Tuesday, October 27

Hints, tips and tricks, part five

Still more tips and tricks I've picked up while owning my Eee:

Forgotten super user password
  • The superuser password is the same as the one you set as you powered on your Eee the first time and went through the first run wizard.
  • If you can't recall it, set a new one with sudo passwd user
  • The easiest way to change the username is to delete the hidden file /home/user/.firstrundone and restart. You will go back through the First Run Wizard where you can re/set your username, password and locale.
  • If you want to delete that file, but cant log in on your Eee (since you forgotten the password), you can start your Eee in Rescue Mode, or boot from a USB stick using a Live Distro like PupEee or BrowserLinux.
Enable Advanced Mode, aka Full Desktop
  • Download pimpmyeee.sh from this location to /home/user/
  • Open the File Manager, rightclick on the file you just downloaded and rename to pimpmyeee.sh (in other words, delete the version mumber from the file name).
  • Open a console (Ctrl+Alt+t) and type chmod +x pimpmyeee.sh and press enter. This will make the script executable.
  • Type sh pimpmyeee.sh, and press enter. This will run the script.
  • Select 'Enable extra repositories' by pressing the coresponding key and press enter. Magic will happen.
  • Select 'Enable full desktop' by pressing the corresponding key and press enter again. More magic takes place.
  • Exit pimpmyeee, and close the console by typeing exit and pressing enter.
  • You should now have the option to go to the advanced desktop on the shut down menu, and you might also have the option to set your login mode to Full Desktop Mode with the Personalization app on the Settings tab.

Saturday, October 24

Review of the Sony Reader PRS-505

I've bought a used PSR-505, and I must say that it promises a lot and delivers it too.

Lets start from the outside. The cover, which is made from a synthetic leatherlike material, is both sturdy and easy to keep clean. Compare this to the cover that came with the Kindle 1, which I know from first hand experience gets really funky with finger grease after a while, or the Kindle 2 which comes with no cover. The 505's cover is securely fastened to the - for lack of a better term - spine of the reader, and includes magnetic stripes to help keep the 'book' closed. It also opens completely flat - meaning I can keep the Reader open on the table and still have my hands free. Now, try that with a paperback... =)

The device itself is clean, uncluttered and oozes of build quality. Not only is the casing in brushed aluminium, the keys have virtually no movement in any other direction than down (ie; no rattling keys). All keys also have smooth travel and solid feedback - you know when you pushed a button on this device. The screen - 6" diagonally, just like the more well known Kindle 1 and 2 - is clear and very, very easy to read under most conditions. More on that in a bit, lets first return to the buttons and their uses.

The main buttons for changing pages are on right side of the device, naturally falling under my thumb as I hold the Reader as I would any other book with two hands. The secondary buttons for turning the pages are in the bottom left corner - right under my thumb as I hold the Reader in my left hand only. Or you can simply use the numbered keys along the right side of the screen to enter a page number directly. The centre of the right hand wheel works as an enter key, while the arrows around the wheel lets you navigate around pages too large to be shown at the Readers screen.

Flanking the wheels are three more buttons - zoom, bookmark and menu. The former lets you select from three levels of zoom, while the later brings up the devices various menu screens. To get to the top level, one have to hit the button multiple times - from reading a book it takes four clicks to get to the top. More on the menu system in a bit - first lets briefly mention the bookmarks.

Bookmarks is one function I didn't find much mention of in the various mainstream reviews of the unit, but one that strikes me as particularly useful - simply put it lets you place a dogs ear at the page you're currently at. These bookmarks can later be returned to, either in each individual book or - and this is the clincher - on a library wide basis. Imagine the uses for this when you got a Reader filled with technical documents, textbooks or various job documents!

The menu system takes a little getting used to, but once the basis is understood you can easily navigate it. The various options are presented lined up with the numbered buttons, and all you have to do to select any option is to press the related button. If you find yourself in a place you don't want to be - for instance you selected books by title, but meant to select books by author - all you need to do is to tap the Menu button to go back up.

Now, the important part of any eBook reader is it's screen... and the screen on the PRS-505 is very impressive. Granted, it takes half a second to update, and it 'only' displays 8 shades of grey, but compare that to a regular pocketbook; it'll take you about half a second to turn a page, and most illustrations are no better (and often worse) than they appear on the Readers screen. You can't read it in darkness as you can the screen of the Eee, but you can read it in full sunlight... in fact, I find the eInk display on the Reader as easy to read as a regular book.

The Reader also have two slots for memory cards - SD / SDHC and Sonys own MemoryStick DUO. While I havn't played around with that feature much yet, I've to say that the Reader not only reads my cameras SD card, but displays the photos in this blogpost beautiful.

Off course, no review of a device such as the Reader would be complete without a look at it's 'puter-side software. And I'm forced to say... despite how much the Reader shines, the eBook Library is somwhat... lacking. Not only is it somewhat clunky as far as importing files goes, but the fact that it insists on dumping everything into 'books' for me to manually go through to add to 'collections' later is somewhat unforgiving... also, the lack of being able to drag a valid book file from my file manager into the Library is counter-intuitive from what I have gotten to expect from software over the last fifteen or so years.

Despite the failings of the PC software, I can wholeheartedly recommend the 505. It simply rocks!

The 505 masquerading as a slim, leather bound book. Sharpie for size reference.

The opened book. Note how the screen is white - not black - when the Reader is off. All the controls can bee seen in this photo.

Close up text at the lowest level of magnification. Notice how sharp the eInk is, even in low light conditions.

