sunnuntai 31. tammikuuta 2010

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

In my review of the Asus EeePC 1101HA I noted that it had a pretty lousy Windows Experience Index score at the gaming graphics section. This, of course, does not stop me from trying out some games anyway.

First on the line was The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition which I had bought from Steam but which refused to work on my desktop computer because of the Athlon XP 3000+ processor. That's actually the first game I have ever run into to mean business with the system requirements, "Intel Pentium 4 3GHz or AMD Athlon 64 3000+". Odd, since it's just a point and click adventure, but anyway.

So, the Special Edition is a remake of the original game that was published in 1990. The game features one Guybrush Threepwood, a young wannabe pirate, trying to become a real pirate. The remake contains exactly the same plot and everything as the original game, but all the lines are spoken out loud and the graphics have been modernized. You can, in fact, toggle between the old and new graphics on the fly with a single key press. This feature does come in handy when playing with the netbook, because while it can run the game well in many of the scenes, it becomes unplayable if there are any fire of water shown on the screen. The game is well worth the money anyway and should give you some good laughs. :)

lauantai 30. tammikuuta 2010

Windows + P

Windows 7 introduces some new shortcuts compared to the earlier versions of Windows. My absolute favorite of the new shortcuts is Windows key + P. This allows you to choose the presentation mode, i.e. attach or detach an external display, such as a projector, a TV or a regular computer display. In the previous versions of Windows there was no simple way to do it (well, according to my definition of simple -- of course I know how to do it, but anyway). Windows 7 makes it extremely simple.

perjantai 29. tammikuuta 2010

Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 review & X-Mouse Button Control

I started writing this post and noticed that I was never getting to the actual point, so here it is in the first paragraph. Software of the day: X-Mouse Button Control. Why? Read on if you are still interested.

I believe that everyone prefers a real mouse to a touchpad. I do too, and with a portable computer I wanted the mouse to be portable as well, so I bought a cordless one. More specifically a Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000, since I had bought a Bluetooth dongle too.

The mouse is quite small but feels good and it comes with a neat protective bag. I have two main problems with the mouse, though: firstly, it only has one extra button and secondly, Microsoft drivers do not even support this mouse at all! It is a problem recognized by Microsoft too, and I doubt they will be doing much about it. The extra button, that is on the left side of the mouse, is set to do the "Back" action by default. That's all nice and well but I use mouse gestures with my browsers so I don't do anything with a back button.

With my desktop computer I use a mouse that has got two buttons on the side. I have binded those to Ctrl and Shift, because you often need to do ctrl-clicks or shift-drags or something similar. It is a Logitech mouse and I was able to do that with Logitech software.

But, as I already wrote, the Microsoft software does not support the Bluetooth Mouse 5000. I started to look for another piece of software that I could use to rebind my mouse button functions and found X-Mouse Button Control. And it turned out to be even better than I expected! Not only are you able to rebind all the buttons, you can do that on a per-program basis. In a Media Player you could have the wheel adjust the volume and in all other programs to scroll. In games you can adjust the buttons to whatever key combinations you please, etc. So don't wait anymore, go download it!

torstai 28. tammikuuta 2010

New Windows Experience Index figures

When writing my previous blog entry about the graphics driver I found out that there's another new version of the driver available. In the Device Manager this version knows the number but on Intel's site it is known as version 5.2.1. Anyway, this update improved the Windows Experience Index figures again: the rating for gaming graphics rose from 2.4 to 2.7 and the rating for desktop graphics from 4.3 to 4.5. :)

keskiviikko 27. tammikuuta 2010

Update your drivers

The Windows Update is a good way of keeping the system up to date, but it doesn't always contain all the updates, especially for device drivers. One of the key components of a computer is the graphics chip, Intel GMA500 in the EeePC 1101HA's case. It is not a very powerful chip so any performance improvements for it are welcome. The newest version when I got my netbook was but the Windows update only offers the version or something like that. It may not sound like a big jump but it actually improved the Windows Experience Index for desktop graphics from 2.9 to 4.3! Mind you, the scale is from 1.0 to 7.9. The number for gaming graphics was also improved, although very slightly, from 2.3 to 2.4.

To check the version of your driver, open Device Manager, locate 'Display adapters' and double click the Inter(R) Graphics Media Accelerator 500 below it. The driver version reads on the Driver tab.

If your driver is not up to date, direct your browser to the Intel Download Center. Download the, extract its contents into a temporary location and run the Setup application. This installs the driver after a few dialogs. The screen will blink during the install, so don't be alarmed. When the setup completes check back in the Device Manager that it really updated the driver. You may now run the Windows Experience Index benchmark yourself to see the improved figures. :)

tiistai 26. tammikuuta 2010

Uninstall Microsoft Office, use instead

At least my EeePC 1101HA came with a pre-installed trial version of Microsoft Office. It turned out to be nagware so I uninstalled it almost immediately and replaced it with a free alternative, I haven't tried if Excel macros work at all with it but other than that it should fulfill all your office suite needs. It doesn't even feature the stupid ribbon-interface that the newest versions of Microsoft Office have.

