Posts about eee

Android on x86: report

Since I expect Android on tablets to be a big thing in 2010, I am experimenting with the closest thing I can get: Android in my eee 701 Surf 4G:

SDC14690

I got the testing Android 2.0 image from http://android-x86.org. I had the 1.6 "stable" one but it was... well, it worked awful (half the key combos or menu options caused it to crash, reboot or otherwise autocombust).

So... how is it working? Slow, but it has potential!

The bad:

  • It boots quite fast... but my tricked full Arch Linux install boots faster.

  • It works sloooooow, you can see individual letters when you type in the search gadget. I read this is a temporary problem, though.

  • I am getting a "castrated" experience because the open android app stores are not as well stocked as the official android marketplace (and come on, why the heck can't I get free apps from there???)

    I see obvious holes in the app landscape that I suppose are well covered in the market (like, is there a RadioTray replacement?)

    No text editor?

    No semi-decent word processor? Not even one that generates HTML?

  • The web browser is pathetic. It may be nice for a phone, but for a "real" system? It's awful. You get the mobile versions of all sites (obviously) and many don't let you switch to the real ones! (even google does that, for Google Reader), and of course, no flash.

  • The email app is terrible. You can't not-top-post!!!! "In-Reply-To" is off-spec!

  • The WiFi settings are way too hidden. They should pop if you click on the wifi icon.

The good:

  • It shuts down incredibly fast.
  • Some apps are quite nice, specially the Aldiko book reader is awesome (and I can share the ePub books with fbReader on the arch linux side.
  • The included SSH client has great ideas.
  • I love the "all your data is in the SD" approach. I do the same thing with Linux. In fact, I have the same exact data organization now on both OSs :-)
  • The home screen with the sliding app drawer: nice
  • The "grabbable" system notifications on the top bar: very nice
  • The "use the menu key to get the menu" thing? genius ;-)
  • The "everything fullscreen all the time", thing? works on this screen.
  • App installation is a solved problem here.
  • I know I will be able to get Qt working native... can't wait!

I am not sold yet, Arch is just so much faster right now, and it can do so much more, but...

  • I am getting a touchscreen for it, so I can experience it more the way it's meant to be experienced.
  • I am using it a lot to read at night in bed (Just finished Makers, read it, it's cool!).
  • I am using it for casual mail reading (I refuse to reply with that broken app).
  • It's a pretty nice alarm clock, so it's becoming my bedside OS.

I'll write another report once I have the touch screen or a new (hopefully faster!) version running.

Open with: Google Docs

The eee is small. It has very little storage. So, why should I use dozens of MB on a word processor? Because I get word documents in the mail every once in a while.

In fact, the only word documents I get are error messages from windows users. Here's the procedure every one of them seems to have found to tell me what's inside explorer's error pages:

  1. Capture the screen
  2. Paste it into Word
  3. Mail it to me

I suppose copy&paste of the page contents was too hard. But anyway, I usually manage by having kword or abiword handy, but I was thinking...

I am reading my email. That means I am on the net. That means google docs is right there. And they have a python API! 15 minutes later... open_with_gdocs.py

#!/usr/bin/env python
import gdata.docs.service,gdata,sys,os

# Create a client class which will make HTTP requests with Google Docs server.
client = gdata.docs.service.DocsService()
# Authenticate using your Google Docs email address and password.
client.ClientLogin([email protected]', 'whateveritis')

ms = gdata.MediaSource(file_path = sys.argv[1], content_type = "application/msword")
entry = client.UploadDocument(ms,"tmp_open_with_gdocs/%s"%sys.argv[1])
os.system("firefox '%s'"%entry.GetAlternateLink().href)

Try it, as long as you have firefox, a decent version of python and gdata it should open the doc you pass as first argument on google docs in firefox.

Remember that you need to delete it later if you don't want it, and rename it if you want to keep it with a decent name.

I am not turning it into a real app, but it's good enough for me. Put it in your path and associate it to your .doc files.

A similar thing for .xls is trivial. A script that would handle both, also.

Could please someone take this and make it a real app?

Rebelling against insanity: Wicd requires half of GNOME

UPDATE: you can get this program now at google code

I have been using my eee for a while already with a sort of Kubuntu in it.

