Thursday, January 1, 2009

Nice things do come in small packages!

Yes I admit the title does make this out to be a risque sounding post. Sadly, it isn't. I have to get a little geeky here and talk about my new laptop.
As I was making my way home from Germany my mind was whirling around all the things I was going to enjoy about the states. Dill pickles were very high up the list. Krystal hamburgers though were my first stop once I hit Knoxville. My mind was certainly in gear but the main gear it was in was simple. It was time to buy a new laptop.
I had been out of the computer market for quite some time. I had money in the bank but not quite enough to order up something from Alienware. Most of all though I didn't really want a gaming machine. I wanted a good all around notebook. I wanted something solid that would let me do a little gaming, a lot of chatting, and a TON of writing. I picked up a laptop magazine in the Cincinnati airport. (along with a copy of Entertainment Weekly that featured Twilight the movie, which in turn led me to purchase Twilight the book and start reading that series.)
I spent a few weeks at home before I finally made a decision. After all the bargain hunting, thumbing through the want ads, and reading reviews I made my choice based on something very simple. I bought a Gateway M Series to replace the Gateway M series I left behind with my daughter in Germany. For the money I spent it was really the best bargain for what I wanted at the time. A month later my Dad picked up a Sony at about that same price. Had the Sony been a choice I might not have bought my Gateway... but I did.
Now I have heard some nightmare tales about Gateway. My first Gateway system was a laptop running Windows 98. It was a hand me down system that Kailani got tired of. It was my second ever laptop and really I didn't use it for much. I was happy with it until the day it would no longer take a charge. I still have it with the rest of my "vintage" computers in my storage unit. (That includes my first laptop a 2000 pound Toshiba Satellite that had no CD drive and required 15 3.5" floppy disks to reinstall Windows 95!) My second Gateway I bought from a buddy who was selling it because he needed cash. He had only had it a couple months and sold it to me at nearly half price. I carried it around the world twice and was entirely pleased with it when I left it with the kid. (I wanted a new laptop and I didn't really want to carry a laptop and the PS3 in my carry on bags. My shoulders were bruised from just the PS3 by the time I got back to my place!)
I was then very surprised to find that some of the keys had come off my trusty Gateway that I left with my daughter. She claims that there was no foul play, but I have my doubts. I pecked out many a blog post and literally the better part of two novels on that computer. Besides, it was in good shape as I left. She needs a computer in good shape so she can learn to type, and of course she can't do all the fun things like Webkinz on a computer missing half the keys on its keyboard.
So we came to a compromise. I would trade her my new Gateway for my old broken one. It left me with no portability but still with a good solid system I could use at home. As a Remedy to that problem I bought my very first Asus laptop. I got the 10 inch Asus EEE PC. It is a 1000 series with Windows XP. So far I am massively impressed with it.
I am working to put this little machine through its paces. After getting my antivirus and firewall software installed I immediately copied over 4Gb worth of Mp3s and downloaded Itunes. I was shocked at the entirely full sound that issued forth from the little laptop. While it certainly is not Bose Surround Sound or a THX theater experience, for a laptop, particularly a mini laptop the sound is considerable. My Mom has a HP Pavilion Entertainment series notebook that has only slightly better sound quality with its Altec Lansing speakers.
I really expected the biggest drawback of the Asus EEE was going to be its lack of a optical drive. I was prepared for the compromise and had many of my files already waiting on an external hard drive. Other things I simply went and downloaded from the web (OpenOffice.org for example). Since I am a gadget guru I had to be able to sync my Moto Q to this computer. With about 2 minutes of searching I was able to download Microsoft Active Sync. It is worth noting that I do prefer Active Sync for Vista as opposed to the XP version. Neither are bad for my purposes.
Night before last though I started to really be impressed. I spent some time watching video on the Asus. Sure I can't slide my Heroes Season 1 DVDs into it, but for digital video files the screen has a brilliant display. That got me wondering what the video card was capable of. I decided to download the World of Warcraft 10 day free trial and take it for a more intense test drive.
With either of my Gateways Final Fantasy XI was out of the question because my Intel chipset display was too weak to push the graphics. Likewise WOW was always choppy and tended to lag in high population areas. Since all the rest of my hardware was more than adequate for the task at hand I decided my video card was the culprit and as a result got more of a real life and ignored the MMO scene. (The PS3 and now the Wii sitting in my family room may have had a hand in that decision as well.)
Lo and Behold, Wow plays beautifully on the ASUS EEE PC. I gained a couple of levels and walked out to Ogrimmar before logging out of the game. Sure that didn't massively test drive the system through something like a big PVP combat, but just the fact that it runs the game smoothly speaks volumes about this little laptop. Either Gateway at three times the price weren't able to do as well!
With a little work on my old system and a program called Undisker, I created ISO files for my Diablo II and Starcraft disks. With some creative use of Daemon Tools and a little searching for out of date update files I got D2 playing. I have to say that it wouldn't be legitimate if Blizzard had not provided the no cd update in version 1.12a. Still it is nice to be able to hack and slash my way through a classic game.

I am not done putting this baby through its paces by any means. So far so good! I plan to really press the envelope and see just how big a fan of the Asus EEE series I am going to become. They are proving that good things do come in small packages.

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