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Travels with the Asus 901

First impressions

Well there is a turn up! I decided to write about my experience with the 901 on the 901. I tabbed over to the 'Work' tab and fired up what I thought was Open Office Writer. Instead I find that it's Star Office 8. I may write about using Star Office if it shows any promise over OOo. The first 'feature' of Star Office has just presented itself. No dictionary and no obvious way to install one. Even google fails to show any hints as to how to get a dictionary into Star Office. If this persists, Star Office will get the bullet and be replaced by Open Office. Strike 2 for the 901 pre-installed software. UPDATE: simong has posted a method to install the missing dictionaries in this forum thread.

Yes, Strike 2, as even before I started writing, I found someone on the 901 section of forum.eeeuser.com that was having problems with simpleui.rc. His changes to the user interface were getting clobbered by a software update (Strike 1). Ah I thought! We've had the same problem with the 701. I'll try keeping a private copy of simpleui.rc in /home/user/.AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc No joy! It seems that ASUS/Xandros have decided to change the Asus launcher and ignore my local copy. One Google later and I found that /var/lib/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc will keep my changes safe from ASUS software updates overwriting /opt/xandros/share/simpleui.rc If you want to use one of the third party GUI configuration tools on a 901, the following should make it possible:

sudo mkdir /var/lib/AsusLauncher
sudo cp /opt/xandros/share/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc /var/lib/AsusLauncher
sudo chmod 666 /var/lib/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc
mkdir /home/user/.AsusLauncher
sudo ln -s /var/lib/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc /home/user/.AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc

UPDATE: Copying simpleui.rc to /var/lib/AsusLauncher is no longer sufficient. One of the three recent software updates clobered this configuration file in a big way moving the Favorites (sic) tab to the left most position and moving several Internet icons to the Favorites tab. It also put two File Manager icons into the Work tab. Make a backup of any local configuration changes before you do ANY software updates. More about this problem here and here.

Having resolved this problem, I started to reflect on the dictionary problem. There is a dictionary icon under the Work tab. It starts up and runs once. Well it does if you use Alt-F4 to close the dictionary window. This is the xlex application from xCome Inc. Tiaiwan. From the English version of their web site, it appears xlex was originally designed for mobile phones. It seems like an OK application except that it doesn't shut down cleanly via Alt-F4. The only feedback channel on xCome.com was via the forum and that was running so slow that I didn't stay to try to report this bug. Strike 3.

A few days later, while browsing forum.eeeuser.com, I saw the subject line “File Manager Missing” in the beginner's questions. This phrase resonated in my head until I finally remembered why. I had been showing off the 901 to my co-workers in the office and Dean, wiz-kid extraordinaire, was having a go and had asked where the file manager was. Nothing under the 'Work' tab where I expected it. Later, I re-traced my path back to this posting and read the experience of others. frolic1 reposted a fix from tamlaras. Use your favourite editor to create:

/opt/xandros/bin/eeepc-file-manager-helper.sh

and insert the following two lines:

#!/bin/sh
/usr/bin/XandrosFileManager

Save and quit the editor. Then make the file executable with:

sudo chmod +x /opt/xandros/bin/eeepc-file-manager-helper.sh

and finally either re-boot or re-start X Windows with a Ctrl‑Alt‑Backspace. Strike 4. I guess we aren't playing baseball. UPDATE: I find that simpleui.rc will stop displaying the File Manager icon if you delete the helper.sh file. It also starts displaying the File Manager icon when you re-instate the helper.sh file. No restarts required!

My introduction to Linux, actually Unix, was pre-Xwindows, so I tend to spend a fair amount of time mouching around via the CLI: Command Line Interface. xterm (Ctrl-Alt-T) as it comes out of the box” is quite hideous but saundby has posted a solution to the forum. Use your favourite text editor to create a .Xresource file (note the leading dot '.') in your home directory (/home/user) and add the following text:

xterm*Font: -adobe-*-medium-r-*-*-*-*-*-*-m-90-*-*
xterm*foreground: LawnGreen
xterm*background: black
xterm*cursorColor: PaleGoldenrod
xterm*scrollBar: true
xterm*saveLines: 500
xterm*rightScrollBar: true
xterm*scrollbar.Background: SlateGray
xterm*scrollbar.Foreground: CadetBlue1
xterm*scrollbar.thickness: 6

The first reply to saundby's posting asks “Why not use a 'better' terminal interface like ...?” to which theSuperman informs us that the KDE Konsole uses more system resources. Amen. Brother. Preach it! This is a bit of a soapbox item for me. Far too often I see a post requesting info on upgrading an Eee PC to 2Gb of memory! What computing tasks, that can reasonable be run on an Eee PC. needs that much memory? I'll concede that 512Mb of ram and 4Gb of storage is a tight fit for most Microsoft products, but in a Linux environment, what programs need more computing resources than provided by the Asus range of ULPCs? The most sensible answer I got from my totally unscientific survey of Asus hardware upgraders was: “...because I can, and I'm a bit of a tinkerer...”.

If you need 2Gb of memory and several hundred Gb's of storage, my advice is buy a different machine. The Eee PC is most likely the wrong machine for you. IMOSHO, the Eee PC and it peers represent a significant break in the bigger-faster-larger upgrade insanity that has been foisted upon the public by the trade press, Microsoft, and the hardware manufactures. Do you need a 3Ghz, 4Gb RAM, 1Tb of storage monster to read e-mail, browse the web and edit a few documents and spreadsheets? And will the trade press please drop the line about the Eee PC only being suitable for children and third world users.

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