Computer Notebook Computer Notebook: EEEPC Use

How Did I Put my EEEPC to Use?

Note that I have updated the operating system from what came installed on the EEEPC. See the Updates. The information below is kept for reference.

Official User Group On Facebook, you can join The Official ASUS Eee PC Group.
Local User Group You could start your own local user group. I started a local user group for the EEEPC to network with other people (Milwaukee EEEPC User Group on Facebook) You might check into joining or forming a local user group in your area.

I intend to use the EEEPC right out of the box as a user. I don't intend (at least for now) to install a different operating system or tweak the system extensively. I don't intend to use the EEEPC as a project in itself, but to use it for writing text and surfing the Web.

Plain Text Editing

My main attraction to a mobile PC is that I can use it for writing. I write plain text files, not marked up documents. I figured out how to meet my needs in this area after a bit of confusion with the Notes application--which I won't be using.

To edit plain text files, I go to Work->File Manager and edit an already-existing text file. For the initial one, I created a little note using Work->Notes and saved it to my home directory. Then I closed the Notes application and won't be using it again.

From Work->File Manager, I can open this text file with Text Editor. I set the preferences and adjusted the font size to be a bit larger.

I can then edit a new text file based on the one I keep in my home directory on the EEEPC. (I can get a new plain text file using File->Save As or File->New).

I save these files to my home directory and then later copy them to an SD card and transfer them to my main computer. This is the main reason I own this EEEPC and will the major benefit of it to me: I can use the EEEPC to write text and then transfer the text files to my main computer.

Text Editor Used with Music Manager and World Clock in Background

I used the keyboard to write for about an hour and discovered that I quickly adjusted to it. I think I easily adjusted because I use a smaller keyboard every day as well as I got used to an even smaller keyboard on the Casio Cassiopeia. I think the keyboard is fine. It is a bit hard to see the tiny fonts on the screen. This keyboard is not cramped! I wish any computer hardware reviewer who says netbook keyboards are cramped would actually use one for about an hour--it is easy to get used to. A small keyboard is faster because your fingers move less distance among the keys.

An alternate way to create text files is to use the Linux shell and the vi editor (next section).

Linux Shell

Because I'm using this as a linux machine, I might want to use some simple Unix commands (Linux is a flavor of Unix) and the vi editor. To get to the shell prompt, go to Work->File Manager and then select Tools->Open Console Window. The shortcut is to just enter Ctrl+T in the File Manager.

In the shell, I adjusted settings. I set

You can have open more shells at the same time by choosing Session->New Shell.

You can enter Unix commands:

Linux Shell on EEEPC

You can also use the vi editor:

vi editor on EEEPC

Music Player

I transferred music I own to the EEEPC using a SD Card. The small speakers are tinny-sounding but OK considering their tiny size. I plugged in my little headphones, and the sound was good. A software program, SMPLayer, on the EEEPC plays the WMA music files fine. Also on the EEEPC was Music Manager software for organizing your music library. Music Manger also includes a player with some graphics.

EEEPC as Music Player EEEPC Music Manager

Local Area Internet

The EEEPC has a Local Area Network (LAN) port, so all I needed to do to get the EEEPC on the Internet was to: 1) take the Ethernet cable out of the back of my desktop PC; and 2) plug the Ethernet cable it into the LAN port on the left side of the EEEPC.

Ethernet cable EEEPC on the Net

Once the Ethernet cable was in the LAN port on the EEEPC, I clicked on Internet->Web, and the Mozilla Firefox browser came up. A Web page asked for my home DSL login information. I provided my DSL userid and password, and then I was surfing the Web. The browser was responsive and fast. I was amazed that most Web pages were readable in the very small font. A few required some scrolling to the right. At DSL modem speeds, it was not too much different than browsing the Web on my desktop computer, different only because of the slower processor speed on the EEEPC versus my desktop.

Once online, I updated the anti-virus software (Settings->Anti-Virus) and visited the Asus support site. I was slightly confused in what I needed to do to update anything on the computer. I was looking for the equivalent of the update service for Microsoft Windows, but I did not find it. Features on the support Website ("ASUS Navigation Wizard") didn't seem to work, and I was confused why they made this process seem so complicated, so I was disappointed that this online update service didn't seem easy to use.

