Saturday, January 23, 2010

Part 13 - Insulation\Drywall

The electrical, low voltage and plumbing are in place. Following a successful electrical inspection, insulation was the next item on the list. As you can see from the pictures below, the walls and ceilings are insulated and the vapor barrier has been installed. The guys also got a nice start on the drywall. The tongue and grove pine paneling on the vaulted ceiling will be next. It looks like the date on the camera is wrong. I sure hope it's not June already.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ASUS Eee PC 901 Netbook Review

The day after Christmas I came across an exceptionally good deal on a brand new Asus 8.9" netbook. I wasn't really looking for a netbook at the time, but the deal was too good to pass up so I bought two of them. I planned to sell them on eBay and put the profits toward the upcoming Apple tablet. The first netbook sold right away. The 2nd was a textbook example of eBay gone bad. I ended up listing it twice and in both cases the idiots that won the auction had no intention of paying for it. I took that as a sign that I should just keep it.

Here's a breakdown of the specs of the netbook:
  • 1.6Ghz Intel Atom N270 processor
  • Windows XP Home
  • 8.9" LCD
  • Pearl White color
  • 12GB Solid State Storage (4GB SSD + 8GB PCI mini card SSD)
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM (expandable to 2GB)
  • Wireless:802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • 1.3MP webcam
  • 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA out, Ethernet 10/100, SD card reader
  • 6-Cell Li-ion Battery (8 hrs)
My first impressions were very good. The netbook is an attractive pearl white color and it feels very solid in your hands. The screen is surprisingly usable for being only 8.9". The keyboard on the other hand is a different story. I have large hands and it's almost unusable. I find my self hunting and pecking instead of typing. It's very frustrating when you constantly are hitting the wrong keys.

This particular model came with WinXP Home and a 12GB solid state drive. There's also a Ubuntu version that ships with a 20GB drive. This is the first PC that I've owned with a solid state drive. The boot time is impressive. It boots into XP from a powered down state in exactly 30 seconds. It also comes out of sleep mode in ~7 seconds. Web browsing seems incredibly responsive given the relatively weak 1.6Ghz Atom processor. I haven't tried much in the way of multitasking, but this type of device really isn't designed for heavy lifting. The battery life is ~4 hours with Wifi enabled. I don't currently have Bluetooth enabled, so I'm not sure how it impacts battery life.

The video performance was also surprisingly good. I tested the MPEG2 playback using my HDHomeRun ATSC/QAM tuner. After installing the HDHomeRun client on the netbook I was able to watch a football game in 720p without much trouble . I expected a horrible studdering mess, but it was actually very watchable. I haven't tried Netflix or Hulu streaming yet, but it's on my todo list. The combination of the onboard Intel video processor and the Atom CPU provided just enough horsepower to get the job done. To top it off the video was being streamed over an 802.11n wireless network. The portability and screen size make it a nice portable TV.

The biggest problem that I have with the device is the limited storage. Instead of a single 12GB drive it contains a 4GB and an 8GB drive. The OS is installed on the 4GB drive and you only have ~1.6GB of space left. I made the mistake of blindly accepting the 74 suggested windows updates. After the updates, I was left with 164MB of free space. By uninstalling IE 8 and stripping the OS down to the bare essentials I was able to free up a total of ~600MB on the smaller drive. That's not very much space, but it's enough to keep the OS from constantly complaining. If I run out of space I'll likely dump XP in favor of Linux. The PC also contains an SD card slot which is convenient for adding additional storage. Asus also includes 20GB of online storage with the device. They limit it to 5GBs of uploads per day, but in a pinch the extra space would be useful.

All in all the device performs better than I had expected. It's fast, it has a nice display and plenty of features. Unfortunately, the tiny keyboard limits its usability considerably. The 10.1" netbooks have space for a bigger keyboard, so I would go that route if you are in the market for a netbook.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Part 12 - Windows

I'm starting to get behind on my posts. I guess the holiday's made me lazy. It's been bitterly cold in Minnesota the past few weeks. This is the time of year when I'm sure the guys would rather be fishing than working. Luckily the furnace guy was able to install a temporary furnace in the crawl space so there is heat flowing into the building.

Here are some of the highlights since my last post:
  • Most of the shingles are on. There were only a few square left when a snow storm hit. It's supposed to warm up this week, so hopefully they will be able to finish them off.
  • The fire shield sheetrock is in place between the garage and the house.
  • The windows are installed.
  • The front door is installed.
  • The interior framing is complete.
  • The electrical and plumbing are scheduled for this week. We are hoping to be ready for the electrical inspection by next Wednesday.
At this point in the project it seems like there are still a million decisions that we need to make: cabinets, flooring, lighting, fixtures, etc. The most pressing decision is the cabinets. We need to get them ordered so it doesn't hold us up down the road. The kitchen is a place where it's easy to completely blow your budget. It's also a place where you don't want to be cheap with materials.
After consulting several different cabinet shops we finally found some natural hickory cabinets that we really like. I'll post some photo's once we have them on order :)

Here are a few more photos:

Front door.

Here's a view from the garage looking toward the house.

The new garage door is waiting to be installed. The first one arrived damaged.