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Thread: ASUS ExpressGate -- beware of ripoff!

  1. #1
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    Default ASUS ExpressGate -- beware of ripoff!

    The tone of this message may be somewhat unfriendly, but I want to warn other potential Linux users so they don't make the same mistake I made.

    I have been using Linux for quite a while and often wondered why it's not included by default instead of the clumsy BIOS-es we have to struggle with. Needless to say, after reading the articles on this site and others regarding SplashTop being embedded with the P5Q line of Asus motherboards, I had a strong reason to choose one of them for my new build as opposed to, say, a Gigabyte or MSI with similar specs.

    Initially I aimed for the P5Q-Deluxe model, but it was not in stock at my local retailers and they all said I'd have to wait at least 2-3 weeks; at the same time, the P5Q-Pro was in stock and from what I read on the ASUS website the features were similar enough for my needs (and, importantly, it included the "Express Gate" feature). So I went ahead and got that one, saving a few bucks (not many) at the same time.

    BIG MISTAKE!

    It turns out that only a select few of the ASUS boards actually have SplashTop installed on the motherboard. All the others (the p5q-pro included) do not. Instead they only have a stripped-down castrated version that needs to be installed on the HDD (!), on a NTFS partition under XP/Vista none-the-less (!!!).

    I find this really appaling, especially since there is no warning on the ASUS site or elsewhere until you actually buy the product and read the manual (which doesn't make it clear either). The website only features a tiny hint -- the presence of three letters "SSD" on the "deluxe" models, and the absence thereof on the others -- without any other clear indication that the "Express Gate" version is totally different from the "Express Gate SSD" one.

    This experience has severely shaken my trust in ASUS (whom have received quite a bit of my money during the past decade or so) and I will be much more circumspect of their products from now on. I urge the readers of this site to do the same.

    It would be wonderful if Phoronix could write an article detailing this situation -- after all ASUS can trace at least some of their sales to the articles announcing it's "linux-friendliness". Maybe some bad press will deter them from doing this in the future.

    P.S.: As it stands, this feature does not even work on my MB. I had only Linux installed initially and a black screen with an error message upon boot ("Express Gate is not properly installed or incomplete, please run the Installer in Windows" is what it said for a second before the BIOS started), but now I installed Vista and a) the program from the included DVD which didn't do anything, afterwards b) the latest version from the website which created a bunch of Asus.xxx directories in my C:\ root but still -- no go, the same black screen on boot. Shame on you, ASUS!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    The tone of this message may be somewhat unfriendly, but I want to warn other potential Linux users so they don't make the same mistake I made.

    I have been using Linux for quite a while and often wondered why it's not included by default instead of the clumsy BIOS-es we have to struggle with. Needless to say, after reading the articles on this site and others regarding SplashTop being embedded with the P5Q line of Asus motherboards, I had a strong reason to choose one of them for my new build as opposed to, say, a Gigabyte or MSI with similar specs.

    Initially I aimed for the P5Q-Deluxe model, but it was not in stock at my local retailers and they all said I'd have to wait at least 2-3 weeks; at the same time, the P5Q-Pro was in stock and from what I read on the ASUS website the features were similar enough for my needs (and, importantly, it included the "Express Gate" feature). So I went ahead and got that one, saving a few bucks (not many) at the same time.

    BIG MISTAKE!

    It turns out that only a select few of the ASUS boards actually have SplashTop installed on the motherboard. All the others (the p5q-pro included) do not. Instead they only have a stripped-down castrated version that needs to be installed on the HDD (!), on a NTFS partition under XP/Vista none-the-less (!!!).

    I find this really appaling, especially since there is no warning on the ASUS site or elsewhere until you actually buy the product and read the manual (which doesn't make it clear either). The website only features a tiny hint -- the presence of three letters "SSD" on the "deluxe" models, and the absence thereof on the others -- without any other clear indication that the "Express Gate" version is totally different from the "Express Gate SSD" one.

    This experience has severely shaken my trust in ASUS (whom have received quite a bit of my money during the past decade or so) and I will be much more circumspect of their products from now on. I urge the readers of this site to do the same.

    It would be wonderful if Phoronix could write an article detailing this situation -- after all ASUS can trace at least some of their sales to the articles announcing it's "linux-friendliness". Maybe some bad press will deter them from doing this in the future.

    P.S.: As it stands, this feature does not even work on my MB. I had only Linux installed initially and a black screen with an error message upon boot ("Express Gate is not properly installed or incomplete, please run the Installer in Windows" is what it said for a second before the BIOS started), but now I installed Vista and a) the program from the included DVD which didn't do anything, afterwards b) the latest version from the website which created a bunch of Asus.xxx directories in my C:\ root but still -- no go, the same black screen on boot. Shame on you, ASUS!

    Hmmm, must of been a mistake with the packaging on your box. Other Asus boards clearly label if Expressgate Light is being used (example below). I would be contacting Asus about that.

    http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1...39&modelmenu=1

  3. #3
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    Why is this the first time I hear about this?
    They have been around, what, months at least, and this dirty trick comes out now?

