On December 2, 2007, I published an article entitled, "The Latest Practical (?) Gadget: A Two-Pound Laptop." I described the Asus Eee laptop computer. I purchased one a few weeks before publishing the article and must admit that I have fallen in love with the tiny device. I wrote a Plus Edition article about it, which is still available at http://www.eogn.com/blogplus/2007/12/_the_latest_practical_gadget_a.html.
The Asus Eee is so tiny that it slips into an overcoat pocket, and I barely know that it is there. I have taken it on several trips, including a two-week trip to the west coast. I have checked e-mail, surfed the Web, written newsletter articles, and paid my bills online from hotel rooms and from a rental car in a number of different cities. Of course, I wasn't driving down the highway when operating from the rental car. I was typically parked, using a local Wi-Fi wireless network connection. The Asus Eee includes built-in “Wi-Fi” wireless networking as well as a standard ethernet network connector. It is easy to connect to the Internet at high speed from most hotel rooms and from the parking lots of many truck stops, coffee shops and from most Staples stores.
I am told these tiny computers are selling like hotcakes: the little $399 laptops are becoming hard to find. Asus is having difficulties manufacturing enough of them to meet the demand. Some dealers are now charging a premium above the $399 list price.
Obviously, a tiny (9-inch by 6 1/2-inch) computer with a 7-inch screen must have some drawbacks. Indeed, I find that the keyboard and the screen are cramped. Software is cramped also as the device ships with a 4-gigabyte hard drive – not much space for today’s software. Actually, it isn't a standard hard drive at all. It is a solid-state disk with no moving parts. This disk is very, very fast. Even with its modest Celeron M 900 MHz processor, the Asus operating system boots up much faster than a normal laptop or desktop computer with a high speed Pentium processor. The reason is the fast disk drive: this computer spends very little time waiting for the disk drive. Any application that reads and writes lots of data to the disk drive, such as a genealogy program, also runs quickly on the Asus Eee.
However, the biggest constraint of the Asus Eee turns out to be the operating system: it runs Linux, not Windows. That is a combination of good and bad. Linux runs faster and is more reliable than Windows. However, it suffers from fewer programs available. In particular, Linux does not run Windows programs at all. The Master Genealogist, RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and other Windows genealogy programs will not run on the Linux operating system that comes with the Asus Eee.
I also missed the Verizon USB720 EV-DO wide-area wireless adapter that I use on my Windows and Macintosh laptops. I can use that to connect to the web while moving on a commuter train, from a city park, or most anyplace else in urbanized areas or along Interstate highways. I do not have to go looking for a Wi-Fi “hotspot.” Unfortunately, there are no Linux drivers available for the Verizon USB720 EV-DO adapter. It comes with Windows drivers, and the Macintosh drivers are already built in to the Macintosh OS X operating system. However, Linux computers and their owners are left out.
I found it irritating to travel with a Verizon USB720 EV-DO adapter in my pocket and not be able to use it on my new tiny computer.
The owner's manual included with the Asus Eee states that Windows XP can be loaded onto the Asus Eee and that it will run well. In fact, the CD-ROM disk included in the box with the Asus Eee even contains all the needed Windows device drivers to make it work. The only thing missing is a licensed copy of Windows XP.
I started thinking about replacing Linux on my Asus laptop with Windows XP. The disk drive space constraints appeared to be the biggest challenge. When shipped from Asus, the four-gigabyte, solid-state disk contains 2.7 gigabytes of files. This includes the Linux operating system as well as all the included Linux applications: word processor, web browser, e-mail program, Skype, and a bunch of games. This leaves 1.3 gigabytes left for the user to add programs and create documents, which isn't much of a challenge. After all, that is quite a bit of space for a 2-pound laptop.
I knew that converting the computer into a practical Windows XP system would be a challenge. First of all, squeezing all of Windows XP's required files into a four-gigabyte hard drive might be tough. Even if successful, how about the space required by the various applications I want to use? Could I actually install Windows XP and The Master Genealogist and RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree and the Firefox web browser and Skype and a word processor and an e-mail program and an RSS newsreader and a few other programs onto this tiny device with a four-gigabyte hard drive? I know that Windows XP alone consumes more than three gigabytes, leaving precious little for anything else.
I decided to find out.
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