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SplashTop "Instant-On Linux" Gets Hacked

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  • SplashTop "Instant-On Linux" Gets Hacked

    Phoronix: SplashTop "Instant-On Linux" Gets Hacked

    Last October we were the first to deliver a full-review of DeviceVM's SplashTop which was an instant-on embedded Linux distribution at the time found on a lone ASUS motherboard. Since then there has been a commitment to SplashTop on all ASUS motherboards and even on ASUS notebooks. While ASUS has been the primary partner with DeviceVM up to this point, other manufacturers are exploring this market. One of our few gripes about SplashTop is that it's limited in the current applications available and doesn't allow for much tweaking with no terminal access. However, members of the Phoronix Forums have hacked SplashTop. They have been able to run SplashTop from a USB stick on non-ASUS motherboards, boot SplashTop within a virtual machine, run custom applications, and launch a terminal within this proprietary Linux environment.

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=12664

  • #2
    The article said that they have yet to release all the source code of SplashTop, if I understand correctly. How come they haven't released it yet on a CD or something, which you get when you buy the motherboard? Doesn't GPL state that you have to distribute the source code with the compiled code?

    Maybe I'm missing something here.

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    • #3
      I think GPL states that you have to supply the source code IF REQUESTED, and that you have to include information on how/where to request source along with the compiled code.

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      • #4
        You can be sure no sourcecode was needed to analyse it. Even nothing was disassabled to get it working. You just need "the look" when you find some files to know which data is stored in it.

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        • #5
          proprietary Linux environment
          Heh. It's good to hear that Asus' Linux got "hacked", after the C-Media 8788 audio chipset monopoly story. I'm glad I haven't bought any of their products.

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          • #6
            So does the official Asus SplashTop environment use any proprietary code at all?

            I just think that combining this with something like XBMC for Linux would be really insanely useful.

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            • #7
              Do you really want to run Xvesa for videos? Thats not so good as running a suited Xserver and I still did not discover how to fix the german keyboard layout...

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              • #8
                I don't know. Probably not. But I do know that the guys over at XBMC are pretty interested in finding an 'instant on' solution in their efforts to port XBMC to Linux.

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                • #9
                  Yeah I for one would love to see XBMC media center on Slashtop/ExpressGate someday.
                  http://xbmc.org/about
                  http://xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=30679
                  http://xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=33327
                  http://xbmc.org/forum/showthread.php?t=32853
                  http://xbmc.org/wiki/?title=HOW-TO_c...om_source_code

                  Slashtop/ExpressGate would of course have to be hacked futher by someone else first, also Xserver and 3D OpenGL graphic drivers would have to be installed.

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                  • #10
                    Basically you could replace the Xserver, but that would require much more space and of course would bootup longer. Then you can optimize your normal hd install with initng for example, get rid of any unused services and you are down to 10-15 seconds too on a fast hd. Counted only till X start, because the actual loading of Splashtop apps is not counted within 5 seconds.

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                    • #11
                      ROMOS

                      It would be nice to combine this effort with ROMOS. The only problem with ROMOS is the 64K size limit.
                      Last edited by balihb; 07-30-2008, 08:27 PM.

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                      • #12
                        On my system, the actual time from the splashtop menu to Firefox up and running is around 14 seconds. (Firefox is the slowest app.) The environment is up in ~7 seconds and Firefox takes another 7.

                        Another advantage express gate has over just a quick booting Linux distro is that express gate runs very early in the motherboard POST process. Portions of the normal POST procedure are skipped, and the BIOS does not need to search for bootable drives, causing the express gate menu to appear only a few seconds after pushing the power button.

                        As Kano said, adding more "weight" to the system, like a full featured X server, would increase the boot time and begin to defeat the purpose.

                        I think Splashtop's main competition will come from Suspend-to-RAM. A suspended machine comes back faster than Splashtop, and as BIOSes have improved, suspend has been getting more stable in both windows and Linux. Splashtop may have an edge on notebooks, however, where you can't leave the machine suspended indefinitely.

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                        • #13
                          I think ultimately the XBMC guys would love XBMC to run from bios somehow and act like a surrogate firmware - just as is the case with the original XBox.

                          Booting from a harddisk rather defeats the purpose of this.

                          Not sure if it's even a little applicable in this instance - but you guys should certainly consider getting together for a chat.

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                          • #14
                            Well I did not hack any bios code. I just found out that there is a kernel image called ce_bz (104kb) which already shows the menu. It is absolutely clear that this is shown instantly at soon as it got loaded. With a bios that it loads this in an early bootstage you can access it very fast, but thats not the way you can do it without - then you have to wait till POST is over. Or get a board with support for CoreBoot (formerly LinuxBIOS), then the startup would be much faster too.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by drosky View Post
                              (...) and as BIOSes have improved (...)
                              Still no news of any recent motherboard that would be "core boot"/"linux bios" compliant to really get improvment ???

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