Gecko complaints

I'm typing this message from one of the Geckos right now. This one has WattOS installed, which is based on Ubuntu.

Everywhere I'm looking, I'm finding rough edges, things where I think "they could have done that better".

Booting WattOS, some "fail" messages come up, which not what users should be seeing.

After bootup, the touchpad is far too sensitive, and somehow my mouse pointer became translucent with a white translucent rectangle next to it -- I have no idea how that happened, and I only got rid of it by rebooting. I'm now using a USB mouse.

WattOS is quite nice, based on Ubuntu 9.04. The main problem though is the sluggishness compared with Puppy.

Xorg is using the 'rdc' driver, that's good.

When I started Firefox, Shiretoko came up with some kind of error message. can't recall what. Second time, it started without complaint.

I'm finding that I very easily get repeat characters on this keyboard. Hmmm, can't make it happen now.

I need to check that it powers-off. Will do that now.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 18:09


Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 18:30 by BarryK
Gecko won't shutdown
Ok, I shutdown. After choosing shutdown from the menu, then waiting awhile wondering what is happening, it exited from X and proceeded to shutdown. The kernel put up some error messages about read/access errors to hda.

Then there was the "System halted" message, but no poweroff. I held down the power button for 4 seconds to do a power-off.

One thing I didn't check, but I presume that if the lid was closed that would cause a power-off, which would make it ok.

After the second bootup, started Firefox and got the same error messages about Shiretoko being incompatible with some addons.

I'm not impressed with these rough edges, considering that WattOS is their default operating system in Gecko, and they have been developing and refining it for a long time -- about a year I think since I first heard of the Gecko.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 18:45 by BarryK
WattOS is big
The solid state drive hda is 7.3GB, but only 1.1GB is free. There's a 512MB swap partition. WattOS is taking up over 5GB -- that seems a bit excessive.

I guess users will have to plug in a USB stick for personal storage.

I hunted through the menu looking where to configure the firewall. Nothing. Maybe it runs by default, but no, lsmod showed that no firewall modules are loaded.
No firewall!!!!!

Oh man, I ran 'lsmod' and there is this lonnnng pause before it runs. This is something that I cannot tolerate.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 18:56 by BarryK
Puppy speed
...but then, I guess I'm just so accustomed to the snappiness of Puppy, my tolerance level with Ubuntu on this machine is rather low.

There is a very good range of applications, so WattOS would be quite ok for normal office and Internet tasks.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 19:25 by BarryK
WattOS won't shutdown
I tested another shutdown. Get to the "system halted" (and the same error messages about accessing /dev/hda). This time I closed the lid -- which does absolutely nothing ---the screen remains running. Have to power-down by holding down the power button.

I'm getting a key repeat problem, I type one key and get two characters. But I can't reproduce it, so don't know the conditions that make it happen.

Are others able to get their WattOS Geckko to power-off? Strange that I haven't read about it in any reviews -- not that there have been many yet.

Having to hold down the power button is, well, pathetic. I think that there is an updated BIOS available -- does it cure this problem?

I haven't checked APM. There's no battery monitor.... I want to check if battery/temp is available in /sys or /proc, forget where to look. There are no appropriate modules loaded, 'battery,ko' doesn't exist, is it builtin to the kernel?

...dunno, but that's another very rough edge. This is a laptop, it should have a battery monitor.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 19:46 by pakt
Updated BIOS
Updated Gecko BIOS:

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 19:54 by daftdog
WattOS and Gecko
From the WattOS website: Fast - Lightweight - Simple! Also: we make new (computers) screaming fast. Sounds like they could be sued for false advertising 8-).
You have given us brilliant OS Barry and it seems a shame to see you write (after reading the list of problems above) "WattOS would be quite ok for normal office and Internet tasks". Why settle for second rate? Maybe you were being polite or conciliatory (something I've never been good at) but it seems to me someone with your vast experience should 'take no prisoners' as your opinion should be highly regarded and give people (eg: the makers of WattOS and the Gecko people) some valuable feedback. (This is not a criticism of you Barry. Please don't take it as such. Just trying to make a point.)

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 19:58 by BarryK
Re: Updated BIOS
Yeah, it is supposed to have a fix for APM, I don't know about the shutdown.

But, how to do the update? Norhtec provide only a Windows )or msdos) utility to do it, which means Windows XP must be installed.

Quoting from that link:
Bios Upgrade to support APM on the Xcore86 chip. Included is the ROM, the bios flash tool. Boot up your Edubook with any windows boot cd and run the bios update utility from the command line, select the new rom file and update the BIOS. After upgrade of the BIOS use any of the precompiled kernel with APM support.

