Merry Christmas from My Asus Eee

Here’s wishing you and your families a blessed Christmas.

So, who got an Asus Eee as a Christmas gift this year? Or, who gave out Asus Eee units as gifts? Or perhaps you bought yourself the Asus Eee as your gift to yourself this season.

Would be interesting to know how many people had the Eee on their Christmas wish list.

Are You One Of the 350,000 Asus Eee PC Owners?

According to Digitimes, Asus has exceeded its own sales expectations for the Eee PC.

In less than one quarter, accumulated worldwide shipments of Asustek Computer’s Eee PC have reached nearly 350,000 units, exceeding the estimated 300,000 units made by industry watchers, according to the company.

The Eee PC will also extend its presence further in the beginning of next year with the product becoming available at Best Buy in the US while sales will also kick off in Japan, the sources noted.

Looks like the Eee is, indeed, among the hottest items on the market today. Will the Eee be th next iPod? Will Asus be the next Apple?

(via Eee User)

Eee Browser Wars: Firefox vs. Opera


Firefox vs. Opera: Who wins?

I’ve been quite happy with the Mozilla Firefox browser that comes with the default installation of the Eee. However, the Eee’s screen resolution (800 x 480) would mean that websites designed for a higher resolution would have those annoying horizontal scrollbars at the bottom of the screen. And since we have to wait until Firefox 3 for that much-desired zooming feature, we have to content ourselves with pressing F11 for full screen, changing the font size, or scrolling left and right. More »

Upgraded my Asus Eee PC to 1GB of RAM

Recently I complained about the Asus Eee PC choking on 512 MB RAM. So I decided to upgrade. Asus has announced that it will honor warranty of units with broken warranty stickers, but I wasn’t sure if this applied to my territory. Still, I took the risk. But I didn’t want to totally get rid of my warranty stickers, though. And the shop I bought my Eee from had their own warranty sticker, so I made sure these were intact, just in case they won’t honor warranty without their stickers.

First I went off to buy a Kingston 1GB DDR2-667 SODIMM stick, which is dirt cheap these days.

Then with a bit of sticker backing / wax paper, a precision flathead screwdriver, cotton swabs and some WD-40, I proceeded to remove my warranty stickers. Oh, and you need a lot of patience.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Spray some WD-40 onto a cotton swab, until the tip is damp with the lubricant.
  2. Swab the surface of the sticker until the lubricant has been thoroughly absorbed (repeat #1 if needed).
  3. Spray some WD-40 onto the tip of the screwdriver.
  4. Wedge the tip of the screwdriver underneath a corner/edge of the sticker and slowly peel it off by wedging the screwdriver in a few millimeters at a time.
  5. Apply lubricant to the screwdriver again once it becomes dry.
  6. Repeat the last two steps.

The sticker should now be easy to remove, as the adhesive side no longer sticks to the surface of the Eee too much. Your main concern here would be that the sticker doesn’t disintegrate. These warranty stickers are made to rip apart when you try to remove them.

Once you have completely removed a sticker, transfer it onto some wax paper or sticker paper backing, so you can easily replace it when the need arises.

The results:

RAM slot of Asus Eee PC

RAM and mini PCIe slots of the Asus Eee PC. The RAM stick was easy enough to replace.

Warranty stickers

Don’t try this at home, kids! Okay, you can, but be sure to contact your local Asus centre first, to confirm if they will honor warranty without the stickers.

Everex Cloudbook: Eee Rival?

The Eee is indeed among the hottest gadgets this Christmas shopping season. But what about other alternatives (Eees are sold out in many places, after all). Here’s one: the Everex Cloudbook. According to Ubergizmo, it could make for good competition to the Eee.

everex-cloud.jpg

This Linux-powered UMPC touts to follow the Eee PC in many aspects, featuring a 7″ display, a 1.3 megapixel webcam, wired and wireless Ethernet connectivity, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, 512MB RAM, USB 2.0 and DVI-out. It ditches the Eee PC’s solid state drive and 900MHz Celeron processor in favor of a 30GB hard drive and a 1.2GHz Via C7 ULV processor. The Everex Cloudbook is tipped to ship this January 15th, retailing for $400.

I’m sticking with my Eee. The use of a non-SSD hard drive would probably make the device heavier than the Eee (unless it’s a microdrive similar to those used by iPods). Still, the spinning disc would probably cause battery life to be a bit shorter, and would be more prone to damage from shocks and bumps (an uncommon occurrence for devices this portable).

And the unusual touchpad placement (top of the keyboard) is a bit unintuitive in terms of user interface and usability. That is at least, in my opinion.

Asus Eee Choking on 512MB of RAM

If you think 512MB is enough to run Xandros Linux on, you’re probably right. That is for the average user, though. For someone like me, whose work involves new media (managing a ton of sites via Web and FTP) 512 megabytes is usually not enough. That’s even when running on Linux.

Last night, I experienced slowing down of my system when running these tasks:

  • Two Firefox windows with about 15 to 20 tabs each
  • Pidgin, with two chat tabs open
  • gFTP open (no active transfers)
  • Two Kwrite windows open, used for editing files by gFTP
  • Popup Notes open, with 4 short notes.
  • Konsole with two tabs open (just idle, though)

I have four virtual desktops, where I assigned different main tasks each – two “faces” for one browser window each, one face for FTP, and another for the chat. I say “faces” because I’m used to the desktop cube of Compiz-fusion under Ubuntu (where the cube sides are like faces).

So there, switching across desktops took longer than usual. I wasn’t able to check the memory manager for actual usage, but I’m pretty sure it’s choking on 512MB. Maybe I should enable a swapfile? I’m actually thinking of buying a 1GB RAM stick for the Eee. I’ll wait for word from Asus if this won’t void my warranty here locally.