However, my favourite wireless/wired network management app is wicd, which is a Python/GTK application. Or was, since version 1.4.1 requires python-gnome2-extras.

Which depends on ....

libart-2.0-2 (>= 2.3.18), libaspell15 (>= 0.60), libatk1.0-0 (>= 1.13.2), libbonobo2-0 (>= 2.15.0),
libbonoboui2-0 (>= 2.15.1), libc6 (>= 2.6-1), libcairo2 (>= 1.4.0),
libfontconfig1 (>= 2.4.0), libfreetype6 (>= 2.3.5), libgconf2-4 (>= 2.13.5),
libgda3-3, libgdl-1-0, libgdl-gnome-1-0, libgksu1.2-1 (>= 1.3.3), libgksu2-0 (>= 1.9.6),
libgksuui1.0-1, libglade2-0 (>= 1:2.6.1), libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.14.0), libgnome-keyring0 (>= 2.19.6),
libgnome2-0 (>= 2.17.3), libgnomecanvas2-0 (>= 2.11.1), libgnomeui-0 (>= 2.19.1),
libgnomevfs2-0 (>= 1:2.17.90), libgtk2.0-0 (>= 2.12.0), libgtkspell0 (>= 2.0.2),
libice6 (>= 1:1.0.0), libnspr4-0d (>= 1.8.0.10), liborbit2 (>= 1:2.14.8),
libpango1.0-0 (>= 1.18.2), libpng12-0 (>= 1.2.13-4), libpopt0 (>= 1.10), libsm6,
libstartup-notification0 (>= 0.8-1), libx11-6, libxcomposite1 (>=1:0.3-1),
libxcursor1 (>> 1.1.2), libxdamage1 (>= 1:1.1), libxext6, libxfixes3 (>= 1:4.0.1), libxi6, libxinerama1,
libxml2 (>= 2.6.29), libxrandr2 (>= 2:1.2.0), libxrender1, zlib1g (>= 1:1.2.3.3.dfsg-1),
python-support (>= 0.3.4), python (<< 2.6), python (>= 2.4), python-gtk2,
python-pyorbit, python-gnome2-desktop

In short: a 87MB download. That can't be good. In fact, there are almost no changes from 1.3.1 which didn't require all that! Except for one change that makes all the difference on a eee PC: vertical resizing to under 400px. :-(

So, because I am who I am, I did this:

wicd-qt.png

It's a replacement for wicd's gui.py and tray.py. Only needs PyQt4 which I already had and depends on:

libc6 (>= 2.6-1), libgcc1 (>= 1:4.2.1), libqt4-core (>= 4.3.2),
libqt4-gui (>= 4.3.2), libstdc++6 (>= 4.2.1), python-central (>= 0.5.8),
python (<< 2.6), python (>= 2.4), python-sip4 (>= 4.7), python-sip4 (<< 4.8)

See a difference there?

Took me about 3 hours to hack together, and works (except for wired config, the prefs dialog, static IP and scripts) but the hard work is done.

If anyone wants a copy, just ask. I expect KUbuntu could use something like it?

Yes, Xandros was horrible. But this ubuntu thing is working out nicely!

As I said before, the bastardized Xandros [1] sucked. In fact, I managed to destroy it. So I decided to switch to another distro. Any distro.

Enter eeeXubuntu, a eee-tuned Xubuntu [2].

Since I prefer KDE to XFCE, I started hacking at it, and produced, IMVHO, a much nicer thing.

keee.png

As you can see, it takes slightly less space than eeeXubuntu's default, and a whooping 1GB less than the default distro.

How did I do it? First, by deciding what I wanted.

  • No OpenOffice. Koffice is enough to read docs, then there is Google docs, and I produce my texts using docutils
  • No printing. I have not used a printer in 5 years. What are the odds I will use one from the eee?
  • wicd for network configuration. It works for wireless/wired/encrypted and has no problem whatsoever reconnecting after suspend.
  • yakuake for terminal. It uses the least screen-space possible: none if you are not using it.
  • Firefox + Flash (I would use Konqueror, if flash9 had not broken it)
  • Kmail + Akregator for mail and RSS

It works great, boots in 35 seconds (and I have not tuned that, yet).

Here's the list of installed packages and here's the list of repos I am using

Maybe someone more enterprising will make a real distro out of it.

