New Toy: Asus EEE PC 901

I've Tweeted about this too much, so Twitter followers will probably be sick of hearing about it, but the other day my new Asus EEE PC 901 with Linux pre-installed arrived. In fact, I'm typing this blog post on it right now.

Do I like it? Hell, yes! This thing ROCKS! I'm *slightly* disappointed that a review I read saying it came with (RedHat-based) Linpus turned out to be false. In fact it ships with a variant of (Debian-based) Xandros. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Debian or RedHat - I don't much care. But most hosting companies use CentOS, which is RedHat based, so for simplicity I prefer to go for RedHat-based Linux distros.

Fortunately there is an EEEdora distro (and EEEUbuntu for the Deb guys and gals) should I want to go RedHat, though to be entirely honest, the Xandros version that Asus ships with the machine, after you enable Advanced Mode, is perfectly acceptable. It's almost certainly not worth switching to EEEUbuntu.

It also ships with the latest version of Java (I guess Sun StarOffice needs it) so Eclipse works great. I use Europa (Eclipse 3.2) just to be safe, with Subclipse, Aptana and PHPEclipse. Subversion seems to be a bit of a faff to get (it's not in the Asus repositories or the common additional ones) but with Subclipse I don't really need it.

I also installed XAMPP (or rather, LAMPP) which worked immediately and without issue. It is supposed to run from /opt/lampp but there is not enough disk space to install something as big as LAMPP on the system drive, so I created a /home/apps/lampp directory on the 15GB home partition and symbolically linked /opt/lampp to that directory. This probably isn't necessary, but I did it to be safe.

Hardware-wise, the keyboard is *just* big enough to be comfortable. It wouldn't want to be any smaller, but I guess that makes the design perfect. Only just not too small. Ditto with the screen. And the zoom and scroll gestures on the trackpad they've stolen from Apple are awesome! 20GB solid state drive, 1GB RAM, 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, USB, SD slot, wi-fi, etc.

All that, and I was very impressed that the camera (needs enabling in the BIOS, along with Bluetooth), speakers and microphone all working with Skype straight out of the box. This may sound a trivial thing to be happy about, but Skype for Linux is by no means a foregone conclusion!

All this for £239, all inclusive, courtesy of eBuyer. Top value! =)


by greg.harvey on Fri, 29/05/2009 - 17:48

For the record, got fed up with Xandros and buggyness so now running Fedora 10 on the EEE. It works well. A little slower, but much more stable and everything works. A bit of fiddling to get wifi working and suspend tends to crash it, but hibernate works instead so I set it to hibernate when I close the lid. Saves on battery too! =)

Also no longer sad the EEE didn't come with Linpus, as a friend has bought the Acer Aspire One with Linpus and it's rubbish! (Linpus, that is - not the Acer, which I actually really like.) No repo, limited support, hard to even find RPMs for. A real Linux geek's OS if you want to do anything other than what it comes with. And, like Xandros, the auto-updater breaks it. Nice.

by Friend with Ace... on Sat, 30/05/2009 - 16:26

glad I could be of service in your quest for uber geekness... ;)

by Anonymous on Sat, 30/05/2009 - 23:29

Can't wait until I order mine! Thank you for the tips on software and programs, will definitely keep in mind.


by Anonymous on Sun, 31/05/2009 - 18:52

I'm not really sure who wants to use Red-hat these days. There are a ton of other distros that are so much cleaner and smoother. Ubuntu is my distro of choice (recently changed from Slackware after using it for over 12 years).

The IEEE PC is pretty neat. It's small, inexpensive, and runs linux! I've heard hibernate works perfectly with the latest distro of Ubunut, btw.

by greg.harvey on Mon, 01/06/2009 - 10:45

There are many reasons a business might opt for RedHat, all of which you can read on their corporate website, but in my case the reason is simple:

I am a professional web developer working with Linux. The *vast* majority of hosting environments I come across are either CentOS or RedHat. Very rarely do you encounter Ubuntu or Debian servers being provided by ISPs (though I admit it's becoming a *little* more common of late). If I have a Debian-based machine, with an entirely different (and much larger) set of available repositories and packages, there is absolutely no guarantee that my application which works on my laptop will continue to work, or even be supported, when it is deployed to a (likely) RedHat-based web server.

And if it so happens that the server I'm deploying to is Debian-based (which is seldom) even better, because it's far easier to find RedHat-equivalent packages on Debian than it is the other way around!

Ok, I create some pain for myself on my personal computer, but I remove a helluvalot of pain from the deployment process, which makes me happy. Whether you like it or not, if you're a pro developer like me working with Linux servers day in, day out, you *will* be working with RedHat. Pull your head out of the sand, my friend! Being familiar with Debian will not help you much unless you run your own servers. =)

Just a quick note on *why* these guys all use RedHat-base distros:

Because CentOS/RedHat is *guaranteed* bulletproof for basic, out-of-the-box server operation. The packages in the repos are all tested for *at least* a year before inclusion, by teams of Linux specialists and the Fedora community, so it's great for big corporate IT teams and/or hosting companies that want something robust and effective that just does what it says on the tin. And they want someone they can call if it breaks.

I take your point, neither CentOS nor RedHat EHEL are particularly good for home users, as the packages usually don't keep up with the latest software and hardware trends and innovations. The available packages are far too restrictive, which is why I use Fedora - the free, bleeding edge "testing" version of RedHat. It *is* up with the latest, just like some it's Deb-based cousins (e.g. Ubuntu).

So it comes down to a basic choice of whether you like the way packages are installed and managed (which is the only real difference).

But for me that choice is irrelevant in the face of the wider issue of what is prevalent in the market where I work.

by Deniel | ecomme... on Sun, 14/06/2009 - 21:24

I am relatively new to Linux and my first Linux was UBuntu. I was using it without any problem then one of my friends installed Fedora. He asked me to use that. Anyways, I have to use Backtrack 3 for educational purposes and it was even better flavor. I am really confused that which is the best and why we should use a specific distro. Even I am confused with KDE and something similar. I am thinking seriously to do some research on all this so do you point me to a useful link having all that information?

by Sandip Saini on Wed, 15/07/2009 - 07:12

Truly inspirational,I will keep in touch with your blog reading...
Thanks for sharing this info with us!

by Billig Fliegen on Sat, 08/08/2009 - 23:18

Sounds interesting to me and I would like to borrow this special PC for one day - just to find out if it is strong enough for a normal working under Ubunto. I have no idea how strong a 1,6 GHz Atom processor is. Maybe you can post your experiences :-)

by greg.harvey on Mon, 17/08/2009 - 12:16

Not strong enough to REPLACE a laptop or workstation, but bearable with Ubuntu (or better, EEEUbuntu) for working on a long train journey or a flight. I run Eclipse, PHP, Apache and MySQL as a little development kit with stock Fedora 10 on mine and it does handle it but it is slow. You wouldn't want it to be your only computer!

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