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Author Topic: ASUS bring out motherboard with built in Linux and Firefox - 15s boot time!  (Read 11721 times)

Carol Haynes

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Quote
Hands-on
Hardware for Webware: A motherboard with embedded Firefox
By Rafe Needleman – October 10, 2007, 6:08 PM PDT

I just got a chance to try out a Webware PC: a computer built around the new P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP motherboard from Asus. What makes this motherboard be hardware for Webware is that it has a Firefox Web browser (running on an embedded Linux operating system) burned into ROM. It also has Skype. You turn it on, and in fifteen seconds (I timed it), you can be in Firefox and surfing the Web.

See http://www.webware.c...2-2.html?tag=nl.e776 for the full article and video.

Looks like a really interesting concept - you don't have to use Linux but it is there if you want it without having to install much! Not sure how ready it is for real use yet but if things head in that direction MS will be worried!

For full tech spec see: http://usa.asus.com/...1872&modelmenu=1

sc.jpg

Lashiec

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A more in depth look at Phoronix. It looks like the idea of the embedded OS was a evolution from the GUI used in the Asus EEE notebook. Anyway, like hinted at the end of the Phoronix article, the best thing are the possibilities a feature likes this could poise for the future, both for users and for enthusiasts.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2007, 02:29:14 PM by Lashiec »

urlwolf

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But can you add several dozen plugins to FF -to make it usable and useful- and still write the resulting chunk on the MoBo? (same for linux, mindyou). If this is a read-only thing, that can only be written with a special procedure (like the BIOS) it won't be very useful...

Carol Haynes

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No you can't add extensions - but if you just want to quickly browse the internet, check your emails or use Skype it is a good idea. I think this would have a great future on laptops too. One of the 'features' is security because it cannot access hard disks from the built in Linux. It does mean that anyone can use the computer with having access to screw up you desktop installation.

This is the first of it's type - hopefully it will move down into cheaper boards (this one is the most expensive ASUS make at the moment) and develop further.

There is no real reason why in future a partition can't be added to a hard disc (if they want to keep it insulated it could be a protected partition in some way) to allow other software to be installed including plugins etc. and possibly even a full implementation of Linux in ROM. They could use programmable (EPROM) memory chips to allow updates.

The best bit would be that it comes integrated with the necessary drivers for the mobo hardware - including an 802.11n WiFi interface - which is pretty cool.

Ralf Maximus

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There's something VERY appealing about being able to boot your computer even if drive C: is toasted, without resorting to bootable CDs.

iphigenie

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linux i understand, but why firefox?

Carol Haynes

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Why not - it is open source and non-proprietary ... what would you suggest? The version on that ASUS board is a modified version of Firefox. Remember - it has to be available on Linux and presumably it isn't running in a normal GUI such as KDE or Gnome.

f0dder

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Why anything else but firefox?

It's a slow and bloated pig, but at least it has less (and less severe) security problems than IE, and renders things well.
- carpe noctem

Carol Haynes

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No what I mean is what is the alternative - apart from a bespoke browser? Remember it is running under Linux without the benefit of KDE/Gnome (as far as i can tell) - so what else is available that can be freely modified to do the job and not incur licensing costs?

Lashiec

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Is the Skype Linux client open source? If it's not, any browser available for Linux can do the job, including Opera :D

If a open source browser is needed, you can either choose Epiphany (Gecko) or Konqueror (KHTML). Those are the best alternatives in my opinion. I wonder what toolkit is being used in SplashTop, the shots scream GTK, but could be they developed their own?

Carol Haynes

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I presume Konqueror needs KDE to work though as it is integrated heavily into KDE.

Never head of Epiphany so I can't really comment, but if it is based on Gecko isn't it based on the same code base as Firefox?

Lashiec

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Somewhat. The rendering engine is the same, but the rest of the code seems to be significantly different. After all, Galeon (the browser from which Epiphany was forked) was the first browser that tried to be just 'a browser'. Of course, much happened since then.

Carol Haynes

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OK - just looked up Epiphany/Galeon on Google. Epiphany seems to depend on Gnome - which again would be a good reason for ASUS not to use it without the full Gnome desktop present.

Edvard

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Man, this is what the LinuxBIOS folks have been drooling about for a while now, I wonder if they had a hand in it or if ASUS were inspired by them...

BTW- Looks like that project has come a long way- look at all the mobo's supported:
http://linuxbios.org/index.php/News

iphigenie

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I meant I understand getting the base OS and kernel "hard coded" into a chip, and it will speed up booting
and protect the OS from tampering.

But firefox (which has had as many security issues as ie this year!) or other applications just dont belong on such a thing, as they will change more often. And everytime you have to update the chip bios.

I can see it as a huge advantage to be able to put the core of your OS on your board and keep it safe and efficient. I can see it as a problem to have anything beyond that, as it kind of invalidates the benefits of the os-on-a-chip option.

I don't want my motherboard maker to make my applications choices, either

Edvard

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I don't think they are trying to deliver a full computing solution here. I think what they're trying to do is help you help yourself.
As in, if you bork your OS you can still get on the internet and do a little searching around for solutions, not necessarily so you can test drive the newest FF eye-candy.

Carol Haynes

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That's right - there are no security issues at all with Firefox in context (and which browsers don't have security issues anyway).

There are no security issues simply because the whole thing is confined to RAM - there is no access to hard discs at all from the BIOS Linux.

I'd guess Firefox is the browser of choice because it is open source, easy to recompile in a suitable version for this version of Linux as it has no GUI dependencies and everyone has heard of Firefox now so it is easier to sell to the public.

iphigenie

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I guess it makes kind of sense - say your machine is messed up and you cannot boot to your installed OSes, you have this rescue option to start a browser and go find help online, provided the right tools are installed. Although as a "rescue" option I can think of some better ones they could put than access to a browser - after all it takes about 10 minutes once to get a nice bootable CD for such a scenario.

I tend to favor asus for many of my components, but this one won't make me shell extra for a particular mobo - on the other hand I can see how it could work in an office environment...
visitor: "can I  use one of your PCs to go online?"
IT: "sure, go ahead"

Ralf Maximus

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on the other hand I can see how it could work in an office environment...
visitor: "can I  use one of your PCs to go online?"
IT: "sure, go ahead"

Bingo.  In addition to a "regular" workstation with full blown Linux or Windows installed on the harddrive, it can double as a network appliance.  Larry Ellison was right; just a decade too early.

steeladept

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To me this looks to be a specialized board made for one purpose: Kiosk computing.  Provide a board with an OS and a browser to allow the user to browse the (probably limited) internet that the owner wants to let the user access.  No way for the user to screw with it and no way to hijack it.  Heck, if you don't use the wireless, you can probably completely defeat any keyloggers (maybe not hardware based, but certainly software based) and screen capture attacks.  About the only software based attacks that MIGHT work are DoS attacks, and they gain a net benefit of nil for most kiosk targets.  Hell, depending on how it is locked down, it may even be useful for users to have a portable apps USB stick to run their applications from in relative safety at a kiosk as well.  I see this as a good thing for ASUS and the Kiosk niche market.

f0dder

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steeladept: that would be a useful use of embedded linux, but it's hardly the aim of the specific board, since it's a pretty costly high-end/enthusiast board...
- carpe noctem