I Gave Up My Notebook For An Eee PC: Day 3

eeepckeyboard3.jpgWhen I first agreed to abandon my notebook for the Asus Eee PC, the only trepidation I faced was in regards to the Liliputian keyboard. After spending three days with the little-notebook-that-could, I can honestly say that my fears were indeed warranted. While I must admit that I’ve somewhat adjusted, nothing beats the comfort of a full-sized keyboard (and a trackpad and mouse buttons that don’t feel as though they were crafted by a team of designers with the smallest hands in known history). My breaking point arrived today while trying to swiftly type up an article, so I could join a couple of co-workers in some after-hours shenanigans. It seemed that the Eee PC’s keyboard did everything within its power to slow me down. As my tensions mounted, I turned to our Editorial Assistant for, well, assistance. She heard my story of frustration, disappeared into our storage room, and returned with the Logitech G15 USB keyboard. I nominate her for sainthood. Remembering that I had a USB mouse stashed away in my apartment, I figured I could put one and one together to form a dynamic duo that would replicate the feel of a larger notebook quite nicely. I joined my colleagues for an after work get together confident that I would be able to blow through work at home.

eeepckeyboard.jpg

I did, and it was triumphant. The Asus Eee PC instantly recognized both input devices and I rocked on. My fingers stroked the keys with the accuracy of a well-honed marksman as I finished my assignment in OpenOffice. It may come off as a bit odd to use a keyboard that dwarfs the notebook it’s attached to, but it’s all good. The addition of the keyboard and mouse felt so much like the desktop experience that I now want to cobble together a makeshift desktop. The Eee PC has a VGA port. Monitors offer VGA connections. Oh, this is going to be so, so sweet.

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  1. Anonymous Says:

    That’s what I’m talking about.

    LCD monitor + dual display on the eee + usb mouse= win.

  2. rljaplit Says:

    All you need now is…..XP! The Eee turns into a MONSTER MACHINE on XP!

  3. Phenoum Says:

    @ rljaplit

    lol… it does and it doesnt. For some of the best user-experience out there try the custom eeeXubuntu with compiz-fusion enabled. im typing from my EEE right now with a logitech v nano mouse, and a 22″ screen running 1680×1050 quite well – might i say compiz looks unreal on a full sized monitor!!
    oh and less resources being used than a graphic-interface-free XP….. but now now, lets all just enjoy out EEE the way we want to, i know i am!

  4. Romain Says:

    Yeah using XP… but I think it cost about half the price of this machine…

  5. Susie Says:

    I’ve had my 3E for a month now & love it. Although I understand your frustrations with the keyboard & screen size, what’s the point of having a smaller laptop, if you have to add all the peripherals to use it????

  6. David Alexander Says:

    The only slight downside is that a barrel (Kensington style) lock cannot be in place at the same time as a VGA monitor is plugged in.
    On the plus side you can buy a USB hub for a pound and you have a pseudo-docking station for your input peripherals.
    Running lots of peripherals off the battery is never going to be a winner, either.

  7. AJ Hughes Says:

    I’m a regular member on EEEuser.com forum since the early days, and have been experimenting and developing hardware mods for the EEE. Even someone with limited skill can add many devices such as GPS, Touchscreen, extra storage space etc. As rljaplit says, If you put a streamlined (got to love nlite) XP on it, and a decent size SO-DIMM (cheap 5400 will do) it turns into a fantastic machine. One has replaced not only my Samsung R20 core2duo 14″ laptop, but also my user/office style rig – i’ve got a 17″ LCD, IBM Preferred keyboard, and an optical mouse hooked up to it, along with an old LG DVD reader i salvaged in a cheap 5.25″ to usb drive caddy. I’m going to try a pioneer dvd burner i’ve got hanging around at some point.

