The Linux laptop goes to school

The Linux laptop goes to school

Summary: This is not a PC you load with additional hardware, or much additional software. This is more like a cell phone, something you toss in your backpack and use on-the-run.

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Robin Blankenhorn and the Asus EeePCThe best way to see how a Linux laptop really works is to let someone else try it out.

Someone else, in this case, is my daughter Robin (right). She did her first review for me when she was 3. I sat her on my lap in front of a huge PC and she checked out some learning software.

She has gotten bigger, and the computers have gotten smaller. She had never seen Linux before, but within five minutes with the Asus EeePC 900 she had found several games, including one called Tux Typing, which is under the Learn menu.

The game taught me something important about the keyboard I complained about yesterday. It's really designed for four-finger typing. Keep the others out of the way and you can move along at about 30 words per minute with a minimum of mistakes.

Then, as promised, she brought it to her junior college classes this morning and showed it around.

"When I showed one of my classmates in my Calculus class, he said that the size reminded him of something called, My First Laptop. I thought that was funny."

One really big advantage over her seven-pound Lifebook is its two-pound weight.

"I was carrying everything for Calculus. I was going to do a little cramming before the test. It did not really add any weight. and my Calculus book is pretty big and heavy on its own.

"Also because it starts up pretty fast and even shuts down fast it is something that everyone can use anywhere in the library or wherever they are."

I know some people might think this $400 Linux laptop is a Microsoft killer. It's more like a Dell killer. There are no moving parts -- it's just chips and a screen. For extra memory there's an SD card slot, or plug in a hard drive through a USB port.

This makes for long battery life and ruggedness. Plus, each unit is the same -- no need for Dell's mass customization.

While I focused on the tiny keyboard (which she also noticed) Robin's biggest complaint was the slow response of the mouse buttons. But it's something you can get used to, she said.

There's one point missing from Robin's review and it's an important one. There were no ease-of-use issues. Everything was point-and-click, Windows-like. She didn't learn Linux. She didn't have to.

This is not a PC you load with additional hardware, or much additional software. This is more like a cell phone, something you toss in your backpack and use on-the-run. I can see a lot of Airport road warriors grabbing these babies.

So what do you think? Grandpa going to put it in a grandkid's stocking this Christmas? Could be. It's cheap as chips.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Laptops, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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48 comments
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  • On the Mouse Buttons ...

    [i]Robin?s biggest complaint was the slow response of the mouse buttons. But it?s something you can get used to, she said.[/i]

    Don't use the mouse buttons they're too slow, instead use the tap, double tap and side scroll features on the touchpad. Makes for much faster use. :)
    MisterMiester
    • Good tip

      She says she's not used to it but if she starts using
      the device regularly she says she will get used to it.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Good case study ...

        What the study showed me is; UMPCs are new devices that requires an adjustment in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomics" eg. target="_blank">ergonomics.</a><br>
        <br>
        OS non-factor.
        n0neXn0ne
  • What Microsoft and M$ shills don't want to hear ...

    <font color=grey><em>"There were no ease-of-use issues. Everything was point-and-click, Windows-like. <font color=darkred>She didn't learn Linux She didn't have to</font>."</em></font><br>
    <br>
    <br>
    n0neXn0ne
    • What you don't want to hear

      2 percent is still just 2 percent.

      More people buy Apple laptops then they do Linux. Why?
      People want to run programs, Linux has some, but not to the level that the other OS's do.
      John Zern
      • Now hang on there a sec!

        For a start, technically most people don't 'buy' the Linux OS and what's more, the fact that many programs don't run on Linux is all to do with the software producer choosing only to make products compatible with proprietary platforms, rather than an endemic issue with Linux. True; it still means that many organizations looking to reduce OS platform outlays are thereby forced to maintain a proprietary solution, but don't discount increasing Linux ports/versions of popular software, or the fact that many open source alternatives to popular proprietary software are often as good if not better. In fact, the following links prove how seriously organizations take Linux for mission critical processing when application needs are meet:

        http://www.aaxnet.com/design/linux2.html
        http://hitachi-id.com/linux-biz/

        The only remaining cost in the case of enterprises are support contracts. Result: a significant overall TCO saving... and before the shills nail me with MS TCO propaganda, ask yourselves whether you could in all confidence face the CIOs/CTOs in the organizations above and tell them they're just plain stupid. Um, all hail you if you could!
        rikasa
        • The M$ shillls don't want facts or case studies....

          Their post goes something like this, "blah blah blah two percent".<br>
          <br>

          I guess they never heard of Virtual Machines <a href="http://blogs.zdnet.com/perlow/?p=9199" target="_blank">"Keep that evil beast in its cage!"</a>.<br>
          <br>
          <font color=grey><em>"...face the CIOs/CTOs in the organizations above and tell them they're just plain stupid."</em></font><br>
          <br>
          The irony is, now an IT pro have to justify to their CIO what are the reasons for not using Linux, their competitors are and cutting cost raising the bottom line. Then you may hear "blah blah blah two percent".<br>
          <br>
          n0neXn0ne
        • broken links...

          Most of the article links on that page are broken... This leaves the reader to verify any claims made.
          barence773
          • re:broken links...

            <font color=grey><em>"This leaves the reader to <font color=darkred>verify</font> any claims made."</em></font><br>
            <br>
            And if the links weren't br0k3n my advice would be;<br>
            <br>
            <strong><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust,_but_Verify" target="_blank">Trust, but <em>Verify</em></a></strong><br>
            <br>
            n0neXn0ne
          • Broken Links?