Tuesday, October 20

Hints, tips and tricks, part four

Over the last year and a half I've learned a few things about the standard Xandros installation, and made notes of some of them. I've decided to tidy up my notes, and share the answer to some of the more common questions asked on the EeeUser Forums here on my woefully infrequent blog:

Install FBreader on a 2G, or any other Eee that don't have it as standard

This is based on http://wiki.eeeuser.com/howto:install_thunderbird_on_2g
  • Change the repositories to point at 701 rather than 700 - this could be done either through Synaptic (sudo synaptic), Settings, Repositories, or else by running: sudo kwrite /etc/apt/sources.list Make the modifcation, then saving (Ctrl+o, Enter), then exiting (Ctrl+x)
  • Press “Reload” in Synaptic, or, type into a terminal (Alt+Ctrl+t): sudo apt-get update If you get an error message, try the next steps anyway. The error message may not be critical.
  • Staying in terminal, download and install FBreader: sudo apt-get install FBReader
  • Type exit and press enter to exit terminal.
  • To run FBReader, either type FBReader in a terminal, or use Launcher Tools to create an icon.
  • Once you have verified that it runs, change your repositories back - same procedure as stated in the first step.
I get f u n n y   l o o k i n g text in fireFox (or other application)
  • Ty hitting Shift+Space - you may have to hit it twice.
  • The culprit is SCIM - Smart Common Input Metod - which is there to allow you to enter chinese text... you may want to remove it (see last weeks post for how).

Monday, October 19

Small review of chargers

Recently I bought two new things for my Eee; a charger that lets me recharge a battery outside my Eee, and a carcharger. I bought both of these from Clove.co.uk, but I've seen the same models for sale elsewhere on the 'net - including MDD. Both Clove and MDD also have the same devices for the newer Eees - the main difference is the voltage and the number of pins on the charger.

The little charger is a tiny device - a mere 45 X 18 X 32 mm. It's designed with little 'legs' that stops you from inserting it the wrong way in the battery, thus protecting you from all sort of electrical mayhem, while the build quailty is high enought that the small and admitedly lightweight charger feels very sturdy. It seems to charge the battery at the same speed as when I charge the battery in my Eee, but off course I have no hard evidence to back this up.

The charger is equiped with a light that glows green when the charger is powered by the wallwart with no battery in, red when it's charging a battery and green again when the battery is full. The light is my one complain about this chager too - the green LED is always on, even while the battery is charging, and from certain angles the green light will drown out the red. Off course, just moving my head slightly breaks the illusion, allowing me to see the red light.

The carcharger is a fair bit bulkier, ut then it has to incorporate a lot more - after all it'll happily accept anything from 10V to 18V and churn out reasonable clean 9.5V. The build quality of the carcharger is higher than I expected after being exposed to other chargers to plug into the car previously, so it came as a pleasant suprice. The contact springs on the sides of the body is strong, minimizing any risk of it working itself loose while driving.

My Eee sees perfectly happy running of the carcharger, and it also works great alongside the small charger to top off my battery while I'm paying attention to the road. If I later decides to invest in a GPS reciver and use my Eee to navigate, the carcharger will become an indisposable part of that setup.

Overall, a good investment.

And now, the photos!

Just slot the thing on.

The little legs on the chargers means you cannot plug it in the wrong way around.

This is my large battery, but it shows how small the charger is.

The carcharger - note the red 10A fuze.

As it sits in my car - you can just make out the green LED on the top letting me know it's juiced up.

Normally I will keep the battery somewhere safer, but for the sake of the photo I simply placed it on the seat.

Red means it's acharging, but...

...from certain angles it looks green.

Tuesday, October 13

Hints, tricks and tips for the Eee, part three

Over the last year and a half I've learned a few things about the standard Xandros installation, and made notes of some of them. I've decided to tidy up my notes, and share the answer to some of the more common questions asked on the EeeUser Forums here on my woefully infrequent blog:

I have sound issues
  • Run alsamixer from a console to check your settings
I want to delete unwanted software from Xandros to gain more space
  • Disable UnionFS / aufs per the EeeUser wiki
  • Remove unwanted software with either:
  • Synaptic (open terminal, run 'sudo synaptic', see helpfile)
  • Apt-get (open terminal, run 'apt-get -h' to see help, basic command is 'sudo apt-get remove (packagename)', may or may not play nice with dependancies)
  • Aptitude (open terminal, run 'sudo aptitude remove (packagename)', should behave with dependancies)
  • Optional, but if you want to gain space: Resize partitions to reclaim space.
  • Optional, but needed to be able to F9 restore: Restore UnionFS / aufs.

Tuesday, October 6

Hints, tricks and tips for the Eee, part two

Over the last year and a half I've learned a few things about the standard Xandros installation, and made notes of some of them. I've decided to tidy up my notes, and share the answer to some of the more common questions asked on the EeeUser Forums here on my woefully infrequent blog:

I can't find the restore DVD
  • Buy it from AsusParts.eu
  • There is a downloadable 701 ISO here and a 901 ISO here, but some reports seems to indicate that does not contain everything - specificity the windows software to make a bootable USB stick. The WinXP booting tools, including the ones we are talking about, and if not in your particular iso are to be found here. Choose: eeepc, eeepc series, eeepc 4G/XP, search and go to utilities, asus usb flash utility. You can also make the restore USB on Linux.
  • You may also want to look into the XEPC Upgrade Disk, an updated and cleaned up distrubution.
After I updated / changed something, I only get a black screen
  • Try Ctrl + (right arrow) up to three times to make sure you havn't booted into one of the other workspaces.
  • Try opening a console and use the following command: /usr/bin/startsimple.sh
  • If you backed up your simpleui.rc, try restoring it (both described in the wiki). There is also a copy of the original 701 simpleui.rc and the original 901 simpleui.rc on the EeeUser wiki.
  • "Brute force and ignorace": F9 Restore.