Of course, if you have always got an internet access available you might as well keep your documents online. For that I recommend Google Docs. It is really nice to be able to access your documents from any computer with an internet connection. You can also share your documents, spreadsheets and presentations to others for collaboration. Import and export to and from the most popular formats are available too.

maanantai 25. tammikuuta 2010

Tweaking Windows Aero

In my previous post I noted that some bells and whistles of the user interface, Windows Aero, are best toggled off, because the Asus EeePC1101HA just doesn't have the oomph to run them smoothly. Here I'll describe what I have done with those settings.

First, go to Control Panel. Select 'Performance Information and Tools' and then 'Adjust visual effects' from the left hand side of the window. Choose 'Custom' and uncheck at least the following boxes:
  • Animate controls and elements inside windows
  • Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
  • Animations in the taskbar and Start Menu
  • Fade or slide menus into view
  • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
  • Fade out menu items after clicking
  • Save taskbar thumbnail previews
  • Slide open combo boxes
Then hit 'OK' and voilá, your UI should feel a lot faster already. :)

sunnuntai 24. tammikuuta 2010

Asus EeePC 1101HA review

I wrote this review when I had had the netbook for a month and published it elsewhere in Finnish. People seemed to like it so I have now translated it into English.


I have had this netbook for a month now and I've been pleased with it. I've never really liked the keyboards of laptop computers but writing with this one can even be a joy, even though some ergonomic bending would still be nice. Only darkness causes problems: the keyboard has no backlighting and it is very difficult to see the markings in the glow of the screen only. Good details, on the other hand, are the placements of the Delete and Ctrl keys: right in the upper right corner and in the lower left corner, respectively. After using this layout you will be at loss with any other laptop keyboards.

I believe that the EeePC 1101HA comes in two versions: one with a Bluetooth receiver/transmitter and the other without. Because I did not read the specs carefully enough I happened to get one without, so I had to buy a separate Bluetooth dongle. That one has been working perfectly both with my cellphone and with my cordless mouse, though.

The netbook in itself is silent and the fans can only be heard in a quiet room. The keyboard is rather noisy though and you wouldn't want to type a lot in a silent room with other people in it.

The computer does not get too warm and you can, for example, use it comfortably on your lap in jeans in a subway. In a warm room and in thin pants it may still get too warm. Because the computer is so small it is not too stable and when using it on your lap you should keep your legs at least almost together, and certainly not one leg over the other.

The computer is not too fast to wake up from the hibernate mode, at least if there are several programs running. Waking up from the sleep mode is fast.

The netbook came with Windows 7 and you were allowed to choose your language from, if I recall correctly, the Scandinavian languages, Finnish and English. I chose English. Windows 7 is otherwise a nice operating system but you must not let it choose the graphics settings by itself. Some of the bells and whistles of the interface should be toggled of immediately to ensure smoother experience.

The touchpad can do a few two-finger mouse gestures: scroll, zoom and rotate. However, the zoom works quite slowly (or not at all) in many programs and the rotating gesture has even less support. Scrolling works fine, as you'd expect.

The viewing angles of the screen are horizontally in an acceptable level, but if viewed from too high or too low the screen quickly gets darker, so sometimes you wish you could tilt the screen back even more.

As I'm writing this the computer is in power saving mode and informs me that there's 80 percent or 7 hours of the battery left, so the battery life time seems very good.

The 250 GB hard disk is, in my opinion, way too large. I would've liked to have an SSD drive because those are way faster, more durable and less power consuming than regular hard disks. Even 64 GB would've been plenty. Too bad you cannot customize netbooks when you are buying them.

As a 11.6" computer I find this netbook very handy and small but not too small. The laptops with screen size less than ten inches don't really improve the user experience compared to, say, a cellphone. The native resolution of the screen is 1366x768 which is guaranteed to produce too small text for some people by default, but you can always adjust the text size so it should not be a problem.

Finally some raw data about the performance for those who are into numbers:

The Windows Experience Index: A rating calculated by Windows for the various parts of the computer. 1.0 is the lowest rating, 7.9 is the highest.
Processor: 2.1
Memory (RAM): 4.3
Graphics: 2.9
Gaming graphics: 2.3
Primary hard disk: 5.7

BOINC CPU benchmarks:
Number of CPYs: 2
489 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per CPU
1005 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per CPU

lauantai 23. tammikuuta 2010

Welcome to the blog!

Greetings. My name is ZeroOne. I'm a student of computer science at the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK). I have established this blog firstly to share my experiences with my Asus EeePC 1101HA netbook and secondly to share my experiences with everything else. I'll start with a review of the said netbook and continue with other posts. I've got no commericial interest in this blog so you can trust that everything in this blog represents my personal opinions. I'd also be more than happy to hear your tips about usage practices with netbooks, Windows 7 or other software, so do post comments.

My hobbies include geocaching, board games and taking photos, so you might see an occasional post about those subjects, too. Hence the name of the blog, Netbooks, the Universe and Everything -- I didn't want it to be too restrictive. The name is also a reference to the book by Douglas Adams.