    But the system is phenomenal as a standalone portable machine. I put it in my jacket pocket or backpack and go. EEE is, in my opinion, a revolutionary machine, as it’s the first really affordable, really usable ultra micro. It’s wonderfully useful in standard trim, and for the masses of kids and gramps that WILL get a lot of use out of them, great. Fortunately for us tech-heads Asus made it with a lot of potential for modifications which makes it even better.

    Oh yeah and the battery life PWNS THE FACE of traditional laptops.

  8. Jaco Says:

    (copied this from my day 2 comments)
    Don’t install XP. Too much unnecessary bloat for such a modest little machine. We have one and there’s no reason to replace the OS that comes with it. My wife can still run her Screenplay editing package CeltX on it, and there’s nothing else we’d want to do with it that it can not already do.

  9. MarkV Says:

    For the love of God, why would you want to install XP on the Eee?
    It rocks with Linux, why turn it into a fat, bloated, virus riddled, trojan loaded sloth?

  10. Cybervman Says:

    Hey … I’ve been looking at these baby’s for a week or so know and being from a Apple camp (and waiting for the Air to launch then disappointed at the entry price tag) I was really pleased to see a nice Linux based offering from ASUS. I must have seen every EeePC video on YouTube by know and I’m going to try and get hold of the 701 model over the weekend and install eeeXubuntu … any one know of any good support sites for this installation?

    Can’t wait to get one they look great!

    **Why oh why would you want to install XP on this beauty? **

  11. Marc Says:

    Truly the only reason I’d want to put XP on it is so I can use Nokia’s software to make my phone a modem for the machine.

    Can this be accomplished in Linux?

  12. Susie Says:

    <>

    I ended up installing Win XP SP2 on my EEE simply because I was not able to get up & running under Xandros quickly with the tasks I wanted to use it for. Different strokes for different folks & all that. But my point is that I was able to get my Razr to act as a modem for the EEE under Linux…but I had to do it with a USB cable, since I never was able to get the bluetooth up & running on the EEE. Others have, so I’m sure it was just something I was not doing correctly.

  13. Jeff Says:

    I have to agree. The keyboard (and mouse button) on this device absolutely sucks. It is actually pretty easy to type on the keyboard; however, you end up having to hit certain keys multiple times (with force) for them to register. This is most apparent with the spacebar (especially when you hit it on the left side). A few keys also seem to be horribly sized/placed (tab, backspace, and the left shift). I’ve been using the EEE for two weeks (for coding) and my typing speed/rhythm is often interrupted by these shortcomings.

    I ended up remapping up arrow and left shift key and that has helped a little bit (just like this guy -> http://www.infinitedesigns.org/archives/147). I’ve been debating about mapping the caps lock to tab (to give my left pinky a larger target when trying to hit the tab key).

    Any else have any other tips to improve the keyboard? I’d easily pay $30 bucks for a drop-in replacement keyboard that actually worked.

  14. Susie Says:

    PS – once I installed WinXP SP2, I got bluetooth up & running just fine. ;-)

  15. Graham Says:

    I don’t believe that BlueTooth is supported on the Eee. All that I’ve seen are mods done within the unit, and dongles of course. Oh, a good resource is EeeUser.com, for whomever asked.

  16. Odisej Says:

    Being a journalist myself I must disagree with the assessment the keyboard is not big enough. It depends. I can imagine if your fingers are more on the fatter side or it is hard to get used to the smaller keys but if you don’t suffer from these illnesses it is actually possible to write long articles, hack, even books. Since way before my time journalists were using portable typewriters with smaller than standard keys. I actually found eee to be better than my bigger computer. Easier to focus on the text being written. I also use vim (with some modifications) and I must say I am really glad I got this small beast (running eeexubuntu btw).

  17. TMG Says:

    On the eeeuser.com forum, a helpful member posted a how-to for nLiting a XP install. Another user posted on the use of portable apps for XP and the eeepc.. After following both and picking my apps, I have an XP install that boots in 17 seconds, and takes up 556mb of disk space.

