I am reviewing the Asus Eee PC 901, the one with the Intel Atom processor. Of course I asked to see the Linux version. In my view Linux is better suited than Windows for a device with limited storage; and it is more interesting to me since the original Eee PC 701 was something of a breakthrough for desktop Linux.
No problem with the hardware; but the OS is a bit of a mess. The first problem is that the wireless card does not work properly for me. Asus have used a less common Ralink card – maybe it saved a few pennies over the Atheros it used to have – but out of the box it is not set up right. When I try to connect with WPA encryption I get:
Error for wireless request “Set Frequency” (8B04)
SET failed on device ra0; network is down
ioctl[SIOCSCIWAUTH]: Operation not supported
Looks like an update is needed. Here’s where the big problems start. With the 701 I had no problems updating, whether using the Synaptic GUI, or apt-get in a console. The new Eee currently offers me two updates in its “Updates and New Software” applet, one for “StarOffice Mime Types” which installs fine, and the other for “Webstorage Update”, which fails. Click Details and it is blank; no error message.
Trying apt-get instead is equally frustrating. Thanks to dependencies, updating almost any package results in a huge download – taking over an hour over broadband. Then the update fails because it runs out of disk space. That, and some packages are returning a 404; I also got size mismatch errors. Note: use apt-get clean after one of these exercises as that will free disk space.
The fact is, update is broken. One solution is not to update – though security is always a concern – but that still leaves the wireless problem unsolved.
This is careless of Asus. Part of the idea with the Eee is that it is an appliance, it just works, it hides all that Linux gunk. Except it is failing to do so, because of errors in the package management. Here’s what one user says:
This is sad. The thing that really helped launch the original 701 into reality is gone, and that’s Linux…I know my way around computers, and I know where to look to fix stuff, but this would leave a horrible taste in anyone’s mouth that wasn’t accustomed to finessing Linux (that’s the nice way of saying it)…I can’t say I see much of a future for Linux on the Eee.
It’s early days for the 901; maybe it will all be fixed soon. Still, at the very least it is being pushed out before the software is ready; which is a shame because there is a lot to like as well.
The best advice for those who don’t mind tweaking may be to install Ubuntu or some other distribution.
Update: I fixed the wi-fi issue eventually – see here.