Linux under the hood
Likely due to a combination of the Eee PC's budget price tag and modest hardware, the system comes pre-loaded with a version of the Xandros Linux distribution. This OS boots cold in just 28 seconds and comes back to life from standby in only eight seconds, making it quicker than my own considerably more powerful desktop.
The OS includes a decent range of applications, making the Eee PC ready for just about everything right out of the box. By default, the Internet tab loads up first, giving users quick access to a Firefox web browser, shortcuts to various web mail sites, instant messenging, a Skype client, and even a direct link to Wikipedia. Here we also find the Eee PC's Wi-Fi network browser, which had no problems detecting and connecting to several different wireless networks I tried.
When it's time to work, the Eee PC serves up an appropriately-named tab that houses a PDF reader, file manager, email client, and even a dictionary. More importantly, it also includes OpenOffice's Writer, Calc, and Impress applications for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, respectively.
Neatly illustrating Asus' desire to have the Eee PC find its way into the hands of students, the OS includes a Learn tab with a periodic table, math and language apps, and a rudimentary image creation tool. Interestingly, Wikipedia is filed under the Internet tab rather than this one.
Here's the Play tab, which includes a selection of basic games, webcam and recording apps, and the Eee PC's media player. The games aren't particularly interesting, but you'll no doubt end up using the media player, which had no trouble playing back MP3s or DivX-encoded movies. Oddly, though, it doesn't seem to like playing movies shared over network drives.
If you want to do a little fiddling, the Settings tab is roughly equivalent to Windows' Control Panel. There's a little of everything here, including and Add/Remove Software option that will automatically grab software and BIOS updates from the Internet. The automatic BIOS updating feature is particularly slick, definitely a good idea for a system with mainstream appeal.
Here are few screenshots of some of the Eee PC's bundled applications:
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