Saturday, June 28, 2008

Travel notes: My Toys

I like gadgets; two of them have been quite useful on this trip. The first is the baby laptop I am writing this on, an Asus eee 900 by the name of Eeep. It weighs two pounds, measures about 9”x7”, runs Linux (one can also get it with Windows XP) and does pretty nearly everything one would expect of a computer. The one significant exception so far is running World of Warcraft; I gather people have gotten it to run on a Linux eee, but my attempts so far have been unsuccessful. Even if I succeeded I don't expect Eeep would run WoW very well, given the machine's constraints.

No doubt my MacBook, deliberately left at home, would do everything somewhat better. But it also weights more than twice as much and is considerably less convenient to carry around or use in the cramped space of an airline tray. Eeep has only 20 gigabytes of flash memory to substitute for a hard drive (how long has it been since “only 20 gigabytes” would have sounded like a joke?). But to supplement that I have an 8 gigabyte Secure Digital card and a tiny 120 gig USB hard drive, for anything I want with me that actually takes up enough space to be a problem. It's also true that the keyboard takes some getting used to—I find myself hitting caps lock instead of shift from time to time—but I expect that problem to get less serious with practice.

My other gadget is my current camera, a Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ5. Like my previous, and even smaller, Lumix, it is a well designed and well constructed pocket camera.

I got it because it had more megapixels than its predecessor and, more important, a much longer zoom (10x) and a widescreen video mode. The zoom has indeed proved useful, but the camera's real talent is one I hadn't even considered. One of its settings is designed for taking notes—recording information on the camera's built-in memory. I use it to photograph a map of a city. When viewing the photo on the camera's screen I can zoom in and scroll around, making the map very nearly as useful as—in some ways perhaps even more useful than—the paper original. Since I am a tourist I always have my camera with me, which means I always have my map with me.

As long as I remember to keep the camera's battery charged.


Stephan Kinsella said...

Get a MacBook Air--it's got a real keyboard and a nice screen; but it's so thin and portable that it's like an ultra-portably anyway. I love mine. It's converted me to Macs.

David Friedman said...

I read a review comparing the MacBook Air to the eee 900--or, more precisely, to six eee's. The flash disk version of the Air costs about as much as six eee 900's--which also use flash disks instead of a hard drive.

That's one big difference. The other is size. The Air isn't that much heavier than an eee, but in two dimensions it is about as big as my MacBook, which is too big for an airline tray and inconveniently big for travelling.

It's true that the Air would run WoW--but probably not very well, since it's slower than my MacBook, which is not entirely satisfactory for the purpose.

Anonymous said...

Should we expect photos posted to this blog?

Anonymous said...

I, too, just got the eee 900 and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy the keyboard is to use -- with the exception (for me) of the right shift button and the ' key, which I tend to miss, hitting "enter" instead. I usually type in the 90s on a typing test, so I was curious how I'd fare on the eee after 30 minutes of use -- got 65 wpm, which is pretty good for such a small keyboard and so little practice.

Are you running Xandros? I put on Ubuntu 8.04 about 24 hours after I got the eee (which was only a few days ago). Its working well on Ubuntu, and I've got the snazzy 3d desktop / cube running on "compiz" (youtube for videos). This marks my first linux install so I'm working up the learning curve, but I was surprised here, as well, at how much information is out there to get up and running with Ubuntu on an eee 900.

A 120gb thumbdrive -- didn't even know they had gotten that big. Sounds like something else I need to add to the list (as well as a SDHC for the eee).

Since I'm comparing "toy" notes, I just picked up a Rebel XSi (digital SLR). I suppose I'm negating some of the weight savings of the eee by carrying such a monstrous camera, but we've already got an old casio exilim for when the XSi is too much to carry around.

David Friedman said...

I'm using the initial Xandros install--not being experienced with Linux, I didn't want to add additional complexity.

My external USB drive isn't a thumb drive but an actual hard drive, just a very very small one.

Andrew said...

You could use "xmodmap" to remap caps lock to shift or control. The xmodmap config syntax is a bit odd and unfriendly, though.

Jingyou said...

I've had an EEE since Feb, it goes all over with me and I really love it. It replaced a Psion Netbook that finally went belly-up. I've used it for everything from e-book reader to giving client demos - the projector hookup went easier than usual. I've got a couple of USB drives and a bluetooth mouse ( I hate touchpads). Very convenient.