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3G on the Asus Eee using an LG KU250 (Updated)

The LG KU250 is touted as the “3G for all” phone, being the cheapest 3G-enabled phone around. It usually retails for just over $100 (bought mine for about $142).

In my country 3G / GPRS rates are not really cheap, but one of the operators–Smart–offers unlimited connectivity for PhP 10 per 30 minutes. That’s approximately 48 cents per hour. That’s using a prepaid SIM card that costs less than a dollar to purchase.

That’s cheap enough for backup connectivity, i.e., when there’s no WiFi hotspot around, or when your home DSL or cable connection is down.

There is one other option–a Huawei 220 3G modem. Smart also offers a postpaid plan, which includes this device, for PhP 799 per month, plus an initial PhP 2,000 for the modem (about $20 per month, plus $48 initial for the modem). This is for 60 hours of connectivity. You pay an added PhP 10 per 30mins in excess, which is same as the prepaid rate.

However, I already bought myself an LG KU250 for this purpose a few months back, and I didn’t want to spend unnecessarily. Also, my 3G connectivity only serves as backup, and when I’m mobile. So no point in paying for a plan I might not be able to consume.

I wracked my brains trying to figure out how to connect the KU250 to the Eee via bluetooth. But that seems to be complicated on the default Xandros installation that comes with the Eee. BT is easy enough on Ubuntu, but not on Xandros, since various essential Bluez utilities are not pre-installed and/or incompatible and/or difficult to set up.

So I tried another option–connecting the KU250 with the supplied data cable. Following the instructions on this Eeeuser forum page, I was able to successfully connect over a 3G connection. Actually, I attempted this after I saw that Xandros detected the KU250 as a modem under Control Center. I was a bit surprised that this worked.

More »

Asus Honors Warranty Even With Broken Stickers

Asus Eee memory slotIt has been a concern that opening the RAM / mini PCIe slot would void Asus’ limited warranty, because the small yellow sticker that covers one of the screws would inevitably be broken. This meant limited options for upgrades, particularly on the Eee’s memory slot.

Asus clears things up with a press release:

ASUS Computer International (“ASUS”) recently received feedback from one of its valued customers with questions concerning the purpose of a seal stating, “Warranty Void If Removed” over the access door to the single SODIMM slot on some models of the ASUS Eee PC. ASUS wishes to assure its customers that merely breaking or removing this kind of seal will not void the ASUS Limited Warranty.

So basically they say that it’s always best to have your unit serviced by authorized service personnel. Still, for most advanced users, I think accessing the RAM and mini PCIe slot would be simple enough.

Personally, I feel that 512MB of RAM is enough for general purposes, especially when using Xandros. But those who are using Windows XP need that RAM boost, and are better off spending the extra $30 or so for a 1GB stick.

So it’s clear then — you don’t void your warranty opening the access door to the RAM slot. But for more advanced hardware hacks, I think that’s a different story.

(via Eeeuser.com; hat tip to Joel; image from asuseeehacks.blogspot.com)

Sleep/Standby Times Not Very Good

One thing I loved about my old PowerBook (and any Mac laptop in general) was that the sleep times were very long. For some reason, the OS or the architecture of Apple notebooks was so power-efficient that you can actually leave it on standby mode (called sleep by Mac users) for days, but the drain would be very minimal (about 2 % per day or so).

One of my other laptops, a Compaq V2000, wasn’t so great with standby times. It would eat about 5% per hour. So leaving the laptop sleeping in my bag all day would cause it to drain 1/3 of its battery juice. I’m not so sure if it’s because of the operating system, or simply because of the architecture. I noticed that having the laptop sleep under Windows XP ate a little less power than when it was sleeping under Linux (Ubuntu Feisty Fawn).

Same with the Asus Eee. I’m running the default Xandros OS, and whenever I put the Eee to sleep, it would eat up about 10% of the battery’s remaining capacity every two hours.

Frankly, that sucks. For me, one purpose of having a long sleep mode battery life is so I could just close the lid, stick the laptop in my bag, and go my way. Sleep and recovery times are usually very quick–just under 5 seconds on the Eee. Two seconds to sleep, and about 5 seconds to wake up.

However, do consider that booting up the Eee from a powered-off state only takes about 30 seconds. So there’s no question that booting up is almost as quick as waking up on some other laptops (usually those that run Windows). Still, the point behind sleeping instead of shutting down a laptop is that all your applications and documents are still in the state you left them.

Well, one solution could be auto-startup of your favorite apps. But that’s for another post.

Shift Key Returned to Original Position

Okay, so I’d been annoyed by the fact that the up-arrow key was wedged in between the ? and Shift keys. It got so obtrusive that when I typed, I would often overwrite the lines above when I accidentally hit the UP key.

So I decided to try the key remapping hack detailed on Eeeuser.com. That meant remapping keys to switch between the UP and SHIFT key, and between the DOWN and RIGHT keys. I then copied over the switching script to my KDE startup folder, so it gets executed every time I boot up Xandros.

Along with this, I decided to actually interchange the buttons themselves. So using a small screwdriver I carefully popped out the keys to switch them across.

So my arrow keys looked like this:

? SHFT UP
LF RT DN

So far so good. Better typing experience, I thought.

But then my navigating experience severely suffered. I was so used to the old layout:

UP
LF DN RT

So I decided to remove the script and return the keys to where they originally were.

Now I’m more used to the peculiar SHIFT key position, and my typing efficiency has improved. In fact, I’m so used to the Eee keyboard that it feels awkward to type on my regular laptop keyboard!

I still miss the SHIFT key sometimes, with disastrous results. But there’s nothing that UNDO or Ctrl-Z can’t fix, right?

I think I better practice using the left SHIFT key instead.

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