I've just had the good fortune to have been able to borrow one of these magnificient little machines for the weekend. For those of you haven't heard the Asus EEE PC is an ultramobile laptop. Think "Honey I shrunk the laptop" and you'll have a good picture of it.
The Open University is evaluating using these machines for the Personal Inquiry project, where the machine is to be used in helping children with their fieldwork in science. Mark Gaved and Trevor Collins are in the team that are investigating using this machine for this project and they are rightly excited by its potential. They were wondering how far it could be pushed and very generously gave me the chance to take it for a test drive. Thanks guys!
There are lots of reviews of the machine out there and I don't really want to write another one, so instead I will focus on what is possible with the machine. The short answer to this question is "a lot"! The long answer will be spread over several blog postings, with screenshots (as it is Christmas).
So the first thing I tried on it was to try something you would think would not work on a machine like this: Second Life, but you know what, it works!
The screenshot above was taken on the EEE itself. To get this to work I downloaded the Linux client from the Second Life site and then just extracted the files and ran it. It helped to turn down all the options for graphic details to minimum. Admittedly the client is a little slow but did seem to work a little better with a good network connection and Mesa 3d installed.
After trying this experiment, I could't help wondering what else it could do. How about watching live streamed TV? Well you can do that too. I added the the Debian Multimedia repository to the apt sources list on the machine and installed RealPlayer. The BBC have recently make a live stream of of News 24 available. Amazingly the machine coped with the video stream without any problems, both vision and video were synchorised. The only problem was that it was News 24, which is a bit dull, but it shows that the device is fast enough to handle live streaming television and radio.
Check back soon to read more about what the Asus EEE PC is capable of.