4 days on and the switchover trial is going fine. Most of the time I
just forget that I’m working on this Asus EeePC instead of my Dell
Inspiron office laptop. There were a few snags of course, mainly to do
with Firefox add-ons, but nothing that ground the experiment to a halt.
Updating the Signature extension was the number one nuisance. We depend on this for inserting
canned text on customer replies through Gmail but luckily had backups
in a ‘Canned’ label so it wasn’t a lot of work to add them back
in. My second can’t-live-without add-on is del.icio.us so once that was
re-installed it was off-to-the-races.
Both the Dell and this
Asus machine have 512Mb RAM and I haven’t found any difference between
the number of Firefox tabs I can comfortably keep open. What I have
found though is that pop-ups, like the Ctrl-D del.icio.us dialog are
sometimes rather sluggish to respond on the EeePC. But starting Firefox
in particular and switching between tabs is actually faster on this
This has been a typical work week for me and I’ve
only once needed to run an application outside of the browser – Skype.
Which actually comes pre-installed on the EeePC. Nevertheless I
upgraded to the latest version which supports video calling so that I
could test out the capability of the built-in webcam which certainly
doesn’t disappoint. My brother expanded the video window to full screen
at his end of a test call and confirmed that quality was good with
excellent synchronization between video and audio.
This was the first time he’d been at the receiving end of a video call
where the webcam was built into the bezel of the transmitting device,
as it is on the Asus, directly above the screen. What he learned is
something that teleconference/telepresence vendors have long known –
video calling reaches a new level of effectiveness when it seems that
the caller is looking you directly in the eye. If you’ve only ever
participated in a video call where the other party was watching the
computer screen while the webcam was off to the side, as it typically
is, then you won’t really appreciate the significance of this until you
see it. When you consider the expense of traditional teleconferencing
equipment I think the EeePC and other Netbooks could well forge a niche as
As regards others software applications here’s an audit of what I (sometimes) use on my Windows laptop –
Earth: I haven’t actually used Google Earth in quite a while as I find Google Maps plenty useful. Nevertheless I decided to download and
install the Linux version on the EeePC and
had no problem getting it running, on an external monitor at least.
While it also runs on the internal LCD a hack is required to make it
run smoothly. Actually it’s not the time ‘hacks’ have been required to configure apps on this Linux based machine and that’s something I’ll return to at the end of the trial.
Google Talk: Is alternatively available through the Gmail interface in Firefox so there’s no need for a Linux version.
Camtasia: It’s been a while since I did a screencast but I’ll be
ramping up production again soon so a solution in this category is
something I’d definitely need. A Google search throws up no shortage of
Linux options but I haven’t yet installed any and don’t know if they’re in
the same league as TechSmith’s product.
Picasa: I used to use Google’s Picasa quite a bit for managing my
digital photo collection but that was before I got a camera with wifi
capability (my Sony Ericsson P1i smartphone). Now, using Shozu over wifi I usually upload photos directly to Flickr, a sytem which has two big
advantages over the previous way of doing things – backups are automatic (I trust Yahoo!) and sharing is
immediate. I just wish Shozu supported Pix.ie which is the photo
sharing service I use for tech events I attend.
As regards photo editing Flickr’s Picnic does all I need. An
alternative for people who want to manage their photos on the minimal
internal storage or external SDs (The EeePC has a built-in SD/MMC
reader) is of course Pixenate.
Second Life: This is the only other client software I could think of
that I use semi-regularly on my Dell laptop. I haven’t actually used it
since Haydn launched his virtual art gallery but I do intend to
get back into it. There is a Linux client for SL and even a web-based client
so software isn’t a problem. What I’d imagine would be a problem is
hardware. While the EeePC does have a fairly capable onboard Intel 3D
graphics chip I’m not sure it would be up to speed for Second Life.
Office apps: The Asus comes with a copy of OpenOffice which
works perfectly well as a Microsoft Office replacement but I have
no need for it – I just use Google Documents.
Text editors: Up
until a few months ago I used to use either Notepad or TextPad for
note-taking but now I use Google Documents or Selfnotes.net, the former
for composing blog posts and longer passages of text, the latter for
At the end of the day there hasn’t been a deal-breaker yet, nothing that’s forced me to power-up the Inspiron 510m. And it confirms for me what I’ve long suspected – even if I can’t quite live in the cloud I can live without Microsoft Windows.