...Hmmm, it looks like I will need my USB optical drive. Okay, I'll give that a go.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 21:06 by Kevin Bowers
wattOS vs Puppy
When I suggested to Michael Barnes (Norhtec CEO) that he make Puppy the default OS for the Edubook, he pointed out that Puppy had poor support for international languages, specifically Thai. He also said that "not everyone likes the filesystem". I must assume he means the squashfile system; If I recall, wattOS runs on EXT3.

The wattOS version that is based on Ubuntu 9.04 is beta3. Norhtec applied a kernel fix and a wi-fi module, that's it. Beta releases are expected to have bugs in them and MICHAEL BARNES KNOWS THAT. He was simply not willing to have his team do more development. wattOS RC1 (Ubuntu 9.10-base) has been released but I haven't been able to play with it much; it uses GRUB2 which rendered 2 of my computers unbootable. I need to remove the drives with Puppy and XP on them, reinstall wattOS, then reinstall the other 2 drives in order to prevent the installer from putting GRUB2 in the MBR of sda.

Barry, I'm looking forward to whatever fix you come up with for the poweroff problem. Closing the lid won't do it, it just shuts off the display. A battery meter would be great, too, personally I'd prefer a hardware fix. Does anyone remember what a voltmeter looks like? By the way the power-on LED will turn red when the batteries are getting low. I don't know how long it'll run after that.

I'm also interested in the BIOS update. I have XP installed on a hard drive in mine but it sounds like it still needs to be installed in a DOS environment. That's how we used to do it but it was potentially fatal like a parachute jump: if you didn't get it right the first time you recycled the computer.

Good luck!


Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 21:50 by Anonymous Coward
Re: No Battery Indicator
If you crack open the Edubook, you would notice that the battery container only hooks into the rest of the motherboard with two wires, presumably the live and ground ones. There doesn't appear to be any additional wiring to allow the system to somehow poll the batteries. It might very well be that the system doesn't even know it's powered by batteries at all.

By the by, it might be useful to point out that NorhTec is a redistributor of products manufactured by DMP. I've seen the Edubook elsewhere on the Net, notably

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 22:13 by tronkel
Puppy for Edubook
I wonder if the build in hard-drive is any good. I wonder how well Quirky would run from a USB drive on the Edubook. Pretty well all Ubuntu-based OSs (including Xubuntu and and the much-touted Remix variant) run slow on this type of hardware.

There is no better solution than Puppy for this type of application - no matter what Northtec says. Is this a job for SuperQuirky maybe?

I was thinking of buying an Edubook - but after reading all of this I'll postpone this until I see what Barry can do about tweaking Puppy.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 22:18 by judland
Puppy on the Edubook
Because I didn't buy my Edubookw with WattOS pre-installed, I just thought the "no power off" thing was because of my choice of OS. I thought that Norhtec would have had this working for their own distribution before releasing it.

Very odd.

Oh well. The power off issue is less of an issue for me than the touchy mouse pad. It's still my bane on the Edubook.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 22:31 by BarryK
Can't update flash, yet
Instructions from Norhtec:

Boot up your Edubook with any windows boot cd and run the bios update utility from the command line

My XP CD boots from the Gecko, but all I have is a "recovery console", which is not a proper shell. I am able to see the msdos 'spiflash' bios install utility and the 'edu.rom' bios image, but can't execute the utility. The recovery console is not a proper shell, it will only execute a fixed set of applications, like 'format', 'dir', 'copy'.

It would be nice if I had an msdos boot CD...

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 22:35 by tronkel
Puppy Edubook
How about a version of Puppy with a cut-down module set and customised kernel for the Edubook? The idea would be to cure the boot/shutdown problems as well as to improve the responsiveness of Puppy to an even higher level than it is at the moment. With the low-powered CPU's that these netbook devices have, any means to improve performance - even by small increments - is highly desirable.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 22:41 by BarryK
msdos shell pet?
I think someone created an msdos shell PET package awhile back?

That would probably do the job.

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 23:02 by BarryK
XP recovery console
For the record, here is what the XP recovery console is capable of:

Posted on 4 Feb 2010, 24:29 by Anonymous Coward
Since I had a copy of WinXP available, I ran spiflash in the command prompt, and am so far stumped by the array of options that the executable offers. I have sent a message to DMP, the manufacturers of the Vortex86MX, who will hopefully provide a walkthrough for flashing the BIOS.

Posted on 5 Feb 2010, 7:12 by daftdog
msdos boot cd
BarryK wrote:
It would be nice if I had an msdos boot CD...

Would this be suitable for the job:

Posted on 5 Feb 2010, 7:25 by bigpup

Here is a place to get a msdos boot disc image.

Good luck!

Posted on 5 Feb 2010, 11:32 by Joan
Boot CDs
What about Hiren's Boot CD, since it is a multi-tool as Linux, Mini-Windows and DOS tools.

Good luck,
Joan in Reno