ASUS Motherboard Ships With Embedded Linux, Web Browser
Phoronix: ASUS Motherboard Ships With Embedded Linux, Web Browser
The good folks over at ASUS have sent over the P5E3 Deluxe, which is based upon Intel's new X38 Chipset and continues in the usual ASUS fashion of pushing new (and often unexpected) innovations onto the motherboard. Without spoiling the review of this motherboard that will be published shortly, the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe is one of the most innovative motherboards we have seen to date and it packs one very exciting and unusual feature. Embedded onto the P5E3 Deluxe is a Linux environment that features a Firefox-rebranded web browser and the Skype VoIP client! Within five seconds of turning on this $360 USD gaming/enthusiast motherboard, you can be using Linux and surfing the Internet. On this motherboard the feature is known as ASUS Express Gate, which is powered by something called SplashTop. SplashTop is an instant-on Linux desktop being created by DeviceVM. SplashTop isn't even launching for a few more days (October 10), but in this article we have more details on this embedded Linux environment as well as screenshots and our thoughts with what will hopefully come next for this Linux environment.
No LinuxBIOS :(
Reading just the title, I was hoping beyond hope that maybe ASUS has decided to officially support and use LinuxBIOS like the OLPC project. Alas, after hurriedly reading through, I see it is yet again American Megatrends. Nevertheless, I wonder if the AMIBIOS could be modified to boot into my linux in less than 5 seconds now. Not to put down the Express Gate thing, but like most of us, I've customized my linux to my liking.
And definitely if AMIBIOS or SplashTop are using GPL code, I definitely hope they disclose it.
Get a BIOS editor and extract it. The "only" problem I see that you would need a bigger EEPROM chip, so you could not add it directly to another board. But maybe you could try to start it differently.
I was very excited until I read this sentence:
To update Express Gate though you will need to be running Windows on the hard drive in order to run the ASUS utility.
Now I couldn't be less interested.
Windows depends on a few legacy BIOS functions
Originally Posted by tsuru
which are not yet properly implemented in LinuxBIOS.
A coworker who does BIOS programming told me
that they're contractually forbidden by Phoenix to put any other BIOS on their hardware (I asked him why their linux systems
still come with a legacy BIOS although they have all the docs to implement linuxbios).
I wonder if this is also the case with AMI (If linuxbios were easy to develop and deploy AND bootet windows reliably, AMI's and Phoenix' BIOS implementations would become obselete...)
Put in all the usual filesystem checkers, ability to mount all attached harddisks/USB sticks and my linux rescue cd would become
obsolete. This could be a sysadmins dream feature: build-in rescue system!
Some thoughts about free code...
- They are using Linux (the kernel) which is GPLv2 code. However they may be using closed source drivers for their WiFi chips. Users at their option are able to use binary blobs, and even though that taints the kernel it is for the most part "OK". However distributing this "tainted" kernel with proprietary drivers (all conjecture here, I really hope our friends over at Real Tech will open this WiFi) is (last I checked) breaching the GPL.
- For other stuff like their GTK configuration tools and what not, well, GTK is LGPL and that means they are somewhat covered about code disclosure.
- About LinuxBIOS, I would totally LOVE to see an option to implement it, maybe as an "optional" setup feature, obviously not geared toward Windows customers so maybe on server-grade boards?
Overall, I'd love to see this board myself, and as previously noted, it has much room for improvement... Will ASUS take the chance to improve it? Most likely, though not as we might expect them to... I hope they have an AMD variant of this board in the pipe too, I love healthy competition
I wonder why they wrote an update client for Windows only. Obviously this is being marketed to, or would be especially interesting to, the Linux community. I hope that a Linux update utility is in the works (along with the aforwished AMD version).
This is an ASUS gaming motherboard and most of them are running Windows. So ASUS has all of their utilities written for Windows. Hopefully they will write a Linux one or that they develop an OS-independent one similar to flashing the BIOS from a CD.
Originally Posted by dotancohen
This needs additional development, obviously, but this is a very interesting capability. Probably not expensive to add, so it might well become a standard feature in motherboards.