Traditional hard disk technology (with moving parts)
represents a major
weakness in portable devices. Hard disks cause reliability
issues, as they are vunerable to knocks and drops. Additionally, as a
hard disk has a number of spinning and
moving parts, it is near impossible to make a hard disk
noiseless. A key attribute of the Eee PC is that there is no
conventional hard disk in the machine.
Instead, the Eee PC is supplied with a 4GB solid state drive
(SSD), that has been configured to use UnionFS.
UnionFS allows files and directories of separate file systems, known as
branches, to be transparently overlaid, forming a single file
system. The Eee has two such partitions (/dev/sda1 and /dev/sda2).
/dev/sda1 contains the software image and takes up about
2.6GB of the SSD. Any changes that are made to that image are stored on
The primary reason why Asus has chosen to use UnionFS is because it
acts as a form of protection mechanism, allowing the machine to be
reset to its factory state extremely easily. This is very
important for Eee's target audience. Should a user manage, for whatever
reason, to hose their system, it can be reset effortlessly.
However, there is a downside to this feature. If you uninstall any of
that the Eee ships with, you don't free up any of the 2.6GB consumed on
first partition. Moreover, upgrading an existing package to the latest
version not only means that no space is reclaimed on the
first partition, but that the precious space on the second
partition is used. Whether this is important depends on whether you are
the type of user that
likes to use the latest software versions.
Asus has recently announced that they will be releasing a software
development kit for the Eee PC, which will enable the OpenSource
community to develop, easy to port and easy to release software for the
Eee PC platform.
As previously noted, the Eee PC has both a wired 100 Mbit ethernet port
and 802.11 b/g wireless networks. Both types of connection were easy to
set up, and delivered expected speeds. Wireless
range is particularly good, and I successfully connected to my router
signal strength even when I had walked down my road. The Eee
PC has a significantly more sensitive wireless connection than Nokia's
Internet tablets. The WiFi antenna can be
disabled with a couple of keys (Fn-F2), which helps to conserve battery
The only networking omission was the lack of integrated Bluetooth.
The trackpad on the Eee PC was also better than I had been led to
believe. Yes, it's quite small, but it is responsive and accurate. It
has a scroll area on its right
hand side, replicating the function of a mouse wheel. The trackpad
button could certainly do with some improvement, as it is too clunky
and noisy when pressed. It would also help if Asus provided a
visual marking on the button to indicate that it is in fact two buttons.
On a couple of occasions, the trackpad sensitivity reduced to zero
at bootup. A strange bug, but fortunately only a minor irritant.
The Eee PC also offers an integrated webcam, producing images and
videos in VGA (640x480 resolution), up to 30 frames per second. The
camera is mounted in the bezel above the display, which makes
it useful for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software, such as
Skype. You do need to upgrade to the latest beta
of Skype to make use of this functionality. More on this later.
The image quality from the webcam is reasonable. In poor light, the
frame rate drops to a minimum of 7.5 frames per second.
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Last Updated Sunday, January 13 2008 @ 11:11 AM EST