Update Server

I am concerned about keeping my computer's operating system updated. I found out the way to do this by noticing some instructions on the last page of the EEEPC Quick Use Guide. To update the software:

  1. Connect to the Internet
  2. Choose Settings->Add/Remove Software
  3. Look at Settings tab for updates
I did this to find:

EEEPC Skype Update Screen

The cryptic instructions: "Press 'Update' for updating; Please press 'Remove' for removing it after updating." made no sense to me and still make no sense to me. Does "remove" remove Skype itself or just the update notice (I would assume the latter, as why would you remove the software after updaing it)? Why wouldn't the update notice go away if I indeed successfully update it? I did click update:

EEEPC Updating Skype

I also updated the BIOS:

EEEPC BIOS Update

This process was time-consuming because the updates required a restart of the computer. Also, I still don't know if I am updated because the "Remove" buttons still show up. Remove the software? Remove the update notice? I was very disappointed that this was not easy to use and required so many time-consuming restarts of the computer.

I was confused if this update server was checking my Web browser software, so I also opened Internet->Web to bring up the Mozilla browser. I selected Help->Check for updates. There were no new updates to get.

One of the benefits of a simple computer is that I hope I don't have to engage in endless "upgrading" of software. I would like to keep the operating system updated and keep the virus protection software updated. I would like to have a small, simple, stable set of software which I can use to do work and avoid spending time "upgrading" software.

Wireless Internet

A benefit of owning the EEEPC is that I can get online access as I go about town (at a cafe or at a meeting) or traveling. To test this, I went to a local Panera Bread that offers free WiFi to its customers. Panera also has great coffee!

To set up the free WiFi, I used the keys fn and F2 (the radio tower icon is on F2 to remind you it relates to wireless network use). The blue light on the lower right corner of the EEEPC chassis will light up. From Internet->Wireless, I was able to detect the available wireless network at Panera.

EEEPC Indicator Lights Wireless Networks at Panera Bread Wireless Network Details

I accepted the usage agreement and was able to browse the Web right away. Panera asks that you show courtesy to other customers and not extend your use or take up tables needed by other customers.

I was pleased with the speed of the wireless Internet. It seemed very responsive enough to read email, look up radar weather, and generally browse the Web.

I also tried out the WiFi in the public library:

EEEPC in use in the Milwaukee Public Library EEEPC in use in the Milwaukee Public Library

I am concerned about Wireless security, so I finally found a (somewhat) consumer-oriented Web site about wireless security, GetWirelessSecure.org. I will use the free WiFi hotspots for casual Web browsing only and not access password-protected sites. There is very little consumer-oriented, non-technical information on WiFi security, and I found no consumer (user-oriented, not administrator or technical developer information) on WiFi security for the EEEPC.

Web Browser

I was concerned about the EEEPC's small screen size for browsing the Internet. My fears are allayed, because, in general, the browser is designed to show quite a bit of the screen in a legible fashion. Although the font is small, by sizing the browser to the the full width of the EEEPC screen, I can see online information fairly well.

Radar View Web Site View with no Horizontal Scrolling Required

Some sites required a bit of horizontal scrolling to see the entire Web page. Horizontal scrollbars in the browser allow you to scroll horizontally across Web pages that are wide.

Flickr View with Horizontal Scrollbar Activated

But in general, the way the browser and screen work together to get maximum viewing information into a small space is impressive. For comparison, here is the Web page you are reading in the EEEPC:

Web Page View

Voice Command

You can use Settings->Voice Command to allow you to bring up a limited number of applications with your voice. You can't run these applications, but just bring them up. I therefore couldn't figure out anything useful about this except to impress someone.

To impress someone with this, turn on the Voice command with Settings->Voice command. Then rightclick the voice command icon on the taskbar and toggle Enable. Then close any other applications you have running. Go get a friend ask if they would like to witness your ability to command your computer by voice. If you find anyone who would do this, at the computer, fold your arms (for dramatic effect), and then say "Computer Clock!" and wait for the world clock to come up. Then say, "Computer Calculator!" and a calculator will appear over the clock. Turn to your friend and nod sagely. Your friend may (or may not) be impressed.

Miscellaneous Adjustments

Coping with a Small Screen

The screen is fairly small (17.78 cm diagonal; 800 by 480 pixels resolution).

The best way to deal with this is make the fonts as small as possible and use full screen mode in applications when possible. I went into Themes Manager (through the Control Center in full desktop mode) and altered the fonts to be small (10 pixels in size) and window titles to be 8 pixels in size. This shrinks everything down a bit. I have to put my face close to the screen to see things, but this makes maximum use of very small screen real estate.

