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Two Pounds of Efficiency

The unit I tested had a battery that lasted for 3 hours 42 minutes while playing a loop of digital music and regularly reloading a Web page. Its cooling fan was generally off, but after extended Web browsing it would groan to life.

It may take more time to adjust to the Eee's quirky software. Although its core programs -- the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client, the OpenOffice productivity suite -- should be familiar to many Windows users, the version of Linux underneath them won't be.

There are simple, elegant editions of Linux out there, such as the Ubuntu version that Dell sells on some desktops and laptops. But Asus didn't pick one of those. Instead, it wrote its own interface for Linux.

This greatly simplifies some things but limits your ability to do others. For example, its desktop consists of a series of can't-miss, one-click shortcuts to programs. But because most of its system settings are fixed, you can't easily change things that bug you, such as the way the Eee won't connect to your WiFi network automatically.

The Eee's programs are also effectively bolted in place, with no easy way to add to them or replace any with equivalent applications you'd rather use.

After spending a few weeks with the Eee, I can see why people are so excited about this machine. Asus has built something -- the lightweight, take-anywhere laptop alternative -- that has eluded much larger competitors.

But I also think some Eee fans make a common tech-industry mistake in judging this product by its parts list. It's not enough to use ingredients that people like, such as flash memory or Linux; a key point of good design is to put together components that anybody could employ in a simpler, more artful form than anybody else.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro Read more at

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