This time though I've got a little peach. It is an Asus EeePC. I'd heard these were hard to get hold of. That's like a red rag to a bull where I'm concerned. I
f you want one, and they are really neat, I'd recommend trying your nearest Toys'R'Us, where I managed to pick one up, after considerable agonising, yesterday.
They cost around 220 pounds. For your money you get a tiny laptop with a little 7 inch display. Of course you can get "proper" laptops for only a few pounds more, but the EeePC is interesting for a number of reasons.
For a start it really is small. If you want a proper laptop as small as the Asus you would be hard pushed to get one for less than seven or eight hundred pounds, and it has a battery life of over three hours, which is again very promising for the price and size.
It also has no moving parts to break, unless you count a little fan and the keys, and uses an internal 4GB solid state drive for storage.
There is an SD slot for additional memory, three USB slots for external devices, WIFI, a webcam, a wired network connection and even an external monitor socket. It feels very robust and is powered by an Intel Celeron processor tied to 512Mb of memory.
It can run Windows XP, but it is supplied running a variant of Linux which contains all the bundled applications that you would need to make the machine useful, including Open Office 2.0, Firefox for web browsing, a collection of Picture, Music and Media utilities, some teaching applications and a few games.
The user experience is very like Windows, with just a few rough edges here and there. It booted up, connected to our WIFI and worked a treat. The only scary bit was getting it to print, which involved compiling a printer driver and installing it (good job that Number One Son was around to do that bit).
If you want a tiny PC to take with you on trips, and would like something that won't break the bank and you won't fret about too much, then I strongly recommend it. If you are thinking of getting your kids a notebook PC, but are worried about their fragility and price(the notebook that is, not the kids), I'd recommend it very strongly.
It is also a hackers delight. It is essentially a PC platform, but small and cheap and very easy to develop for. I'm going to put Mono on mine so I can keep writing C# goodness. Number one son wants to put one on a robot. There are stories of an Eeepc that has been made to run Vista (quite well so they say) and an XP version will be available in 2008 which will be very interesting.
What I want to do next is couple it up to the SkypePhone so that I've got a portable, high performance, network terminal. If I put XP on it I could do this tomorrow. The machine is supplied with a set of XP driver disks and I really am tempted to do this.