Turbo-charged machines with wattOS

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Watt Omissions

Having discussed the careful selection of apps in wattOS R10, it's wise to focus also on those that have been removed since the last version.

R10 uses the ultra-zippy i3 as the default window manager as opposed to Openbox, which came bundled with wattOS R9. Samba appears to have been removed. The Midori web browser and Audacious music player have been replaced with Firefox and Lollypop respectively.

Lollypop will happily play music files such as MP3s out of the box, but other media files such as MP4 video have no associated app. The installer has the option to download some third-party codecs during setup, although this may cause issues (see below).

Applications > Office contains only the Evince document viewer, which can display PDFs. Use LXTerminal or the preinstalled Synaptic package manager to install additional software, such as VLC media player and LibreOffice.

On the plus side, the size of the wattOS R10 ISO is now well below 700MB allowing it to be easily burned onto a CD-ROM, whereas the previous version was 711MB, which required users to employ overburn or use a USB stick.


How do you improve on an OS that has already been stripped down to its bare bones for sheer efficiency? The answer naturally is to create an even more stripped down version of that same OS.

PlanetWatt released Microwatt R10 on September 23, 2016, shortly after the release of WattOS R10 itself. Microwatt is also based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and its core system is based on version 4.4.0-38 of the Linux kernel.

The stable version (4.11) of the i3 tiling window manager has also been preinstalled to offer a lighter memory footprint than wattOS' LXDE version. The PlanetWatt team claim this results in an improvement of 20-40% on average [4].

Microwatt comes with virtually no preinstalled apps. Surf v0.7 is available for basic web browsing. The minimalistic MuPDF version 1.7a-1 is also preloaded for viewing PDF documents. Aside from the PCManFM file manager (Figure 3), there are few other utilities.

Figure 3: PCManFM as it appears in Microwatt R10. i3 displays system information at the bottom of the screen but windows cannot be minimized here.

Fortunately one of the few utilities that does come preloaded is Synaptic, allowing you to install extra applications. The desktop also lists hot keys to launch the terminal, file manager, and web browser respectively by using the Windows key and a combination of letters. Mac users can rest assured that the Command key works just as well.

As there is no desktop environment per se, navigating windows can be tricky. As such, it's best to use the terminal app to launch and kill processes as you need them. Alternatively you can install a new desktop environment.

It's no surprise then that PlanetWatt refer to Microwatt as a "do what you want" release. The OS allows you to browse through the various software available before deciding on your program of choice. Needless to say, Microwatt also incorporates the power management utilities of wattOS to optimize it for laptops. This is helped in no small part by the battery, RAM, swap, and CPU usage stats, which are permanently displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Just like wattOS, the ISO for Microwatt R10 can be downloaded directly or via BitTorrent, but it is a mere 627MB meaning it will fit onto all CD-ROMs.

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