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ASUS Eee PC 4G  (Source: Notebook Review)
1.8GB "source" download doesn't have complete sources, and warranty-voiding RAM upgrades may be unenforceable

The ASUS Eee PC has been getting all manner of attention from various sites around the Internet, but recently an Eee owner has taken ASUS to task over potential violations of the GPL and of the long-standing Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Programmer Cliff Biffle recently bought himself a Galaxy Black Eee PC as a birthday gift, but in attempting to play with the underlying Xandros Linux operating system, found a few major roadblocks in the form of proprietary hardware and software.

Biffle decided to disassemble the software -- which is permitted under the GPL -- and found that the asus_acpi kernel module was modified from the Linux version. While the modification itself is permitted, in order to comply with the regulations of the GPL, ASUS has not published its modified sources, retained prior module attribution (name, version, and author) and has apparently stripped all references to "asus_acpi."

When attempting to obtain the modified sources from the ASUS website, Biffle found that the 1.8GB zipped "source" file on the ASUS page contained only some kernel headers, and a collection of .deb (Debian package) files -- some of which were not even present on the installed Xandros Linux operating system.

This is not the first time that ASUS has been in violation of the GPL -- in 2004, the company's WL-500g wireless router, which contained a Linux kernel and netfilter/iptables, was distributed without source available.

While some companies might be quick to dismiss a GPL violation as inconsequential, the recent filing of a civil suit by the Software Freedom Law Center against two companies, Xterasys Corporation and High-Gain Antennas LLC, might set precedent for stiffer financial penalties.

Unfortunately for ASUS, bad news doesn't stop there. In addition to the possibility of trouble with the GPL, the warranty sticker over the access door to the single SODIMM slot on the Eee PC may be a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act -- specifically the section dealing with warranty tie-ins. A snippet from the ASUS warranty information is provided (emphasis DailyTech):

The warranty only covers failures or malfunctions occurred during the warranty period and in normal use conditions as will as for any material or workmanship defect. The warranty will not apply if: (a) the product has been tampered, repaired, or modified by non-authorized personnel; ... (c) the warranty seals have been broken or altered; ...

By comparing this excerpt with the example provided by the Federal Trade Commission of an "unacceptable tie-in" it's easy to see where the parallels are drawn. Eee PC modders may have a safety net to fall back on if they've installed an aftermarket memory upgrade or Mini-PCIe card after all.

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Thanks for saving me $350
By wordsworm on 11/23/2007 7:58:53 PM , Rating: 1
I was seriously considering buying this computer. I've been wanting to try Ubuntu server for awhile, but not on my main computer, and I just don't have the space for a real second computer. I was considering EEE, but clearly this machine has some built in pitfalls. Thanks for the heads up! I sure hope all those reviewers who gave it such high marks will include this information in their reviews.

RE: Thanks for saving me $350
By elpresidente2075 on 11/23/2007 8:47:11 PM , Rating: 2
Word of advice: Don't try any server software on a laptop. They're not designed with that kind of software in mind, and the software isn't designed with that kind of hardware in mind. You'll just run into a lot of trouble if you go down that route.

That said, an old desktop is great for that. It is exactly what I used and many, many others have used for this exact purpose. Get a cheap KVM and you're only out the space of the footprint of the case, which can be as small or as large as you want it. Also, don't forget that it's easy to upgrade that old desktop (a friend's throwaway?) to be solid and fast for real cheap ($70-80) these days.

Good luck with Ubuntu Server. I'd tell you it's a blast to work with, but it's just another command-line driven server: solid as a rock, secure as Fort-Knox, light on its feet, and nothing to write home about. If you just want the server softwares (web, ftp, etc) and not a whole computer, try WAMP, the windows-ized version of LAMP.

Sorry about that, kindof off topic... Good luck tho!

RE: Thanks for saving me $350
By wordsworm on 11/23/2007 11:09:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'm actually not thinking of using it as a real server, just to learn the ropes. Whatever route I go, I need something ultra small and portable. When I move, I use the airplane. So, my worldly possessions must fit within about 40kg of belongings. I thought about going WAMP, but I just don't like the idea of fiddling around with the windows machine.

I wasn't thinking of actually running a server, just learning how to run it. I think the objection to using a loptop is in the extended use, isn't it? Anyways, I have noticed that there are some very small computers being made these days through Via. Cappucino has some interesting computers... so, as you might say, that might be the better choice for me anyways.

RE: Thanks for saving me $350
By Torched on 11/24/2007 3:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
You could try one of the ARK PCs from Advantech.
Both are just hardware with no power supply or OS, but this makes them configurable. The first one is VESA mountable.
A number of other vendors sell cheap embedded systems that are similar. See Aaeon, Acrosser, Kontron, Lippert, etc.

RE: Thanks for saving me $350
By mjrpes3 on 11/24/2007 4:30:40 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know why you'd think a laptop would be a disaster as a play server. A computer is a computer, and if you're hosting off of a home connection chances are your bandwidth will be the weakest link, anyway.

For a while I hosted a LAMP server based on an old Compaq Armada laptop with a 600 MHz CPU & 192MB of RAM, and it worked just fine off of my home DSL connection.

The best part about it was the power efficiency: my Kill O Watt showed it using 20 watts on average, compared to around 80 watts for another desktop I had lying around. I don't have the numbers in front of my, but if electricity costs an average of 20 cents a kilowatt hour (California), that's about $80 you'll save per year on electricity if running a server 24/7.

RE: Thanks for saving me $350
By Darkskypoet on 11/24/2007 7:59:44 PM , Rating: 2
Ouch! 20 cents a Kw/h? Wow, I feel lucky.. we pay about 5 cents kw/h... and that's up a bit from where it used to be...

Wow. (worth saying it twice)

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