            The story above has just one link, and I just checked
            it. It works.
            DanaBlankenhorn
          • broken links in post by 'rikasa'

            The links in rikasa's response were broken, not the one in the original story. sorry for not being specific.
            barence773
        • It's true

          [i]Result: a significant overall TCO saving...[/i]

          We're running Linux desktops at a significant savings over Winders. Staff acceptance is good, we haven't had to do any particular hand-holding.

          Our experience in a real business mirrors Dana's account. We turned them loose and they went on and did their job. There was the odd question here and there, how to do a mail merge in OpenOffice, that kind of thing. Mainly it was just like Robin's experience.

          Oh, and we have the money for Apple laptops...no one wanted one. Our plan was to move the sales staff to Macbook Pro's. They didn't want them, so we dropped the Apple offer.
          Chad_z
      • How did you get ....

        2% out of 100%, eh?
        One laptop two satisfied costumer == 100% or maybe 200%..<br>
        <br>

        <font color=grey><em>"...People want to run programs, Linux has some,..."</em></font><br>
        <br>
        Maybe you are reading to much into it. No where in the article I read the end user need for AutoCad or QuickBooks. I'll reread it just for the sake of correctness.<br>
        <br>

        I'm sorry I missed your point.
        The post apparently went over your head.
        Not surprised tho.

        Shills or shrills, go back underground, shissssh.

        PS. apparently you don't want to hear it either. The post should have read, What M$ and M$ shills don't want to hear.

        ]:)
        n0neXn0ne
      • You gotta start somewhere.

        Linux OEMed on UMPCs is the first truly mainstream offering of Linux. Dell's sister site is not mainstream, only geeks find it. Now, with Dell, you click on their UMPC and right alongside the Windows versions is the Linux version. With the two big guys (Asus and Acer) projecting close to 20M units sold (probably 1/2 with Linux) by the end of the year, and all the other companies vying hard, I don't think it is at all unreasonable to expect that 10% of the computer market next year will be UMPCs.

        That directly puts Linux into 5% (assuming only 50% opt for the cheaper more capable Linux versions) of users hands, meaning the FUD that Linux is hard, no programs (which you perpetuate) or is insecure, whatever, dies a much quicker death.

        Windows has games and photoshop, the two big locks. Apple has iTunes, their big lock. That isn't much of a lock anymore. Even QuickBooks is being ported to Linux and online apps to make it OS agnostic. Not a great development for the incumbent who depends on lock in.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
        • Not ENTIRELY True w/iTunes, Tripell

          For the casual users I know (my wife, our housekeeper, a bunch of liberal arts college students we sort of mentor), PS is something they rarely (if ever) use, and all their friends are playing games on consoles anyway. But every last one of them uses iTunes as a music player and media manager, and all of them have purchased a lot of DRM'd music since they didn't know any different. Sure we could burn the songs to CD and back to a DRM-free version - but the fact is they [i][b]understand[/b][/i] iTunes, and are comfortable with it.

          So - we need a way to get iTunes on some of the more mainstream Linux distros like Ubuntu or Xandros.... ::shrug::
          drprodny
          • Some points

            1) iTunes is a dog. You don't want it on a UMPC.
            2) The UMPC isn't a full-time computer -- why would a user want iTunes on a UMPC, anyway? The drive is too small.
            3) There's always Rhythmbox or Amarok, which both handle basic iPod tasks and have music stores (if the user goes against the above advice and needs something like iTunes). Oh, and they're much faster than iTunes.
            daengbo
    • Strictly speaking

      When people talk about learning Linux, they usually mean the command line. With most modern distributions, you don't have to use the command line unless you want to do something geeky. Everything else is point-and-click.

      The mousepad tapping thing is very cool. I discovered it by accident. If I tap the top right corner, I get the autoscroll toggle function. Tapping the bottom right gives me right-click menus.
      barence773
    • I hope you have a good orthopaedic doctor...

      ... since that huge chip on your shoulder is bound to give you back trouble, if not now, then when you grow up.

      Linux shills crack me up. They can never just praise an excellent implementation like this, they have to go thumb their noses at proprietary software and manufacturers.

      Any good thing being said about linux automatically means that "Microsloth sux."

      Sorry you live in such a black and white world. The rest of us enjoy a full color spectrum, including all the shades of gray.

      A win for linux (like this) does not mean a loss for other OSs.
      Confused by religion
      • Replay

        <strong>"I guess they never heard of Virtual Machines <a href="http://blogs.zdnet.com/perlow/?p=9199" target="_blank">"Keep that evil beast in its cage!"</a>."</strong><br>
        <br>

        I guess you missed that eh? Slow down cowboy.<br>

        You are only going to give yourself an ulcer.<br>
        <br>
        PS. Honey always catch bees, Hence <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeypot_(computing)" target="_blank">Honeypot</a>. ;)<br>
        <br>
        n0neXn0ne
        • Another Replay

          I guess you missed the part where it says:

          "This is not a PC you load with additional hardware, or much additional software. "

          Run virtual machines on it? Where? On its hard drive...oops doesn't have one. In its vast memory...oops you can't upgrade it except with a slow sd card.

          I'm not criticizing the machine. Its great for its intended purpose. But to suggest that you are going to run virtual machines on it is patently ridiculous.
          cornpie