Goodbye iBook, Hello EeePC
Thu, 13 Mar 2008 12:05:53 +1100
By: gosh'at'DigitalFriend.org (Steve Goschnick)
My G4 iBook blew a mother/logic board in February, again. The last one it fried was barely 6 months before and that time it was just within a 3-year warranty, so I got it fixed. This time its beyond warranty, so it got the big heave-hoe. I'm pretty pissed with iBook/Apple quality at this stage - the thing was meant to see out my PhD studies at the very least, but it died big time, twice, in the final straight. I think Apple Inc needs to look beyond their 'Switch' (from Windows) customer campaign, and try a bit of 'Keep' customer quality control. Good design is meant to match quality, not supplant it.
Image #1: The EeePC running the DigitalFriend straight from a USB drive.
The good thing about having an iBook for those few years, was that it focused me on what was good and useful in a mobile computer, and what wasn't. That's where the EeePC from ASUS comes in: it fits all of my criteria for a mobile computing device: its WiFi and Internet ready; the email and browser options work fine; it boots in a very short time; the battery lasts 3 hours plus, its very small, it has numerous USB ports (3 - e.g. for a USB drive, a desktop mouse and a desktop keyboard); plugs into presentation big screens, and as a bonus for me it's a great double act with the DigitalFriend software.
The two most surprising things about the EeePC are: that it does it all for a purchase price under $490 (AUD) - about half the price of replacing the logic board on the Apple; and its running on Linux which is a real bonus (with OpenOffice, FireFox, Java, etc all preinstalled and accessible via a neat little GUI interface targeted at school kids, and highly usable on the fly).
Its got a little 7" widescreen (800x480) which views most web pages surprisingly well - browser users are happy to scroll in the vertical direction, and, while web pages wider than 800 pixels are grandstanding, Firefox can reduce wider pages to fit.
It has 512M of RAM memory, a small 4 Gigabyte solidstate drive but that suits me admirable as all my own stuff these days lives on and can run from a USB drive anyway (see Note 1 below) - in my case, in the DigitalFriend's Knowledge Tree directories. See the image in Image #1.
One of the great things about the DigitalFriend is that I can happily move between Windows, Mac and Linux, not only on a daily basis - but when the mobile mothership sinks, too.
What about suitability for the software developer though? Sure, the 512M is not enough for most current-day software development environments to run productively, but hey, I only do development proper on a desktop anyway - the limited memory in the ASUS does suffice for any show-and-tell of programming development.
To me, the EeePC is what the PDA/Handheld genre was always meant to be, but never got close: a fully operational mobile computer that you can happily carry in one hand, but easily type on its keyboard with two - and the Earth won't stop if you loose the thing, one way or the other (that USB disk in the left of image#1, is the bit I like to carry around deep in my pocket and certainly not in someone elses 'cloud'). Its probably lucky for other laptop makers that ASUS is also a laptop maker, as a little device like the EeePC with more solid state memory and storage and appropriately marketed, could blow away more than half the laptop category!
Note 1 : The DigitalFriend can sync your personal Knowledge Tree between a USB device and a PC's hard disk, but it can also happily run from the USB device too.