Rebuilding my Asus eeePC

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 4:36 pm By BigLig , In ,

My tiny blue Asus eeePc has been sadly neglected lately, but I recently decided to start making better use of it, because my 17" Macbook Pro is rather bulky to keep carrying from the kitchen table, to my office, to bed.

However, the copy of Ubuntu NBR I'd installed before was a bit out of date, and using a bit too much disk space to update itself, and having a networking issue that my Linux skills aren't up to solving, so I thought I'd switch to XP.
First, I replaced the 512Mb memory with 1Gb, so as to be sure the machine wouldn't be sluggish.
Next, I copied a Windows XP CD to my Windows 7 laptop, and ran nLite over it. This impressive software takes the XP install media and alters it in many ways. In this case, I was stripping everything I don't need out. There's only a 4Gb SSD in the eeePC, so no room to leave the Hungarian keyboard settings file around "just in case".
nLite did an impressive job - even after adding in all the Asus drivers (another cool feature of nLite), the resulting XP installer was about half the regular size. I burnt this to a CD-R, popped it into a USB CD-ROM drive, went into the eeePC BIOS and told it to install an OS, and boot from the CD) and started it going.
After a couple of false starts (which turned out to be a bad USB CD-ROM drive!!) I was able to install XP. Very plain looking (I have all the eye candy either removed or turned off) but perfectly functional, fast, and with plenty of space left on the SSD hard drive for some software. The main use of this device will be Web Browsing, and I decided to install Chrome on it. Google are eyeing up the Netbook market for Chrome OS, so the Chrome browser is heavily optimised for these devices, and indeed it runs a treat. Very fast, and the maximised and full screen settings make good use of the tiny 800x480 screen on the EEEPC.
What else? Rocketdock and Launchy put a little bit of eye candy back, mostly to make it easier to launch applications with the Start menu hidden to save space. As usual, Evernote, Spotify, and DropBox clients give me access to (and local copies of) my data from the cloud. Picassa so I can upload photos when travelling using the built-in card reader.
A new thing I'm trying is a copy of AbiWord in case I want to write some blog posts etc. while offline. My local Starbucks doesn't have WiFi, darn it. I don't need a full office suite, and I remember I liked AbiWord back in the early days of dabbling in Linux, so I thought I'd give it a go. I might put VPN software and Office communicator on so I can make work calls from it in an emergency. And I suppose a couple of games might end up on there too.
On the whole, I'm pretty pleased so far with how this rebuild has turned out. Now to stress test it and see how useful I find it.