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Thread: ASUS ExpressGate -- beware of ripoff!

  1. #11
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    I just built a system with a P5Q-E and was also surprised to find out that express gate needed to be installed onto the HDD. While it bugged me at first, it isn't the end of the world, and I don't think Asus deserves total bashing over it. Yes, they could be more clear about it in their literature, but they are trying to bring this to lower cost motherboards, which will make it more widespread - this will ultimately be a good thing for both splashtop and Linux.

    In terms of being "lite", does anybody know what the difference actually is other than installing on HDD vs. SSD? All of the apps I expected to see are there - firefox, skype, pidgin, and some flash-based photo album tool, plus the ability to play mp3's. Are there more apps on the SSD version?

  2. #12
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    I think a large part is the coolness factor of SSD. I can't see the SSD having more stuff on it than a HDD set-up!

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by drosky View Post
    I just built a system with a P5Q-E and was also surprised to find out that express gate needed to be installed onto the HDD. While it bugged me at first, it isn't the end of the world, and I don't think Asus deserves total bashing over it. Yes, they could be more clear about it in their literature, but they are trying to bring this to lower cost motherboards, which will make it more widespread - this will ultimately be a good thing for both splashtop and Linux.
    I don't really see it like that. First of all, this feature is being marketed as a "separate OS" that you can boot into no matter the state of your installed OS'es. For me this was very important, as I happen to test all sorts of beta software in both Linux and Win, and from time to time it can render the partitions unbootable. Having some tool that is always there on the MB was a big plus. Of course I can always use a USB stick or a CD, but the main point was the convenience of it all.

    Secondly, as far as I can see, the "light" version works only from a NTFS partition. This basically means that you need to have WinXp/Vista installed, which is extremely annoying for anyone that doesn't want to have anything to do with those. Sure, you can probably create the partition in Linux and hack around the installer to get the archives on it, but it kindof defeats the purpose.

    Third, one of the uses I envisioned for the embedded OS was a sort of gateway/movie player without HDD. It would work great in a small enclosure with a slower processor and passive cooling. By playing around with the SplashTop source I am sure I'd be able to get mplayer there if it's not already, and play movies over NFS/Samba/whatever. Again, needing a HDD blows it all off.

    Let's not forget also the fact that because it is installed on the HDD, you get stupid limitations like the fact that it doesn't support AHCI or RAID. So you basically have to choose between crippling you storage or using it. In my case this basically means that the advertised "ExpressGate" feature is not working. At all.

    Bottom line is, of course this feature is not the end-all of functionality, but it was an important reason I chose this motherboard over others. When you get down to it, all MB's are basically identical, and differentiate on features like this. I (and surely others) just valued this one above pink PCIe slots... That's why I feel betrayed by ASUS -- all they had to do was clearly label it on the website and packaging, so that it was evident to anyone looking, then I would've made an informed decision. At least it seems they do that on more recent MB's, like the AMD ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by drosky View Post
    In terms of being "lite", does anybody know what the difference actually is other than installing on HDD vs. SSD? All of the apps I expected to see are there - firefox, skype, pidgin, and some flash-based photo album tool, plus the ability to play mp3's. Are there more apps on the SSD version?
    I think they are identical in terms of content and applications, actually it may be easier to hack around the HDD version (as has been discussed here). But the SSD factor was crucial, at least in my case.

    P.S.: How much did they save on the cost anyway? I mean, the chip is basically a 512MB USB stick soldered to he MB, that would be like 10$ off the shelf... Plus, this motherboard (p5q-pro) is by no means "low cost", it's right in the "upper-midrange" segment, so it really was a lame choice in my opinion.

  4. #14
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    I doubt that it can only work from NTFS as the installer package has got a 256 mb image for USB sticks - partitioned with one FAT partition. I guess you can start it from USB Stick too. Most easy way would be copy it to an usb stick (directly on the device). Inside Vbox I only managed to start the menu - but maybe I forgot something.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kano View Post
    I doubt that it can only work from NTFS as the installer package has got a 256 mb image for USB sticks - partitioned with one FAT partition. I guess you can start it from USB Stick too. Most easy way would be copy it to an usb stick (directly on the device). Inside Vbox I only managed to start the menu - but maybe I forgot something.
    I think that's the image for the "Full" ExG SSD version; anyway, the point is -- if you install it on a stick, will the BIOS loader see it? I tried a simple "copy to stick, reboot computer" test, but it didn't work. Maybe it needs more coaxing or a BIOS patch...

    Anyway, if I do that I might as well install Kanotix on a stick and leave it plugged into a USB slot, it would offer a lot more functionality and customisation options methinks

  6. #16
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    Well you can install grub onto the stick too and add a small menu.lst to load the ce_bz kernel image. That is enough to show the menu - but I was not able to select the apps.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    . Shame on you, ASUS!
    Thanks a lot for this thread, as I'm looking for purchasing new pieces of my new computer and was about to pick-up a P5Q-Pro mainly because of Express Gate, which was for me a decisive advantage of this board over the Gigabyte competitor.

    I don't exclude completely the P5Q-Pro now that I've read this thread, but I agree that the shame goes to Asus.

    I've read somewhere in the forums that Mickael has some board around and is preparing an article for testing some recent mobo. I hope there is soon such a test, so I can make my choice having the peace of mind with the linux compatibility.

