Tiny Core Linux

Off-Topic => Off-Topic - Tiny Core Lounge => Topic started by: kerpob on May 18, 2009, 02:46:15 PM

Title: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: kerpob on May 18, 2009, 02:46:15 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNQWMKxl … r_embedded

The Gecko is a netbook powered by AA batteries. It doesn't need to have a hard-drive; you can insert an SD card in it instead.

Specs are:

CPU     1GHz Xcore86 Device on Chip™
Graphics     Integrated Graphics Chip
Memory     256MB / 512MB / 1GB DDR2
Display     8.9" WSVGA 1024 x 600 resolution TFT LCD screen with LED
HDD     SD Card or IDE Flash Disk
Audio     Line-out, Mic-in, Internal Mic, Internal stereo speakers
Ethernet     Built in 10/100 Base-T
USB 2.0 ports      External : 3 ports, Inernal : 1 port (reserved for WIFI, GPRS,
CDMA, 3G or 3.5G USB dongles)
I/O     D-sub 15 pin VGA out, integrated SD card reader, touch pad
Power / Battery      Rechargeable AA Battery - NiMH 8 pcs (4 hours max) or
Li+3S (4 hours max) or Li+3S2P (6 hours max)
OS   Windows XP or Linux

Now with 1 gig RAM and tinycore on the SD booting to RAM, wouldn't this be just lovely.

Alternatively - have no SD and only ever boot from a USB stick for a totally secure laptop that never has any data stored on it!!!

Price is circa US$200 when released next month. Obviously costs more if you want windows XP rather than linux (ubuntu netbook remix is what it will come shipped with). I am severely tempted to replace my eee 701 with this.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: jpeters on May 18, 2009, 03:24:31 PM
That YouTube link has changed content....

I found one by NorhTec for about $300 w/o the Hard Drive, using  Linpus Linux Lite OS (whatever that is..). Probably nice if you need a portable laptop with a  7" monitor.  Personally, I'd rather pay $150 for a used laptop with HD, 512MB RAM, and 12" screen.  Next size down for me is my cell phone.

Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: PingPing on May 19, 2009, 01:39:20 PM
The only thing I tend to watch out for in these netbooks is the keyboard.  I'm happy with the size of my AA1's keyboard but my wife's ASUS 701 has a ridiculously tiny keyboard.  It's okay for a two-fingered typist but since I touch type at 70+ words per minute it was unworkable for me.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: netbook21 on January 19, 2010, 03:51:55 AM
What's SD card, you meant SSD??
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 19, 2010, 04:38:48 AM
i was about to buy one, and probably will do so; you can have the gecko barbones for 150$ (postal costs not included); it has a SD card (not SSD hard drive). Battery life with AA battery is about 3 hours. Keyboard seems to be larger than the one of the asus (probably near the one of the AAO with which you can type quiet well). what is interesting with the gecko is the energy efficiency: 6.5 watt/hour and the easy replacement of modules and battery. a winner for folks using tc or any small linux distro imo
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 22, 2010, 09:58:15 AM
i have finally bought one, i shall report the results here
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 28, 2010, 06:54:47 AM
so, i have got the gecko netbook and here is my report:

1. look: pretty basic, looks like a plastic box for kid; i bought it black and barbones since i have all what the gecko needs (sd card 2GB, wifi usb dongle, power cable and AA batteries); the shipment was quickly made, and i have got the gecko within 4 days in Europe; shipment costs are high (~70$), so buy it barbones, it saves money; the gecko comes with a cd; there are drivers for windows, so useless for linux;  i have partition my sd card in one partition for the tree and 300 MB swap;

2. downsides: 

a. tc/mc 2.8 won't work with the gecko since it returns the known IO APIC error, followed by a kernel panic; the gecko works with tc 1.4.3 however, but i don't have the cramfs extensions anymore in order to test it; booting only the core was quick, though; so let's hope that the team can solve this issue in order for us to test the gecko with tc/mc last version;

b. i have installed slitaz 2.0 in order to perform my test;

what did not work was:

-- sound - it happens to require the realtek driver for linux; i have downloaded it and compiled it, but compilation failed because the driver can't find the compiler and other files/directories it should find in order to compile without issue; this is probably because the driver have been package with ubuntu or fedora in mind; i shall try with one of these distributions in order to see if sound works;

-- flash - it works until you are trying to play a youtube video; this was very sloppy, and with no sound it is no joy;

what worked:

-- wifi - no issue here;

3. good points:

a. the processor behave quickly, but don't hope to do a lot of multitasks work with flash and internet enabled, since you will quickly get 100% of your processor occupied which means that the system can be slow; it was expected;

b. office processing - no issue here, it is possible to work relatively quick with openoffice 3.0, a chat relay opened, as well as sylpheed opened;

c. hardware - keyboard: given the tiny size of the gecko, don't expect a wide keyboard; but it is possible to type with ten fingers relatively quickly; you have to practice a bit in order to use the keyboard as you would like to since it is very sensitive;

d. hardware - touchpad: tiny but quiet usable (point and click as well as touch-tap behaviors);

e. screen - perfect 1024x600x24 resolution - no issue here; very light screen, i can imagine to type hours with the gecko without having troubles with my eyes;

f. batteries - surprisingly enough, i could perform office tasks during more than 3 hours without power cable; charging the batteries to 100% has been done very quickly too, not more than 2 hours.

