Tiny eeepc in the shack

I guess it had to happen sooner or later… I couldn’t resist any longer and I finally got my hands on a eeepc. It should be quite fun taking into account that I bought it in Germany with QWERTZ keyboard.

There are several things about the eeepc that make it irresistable. It is small (7 inch monitor), lightweight (0.92 kg), and it comes with Linux installed! The installed Linux is a custom version of Xandros, which is based on Debian. There are third party instructions on how to install other Linux distributions, e.g. Ubuntu, but I will wait with that. Some people even managed to install Wintendo on it and I can’t help feeling very sorry for them.

For any eeePC owner there are lots of tips and tricks on the eeeuser.com website. The user community has already contributed a lots of articles in the wiki and there are many interesting discussions in the forum. This was indeed the very first website I visited right after I unpacked the box.

The eeepc is quite useful as is out of the box. It comes with applications for web, email, im, office, etc… Even skype is pre-installed although you will have to install the skype update by Asus if you want to have video enabled. Oh yes, the eeepc has a built-in webcam which works very well. The built-in stereo speakers make good and loud sound, and the microphone seems good, too.

The first thing I had to do was to change the language from German to English. This was quite straight forward and it basically consists of deleting the German translations :o)

Then, I enabled the Advanced Desktop mode, which is basically KDE so I don’t know what is so advanced about that. To my great surprise, the KDE control center was totally mixed up… The menus were in English, the contents in German, i.e. almost as useless as KDE can be. So I just stick to the Easy Mode desktop for now and maybe install XFCE later. There are many tips on wiki about how to enable the icewm application menu, how to tweak the settings and so on. Actually, the icewm desktop is quite all right and certainly much better than KDE.

It seemed quite strange that sound was disabled in the preinstalled pidgin. Fortunately, it is easy to enable by using aplay, as described in the wiki.

Asus seems to have a weird way of providing software updates. Instead of providing updated versions of the installed packages, they release new packages, which presumably overwrite the existing ones. I may have misunderstood something but this is the way I saw it in the Synaptic package manager. Installing new packages instead of updating the existing ones will surely mess up the system sooner or later. In particular I am wondering how I can revert changes? I just hope I won’t end up with a broken system as many others have experienced. In general you will probably want to go by If it works don’t fix it!.

I must admit that I got quite excited and carried away tweaking the settings and installing additional packages. Having synaptic installed makes it very easy to add software from unofficial repositories. Fortunately nothing is broken yet. I managed to install and run the Java based OpenProject using the deb from their website, but I had no luck with Freemind; I tried both the zip and the deb. Ok, that’s a project for next week.

All in all a good investment so far. I really feel that I got lots of bang for the buck (300 EUR). Alone the fact that it comes with Linux installed and you can rest assured that all your hardware will work in your favourite OS makes it worth the money. Companies who make computers that work with linux should be supported.

Coming up next is building and installing ham radio software on it, so stay tuned for the updates!

Author: Alexandru Csete

Embedded software engineer in the satcom industry during the day. Radio amateur and SDR hacker during the night.