ExpressGate and DriveXpert
Asus launched its ExpressGate feature back late last year on its super-expensive, all encompassing and long winded P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP @n
. Some nine months later now and Asus has updated this inbuilt, 10 second booting Linux distro to offer Photo Management and Instant Messaging from Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, QQ or AIM in addition to Firefox and Skype that were originally on there.
Despite the fact that its original designers, DeviceVM
have released the source
code under GPL, Asus is adamant this feature should remain locked down to updates for the foreseeable future. We were told that opening it up (understandably) leaves all sorts of potential security risks that could scupper the reputation of Asus's motherboards, especially now more boards are shipping with the ExpressGate feature.
It's a shame because, while innovative, this feature is still very limited – you can't install any add-ons for Firefox, so trying to get all our favourites ported over from GoogleSync for example, won't happen. The only current advantage we can see is if you're the forgetful type and often need to make a quick phone call with Skype, or to quickly check the net or send a message to someone, without having to wait for the PC to boot completely.
We still think Asus is using ExpressGate in the wrong areas and with the wrong things – it should be suited to some very small, very low power business machines where people need to leave Skype and IM on 24/7 – this will reduce the cost of the machine because it now doesn't need an OS or even a hard drive. And who really needs to fire up a PC quickly for some instant photo management? I'd prefer a simple file browser instead so I can quickly throw those documents I forgot onto a USB memory key.
There's still not media player either because this is limited to license issues and however much while we'd love to see VLC ported to it because the SDK is open to all, it isn't going to happen because Asus has locked it down. What's the point of DeviceVM trying to create a catalogue of software and a community when only Asus uses its product exclusively and denies anyone else access?
It has the potential but it's still not being used – we're nine months on and it still feels like "that's really cool, but I'd never use it"
The DriveXpert function is Asus cunningly rebranding of a simple RAID 0 and 1 extra, but something that's far more user friendly. We were told that often consumers wanted to use the feature but the term "RAID" scared them and the BIOS interface to set up an array was always unintuitive. Now Asus has gone for complete simplicity in making a GUI interface that's accessible through ExpressGate and offers the user a point and click approach to setting up either a "Super Speed" (striped RAID 0) or "EZ Backup" (mirrored RAID 1) array. Likewise, there's also some Windows software that comes included on the Asus DVD offers a simplistic approach to the management side of things.
The ExpressGate SSD is nestled between the PCI expansion slots and the orange SATA ports relate to the DriveXpert feature