Blog Closed

This blog has moved to Github. This page will not be updated and is not open for comments. Please go to the new site for updated content.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Enter the Asus Eee PC

Today was the worst day of work I've had so far. It was a pretty misfortunate day that I hope does not represent how the rest of my tenure at Ionx will go.

I was informed yesterday that we were going to be bringing in a contractor to help do some development work on the company website. Since the website--which serves as a tracker for our GPS-enabled device-- is a key component of the long-term business strategy, it only made sense to get some more hands working on it. I could have helped myself, but ASP.NET is not in my core area of expertise and the learning curve would have been higher then necessary. The problem is that we didn't have a spare computer for the contractor to use. We decided that the best approach was to give the contractor the PC that I had been using (which was used before I got it, and wasn't in great shape software-wise), and buy a new laptop for me to use.

Let me diverge here to talk about the computer set-ups that the other engineers are using. Most of them have laptops, all of them have large flat-screen LCD monitors. Some engineers have two or even three such monitors. I'm very used to my 1-screen setup at home, so I'm not dying to get lots of extra monitors put on my desk. My desk is relatively small anyway, and would become crowded if I added too many.

So yesterday I got a list of all the software our new contractor would need, and started setting up my computer for him. I got software installed, uninstalled some stuff that I had been using, created the new user account, and moved the PC over to the new desk. A new laptop was coming, and the contractor would be here early.

When I came in this morning, I was greeted by a sight so preposterous that I could barely believe it: On my desk was a shiney new Asus Eee PC. Just shy of 9 inches of economically-priced hardware. "What is this?" I asked, flabbergasted. "It's your new laptop." Good. They told me not to worry, I would get a bigger monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.

The day went slowly, tediously. The Eee boasts a 900 Mhz Intel Celeron and 1Gb of RAM, but it's performance was not what I would have expected from those numbers. It suffered from intermittent pauses of 5 to 10 seconds where the entire computer would freeze and become unresponsive. Installing even the bare essentials (Perl, FireFox, Notepad++ and the necessary ODBC drivers) took a good portion out of my morning.

And every single person in the company had to stop by and take a gander at my precious little misfortune. "It's so small!", "Look at how small the screen is!", "Where did you get that, a box of Cracker Jacks?". It's like I had nothing better to do then play tour guide.

To say that my productivity was quartered is possibly an understatment. A trackpad is a poor excuse for a mouse. The little keyboard was far too small for my fingers (and my fingers aren't large by any stretch), and everything I typed was riddled with typos. It is, in short, not a computer that I can be doing any real work on. I did manage to find an old keyboard, and a wireless mouse that didn't have any batteries. Maybe, tomorrow things might go a little better.

The boss was changing his mind all day. First he said this was just a "test", and that I would be getting a regular laptop in a while. Later, he said that I would be keeping the Eee until the contractor left and I could reclaim my old computer (in about 6 weeks). Later still, he mentioned to somebody else that he was looking to buy a new computer "and maybe give it to Andrew W, if there isn't another need for it". I'm going to have to make it clear that it's just not a computer I can be expected to do any serious work on.

Now, I don't want to sound all negative about the Eee, it's a neat little piece of engineering and I might like to buy one for myself one day. It's light and very portable, and it's a capable 32-bit computing platform. If I had my own I would definitely replace the default Windows XP with Linux, but that's a small point (I would do that to any new computer). However, and this is worth repeating, it isn't a computer that I can do 40 hour work weeks on. It isn't a computer to sit at a desk under florescent lighting and crank out code.

Hopefully tomorrow goes better, hopefully this computer is just a (very) short term ordeal.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.