Friday, 13 June 2008

The EeePC proves itself in combat

Guadalajara street, after a rain shower. Our hotel there provided free Wifi access.
If there were any doubts about the usefulness of my EeePC netbook, they certainly vanished during my recent trip to Spain (see Asturias Open F3F).

With its small size, built-in Wifi, and preloaded software, the EeePC 701 makes a great holiday PC. I used it to access local weather forecasts, check my email, call home, look at photos - and even play the odd game on the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao.

Of course, for email and web access you need an internet connection. Fortunately, and to my surprise, Spain is well endowed with WiFi hotspots. In fact, all of the three hotels we stayed at had WiFi, as well as many motorway service areas. And it was all free of charge.

There are a few considerations if you're taking the EeePC on holiday. For example, you may not wish to use the supplied Thunderbird email package, as - like Outlook and other similar packages - it stores your emails locally on the computer. This makes it an open book for snoopers if the EeePC is lost or stolen. Instead, I used Googlemail in the Firefox web browser.Googlemail is not restricted to Gmail addresses - it can access all your other POP accounts.

The EeePC also came in handy as an image viewer. There was a small problem though - the EeePC has only patchy support for Pentax RAW files and only 4GB of disk space. To get round this, I wrote a short script which converts the RAW images from the SD card and saves them as small JPEG's on the SSD drive. The resulting images look fine on the EeePC's viewer, and hundreds of images can be stored in this way without running out of space

The EeePC also comes with Skype preinstalled, so I was able to use it to ring home, much to the surprise of our hotel receptionist who wasn't used to people talking into their computers (the EeePC's built in mic and speaker are fine for this if you don't mind people listening in).

In short, the usefulness of the EeePC on this trip far exceeded expectations for a £220 device, and it's now a fixture in the backpack/overnight bag. I'm still looking for a nice nickname though - somehow 'Eeyore' doesn't have quite the right ring to it.

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