Sunday, August 17, 2008

I've got a new toy

And I am truly besotted. It is an Asus eee PC 901 netbook.

For years I have sought connectivity on the road. I've trundled around a Texas Instruments Silent 700 with acoustic coupler.

No screen, a roll of thermal paper, and two sockets to plug your phone into. I used it for my first email on the road. Email then was done 256 characters at a time, from a DOS command prompt, and printed on the thermal paper. This must have been 1979-80.

There were the years of trying to find (and often unscrew) telephone connections in hotel rooms, near a powerpoint. There were the years of going through switchboards to try and call interstate numbers for packet switched networks. Those were the days before free calls or 1800 numbers, and switchboards often had bans on interstate calls.

I've lumped around heavy laptops and experimented with all kinds of different ways of staying connected. I've pointed my infrared mobile phone to my old Palm Pilot (yes, it worked) and jumped through all kinds of hoops just to get online.

Things are so much easier. I now have gmail on my mobile phone with no problems at all. Even in a hotel room in Athens, without having made any prior arrangements, I could just click and receive my mail.

One of the big changes in my computing over the last year or so is that I have moved just about everything out into the 'cloud.' Because I travel a lot, and have a laptop and desktop, I got sick of making sure all my files were on both computers, that Outlook had copies of all my email, that I had a memory stick with the appropriate files on it. No more. I have moved everything to gmail. I use Google docs for the files that need transferring. Plaxo and gmail run my contacts. I use Facebook and various wikis and google groups. All I need is connectivity, I don't need huge processing power.

I thought about an IPhone, what with all the hype, but that really isn't what I needed. My Nokia 6230 does a lot of good stuff for me and I saw no need to replace it. I have an iPod already and it works well.

When Michael showed me an article in the SMH on netbooks, I was hooked. It took maybe two weeks for me to make up my mind, rush out and buy one. I did a bit of research, and it came to a decision between the Acer Aspire One, and the Asus eee. My local computer shop has been very good to me so I like to give them my business. They recommended the eee, so I went ahead.

I picked it up on Saturday and spent the weekend playing with it. It was a joy.

I turned it on, it booted up with no problems. I asked it to connect to my wireless network at home - no problem. I was downloading Firefox within minutes. Then I thought I'd see about a bluetooth connection with my phone, so I activated the bluetooth connections on both machines, downloaded the Nokia PC Suite, and synched my phone. I'll configure it to work with my phone as a dialup modem too, just to be on the safe side.

I wondered about connecting it to our small digital camera - no worries. Just took the SD card out of the camera and plugged it into the socket on the eee. Up popped all the photos. Today I'll see how it goes with the bigger CF card from my Canon 30D SLR. I'll just plug the cable into one of the USB slots.

Skype? No problem, built in webcam and microphone.

I am overwhelmed with how easy all this was, compared with the struggles I have had in years past. Getting some of that functionality to work in the past has taken days of frustration.

Now Michael wants one. Who can blame him?


  1. I would like to request permission to reprint your image of the acoustic coupler in a book I am writing, From Pencils to Pixels: Writing and Reading in the Digital Age, to be published by Oxford Univ. Press in 2009.

    If you agree, then I'd also like to ask if you have a hi-res (300dpi) image of the acoustic coupler that you could sent to me at I would greatly appreciate it, and of course I'll credit you in the book.


    Dennis Baron

  2. I'm sending a second request for permission to use your image of the acoustic coupler. I look forward to hearing from you.