Update 2009-10-23: Windows 7 drivers now available!
Finally jumped on the netbook hype. I wanted a portable device to use with my Garmin GPS. I have more than one computer at home but they are either not portable or not really my property. On top of that the software (and especially the maps) that I use with this device are rather annoying/time consuming to install because of the copyright protection. Hence I needed some dedicated hardware because I got tired of reinstalling this stuff all the time.
Additionally, it might also serve as an image tank when going on holiday. Last but not least the extended battery capacity might come in handy for note taking during some events. Taking notes on a sheet of paper and typing them over in the evening is rather time consuming.
I spent some time looking around on the internet. Most netbooks have very similar specs because of the limitations imposed by Microsft and Intel on this platform. In the end I decided to go with the newest incarnation of Asus’ Eee PC; the Asus Eee PC 1005HA.
- 10′ WSVGA (1024×600 px)
- Intel Atom N280 Processor (1.66GHz, 32Bit, no virtualization support)
- Windows XP
- WiFi 802.11n
- 1024MB DDR2
- 160GB HDD
- 6 cells 5600mAh
For my intended purpose I have a couple of specific needs:
- USB ports are required for connecting the GPS (Garmin GPSMap60C) and HRM (Polar S720i). Additionally I also a USB KVM switch at home that I’d like to use with the netbook. The more the better, but three will do ;-)
- VGA connector to connect my oldskool 19″ CRT Monitor (1600×1200) via the KVM mentioned above. Intel restricts the maximum resolution that can be used together with their atom processors. An external monitor allows me to get around that disadvantage (at home at least).
- Storage. I need at least 50Gb of hard disk space for the OS and all op the map images. This particular model does not have and SSD but a regular 160Gb hard disk which is more than sufficient.
- Memory. The maximum amount of memory a manufacturer can but in a netbook is another restriction imposed on the netbook platform. This time it’s Microsoft that only wants to provide XP “netbook” licenses for system with max 1Gb of RAM. Some subnotebooks, like the 1005HA, offer the possibility to upgrade the memory afterwards.
- A last requirement is perhaps a little les important than the other ones. When I attended the TechDays event in March I was frustrated because I couldn’t use my laptop for note taking because it only lasts for 2 or 3 hours and then needs to be recharged. Basically I started looking for a model that could be used an entire business day (while using standby/hibernation during lunch and breaks). The advertised battery capacity is 10,5 hours for this Eee pc . Alltough these numbers are measured in ideal circumstances, but even if it’s only 7 or 8 hours it is still a lot more than any normal laptop. Note: XP shows 12h09 remaining after charging the little computer for the first time.
I was considering 3 options for the OS on my Netbook. First of all I really wanted to give Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) a try. Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” alpha 3 seems to support all of the hardware (including network interfaces) in the 1005HA out of the box according to the interwebs. Unfortunately none of the applications I intend to run on this machine have a native Linux version. I would basically need to run all of them via Wine, Mono or inside a VM. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.
So I’m left with two more options; either keep the default XP SP3 install (there’s nothing wrong with that) or upgrade to Windows 7. Hardware support from W7 RC onwards seems to be perfect. So I decided to upgrade to the RTM version right from the start. Some first hand experience with Microsofts newest client operating system always comes in handy
>>> enter first blue screen on Windows Server 2008 R2 here :-( <<<
- Remove all of the “XP” and “Atom inside” badges
- Change partitioning scheme; 25Gb System partition and use the remainder for a data partition (removed recovery & bootbooster partitions)
- Installed Windows 7 RTM from scratch using an external USB DVD drive
- Disable all the eyecandy & adjust system properties for best performance (except for the “show thumnails instead of icons option)
- Upgrade to 2Gb mem
- disable webcam + bluetooth in the BIOS
Here’s a quick overview of the applications I aim to install on my newest gadget. Some of these have online alternatives that are at least as good as the packages below but I want to be able to use the entire kit offline.
- Garmin MapSource 6.13.7 (the “Last known good version) + drivers: This is the software that comes with the GPS unit (or rather with the accompanying maps)
- Google Earth, OziExplorer: some other mapping softwares
- WinGDB3, TrackAnalyse and a number of other gps related conversion/analysis tools
- Digifietser, Kraksontracks, OpenStreetMap, OpenMTBMap, JOSM: map, waypoint & track data to use with the programs above
- SportTracks: Activity logbook software. It can use both GPS & HRM data to keep a diary.
- Polar Precision Performance Software: standard software that comes with the HRM unit
- Evernote: Note taking application. I use it to store how to’s, ideas for blog posts etc
- Windows Live Writer: might come in handy to prepare some blogposts offline
- FireFox, VLC mediaplayer, Songbird and Pidgin
- Sumatra PDF Viewer
- FLIQLO flip style clock screen saver
Some more photographs on further disassembly of this netbook can be found here.
- Wireless N (single channel; 150Mbps theoretical maximum)
- Portability (size + weight)
- Glossy display & casing => fingerprints & reflections
- Limited resolution & memory
- Not powerful enough to watch heavily compressed movies (eg. YouTube HD or the *.mov files from my digicam), otherwise it would serve as a nice portable media player