Monday, January 19, 2009

14 Days with the Acer Aspire One: Day 3

My, what a happy day with the Aspire this has been. I got to take it down to the student union and configure it to talk turkey to my campus's picky-ass wireless network, and it went off without a hitch once I remembered the proper ports for the proxies. Still, getting the proper software (mmmm, Clean Access Agent) downloaded and installed took up about thirty minutes, and I did this all on the little three cell battery. Still, downloading and installing the program only ate up eight percent of the battery, and that was with the WiFi on, the speakers enabled, and the screen at full brightness. It's not an amazing figure, but it's a lot less abyssmal than the one hour battery life so many customer reviews throw around as an excuse to bash the poor little thing.

Yes, I believe I'm already getting quite attached to the little bastard. It's far friendlier and useful than I could have imagined, particularly in the keyboard department. Not only that, but it uses an operating system I had the distinct... 'pleasure' of using for around three years, and know the ins and outs of extensively. After three days, it performs almost exactly as I would like. Even the itty bitty screen has grown on me, shining back at me with its crisp imagery and quasi-familiar resolution. The freebie CRT monitor I use on my main machine looks like somebody smeared Vaseline all over the internet in comparison.

Speaking of the internet, I haven't experienced any problems with the WiFi cutting out, as I'd heard many other people who purchased the machine gripe about. I'm beginning to wonder where the line between the fault of the hardware and the fault of the user's treatment of it is drawn in customer reviews, if it's drawn at all.

"Oh no, I was just exploring this abandoned warehouse in Enon, Mississippi, and my WiFi signal conked out! Finicky piece of crap!"
I have been sitting here. For four hours. Using the WiFi on this little guy. I'm syphonning it off a floormate my roomies and I refer to as The Internet Fairy. I don't know if he's generous or ignorant, but we thank Jeebus for him every day. And you know what? Jeebus has been kind, and kept the wireless on this guy going strong. I haven't tried, say, sucking some interjuice from the library all the way at the administrative building across campus, but who the Hell tries that and genuinely expects it to work for more than ten minutes before an errant pigeon flies past and interupts your connection?

Additionally, I was finally able to test a proper game on this thing. Proper, of course, meaning something that did not come preloaded on Windows XP. I gave Dream of Mirror Online a try, since I recently picked it up as my current "MMORPG to Try and See What Everyone Likes About MMORPGs". It's free, it's simple, it's got 3D googaws on it. Reall,y that was all I needed as far as a game to test this was concerned. One major problem with getting games onto this thing is that it totoally lacks an onboard optical drive, which means no CDs or DVDs for me. DOMO is a direct download, so it was even more of a shoo-in for my first battery of game tests to the Aspire.

Let me say first that patching it was the most painful part of the process. The download went swimmingly, but the patching. I hate patching. Let's stop talking about it.

When I finally got it patched and booted up, and logged my ass in, I was pleasantly surprised when it ran the game comfortably. The game spat me back out in the field, surrounded by horrible monsters that caused no chugging or lag time. I minced defenseless piggies for about fifteen minutes, and decided to try the true ball-buster: Going into town.

Nothing is more painful for a computer, in my opinion, than trying to load a city area in an MMORPG on a national holiday. The sheer volume of people there was staggering, and even then the framerate only chugged when I motored through dense crowds on my way to sell my loot.

So, first game test passed. I don't think you can expect to run anything spectacularly taxing on the Aspire, but what the fuck do you want for $350 and 2 pounds? Until very recently I would have been skeptical such a cheap machine's ability to run a spirited game of Mahjong without shooting sparks.

As a parting gift for today, a screenshot fo the game honest to God running on the Aspire. If you're familiar with DOMO, please do not laugh at my cheap newbie gear. I am embarassingly new to the game, having just started two days ago.
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