[1] Which is itself a bastardized Debian etch.
[2] Which is a XFCE-tuned ubuntu

Asus eee PC 4G Surf: First impressions from an old Linux Guy

I finally got my eee PC last saturday. It's the 4G Surf in Galaxy Black [1].

Everyone says the same thing, and so do I: you can't understand how small the thing is until you see it.

And then everyone takes a picture of it sitting inside its previous notebook. So will I, 2 times.

Here's the eee with a HP Pavillion zd7000, which has a 17" widescreen:

p1230001

Here's the eee with a Toshiba Satellite with a very unusual 16.6" 4:3 ratio screen:

p1230003

But is it the smallest notebook I ever had? Nope.

Here you can see the eee, a Toshiba Libretto and a HP Jornada 720 laying over the HP notebook, so you can get an idea of how much smaller all are. The Libretto is smaller but thicker and feels heavier.

p1230005

Regarding construction quality, the screen is decent, if you can live with the low resolution (I can). The keyboard is ok, even though I have large fingers [2] and the general construction feels good (not creaky, no flex [3]), but nothing remarkable.

The software... it works. But I am loooking to replace it with another distro ASAP. Let's get into some detail...

  1. Xandros package availability is abysmal. There's little, what's there is old, what I like is usually missing, if you start pulling Debian packages it will break, and if you don't want to use the Xandros File Manager you may have to do evil stuff [4]
  2. KDE 3.4 is worse than 3.5. There's no kopete?
  3. The menus are incomplete (in both the simple and advanced modes). There are a bunch of things installed but not showing.
  4. If you have only 4GB of storage, little RAM, and a slowish CPU, building from source is probably not a good idea, so I can't install that way even if I felt like it.
  5. No PyQt4? That means I can't blog from it :-(
  6. On the other hand, everything in the eee works using xandros, and I don't know if it will on another distro.

The only changes I made so far are:

  1. Switched to full desktop (KDE) mode.
  2. I got rid of the silly unionfs situation (BTW: I did it using the instructions at http://wiki.eeeuser.com, but used RIPLinuX as the USB bootable distro, it's the easiest of them all)
  3. I removed a lot of garbage (got 2.2GB free now)
  4. Moved logs to a tmpfs

Other than that, it's still the original stuff, and I have been using it to work around the house while watching the baby, and from bars, and such.

Happyness-meter: 8 out of 10 so far.

[1] A huge thank you to Feray Girgin, my mother in law who brought it from the US :-D
[2] My hands look like crippled obese octopuses (octopii?)
[3] Being so small, it's not supposed to flex even if it were badly built, I guess.
[4] I ended symlinking konqueror to xandrosfilemanager

Thinking in 800x480: Web browsing

I am still anxiously waiting for my Asus eee (still a week to go or so), and I was thinking about web browsing in the 7", 800x480 screen.

Yes, you can do the usual things, go to full screen mode, whatever, but for many sites, 800 pixels is just too narrow.

You can make pages fit better in a limited width by reducing the font size. A good 8pt font is probably readable on that screen, since you will be pretty close to the screen.

However, that does nothing for layouts that are pixel-based, and for the size of images.

However, after reading about Qt 4.4's support for webkit and widgets in QGraphicsView, I started thinking... that's doing it wrong.

What you want in limited screen space is text in the usual size and the page in a smaller size.

So, my idea is:

  • Make the font larger. Say, 12pt.
  • Render the page in a webkit widget that's 1200x720 pixels.
  • Put the widget in a QGraphicsScene, and reduce it 33%.

The result? a 800x480 web page view that contains the whole page.

Of course you should be able to change all these parameters with a single control. Is the page too wide to see in 800x480 with 8pt fonts?

Then try 1000x600 with 10pt fonts, and reduce it to fit the screen.

Still too wide? Then try 1200x720 and a 33% reduction.

Possible tips:

  • Should work better with aliased fonts, since the size reduction should make antialiased fonts too blurry. A wide, open font will look better,
  • The scrollbars will look squashed, I expect. Probably checkboxes and radio buttons will look funky. Here, more advanced wizardry is needed.

Of course it would have to be tested, but I am willing to bet this will work better than other alternatives. If I had a working PyQt 4.4 I would try to do it myself ;-)

I got my Asus eee!