I give the gecko 7/10. No sound (-1), flash sloppy (-1) as well as some habits to develop in order to use the netbook (mainly the keyboard, -0.5, and the 'plastic-box' look of the laptop, -0,5) might be problematic for some users. But you'll get a fantastic portable X86 machine which is green, which runs very well on AA batteries, and which let you do basic office tasks without being too slow. Surely not for windows users, rather for advanced linux ones.

Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: curaga on January 28, 2010, 09:41:16 AM
Looks like the sound is just a pci id away; it would use the hda alsa driver.
There's also their own Xorg driver that might improve graphics performance.

I do wonder why is the pci id not in upstream yet (it was first made for .30), and why is the xorg driver not more widely available..

Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 28, 2010, 01:30:54 PM
yes, it is interesting to see that slitaz did not pick up the card... maybe the kernel (i have loaded the kernel modules almost corresponding to the card, but no success) which is the 2.25.X one; to be honest, i find that slitaz is a pretty good distribution if you have to use it static, i.e. with not much upgrade to do and not too much applications to check and install. it behaves really quickly and deserve its purpose as good tiny distro. but once you want more flexibility, you could spend much time to wait from the mirrors the check the packages, to download the packages and to install them. i have spent almost 15 minutes in order to desinstall fireforx and to install opera. besides, i'd like to see the behavior of tc/mc on the gecko with its own art to download and mount the extensions, which could be less time consuming and will give you maybe a better experience with such notebooks like the gecko one. this said, i am typing with the gecko right know in order to post this, and i have to say, the keyboard is really fun even if small. i can type really quickly with ten fingers after spending no more than one or two hours using the netbook. it's fun to see this piece of plastic running.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 29, 2010, 11:52:49 PM
follow up - tested the gecko netbook with ubuntu 9.10. the bad idea i have had was to do a minimal install of ubuntu karmic in order to post-install everything else i would need to. it was a bad idea since after the installation i was unable to connect to the internet.

indeed, the ethernet card of the gecko requires the r6040 kernel module which is not present in ubuntu karmic (it is also not present in slitaz 2.0; several reports on the net said that it is supported in the linux kernel from 2.6.25 to 2.6.31, but this seems not to be always the case). as well, even if karmic has the module rtl8187 which i need for my wlan dongle, it returns a 'command not found' as issuing 'iwconfig' in order to configure the network. and i don't have a usb-to-rj45 adapter... so i went to install karmic desktop.

the installation process took time given the fact that you have to install karmic on a sd card, but it performs without issues. The systems loads without issue, even if booting karmic was slower than booting slitaz. There, i had the possibility to connect to the internet with my wlan dongle in order to update the system and clean it (= removing much apps that i don't want/don't use), and installing a tiny wm (evilwm, i am a bit fan of it).

ubuntu behaves has it does normally, but it is obviously slow on this machine, even if, in comparison with slitaz, it is not too much slow. that was what impressed me the most, and had impressed me in the past while comparing ubuntu with other tiniest distro: you don't see a big difference in speed processing while performing office tasks - ubuntu is just a bit slower than slitaz when you have to use openoffice or the gimp.   

sound does not work at this time with alsa; i have to found the right codec in order to find the correct alsa-module for the realtek device. on my to-do list

flash and internet are really slower than in slitaz; this is the reason why i have switched back to slitaz.

at the moment, the result of my comparison is the following: the gecko works nice with slitaz and ubuntu 9.10 if you have to use it static (without to much flash web browsing - browsing the internet without flash is faster with slitaz than with ubuntu, but in both case fast enough though), if you don't mind not to hear to your favorite music while performing tasks, and if you can affoard little money in order to buy a usb-to-rj45 adapter for wired connection. i maintain a 7/10 for the gecko with ubuntu karmic; i have to test it now with the last puppy.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on January 30, 2010, 08:41:09 AM
typing this from my gecko with puppy last issue 4.3.1 on it. i have to say, it is a very pleasant experience for lot of reasons:

- r6040 is there, so that you don't have to worry about your ethernet connection which will be recognized without much to do; wireless was recognized too (puppy has the rtl8187 module for my dongle);
- the gecko behaves very fast which is a very good news; i have chosen a standard installation procedure with system loaded into ram at boot; you won't see it directly at first boot, but at second and third boot, the boot time decreases and you can enjoy a very fast os behaving with most apps you need;
- flash: sloppy as usual, but really less than what i have experienced with slitaz or ubuntu.


