Backpacking with an Asus Eee PC

You mentioned your girlfriend has an Asus Eee netbook. What are your thoughts on those? I have a MacBook Pro 15" now, and those little netbooks are tempting. I heard you can even put OSX on one of them.

Would you recommend something like that for traveling, and how's the Wi-Fi capability on them?

Craig's Response:

Tatiana's Eee (model 4G, 701) is certainly an excellent travel laptop that has, without question, the best Wi-Fi range I've seen on any mobile device. The Wi-Fi is so good that on many occasions I've actually used her machine like an external antenna and gotten Internet from access points that my laptop couldn't pick up (using a cross-over Ethernet cable and Windows Internet Connection Sharing). I've even used BackTrack loaded on a USB thumbdrive to quickly break WEP encryption with the thing.

I find typing on the machine uncomfortable, though that's likely a reaction to my inability to touch type as well on the smaller keyboard. Tatiana's hands are significantly smaller than my own, and seems to be quite content. I think it just takes time to get use to the layout.

If you're interested in a machine that will let you IM, e-mail, make Skype calls, and surf whenever, the 4G 701 series is certainly an excellent choice — which makes it ideal for the bulk of 2 week to 1 year travelers. But if you're any kind of power user, this model is certainly not for you. I could never imagine doing any kind of Photoshop work on that tiny screen, and Tatiana complains that a recent Hotmail layout change makes her have scroll horizontally to see the Web page.

An external hard drive is a required piece of equipment, as any traveler will need one to store photos since the device can barely hold the operating system. I'd strongly recommend encrypting both the Eee hard drive and the external drive. I wish all laptops had sold state drives.

For Tatiana, the Eee has been great (despite the onboard SD card reader burning out every SD card placed inside it — ouch!). I'd personally have to go with a 901 series or above, but that's just because of the type of user I am (heavy photo editing and Web development).

Both http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASUS_Eee_PC and http://www.eeeuser.com/ are excellent sources of information on the Eee.

//craig in bulgaria
December 16, 2008

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