One of the most useful little technology tools I’ve picked up this past year is the Asus Eee PC, an early netbook. I have the Eee PC 4G Surf, which runs a variant of Linux (Xandros modified by Asus) which comes with a whopping 4 gigabyte flash “hard” drive, a 7″ screen and a similarly small keyboard.
I actually can live with the keyboard, and the screen has proven to work for me as well. I have used OpenOffice.org before (the office suite on the system) and so didn’t have a learing curve there–and I always use Firefox (I do not run Internet Explorer on my systems for anything except things like Windows Update–ActiveX is simply too dangerous for me to work with it–and there’s nothing like NoScript for IE) so the browser wasn’t a problem.
The size is a huge advantage on an airplane where I can easily edit a document or spreadsheet and still have lots of room on the tray in front of me. It also got along well with my Verizon 3G USB cellular modem after a little digging using Google–it actually took less time to set up than the same modem did under OSX and Windows.
Amazon has it right now for around $285, which makes it relatively cheap. It also has been quite the conversation starter. While the limited space means it won’t work as a primary PC, it’s more than powerful enough for the type of office work most of us need to do–and especially what I need to do on a plane.
It fills a niche between the iPod Touch (great web browser) and Blackberry (great email tool) and the full laptop–when I need more power or flexibility than the small devices provide but don’t want to deal with the overhead of the larger devices–especially since the Eee PC boots in seconds, while OSX and, especially, Windows take a lot longer to be ready to go.