Wandering Thoughts archives


A sysadmin's review of the ASUS Eee PC

We're not interested in the Eee as anything approaching a conventional laptop; we're interested in it as what I'll call a sysadmin's walkaround machine, something I can take with me to get access to our real machines, troubleshoot problems, and plug into hardware. The Eee is appealing for this primarily because it is really cheap and runs Linux; that it is also small and light is an extra benefit.

(We care about really cheap because it makes it feasible to buy everyone their own machine, instead of having only a few laptops in a central pool.)

The Eee works great for this purpose. It is small enough to carry easily, its wired and wireless connectivity works (complete with a PPTP VPN), and its screen is big enough to run 80x24 terminal windows and ssh. With work you can even run moderately useful web browsers, but there is so little vertical space that I wouldn't want to try to configure a switch or something with it. It seems to have decent battery life, although I haven't tried to stress it.

(For scale, I can get an 111 character by 31 row konsole window, or 98x34 using xterm with a readable font. This is with the advanced interface, which gives me more vertical space.)

Everything that you would reasonably expect to work has worked fine for me so far: USB mice, USB keyboards, USB keys, external displays, even USB serial converters (although you will obviously need to install a terminal program to talk to your new serial port).

We got one of the 4G models instead of the 2G model, and for a sysadmin's machine this is the right choice. I've wound up installing a bunch of additional software and the 2G would not have had enough spare space, especially because the Eee is not so inexplicably missing a large pile of software that I consider essential; not just tcpdump and telnet and nmap, but even things like ntpdate and rsync.

Having said all that, while I like the Eee I would not spend my own money on one right now; the screen is too small, it runs too hot, and it is too heavy for my tastes. In private life I do not need ubiquitous connectivity to other machines and would like something that I can actually use comfortably for more than ssh sessions.

Oh, and to answer a Google query I saw in my logs: the Eee PC's power cable is 10 feet long. (And the power converter is one of the nice things about the Eee; it is a tiny unit, very easy to take along with you.)

linux/EeeReview written at 23:41:31; Add Comment

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