About a year ago I bought an EEE PC (the tiny 701) for about $400 from Hong Kong. It's been a fun machine but the screen and keyboard are tough to use and in recent times it's ended up dedicated as a WSPR beacon.
Mostly we run MacOS here but there's a lot of ham radio software that's only available for Windows so I had another look at the state of low cost "netbooks" and the technology has moved on impressively.
I took advantage of a deal at Dick Smith to pick up an Acer Aspire One for AU$577 (after an annoying cash back).
The hardware is impressive at this price: an LED backlit, glossy, 1024 x 600 pixel screen, 120Gb hard disk loaded with Windows XP, 1Gb RAM and a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor.
Battery life is about 2.5 hours and the most annoying thing is the noisy fan.
First thing I did was install Ubuntu 8.10 dual boot with the hard drive partitioned into two equal parts. Regrettably, despite all the helpful hints around the place I have not been able to get wireless going under Ubuntu (others have).
I tried a couple of times and even updated the BIOS to version 3304 which I suspect improves the fan situation a bit, but didn't help with wireless.
It's been a while since I've used Fedora, (Ubuntu has been superior in recent times), but I read that the latest pre-release version 10 works.
The installer has come along since I last looked and all was very smooth. Yes, wireless worked right from the live CD. Pretty much everything works: webcam, right hand SD card slot (not the left one), screen brightness buttons, suspend, and hibernate.
Sound plays but the sound recorder hangs.
Compared to Ubuntu, Fedora has a few annoyances - the fonts are rather big (presumably due to screen width), I don't like the menu layout as much in particular the hierarchy in System - Preferences, and Add/Remove software should be in the Applications menu I think.
The keyboard is almost full size and the screen is crisp and bright. So here's a very usable laptop (minus an optical drive) that is cheap enough to lend to the kids or cart around.
The Acer Cashback scheme moves very slowly... More than a month after I posted in the receipt and serial number barcode from the box I've just received an email saying that they are now "processing" my claim.
Ok, it's January 14 and the cashback check just turned up. More than two months to write a check. Hmm.
The noisy fan is easily fixed with this, which makes it shut down until the processor reaches 70 degrees, keeping it quiet most of the time:
chmod a+x acerfand
sudo cp acer_ec.pl acerfand /usr/local/bin/
sudo acerfand # to start it immediately
echo "/usr/local/bin/acerfand" >> /etc/rc.local
I found the fix here: http://dgoodwin.dangerouslyinc.com/2008/11/08/fedora-10-on-the-acer-aspire-one/, but thanks should also go to these guys: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AspireOne
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