  8. #18
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    Well I still do not own a board with native support for Splashtop, but basically I can not see any point why it would be impossible to boot from external USB. Did anybody try it? RAID/AHCI devices should not be needed that way.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    I don't really see it like that. First of all, this feature is being marketed as a "separate OS" that you can boot into no matter the state of your installed OS'es. For me this was very important, as I happen to test all sorts of beta software in both Linux and Win, and from time to time it can render the partitions unbootable. Having some tool that is always there on the MB was a big plus. Of course I can always use a USB stick or a CD, but the main point was the convenience of it all.
    I do generally agree that SSD is better (and sexier, as some have mentioned), but splashtop doesn't really have any system rescue functionality so I'm not sure it would help much to be able to boot it if your other partitions are damaged. You'd be much better off with SystemRescueCD or some other liveCD or pendrive linux. Having said that, putting some diagnostic and configuration functionality into splashtop would be a really good idea, though. Asus does at least provide the functionality to install to a USB stick, which is basically an external SSD, albeit slower.

    Secondly, as far as I can see, the "light" version works only from a NTFS partition. This basically means that you need to have WinXp/Vista installed, which is extremely annoying for anyone that doesn't want to have anything to do with those. Sure, you can probably create the partition in Linux and hack around the installer to get the archives on it, but it kindof defeats the purpose.
    It does appear to work on VFAT. For various historical reasons, I have XP installed in a VFAT partition, and Express gate installed with no issues. I think the main limitation is that the SATA controller must be operating in IDE mode with no RAID. Splashtop must be using a kernel too old to support AHCI, and does not have the pieces in place to handle RAID.

    Bottom line is, of course this feature is not the end-all of functionality, but it was an important reason I chose this motherboard over others. When you get down to it, all MB's are basically identical, and differentiate on features like this. I (and surely others) just valued this one above pink PCIe slots... That's why I feel betrayed by ASUS -- all they had to do was clearly label it on the website and packaging, so that it was evident to anyone looking, then I would've made an informed decision. At least it seems they do that on more recent MB's, like the AMD ones.
    I agree that their literature should be better regarding this. It's hard to find much technical information at all about splashtop without downloading the source code. My main gripe here is that if Asus is going to have an HDD versions of Express gate, one thing that would be nice (and the main thing that bugged me) would be for them to provide a way of installing it to a USB stick or a small FAT partition without requiring Windows. I wouldn't really mind using a USB stick in lieu of an internal SSD, but right now, there's no easy and clean way of installing it to USB stick in a non-windows system.


    P.S.: How much did they save on the cost anyway? I mean, the chip is basically a 512MB USB stick soldered to he MB, that would be like 10$ off the shelf... Plus, this motherboard (p5q-pro) is by no means "low cost", it's right in the "upper-midrange" segment, so it really was a lame choice in my opinion.
    I don't know what Asus's cost structure is for their motherboards, but they apparently can't meet their required gross margins with the SSD on the mid-priced MB's. What surprises me is why they don't put a header on the board, which they could do for a few cents, and then make an optional module for the SSD. That way, people with lower-cost motherboards would be able to upgrade just that feature if they wanted to.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Splashtop and Express gate are relatively new tools, and it's entirely likely that they may have missed the mark a little with these first versions. If there is something that could be improved, we should provide feedback. I think the best thing to ask for would be that they document the BIOS hooks into Express gate, so third parties can write their own completely separate instant-boot environments.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fixxer_Linux View Post
    I've read somewhere in the forums that Mickael has some board around and is preparing an article for testing some recent mobo. I hope there is soon such a test, so I can make my choice having the peace of mind with the linux compatibility.
    Well, since we're on the subject, I can tell you that linux compatibility is so-so with this board (the p5q-pro that is, I can't discuss other variants as there are differences). First, even with a 2.6.26 kernel, the on-board Ethernet is not functional. It seems the Attansic chips ASUS has a love affair with lately are even more varied: after the atl1 and variants, now we have "atl1e". Fortunately, there is a driver available from the ASUS website but you need to compile it by hand for the time being. Secondly, with the latest lm-sensors, the on-board monitoring is not detected, and all you have are the processor diodes. I don't use on-board sound and RAID so I can't comment on those. Needless to say, also all the "EPU/AI-Nap/Auto overclocking" features of the board are not accessible from Linux (albeit some voices say they are all software anyway).

    All of these are somewhat minor issues that will probably be solved soon, however they preclude the board from working 100% out-of-the-box.

    Other than that, it's lightning fast and stable as far as I can tell, and it's a board I'd recommend if not for the issues discussed.

    Quote Originally Posted by drosky
    One thing to keep in mind is that Splashtop and Express gate are relatively new tools, and it's entirely likely that they may have missed the mark a little with these first versions. If there is something that could be improved, we should provide feedback. I think the best thing to ask for would be that they document the BIOS hooks into Express gate, so third parties can write their own completely separate instant-boot environments.
    I completely agree here. Hopefully we'll see some improvement and eventually a true swiss-army-knife Linux embedded in motherboards (ASUS say they plan to have BIOS-updating from SplashTop, at least that would be a plus; maybe in a day far-far-away we can eliminate the BIOS altogether and have Linux manage everything from the get-go)...

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