Eee PC

Posted on 21 December 2007 in Eee, Gadgets

I received my Eee PC today. Its a lovely little gadget, but my first impression is that it's not ready for prime-time yet.

The machine itself is very neat -- quite tiny, and beautifully-built considering the cost. A quick poke around the applications shows lots of useful-looking stuff. But in order to use the device, you really have to be on the Internet. And, for me, that was when things started going wrong.

I wanted to connect to a WPA network; however, when I tried to connect to it, the machine stuck in a "Pending" state. A quick poke around the details in the connection dialog showed a weird error -- a message saying something like "Invalid parameter: XXX" where XXX was the second word of the two-word network passphrase. Sudden thought -- perhaps the system was trying to call some kind of command with the passphrase unquoted on the command line? A poke around the EeeUser forums showed that there is a problem with WPA passwords with spaces, and someone has written a simple patch to work around it. The fix was, as I suspected, to add some quotes to a couple of shell scripts; thanks due to EeeUser forum member Cmiller82, who packaged everything up nicely so that it was easy enough for a fairly-experienced Linux user to fix.

That all looked sensible, and I applied the patch, restarted the machine, and tried to reconnect. The old error disappeared -- but it still stuck in "Pending", and now appeared to be failing to be able to get a DHCP lease. Even worse, when I left the machine alone for a while, it hung completely! Even the trackpad refused to work. Time to press the power switch for a few seconds to force it to power down.

Once the machine came up again, I tried reconnecting -- and, mirabile dictu, it worked!

So, we'll see how it stands up to the next few days' work. But... silly bugs in the scripts that make up the operating system? Patching shell scripts by hand to get WPA working? Random hangs? Not a great start.

I think I'll hold off recommending one of these to my mother for a couple more revisions of the OS and hardware. After all, it's been more than a decade since she wrote her last compiler.