Saturday, January 23, 2010

This computer wouldn't go vroom if you put four million volts through it


A few years ago I had the misfortune to order an ASUS R2H from a less than well meaning company Artcomp (Switzerland).

After supplying me with a computer with an Operating System I could not use (German Windows XP, tablet edition) I had to migrate to the vastly slower Windows Vista, since Artcomp refused to take the computer back or give me any sort of refund.

Despite its faults the ASUS R2H has been our constant travel companion and lately I've experimented with trying to make it more usable.

Basic specs:
Pathetically weak CPU
Tablet PC
2GB memory
60GB 1.8" slow hard disk
GPS
External Screen Port
2x USB Port
100Mbit wired LAN and wireless LAN
Bluetooth
Various buttons and joystick on the front of machine
Fingerprint reader
No attached keyboard (but was supplied with an inscrutable German language keyboard)

You can see that if this machine could actually perform faster than a snail it might be rather useful

The Golden rule: Backup
Before reinstallation of your hand crafted computer, consider the possibility that your new installation might end up worse rather than better. So BACKUP! As usual I'd recommend Acronis True Image Home

Before reformatting ... some timings on the Vista Business installation

Startup:
022 seconds to Microsoft Corp progress bar
112 seconds to Vista login prompt
247 seconds to desktop appearing after logon
644 seconds for CPU to come down from 100% busy
830 seconds for CPU to become 10% busy (dropped from 100%)
2GB memory, 774MB cached, 737MB free

Shutdown 54 seconds


Linux: Ubuntu 9.10

I selected various VGA screen modes on the appended command line installation. Nothing worked. I suppose on reflection I could have connected an external screen but I only have the 2560x1600 monitors handy and they can't be driven from a lowly analog output So I gave up. Yet again Linux has let me down. (And I say this as a UNIX, principally enterprise UNIX devotee).



Windows 7

Upgrade from Vista Professional fails - but takes 7 hours to do so

Base Install of Windows 7 Professional suceeds. With Defender and Firefox and AVG installed some basic benchmarks are:

Startup
012 seconds to progress bar
095 seconds GUI appears
105 seconds login prompt
138 desktop interaction possible
310 seconds to CPU quiescent state
030 seconds to shutdown


Some tweaking later:
160 seconds to CPU quiescent state with tweaking (stopped some services and turned off disk restore points)
020 seconds to shutdown


Final Thoughts
The ASUS R2H is certainly more usable running Windows 7. I think disabling disk restore points was the stroke of genius, something I'd been reluctant to do in Vista, although I can't think why.

Windows 7 recognised the touchscreen and treats it as a tablet. You can redefine the logical screen to be 1024x600 and then the it pans around the physical 800x600 screen quite nicely.

The GPS and wireless and wired Ethernet works, Readyboost works, the SD card reader works. Overall then; it's now merely frustrating, not impossibly frustratitng to use. Still I would rather have a nice Dell Vostro V13, a snip at about 500 GBP and contains a real keyboard!