FN key on the keypad or by clicking on the spaces surrounding the movement bar on the screen (or by dragging it). The same issues will face you if you prefer another player like Rythmbox, in that even if installed it requires a command line to start out of the box. I also just inserted a music CD in the drive I have attached and it play just as well as files on the SSD but the default player failed to pull in track info like you might expect. Also of note if the music or sound you are playing sounds muffled it's due to the speakers being on the bottom. Prop up an edge and it should be notably louder, also check both the player the sound settings in the settings tab as neither are "cranked" when you first get it.
It uses an Mplayer shell to play video and did well with the X-Files from disc and avi when I tested it so normal DVD and DIVX should not be an issue as it seems to have adequate codec coverage. I haven't tested it I would not expect Bluray to work necessarily but in time if they do correct the primary issue with updates, downloads, and install and remove I would expect it might.
For my purposes the office suite is fine and it all runs fine including the Thunderbird mail client. I have about 7 computers used for graphics and I generally prefer Claws but TB works fine especially out in the field at a hotspot. It may be worth noting that there are no p2p, ftp, http editors in the default setup. To have a GUI access to these you have to do the hacks or go commando line.
In order to get around the problems you will have to hunt down hacks on the web. This probably won't be that daunting to most linux users but there are a lot of posts out there from beginners who find it all a bit confusing so be aware. It's a cheap enough line of products though that there are a lot of folks in the linux community drawn to it. Thats general how support is down in linux anyways unless you buy a corp contract such as Red Hat or Ubuntu but I don't think you'd get far with those here :)
I can only speculate what is going on with Asus, I've never had a problem like this with them before because frankly their stuff usually works. I'd speculate that they are outsourcing the support in North America for example and that there is a disconnect of some sort causing the delay of months in fixing things. That's just speculation though and people are reporting reps telling them to just return it and hanging up insisting there is no issue with downloads. Make no mistake if you are told this, there is and it is widespread. It'll be fixed in time, there are already people working on a port of Ubuntu, but when I did a clean install of it to take a look earlier neither the wifi nor the ethernet (oddly) networking worked. That's no doubt something addressable via command line but keep in mind your references are limited with no networking. Of course it's only a matter of minutes to swap back, the SSD is really rather fast.
So should you get one of these or look elsewhere what's the final verdict? Well I'd point out at least with the Asus you get restore disks for Windows and Linux. So even if you opt to go the safe route with Windows initially it's not really that hard to switch to Linux and "free software" later on. Not sure about some of the others so take a good look if a mini-PC comes in both flavors or not. I've noted that the networking and hardware works well on these it's a software issue. That's important because it means software drivers exist that are linux native. An issue for a lot of people starting with linux is trying to get things like wifi to work right especially the cutting edge ones, in this case N or perhaps Bluray. Even if you go Windows at first you will be able to get drivers made for the eee PC so long as the internet is around. Using the recovery media will let you swap OS pretty fast and I'd be surprised if the hdd models are near as fast.
So I'd say yes it's a buy. If Asus takes too long I'd wager the linux community will take over make the necessary forks and ports and Asus will ultimately lose control of the OS aspect. If you fail to fix something people will just open the box and replace the broken software you know?
I'm going to completely hack it but time is the issue. It actually works well enough that I've put it off and slated it for the labor day weekend here in the U.S.
I wouldn't be surprised if in time we see more distros with a fork that works on these particularly the like of DSL or Puppy linux and other small distros who knows maybe even Slackware that would be cool. But then I got started on DOS and ARPANET so the command line thing works for me :)