Friday, August 24, 2012

wattOS Quick Review

Well, after a few months (from may to august!) without posting (work, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, etc), here I am again. This time, like I promised a few posts back (or was it on the last post? I can't remember) I'll do a quick review on wattOS, a Lubuntu based distro.

I installed this distro on my laptop a few months ago, actually by the time I wrote the last post. The version available then is the same one available now, WattOS R5, which is based on Lubuntu 11.10. Anyway, I've been using it for a few months and it's a OK distro. If you wanna find out more, continue reading.

WattOS is supposed to be a lightweight and low-power-consuming distro. It is indeed lightweight, my old laptop with only 512MB of shared RAM and Semprom 1800MHz had absolutely no problem running it, actually, it ran pretty fast. As for the low-power-consuming part, I did some testing and the results are presented later on the review.

As wattOS is based on Lubuntu, the default desktop environment is LXDE, which is a pretty fast and configurable DE. The installation process was very smooth, just like you were installing Ubuntu. After booting (boot time is around the same as Ubuntu) you're presented with a LXDM screen to input your username and password. After logging in, you're presented with the screen below.

That's what you see after you first login to wattOS R5.

I liked what I first saw: a nice wallpaper and a Audacious icon (my audio player of choice). The desktop looks "WindowsXP ish" in the sense that you have something like a start button (the "GO!" with the green lamp in the bottom left corner of the above picture), a small shortcut bar, a workspace switcher (ok, WinXP doesn't have that!), a taskbar and something like a "system tray". But ok, it's not a bad layout (specially for people trying to switch from Windows to Linux), but you can add other panels by right-clicking on the existing panel and choosing "Create New Panel" and/or configure the default one by right-clicking on it and choosing "Panel Settings"

Anyway, as for the software that comes already installed on the OS, everything is lightweight. For media playing you get Audacious and SMPlayer, both very light and functional players. As for the browser you get Midori with flash working out of the box. For officework, you get Abiword and Gnumeric, "poor-man's office suite", but they fit very well with the OS philosophy. For network managing, you get Network Manager, which supports 3G modems. There's other stuff too, Brasero for burning media, Leafpad, Pinta for drawing, FileZilla, Transmission, etc. But since it's a Lubuntu based distro, the Ubuntu repos are in your disposal to install whatever you like, just start "apt-get-ing" stuff or, if you so wish, you can also use Synaptic. I for one don't like Brasero much, so I installed K3b and although I liked Midori, I also installed Chromium.

When it comes to software I'd like to write more about two I came across while using WattOS R5: PCmanFM, LXDE default file manager, and Jupiter, a "Generic interface for display, power, and device control" (took that from the about screen). PCmanFM was a great surprise. I had already read about it but never used it. It's very fast (a bit faster than Thunar) and samba shares worked out of the box (on the PCmanFM menu, use Go -> Network Drives).

As for Jupiter, well, it plays a important role on WattOS, since you can control the power consumption of your computer through it (CPU scaling). There are three levels of "Performance Mode": Max Performance, Performance On Demand and Power Saver. With the power cord on I could not change from Max Performance to any of the other two options, so I can't save energy while the power cord is on? That's just wrong! :P Anyway, I did some testing regarding these options: with the battery of the laptop fully charged, I took the power cord out and it took around one hour (from 19:43h to 20:43h) for the battery to reach 50% of its capacity while browsing, writing these lines on the blog and listening to some Savatage songs, while the option "Power Saver" was selected. The next day I did the same testing (browsing around, listening to the same Savatage songs) while the "Max Performance" setting was selected. It took 51 minutes (from 20:01 to 20:52) for the battery to reach the 50% mark. Maybe I'd get a more significant result if I did something that stressed the CPU, but there it is, there was a (somewhat small) difference to power consumption with this "naive" test.

Jupiter also enables you to disable wifi and the touchpad (didn't test those because I need them!) and also set resolutions, screen orientations and video displays (External Display Only, Internal Display Only, Both Displays). The resolutions available to me were 1024x768, 800x600 and 640x480 (my screen is 4:3). One thing I didn't like was the fact that Jupiter didn't show other resolutions I added to xrandr (see last post), but it doesn't matter anyway, since setting video displays with Jupiter didn't work for me. I'm sticking to the method of my last post  when it comes to using the VGA output of the laptop.

All in all wattOS R5 is a good distro, it's Lubuntu repacked with a good philosophy in mind. The bad thing is that Lubuntu 12.04 was released in april and it's august already and wattOS's current version is still based on Lubuntu 11.10. I know Lubuntu 11.10 is still supported but... 12.04 version has been out for a while and Lubuntu 12.10 will be released in two months! Let's see how the future releases of wattOS turn out!

Update: I published this on august 24th and two days later, august 26th (today), the first thing I see on Distribution Release: wattOS R6. It's based on Ubuntu 12.04.1.


  1. I have tried wattos 6 and i like it, the only problem i have with it is that i cannot get to download and install the wireless drivers.
    Each time i try to download the Broadcom STA drivers i get this message Sorry, installation for this driver failed.
    Please have a look at the log file for details: /var/log/jockey.log.

    I have Ubuntu 12,04 insatlled on my dell Mini 910 and that is faily fast, but watt on usb is super fast, i would love to install this on my machine if only they would sort out the wirelss driver issues.


    work perfect for me once I scrolled down and followed the instructions to the instruction for my acer extensa 4620z laptop. I am using b43 driver.