Friday, March 07, 2008

Cheap and tiny

Am posting this using my new EEEPC, which I am falling in love with. Seriously, we're sleeping together now.*

The problem with Moore's Law coupled with a consumer-driven economy is that the goal will always be to make something bigger, better, and faster, rendering the previous incarnation obsolete. Chipmakers and software developers virtually colluded to bring about faster chips to run increasingly complex programs and increasingly complex programs to take advantage of the faster chips.

Only recently has this trend been halted, mainly because the machines we have are fast enough to handle pretty much anything we throw at it. Outside of animation, large graphics, and 3D rendering (and games, of course) the basic user who just surfs and watches videos and types documents and spreadsheets has no need for two processor cores.

The Asus Eee PC is a market-changing device that takes advantage of Moore's Law and the decreasing cost of production to lower its price. The idea is simple: remove the hard disk and DVD drive, make the thing as small and light as possible (while still having a full keyboard) and sell it for half the price of regular notebooks. Then install open source Linux that uses less resources and fill it with the usual stuff that people use (word processor, spreadsheet, media player). Voila! A lightweight, tiny machine that does more than what your computer ten years ago did, while costing less than your cellphone. Weighing about a kilogram, it's as big as a hardback book. It fits in a small bag and won't remove the spring from your step.

It has its drawbacks, of course. The keyboard is serviceable but touch typists can't type full speed on it. The right hand shift key is too small and too near the enter key. The trackpad is a bit limited and acts up (as does the single click button). Nothing that can't be solved by some practice and a USB mouse.

Anyone who is always on the move and needs little more than a web browser, a text editor, and some spreadsheet software needs to get one of these. Quit breaking your backs, ultraportables will get cheaper and better thanks to this.

*I play a round of Frozen Bubble before sleeping.

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