Important: Sometimes a dialog box will be too long to see the bottom of it in the desktop window. If this happens, just:

While using the Web browser, I try to minimize the text on the screen and get the browser window to full screen. In Mozilla:

Using a Large Screen

You can connect your EEEPC to an external display and get more area to view your desktop.

To do this, simply connect the line from your external display to the right-hand side connector on the EEEPC:

External display cable External display cable

On the EEEPC keyboard, use <fn> <f5> to toggle among options to display the external display only, the EEEPC display only, or both the external display and the EEEPC display: EEEPC screen output to large display

You can adjust the resolution on the external display. In KDE full desktop mode, go to Launch->Control Center->External Display.

External Display Controls Then choose a display size that fills the whole screen:

Adjusting External Display Resolution

The result is then that you have an external display with a much more spacious desktop:

Desktop at 1024 x 768 resolution

Coping with Mobile Use

Coping with the Small Disk Size

Use Web-based storage of documents and applications such as at docs.google.com. Google documents allow for online spreadsheets, documents, etc., and so you don't have to worry about disk storage or losing your documents if your hard drive crashes or if you have to do a Factory Restore. Moreover, you don't have to worry about having word processing or spreadsheet software on your computer.

Remove applications on the EEEPC that you do not need.

Factory Restore

If you run into problems with your EEEPC and it won't even start up properly, you can do a factory restore to the original system. You will loose everything else on that disk, though--you should have backups! Before you have to do this, you should be doing backups of your data or storing your data online in Web-based storage such as at docs.google.com. To do a factory restore, simply power up your EEEPC and press F9 until you get to a screen which allows you the options: Normal Boot, Perform Disk Scan, and Restory Factory Settings. Highlight Restore Factory Settings and proceed. I had to repeatedly press F9 just as I powered up the system to do this. (I figured this out thanks to this video.)

Some Field Experience with the EEEPC

I've been able to put the EEEPC to good use in various situations since I've had it.

EEEPC + Wireless + Skype = Telephone!

When I cancelled my landline phone, AT&T also temporarily discontinued my DSL--which I had to re-order as "dry loop" DSL = DSL without a landline. Without any Internet at home for a week or landline phone anymore, I was able to make do with my EEEPC and cellphone.

EEEPC + Free WiFi + Skype + microphone + headphones = phone

The EEEPC Charges a Cell Phone!

You can plug a cell phone into the EEEPC for charging. I did this with my Motorola W370 cell phone using the USB cable that came with my Canon camera. No driver was needed. Upon plugging in the cable, the phone beeped and began charging. This could eliminate the need to take a cell phone charger on a trip when you take the EEEPC, its charger, and the USB cable. I also have this capability on my desktop computer's USB port, but a driver (available from Motorola) was required in order to make it work.

Canon Camera Cable The EEEPC (or other USB port) can charge a cellphone Using the EEEPC as a power source to charge a cell phone

An Extended Trip with the EEEPC *new*

In late 2008 and early 2009, I went on a trip from Wisconsin, to Illinois, back through Wisconsin, and into Michigan's Upper Peninsula with the EEEPC. I took the EEEPC so as to have a way to check my email, browse the Web, and post some photos to flickr as I traveled. The trip was for about 20 days and consisted of travel by bus, train (Amtrak, Metra), car, and foot through urban areas (downtown Chicago) to rural areas and woods. I had to have all my stuff with me in a small backpack. With this challenge, the EEEPC worked out extremely well--so well that I would not want to take another trip anywhere without it.

Some observations from this trip:

Some photos from this trip:

Outside Union Station Cully's Service Station At the Bordeau Bistro

The EEEPC Saves the Day!

My desktop computer went out one morning: I pressed the power switch, and nothing happened. After verifying that indeed I had electricity in the outlet, I determined that my computer's power supply was not working. Remaining as calm as I possibly could, I reached for my EEEPC. I attached the network cable from the DSL modem to the EEEPC and simply powered it up and got on the Net. I was able to get information online to solve the problem and restart my desktop computer. One of my reasons for getting the EEEPC in the first place was to have on hand as a spare computer. This came in handy on the day I really needed it.

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2017-05-16 · John December · Contact · Terms of Use © December Communications, Inc.