    I killed the swap file, and disabled indexing.i

    Included in the 556mb is Opera 9, Flash, Ccleaner, AntiVir, all via normal installations.
    The portable apps include AbiwordPortable, IzArc2Go, MplayerPortable, SumatraPDFViewer, winMD5SumPortable.

    I also disabled the asus sound manager via msconfig, and deleted all of its executibles in various locations, and ran Ccleaner.

    Great clean and lean installl. Thanks and credit go to the eeeuser members who made it possible.

  18. Stuart Says:

    “Liliputian keyboard”
    LOL, oh man that one slayed me.

  19. Brandt Says:

    Had it for three weeks and just couldn’t get used to the screen size. So I basically traded for a 12″ Dell.

    They easily could have used the space on the sides and made it a 9″ screen and kept the same form factor. Most users (kids, mom + pop, average Joe, etc) won’t have the skill / know-how to upgrade to a better O/S and will be stuck with outdated software that doesn’t update in the package manager.

    The Wi-Fi is a strong point, I was able to connect to any hotspot flawlessly every time. Battery life somewhat disappointing and the processor is actually underclocked to 630mhz. Also a little picky about which SD cards are compatible.

    Overall not bad but with a 9″ or 10″ screen, XP or Ubuntu pre-installed, this would have been much much better for most users.

  20. ROC Says:

    Marc: I contributed to a thread on the eee forum or wiki on using a Verizon cell phone as a modem with particulars for my Nokia 6236i (under the native Asus/Xandros linux). It worked like a champ with very little effort. Unfortunately, it seems to have been removed (censorship? Verizon “leaning” on them?), or I can’t find it. Also, I sold my eee, so can’t re-create the steps. although, as I recall, you need to find the hardware “signature” info in a directory under /proc or /dev I think, then plug that into a “setserial” command, and then the connection manager GUI would pick it up and run with it … or something like that – wish I had saved that thread :-{

    One other part of that setup (regardless of OS) is to send this init string to the phone: +crm=1;+csp=33
    This seems to apply to most Nokias. Also, the Verizon 1xRTT and EVDO signon is needed:
    @vzw3g.com for Id, and vzw for the password

    Let’s see if Verizon gets this censored…

    Anyway, extrapolate the basic techniques to whatever carrier and phone you deal with.

    HTH,
    ROC

  21. ROC Says:

    Oh, yeah – I sold the eee after a month, after not being able to deal with the screen smallness (old eyes don’t adjust very well, even with partially successful Lasik…). I agree wholeheartedly with Brandt’s assessment, that Asus really wasted the lid space instead of making it a more usable 8-9 incher (although there are rumors that they are sourcing screens that size to posssibly come out with an upgraded model – add touch and blue tooth, and 16gb SSD, and I would jump on it ;-)

    ROC

  22. Mike Says:

    With all the mods out there you would think someone would’ve put a 9″ screen on an eee. What do you have to do? just rermove the pieces on the side some soddering and there ya go. i mean if they can get a touch screen in there then why not? i think it would be easy to re configure the default resolution of 800 by 480. I’ll have to ask around.

  23. David Says:

    Don’t understand all the complaints about this machine. It’s tiny – that’s the point. And why oh why install XP?? Linux works just great. I’ve had no problems with any peripherals and linking it to my phone via bluetooth for internet access was the best experience with any PC/phone combo – it just worked.

  24. AJ Hughes Says:

    Linux is great, but I find XP better – I have both on my EEE, dual booted. I just find it easier, being a noob to linux, to have an OS i know on the EEE. Although i have both OS’s i find i use XP nearly all the time. An nLited XP can be stripped down to use way less than 64mb ram, minimal hard drive space, little CPU power etc – I’ve run an nLited XP on a P166MMX with 96mb ram – ran fine. The software support of windows makes it a winner, I mean games, apps – everything can be got for XP.

    My EEEPC has 2gb of ram, plays the games i wish to play on it, runs media, does everything i wish it to.