- there are no alsa driver for the soundcard - given the fact that this is also the case for slitaz and ubuntu, one has to recompile the driver for the realtek soundcard.
- xorg runs in 800x600@16, and choosing 1024x600@16 let you jump to a 1280x1024@16 resolution (even if you modify xorg.conf manually) - i tried to find help in the internet, but did not find anything - xvesa gives you the 1024x600@24 resolution as expected;

multitasking is possible and quick even with xorg as Xserver; some puppy pets are really doing a great job (such as the puppy html viewer which is actually a internet web browser with flash enabled, and which processes very quickly). So 8/10 for puppy on the gecko since it definitely provides a very good computing experience.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 07, 2010, 10:42:40 AM
updated news:

after my email to Michael Barnes, i have got the web site where you can find some drivers for the gecko: http://www.deviceonchip.com

there i have found the driver for the soundcard (snd-hda-intel with the ALC262 driver from realtek), which works nicely with kernels 2.6.29 and 2.6.30. i have also found the driver for the VGA out enabling to use an external monitor or a projector with the gecko, and which works fine only if you load xorg7, but it works.

so the only remaining drawback is flash now. i shall to look for some solution.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 12, 2010, 01:33:44 PM

thanks to gerald_clark and his glibc initramfs i had the opportunity to test the gecko with microcore 2.8. in short: disapointed. For everything, mc behaves much more quickly than any other distros have tested with the gecko, and alsmost everything works without issue (sound with a little bit more effort, but it works). Working with open office, and do multitasking work is ok, it was expected.

But there is one drawback also common to the other distros which i had not expected that critical: flash. I was unable to use either shiretoko or opera 10 with flash enabled. Shiretoko ended with a segmentation fault, opera crashes. Compared to puppy linux or slitaz which loaded the browser with flash enabled and let me access to web pages  like youtube (even if the result was not satisfaying), it was impossible to load shiretoko or opera with flash enabled, and thus to browse internet.

i know that the xcore86 cpu of the gecko is not that optimal in the managment of apps needing flash, but i was very surprised to see that i can not at all run a browser with flash enabled using mc, as i can usually do that with my other machine (800 Ghz cpu and 256 MB ram, so less than the gecko). Maybe it is me, and i shall wait for the new 2.9 in order to put the gecko at test with tc/mc again.

Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: curaga on February 12, 2010, 01:41:30 PM
Could be one of the flash deps has 686 code.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 12, 2010, 03:27:35 PM
it is my guess, which is one of the cause of my disapointment: not only glibc, but probably other extensions and deps could cause difficulties with certain (though highly current) hardware which means more work at the side of the re-compilation. It is very unlucky because otherwise, i was really very happy with a static use of mc (say mail, office, internet with links), it fits the machine and give out the most of it. hopefully we have to solve these problems in a near future.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 13, 2010, 03:41:41 AM
i have checked the dependencies of libflashplayer.so with shiretoko and no sound (no OSS no ALSA), and some deps are not met:


this freezes the system with following message:

BUG: unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at (null)
IP: <(null)> (null)
*pde = 00000000

Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 14, 2010, 06:46:01 AM
after further investigations on the bug, i have try to load microcore 2.8 with nodma, and i have change the usb wifi dongle in order to see if the problem comes from my hardware; booting mc 2.8 works, loading the driver for the wifi dongle (usb netgear w111 v.2) works too, loading shiretoko with flash works too; i can use shiretoko and browse the internet; but if i close shiretoko and re-open it, i get a segmentation fault. this issue seems then related to flash, because loading shiretoko without flash works without issue.
Title: Re: Gecko - netbook for tinycore
Post by: alu on February 28, 2010, 04:29:07 AM
since tc 2.9rc4 and the work made by the team in order to solve the libc issues, you can use tc or mc on the gecko netbook without difficulty; there are still some extensions that might not work as expected (for me the gtk1 version of sylpheed), but for most extensions, tc behaves nicely on the gecko.

Issues which remain:

- sound: the alsa modules provided for the kernel 2.6.29 are not working with the sound chip in the gecko; all drivers are there, but you need to use a patch provided by deviceonchip.com;
- vga out: here too, you have to use the patch provided by deviceonchip.com; vga out works only with Xorg 7.*, not Xvesa

These limitations are not that important for me because i am using the gecko as an office box only, and i don't need to play with sound, video and other displays/projectors. As a fairly basic netbook, the gecko does its job well with tinycore/microcore, and given the size of the os, it behaves much more quickly than with any other distributions i tried.  With kernel improvement, a better experience can be expected. Definitely worth the buy.