Sunday, November 9, 2008

Introduction to the Experiment

Day 1
On November 4th, while our nation was participating in a history-making presidential election, I was quietly enjoying my 27th birthday and eating cake with my family. This was also the day that I convinced my wife that I needed another laptop. When she asked why we needed a third (we also have a HP running Windows XP and a Dell with Ubuntu Hardy Heron installed) I had a simple answer - it's my birthday.

I had been following the Asus Eee PC for the past year, but could never find a way to sneak a $299 online purchase past my wife since she is usually the one who pays the bills. I had pretty much given up on the idea until I saw Target stores now carrying the 4G 900 series. Now how could I possibly sleep at night knowing there was a shelf full of these things only minutes from my house. I was sold.

That night I picked up a black model of the Asus and proudly marched it through Target. I got it home and all seemed well - it fired up right away, let me create a user name and password, and connected to my wireless with the correct WEP key. One problem - unless a well-aim sledgehammer blow was used, the enter key wasn't working. No biggie. A quick trip back to Target would remedy the problem.

Day 2
Asus #2 - Wireless is paint-dryingly slow. I know the first laptop wasn't like this, so there must be a problem. After much swearing, I decided to try one more time.

Day 3
To help curb my bad luck I decided to make Eee #3 white this time. Thank goodness Target has such a lax return policy. I spent the rest of the night cautiously exploring my new toy.

Day 4
Perhaps some background is needed here. I teach middle school English Language Arts in a semi-rural district near Niagara Falls. I enjoy using technology in my room, and I'm usually the guy other teachers go to when they need a hand with something computer related. Naturally when I brought the Eee in, my fellow teachers were immediately interested and wanted a full review. With all the problems I had already run into, I was a bit weary of giving a full report just yet. That's when I got an idea.

What if I only used the Asus Eee PC? No other computers either at home or sch0ol. Could I survive in a Windows world with a Linux machine with just over 1 GB of available space? And thus began the 100 Days with the Eee PC experiment.

Day 5
First stop - Google. I wanted to see what hidden potentials the Xandros install was harboring. It seems like many users install Eee-flavors of the 'buntu series, but I want to keep this little quest as simple as possible. Turns out Asus had the same idea. Originally they wanted to offer the Eee with two different desktop modes - easy and advanced. The advanced desktop never quite made it to the final install. There's a desktop icon in the settings menu, but it does nothing. I read that in an attempt to lessen customer service calls, Asus opted out of this option. Advanced mode still exists though - it just takes some tweaking. I found instructions on doing so here. I like it much better. It's KDE, and I'm used to Ubuntu's Gnome desktop, but there are certainly more options. I added a few shortcuts to the desktop, changed some backgrounds, and made myself a bit more comfortable. With a bit more googling I even found the needed repositories and installed audacity. It won't be lightening fast, but I do use it quite often at school with the kids, so it is necessary if my little experiment is to succeed.

Here's a screenshot of my Eee in Advanced Desktop mode.

3 thoughts :

  1. jordan.smith said...

    Disclosure: I'm the Product Marketing Manager for the Xandros desktop.

    I'm really interested to see how your experiment goes. I value your feedback because it helps us find ways to improve our user experience.

    If you have any questions or need help, you can reach me directly at jordan.smith(at)


    Jordan Smith

  2. Anonymous said...

    teacher made a typo, hehe. (sch0ol) sorry, just teasing. you have my full attention also. i wish you much success with this and am looking forward to the story. cold turkey is the only way to go imho.

  3. John. said...

    Ha! Thanks for the editing, Anon... I'm still getting used to the small keyboard!

    Thanks for your support - keep commenting!