Pat's Log
Fri, 23 Nov 2007

Asus eeePC - My Thoughts
20071122 In the last entry I promised that I would write more about my thoughts regarding the eeePC. As mentioned, I have been involved with the project for quite some time, having worked on the software that ships with the units since day one. There was always the geeky temptation to write something here, but practical considerations (aka "NDA") kind of got in the way.

From my point of view, it all started from "Pat, we have a new motherboard from Asus we want you to see to evaluate if our product can run on it." My first reaction was that it was a regular, albeit completely bleeding edge board, that will need some serious driver work to get going. Writing drivers is not exactly my area of expertise. But it quickly became clear that the tiny motherboard sitting in front of me had well-established hardware and was meant for a tiny laptop.

We ended up putting together a demonstration of a possible concept for the product in remarkably short time, and that demo is actually quite close to what ships with the units today, if much less polished. Even then, before seeing what the thing would look like there was a very high energy level amongst those involved with the project. Optimizing a distribution to boot in 12 seconds from BIOS to desktop is a fun challenge. The challenges continued right up the stack, and the software is quite true to the Unix philosophy of "one tool for one job," as there are many simple GUI programs that are designed to do one task as simply and quickly as possible. That alone really is quite refreshing.

The enthusiastic energy not only continued, but boosted significantly when the first full unit came in. It was only subtly different in appearance from what ended up shipping. I was impressed, and still am. The tiny laptop is cheap, jam-packed with features, surprisingly ergonomic, and feels more solid than one might expect.

One of the things that Asus did very intelligently with a computer this size is to not over-embed. In other companies there may have been some pressure to make it a PDA-like device. However, the laptop is a standard PC, and the user is free to install whatever OS and software they like. The default software is optimized for the unit, and thus encouraged, but there is no locking in. The default installation contains many hacker-friendly features like quick access to a shell, a full suite of GNU/Linux utilities, even all of the man pages that come with them. At the very least it makes one of the most portable ssh terminals, and at the most, it introduces potentially millions of people to Linux.

At this point, after solid effort on the eeePC project, including many late nights, weekends, and a trip to Taipei, I am very happy with how it's being received. There are generally very positive reviews. Most people are not making the mistake of comparing it to a full-sized laptop in terms of capability; obviously, its small size does bring about some limitations; no surprise there. It's actually the #1 selling laptop on at the moment, which certainly speaks for itself regarding its success. There is even a thriving user community.

As for me, I am simply proud of my contribution.

[] | posted @ 05:20 | link
Sat, 10 Nov 2007

eeePC Talk at OCLUG
20071109 For the last six months or so, my main project at work has revolved around the new ASUS eeePC. My company, Xandros, got the contract to develop the Linux software that ships on the unit by default.

From then until now, I haven't been able to talk much about the eeePC, as ASUS obviously wanted to keep its new baby under wraps. Besides, the specs changed frequently, and the only thing worse than leaks are inaccurate leaks.

eeePC's software was developed very quickly and efficiently. Now that the product has shipped, there is nothing to hide, so I gave a talk about eeePC and its software to the local Linux Users' Group this week. The talk went well (aside from my little lapses into la-la land), and I think the eeePC was well received. I am no marketoid, but people seemed genuinely excited by it. Several people from the audience now own one. People seem naturally attracted to the features and the price tag of the unit. The phenomenon is global, with the eeePCs selling as quickly as they can be produced, and they are produced at a few thousand per day. Even having worked on the project day-in-day-out, the project remains fresh. The word for the last half year of my life has certainly been "exciting." I hope that was adequately reflected in my presentation.

However, it is bad writing to be describing a talk given about a subject that has not been properly introduced. I will have to reflect more about the eeePC itself at some point in the near future.

Until then, my regards to Richard Briggs for the photo. My camera is still at Canon's service depot in Montreal.

[] | posted @ 04:44 | link

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