Saturday, January 31, 2009

Loving my $199 Computer

I started this post last Sunday, when I bought this computer that I am using to blog from the airport as I am awaiting my flight to the sprint (see last post).

My First eee

In late 2007, I bought the first generation eeePC from new egg the week they came out, for $399. I tried out the Xandros based distro that came with it, but the repositories just really lacked software. For instance, I couldn't install mysql and Rails. Since I mostly wanted the thing for work on my website while on the bus to and from work, the installed distro just didn't cut it. Fortunately, I had a smart friend at work who was able to get Ubuntu running on it. So my old eee may be the first eee to run Ubuntu (of course some engineer at Canonical probably got it set up first, but still).

And use this thing I did. My first eee is definately my favorite computer ever. I could have it with me all the time, I got a ton for work done on it, and the thing "just worked" through several successive installs of vanilla gutsy to eeeXubutu, and back to vanilla Intrepid. The very small size was an asset to me, not a liability. It was a tad slow, especially Firefox tended to bog when there were a lot of tabs open, especially when the pages had embedded flash. However, this was a small price to pay for the pure utility of the thing.

New $199 eee

So the other week I am at BestBuy to pick up a big USB hard drive for doing backups, storing media, etc... and I see an eee for $199. It looks the same as my old one, but with a bigger screen. After a few days I decided that I had to have it, so I went back and picked it up. Serously, I bought a computer for $199. I also parted with $25 for an 8 gig compact flash drive.

You can read all about the eee family on wikipedia. This one is a 900A, US model.

Comparing the Computers

As you can see from the picture the new one (on the right) is slightly bigger. It also comes with a dual core running at 800 mghz instead of a single core running at 660mghz. It is reallynoticibly faster. It also has a bigger 1024 X 600 resolution screen and a gig of memory. On the down side, the new one lacks a web cam and has a smaller battery.l The powe supply is a little different, it's like a small traditional laptop power supply. The old one was a little simpler, but could be hard to find a plug that didn't take up the space of two plugs on a power strip.

Installing Ubuntu
Naturally, I didn't even consider using the distro that came installed on it. I already had a USB disc ready to install Intrepid, so I grabbed that. I plugged in the new machine, and attached it to ethernet.

After starting it up, it took some doing to bring up the boot device chooser. I had to hit ecs and then tab at just the right time or it would just dive into booting up from the "hard disc". I just immediately ran the installer, and Intrepid installed like a dream.

I followed the prompts to install all of the updates, which is somehting I always do after I install. I knew from experience that the vanilla kernal wouldn't have support for the wireless. I took a moment to confirm this, and in fact, the wireless was not detected.
To fix this, I simply installed the custom eee kernel availabel from The instructions are quite easy to follow. I rebooted, and sure enough, wireless worked.
While I was at it, I also went ahead and installed the driver for the touchpad. Otherwise the incredibly over-sensitive touchpad randomly inserts the cursor all over the place as my thumbs touch it while typing. Who uses tap to click, anyway?

So now I have what seems to be a very fast and very small computer, but with a slightly more workable screen size for things like using launchpad and such. I loaded a movie and some youtube clips on my sd card to watch on the plane.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for my first eee. In fact, I have it with me now, and plan to let the mobile team and the Dx team use it to test out there new stuff on it. After that I think I may give it to my son. The size, protability, and functionality may be just perfect for a 13 year old, and it would let me get rid of the beast of a laptop that I keep around for him and 0thers to use. On the other hand, I may just keep for myself, just cause it's still so cool. I could just plop down $199 for another 900A for the boy, after all.


  1. I think I need an eee for my first Ubuntu foray & other experimentations. Haven't forgotten your logo, btw, still working on it. D