  25. adrian Says:

    server 2003 for life

  26. Marc Says:

    Thanks, David and ROC on the phone-modem responses.

  27. S.Lim Says:

    I’d also say that default xandros is plenty usable, but it is understandable for people to install win xp. I mean, strangely enough xp seems to run better than xandros when I consider the bluetooth and application compatibility… Not to mention that the default xandros OS gives off a feeling of being shipped before getting some finishing touch.

    As for the tiny size, I think that the precise reason why most of us bought this machine. I totally love this computer. It’s much lighter than my other 12 in. laptop, and I don’t have to have a heart attack anymore when someone/thing hits my backpack. This laptop is the envy of everyone else in my class who needs to lug around 5 pound macbook all day (though I must admit that OS X looks so attractive).

    As far as the machine itself goes, I don’t think it can get much better than this (bigger/lighter screen and longer battery life perhaps?). As for the OS, I’m still looking for alternative.

  28. Sam Says:

    I am concidering the purchase of the ASUS!!!
    I currently use XP and just recently started voice recognition documents on word, which is O.K
    with new spell check sotware, I am interested in this mahine.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Threpwood Says:

    ok!!!!!!!!
    good for you!!!!!!!
    if you wrote that using voice-recognition you should really stop yelling at it!!!!!!!!!

  30. Desktop Hippie Says:

    Dammit, Threpwood! You owe me a keyboard!

  31. marc Says:

    I’m a bit of a novice, but have become intrigued by this machine. After doing a lot of research, I found a place in the Los Angeles area (PC Club) that had them in stock and demo-able. Ironically, they were not hooked up to ‘the net,’ so I couldn’t test that out.

    The Good:

    Amazingly small. Boots up very quickly.
    Programs came up quickly.

    The Bad:

    The keyboard was even smaller and harder to type on than I expected and I have average size hands / fingers.

    The screen is very small. I started typing a document and I (with 50-year old eyes) had a very hard time reading it (12 pt. font).

    It seems counter-productive to have to lug around a separate keyboard. I currently have a 15″ Gateway laptop (not widescreen). It’s bigger and heavier but I can see what I’m doing and can adjust the size of the document–150 %, etc if I want to.

    As much as I wanted to be able to justify buying this, these two are problematic for me. I also run Slingbox and PDAnet, so I need XP–I wouldn’t mind loading that, so that’s not really an issue. NOTE: I did see some thread where people installed Slingbox using WINE, but that’s a bit technical for me.

    I’d love someone to convince me otherwise or let me know how to get around my issues. Perhaps when the bigger screen version comes out?

  32. Oliver Says:

    does anybody know: is the eee pc compatible with a portable palm keybord?

    thanks, Oliver

  33. Tommy Says:

    Oliver,

    The portable palm keyboard is bluetooth, right? So that means you’d need to get a USB bluetooth dongle for it to work with an eee pc. You might consider something like a rubber keyboard: http://www.gadgets.co.uk/item/USBRK/USB-Flexible-Portable-Rubber-Keyboard.html (just the random top google hit for “rubber keyboard”). Portable and weatherproof

  34. Olivier Says:

    @ marc
    using myself an eee-pc, for sake of readability and because of the low resolution, I tend to do just the opposite (police from 10 to 9) ; so if the increase in price is not a problem, I suggest you wait for the 8.9 1024X600 model that should show up soon… it should be more comfortable for web browsing too.
    regards
    Olivier

  35. Anonymous Says:

    I do not understand why in the world would you put Microsloth Windoze on this ultra-awesome machine. I use Ubuntu ;it has everything-office, media player, no virus , no spy ware ,no worm . If you have to use a windows program (BTW whenever possible do not) you can just install wine.

    I’ve used wine once to test out office 07 on ubuntu. It definitely works with nearly all windows software.(I switched back to OpenOffice immediately. Ribbon = bad for power users.)

    I’m from the Land Down Under (Australia) and the EeePC is only $327 AUD. How much is it in USD?

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