Ok, not really, but if everything works right, I get a "Galaxy Black" Asus eee 4G Surf in a couple of weeks :-)

Ok, I wanted the 4G, not the surf, but my mother in law is bringing it as a favour and I have no use for the webcam anyway, so the only difference is the soldered RAM, which I was not planning to upgrade anyway.

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I asking the red menace from the north for these items?

Well, they do have one thing in common: Linux. Another is that they are consumer boxes, not servers.

For many years, one of the huge advantages windows had was that it came preloaded with most PCs. This enabled people to turn a blind eye to windows installation and configuration since it was done by Someone Else (TM).

Since getting Linux has become much easier in the last 10 years [1] this has been very frustrating. Imagine you had something you gave away for free, but people kept using something more expensive because they had to pay for it anyway!

That itches. If Linux was not chosen because it was inferior for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even being able to be tested because the other product was bundled and paid for? Annoying.

Of course on servers this worked differently. The OS was not the expensive part, and was preloaded less often. Corporations have prearranged licensing terms, and adding things to the mix is simpler.

But for consumers, preloading has been a huge problem [2]

So, if the jolly trespasser brings me what I ordered, I will find the following:

  • Asus eee: A cheap subnotebook with Linux and KDE preloaded.
  • Everex gPC: A cheap Desktop with Linux and Enlightenment(!?) preloaded.
  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an embedded hypervisor and Linux OS.

The eee is probably the most appealing. It's ideal for many uses:

  • Salesmen who are now using some ungodly Blackberry app (or worse)
  • System and network admins. Really. I would love to have a cheap notebook I won't hesitate bringing to a roof, a bar, the beach, whatever. It would live in my bag. My current notebook? Besides weighting 8 pounds, it's expensive and large. All I need are webpages email and SSH sessions!
  • Kids and students (it's cheap! You can buy a replacement if he drops coffe on it!)
  • Basic users and old people. Really, an office-like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wherever there's wifi? Neat.

And it is going to get a lot cheaper, and it's going to get a lot better. I expect there will be a 32GB, 10" model by the end of next year for $350, and the current model available for $250 (after all, half the components are cheap as dirt already, only flash is expensive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus creates a decent dock [3] and a nice rdiff-backup-based backup solution (it should be at least as nice as Apple's Time Machine), this box turns into my main computer whenever I am at home, and is a useful tool on the road. I really can live with those specs.

The gPC is a bit harder to grasp.

First, it's even cheaper. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slowish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I really want one of those as a home server. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX boxes as actually cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at all).

  • I have a TV capture card, I could make a PVR out of it using LinuxMCE? It does have enough CPU for that (since I am doing it with a slower box already)
  • A file server? More than good enough for that.
  • A houseguest computer?
  • A MPD server?
  • All of the above?

And do all this while being quiet and power-efficient? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS simply would be cool because I can virtualize without jumping through any hoops. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I only found out about it today. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these boxes mark a trend? Because they are definitely low-end products. These are meant to be made by thousands and hundreds of thousands, and make small money on each.

The makers are being smart about providing as little functionality as they can and making them simple, niche, consumer products instead of monstruosly powerful Linux monsters (sorry for how ugly that sounds).

Another factor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is making the OS irrelevant just like Netscape hoped in 1996. If the OS is invisible, Linux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!
[1] Look, no need to create 30 floppies! You can add a driver without recompiling the kernel! You don't need to know what a Modeline is!
[2] The other one is probably games, but that's a different problem. There are whole markets where gaming is not an issue.
[3] A wireless dock with place for a IDE disk or two, an optical drive, a powered USB hub, a card reader. Hardware costs? Maybe U$S 50 + disks?

Asus sucks at math.

This is just lazy, guys! Anyone who can guess change when buying a pack of mints can guess this better than what you wrote!

Quote:

Sales figures since the release have been astounding, with 200 pieces snapped up in 20 minutes on Taiwan's shopping channel, ETTV Shopping - averaging an Eee PC sold every two seconds.

Let's see, that would be 200 pieces in 20 minutes, 10 a minute, I guess that's one every 2 seconds plus/minus 4 seconds. Or rather, just plus 4 seconds.

Read the whole Asus press release here.