ASUS are the makers of the awesome little solid-state Eee PC's that we're taking on the expedition. Being able to communicate and share our experiences with the outside world as they happen is one of the most exciting aspects of our journey, and for this we need a dependable, durable, lightweight, low power laptop to type our updates on, to crop and resize photos to attach, and to ultimately connect up to our iridium satellite phone to send out emails and update this site.
Some expeditions choose to use PDA's for their 'computer', and while they are lighter, we have always decided not to use them for a number of reasons, largely because it's a major pain to type an email/update of any decent length using a touch screen stylus, they are horrendously expensive for what they are, difficult to use, and as they run their own little operating system, it’s always a pain when the software you really want to use won't run on it. So in 2005 we took a small 2nd hand laptop, and were lucky it survived the journey, as it wasn't really up to it, was also pretty heavy and slow.
When we read about these new little Eee PC's from ASUS, we were so excited that we immediately got in the car and drove to town and bought one to test it out. It was so cool that we went back and bought a second one the very next day. Weighing only 900g, and with a great little 7 inch screen, it's also entirely solid state and thus shock proof while also drawing less power! It came with a neat little neoprene pouch, booted up quickly, and came pre-installed with pretty much all the software we'd need out there, or anywhere else for that matter – video, audio playing and editing, word processing - it even has wireless internet built in, and a webcam and mic so we can full-screen skype when doing arctic prep, greatly improving productivity. Better still, it has an inbuilt SD card reader – which is the same cards used by our Canon digital SLR EOS 1D, and also our point-and shoot cameras, and our video cameras!
We then tested these little laptops in a -38 degree C warehouse freezer, and they worked! Brilliant. Being objective, the only 'down' side is that it doesn't have a CD drive, but who’d honestly be using one of them on the go? They draw heaps of power, are susceptible to vibrations and shocks, are not a very durable form of storage in rough environments, and flash cards or USB thumb drives are just so much easier, dependable and smaller, and the Eee PC is equipped with 3 different USB 2.0 ports.
The best thing about these little laptops is their price! Compared to other tiny laptops (usually reserved only for CEO's and the like) that have price tags around the $3,000 mark, the ASUS Eee PC cost just under $500, brand new! These are seriously going to take the world by storm.
And just for the records, we discovered all this ourselves, and went out and bought the 2 of them with our own money long before the idea occurred to us to approach ASUS for sponsorship. It was some time later that ASUS recognised this expedition as a great promotional platform for staging these awesome little machines – after all, an expedition like this has the same needs from a computer as any normal every-day 'on-the-go' traveller, it's just that these needs are exaggerated to the extreme for us. If it’s small enough, light enough, easy enough to use, consumes little enough power, is durable and dependable enough, affordable enough, and of course stylish enough for a world first expedition in the arctic, then it’s more than good enough for your average chap who wants to experience a bit more freedom and portability in computing.
Visit the ASUS website: http://au.asus.com/.