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Living the open source lifestyle.

October 30th, 2008 by neil

Having been involved in a number of projects using open source software (such as UsPaCe using Elgg, UPlace using DSpace and the BJHEinFE using Open Journal System) I got the thinking that it could be possible to move over to a totally OS lifestyle. Discussion with JISC’s Lawrie Phipps and my own experience working with partner colleges delivering HEinFE found that FE colleges are thinking about going down the OS route and the HE sector may follow.

So what are the advantages? The main one has to be the potential savings on software licences.

Is there an easy way into Open source? There is via devices such as the ASUS EEE PC. So I’m now the proud owner of an ASUS EEE 1000 and am on the verge of seeing if I can adopt an OS lifestyle after many years of PC usage that goes back to MS-DOS 3.2, Windows 2  through Windows 3 (with a brief excursion into OS/2 in the early 1990s), Windows 3.1 for Workgroups, Windows NT3, NT3.51, NT4.0, Windows 95, 98, 2000 and XP.

The ASUS EEE 1000 turned up today - the 40GB SSD version with LINUX and a range of OS application installed. The specification includes

  • Intel® Atom N270 Processor
  • Wireless Data Network WLAN: 802.11 n
  • Bluetooth
  • Memory 1GB (DDR2)
  • Hybird Storage 40GB Solid State Drive
  • 60GB Eee Storage
  • Audio Hi-definition Audio
  • Stereo speaker
  • Digital Array Mic
  • Battery Up to 6 hrs

ASUS EEE
And all this in a package weighing 1.33 kg. Obviously the battery live will be testing - I’ve yet to ever get the life promised by the manufacturer, but it should be more the the 2.5 hours I get from my Samsung Q45.

 First Impressions?

ASUS state No technical manual required with the specially designed, user-friendly and intuitive graphic interface. With this in mind no manual was opened when setting up the EEE (though this is usual when setting up any new kit). I wanted to see if the promise that Stay connected all the time with the Eee PC’s™ built-in WiFi 802.11b/g that automatically detects and connects to the Internet at any hotspotwas achievable. And working in a University this obviously was not going to work.

There are two choices available:

  1. Roaming - an unsecured wireless network requiring a VPN to access anything once connected
  2. Eduroam - the (secure) roaming infrastructure used by the international research and education community

As a regular Eduroam user this was the network of choice, but connection was not possible. A quick Google shows that this is problem experienced by other LINUX ASUS EEE users as default installed Xandros distribution does not support enterprise level encryption. There are a couple of options to investigate, but if the ASUS EEE is to be used in an education context then use of institutional wireless networks is a priority.

After failing to connect to Eduroam the next stage was to try the Roaming access. Being a unsecured newtork meant access was no problem, but the VPN access failed as the University’s Microsoft’s VPN service doesn’t respond in a manner that the VPN client can understand which protocol to use. So some investigations into resolving this are going to have to happen.

The first day’s experience was not positive, but that was be expected. If this type of portable computing is going to be adopted in FE and/or HE then the user needs to leverage the functionality than can be provided by the OS route and links to Cloud applications. No network = limited functionality (and some major frustrations)

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lawrie Phipps Oct 31, 2008 at 8:13 am

    soon to be joining you in the ‘great experiment’, although thinking that mine will be more ‘free’ software rather than truly open source…

  • 2 Patsy Clarke Nov 11, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I am able to link to EDUROAM from my eeepc 1000 as follows - as an addition to the default Xandros the IT dept set up for me an UBUNTU boot up on a 4Gb SD card - EDUROAM talks to UBUNTU. Apparently so does Second Life. So I use the fast default bootup for most activities and the UBUNTU bootup when I need to link to EDUROAM. I am able to access my drive stored files either way. The battery life is very good though I have not actually timed it. Working on the computer from battery for a large part of the day it has not let me down.

  • 3 neil Nov 12, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    The UBUNTU option was suggested by my Computing Services but I thought that would be a cop out - there’s lot’s of interest in the EEEs from FE colleges for staff and students (and a fair bit of interest from HE)

    Getting it sorted on an out-of-the-box solution was the aim, and it’s been very stable since I got the configuration sorted (http://www.pegasus18.com/neil/index.php/2008/11/04/asus-eee-1000-and-eduroam-at-last/)

    I’ve got Second Life on the things to do list - I’d imagine the standard display of 1024*600 maybe an issue but I’ll give it a go

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