    I won't be buying Asus, that's for sure.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by deanjo View Post
    Hmmm, must of been a mistake with the packaging on your box. Other Asus boards clearly label if Expressgate Light is being used (example below). I would be contacting Asus about that.
    Well, see for yourself:
    http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1...69&modelmenu=1

    I have sent a message for the fact that the feature isn't working, other than that there isn't much to do. Even if by some strech of imagination they would refund me, it's not worth my time to take the computer apart and reassemble it, I'd much rather warn others so they don't fall for this as well.

    Interesting how they labeled the thing differently on the other MB, probably some annoyed customers already wrote to them about it... Too bad they forgot about the "old" P5Q boards.

    Quote Originally Posted by curaga
    Why is this the first time I hear about this?
    They have been around, what, months at least, and this dirty trick comes out now?
    What can I say, long live marketing (also interesting to note the messages in other threads here about capacitors exploding and their so-called EPU which according to Gigabyte is nothing but a lie... seems like they may have taken their customers for fools a little too much)!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    Well, see for yourself:
    http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1...69&modelmenu=1

    I have sent a message for the fact that the feature isn't working, other than that there isn't much to do. Even if by some strech of imagination they would refund me, it's not worth my time to take the computer apart and reassemble it, I'd much rather warn others so they don't fall for this as well.

    Interesting how they labeled the thing differently on the other MB, probably some annoyed customers already wrote to them about it... Too bad they forgot about the "old" P5Q boards.
    )!

    I'm not doubting you, I'm just pointing out that this doesn't seem to be the case with all boards. (In fact all of the AMD boards have it clearly listed at least.).

  6. #6
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    This really really sucks!

    I made the same "mistake". I bought the P5Q-Pro. "Mistake" because how could I knew the SSD and AHCI/RAID problems before?
    Express Gate only works in SATA-IDE mode. It does _not_ work in RAID or AHCI mode.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ficsch View Post
    This really really sucks!
    I made the same "mistake". I bought the P5Q-Pro. "Mistake" because how could I knew the SSD and AHCI/RAID problems before?
    Express Gate only works in SATA-IDE mode. It does _not_ work in RAID or AHCI mode.
    A-ha! Thanks for the information! ASUS hasn't replied yet to my mail, but I guess you got this from them? Indeed, I am running the board in AHCI mode (duh)... Is there any discussion thread somewhere else about these issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by deanjo
    I'm not doubting you, I'm just pointing out that this doesn't seem to be the case with all boards. (In fact all of the AMD boards have it clearly listed at least.).
    I think the AMD boards are newer, so their marketing and packaging has been updated after some annoyed customers complained about the "wonderful" feature... they probably forgot about the P5Q's.

  8. #8
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    Well this is really interesting. I would like to get those installed files on hd, maybe they are compressed in a common way and could be extracted

    Maybe they use grub4dos or grub2 with ntfs support and seek for the partition this way:

    a) GRUB4DOS:

    title Splashtop
    find /ASUS.SYS/ce_bz
    kernel /ASUS.SYS/ce_bz

    b) GRUB2

    menuentry "Splashtop" {
    search --set /ASUS.SYS/ce_bz
    linux /ASUS.SYS/ce_bz
    }

    You can expect that the whole system consits only of 2 files - kernel + initrd and the bootloader is maybe embeeded in bios. Basically a 3rd file for rootfs is possible but I would not expect this. If they would use GRUB2 they could configure it with AHCI support too btw. If you get those files you can boot em with any Linux bootloader of course... Interesting would just be the output of

    cat /proc/cmdline

    to get the options for the kernel... The nice thing would be that you could extract the initrd, make your changes and compress it again. That would be harder for the usb solution, althought not impossible as it is only put on a pin header and usb only needs 4 wires to work - anybody who can use a voltmeter should find the right pins to create a simple usb adapter to the pin header.

    Please try to use a paste website and upload /proc/cmdline.

    Edit: Corrected the GRUB4DOS/GRUB2 entries.
    Last edited by Kano; 07-28-2008 at 05:06 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    Well this is really interesting. I would like to get those installed files on hd, maybe they are compressed in a common way and could be extracted
    Actuall, I think it's easy to get to the files. The ASUS installer creates two directories:
    1. ASUS.000, containing user-000.dat, user-000.md5 and user-000.date plus the same with -001.
    This seems to be the file holding user data, it's an (empty) ext2 loop image. The .date and .md5 are self-explaining. Why there are two of them I don't know -- probably two user profiles? Anyway, they are 33MBytes each.

    2. ASUS.SYS -- this contains the actual SplashTop, it's about 170MBytes. There is a 'help' directory (with a .html and some images), a 'custom' one which seems empty and a 'persist' directory identical to the ASUS.000 above.
    Then there are a bunch of files (62 to be exact) with the actual software. There is a 'kernel.bin', some other files and a bunch of {bs|va}-xxx.sqx files (Apple archives?! why?) like va-firefox.sqx and bs-apache.sqx, pretty self-explanatory if you ask me.

    I think you can get the files yourself by downloading the archive from the ASUS website, check this out (search for Express Gate):
    http://support.asus.com/download/dow...l=P5Q%20Deluxe

    I think the AHCI limitation is with the BIOS bootloader, and it probably requires a BIOS update to fix... Bummer.

    If you need any more details, feel free to ask!

  10. #10
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    I extracted the 256 MB image, converted to vmdk, installed grub and tried booting the ce_bz kernel, I got to the menu, but could not start any app. Maybe somebody else finds it out...

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