1 Aug 2012

WattOS R5: Not Ideal, But Still Nice

I heard about this OS from couple of my readers, who left the comment on the blog posts. They mentioned this OS as the extreme light one.

It looked interesting for me, and that is why I decided to try myself.

WattOS is an operating system based on Ubuntu. Yes, I really hear right now from many of you: Oh no, yet another Ubuntu spin! Please, stop groaning, read on.

The project has as its purpose to create an OS which can be used on very old computers. That's why they want it to be really low in resource requirements.

I downloaded the distribution's ISO file from their site. The latest version WattOS R5 was released in February 2012. R5 simply stands for Release 5. The ISO file size is about 693 Mb.

When the ISO file was on my laptop, I used Unetbootin to create a Live USB.

So, the USB stick is ready and plugged into the port of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

Flashy boot

The boot process of WattOS was one of the shortest I've ever seen. I did not use the stopwatch, but I believe that from the moment of selection of boot option in Unetbootin boot menu until the moment when I got a working desktop, I only had half a minute of waiting time. That is really amazing.

In the Unetbootin menu, apart from the Live session, which I chose, were options to run Live session with VESA graphical mode, test memory and boot from HDD. In other words, nothing unexpected here.

The splash screen of the WattOS boot process has a WattOS logo with a boot progress bar. Interestingly, the progress bar was at about 15% when the splash screen changed to a black one with some text lines on it. Nevertheless, it only took the system about 5 seconds from that moment to show the final desktop wallpaper, and the desktop itself appeared very soon.

Look into my eyes

The desktop itself has a classical layout. The default wallpaper in WattOS R5 is a photo of a sprout which is just appearing from the earth. There is a selection of three other images, all of them from the LXDE stock, bearing the LXDE logo.

There are some icons on the desktop, like Audacious player, File manager, Midori browser and Install WattOS icon.

The panel at the bottom of the screen has the "Go!" button in the left corner, which calls up the menu. File manager PCManFM, Midori browser, Terminal and Show Desktop are the buttons next to the menu. The switch between the two virtual desktops follows them.

The right part of the panel has some usual and unusual elements in the notification area. Battery status, network manager, volume control, clocks and Shutdown button are from the "classical" list of elements. Clocks showed some strange time, 7 or 8 hours behind my actual London time. Also, WattOS includes a CPU status icon in the notification area. When you hover the mouse over it, it shows the CPU mode and temperature. This icon looks out of its place, because it is the only blue element in the grey-themed notification area.

As you can conclude from the above mentioned facts, WattOS is a distribution based on Ubuntu with LXDE desktop. R5 was published when Ubuntu 11.10 was the current version, thus WattOS R5 is based on Ubuntu 11.10.

Technically, WattOS R5 runs on the Linux kernel 3.0.0-16.

The freshly booted system took about 140 Mb of memory, which is a very decent result for the Live run. But before I show the screenshot to prove this, I need to point out an issue in the distribution. Unfortunately, the PrntScr button is linked to the scrot application, which is absent from the default distribution. That's why I had to install this utility (sudo apt-get install scrot) before making the screenshot. It slightly increased the result of memory usage in my Live run of WattOS R5.
The Desktop of WattOS R5
The Desktop of WattOS R5
the system uses about 140 Mb of memory when idle
So, the memory usage after the installation grew up to 149 Mb.


WattOS, being targeted at low-level hardware, largely includes applications which are not the most sophisticated ones, but still can do their job.

Midori 0.4.3 is the only browser in the default distribution of WattOS R5. It is accompanied in the Internet section of the menu by FileZilla FTP manager, Pidgin instant messenger and Transmission torrent client. Honestly, Midori showed itself for me as a very nice and functional browser. I drafted this blog post using Midori, and also made some post-production steps for the recent openmamba post in the Blogger interface. The only failure I had was with the inability to upload images to the Blogger (Picasa?) gallery.

Abiword, Gnumeric, ePDFViewer are the representatives of the Office section. Trying to use Abword for the .odt file I had for test, I noticed that this file type is not associated with any application. Instead, I saw a list of possible variants. It was not a difficult task for me to make such an association, but it still puts an annoying aspect on the WattOS R5 operating system.

The Graphics section includes only bare minimum of tools: Document viewer and the Pinta editor. It was my first acquaintance with Pinta, and it left a nice impression on me.

WattOS comes well-equipped for multimedia playback. The Sound&Video section of the menu includes Audacious and SMPlayer players, Brasero disk burning tool and Cheese webcam tool.

The System tools in the WattOS menu include GDebi installer, Jupiter CPU monitor, Psensor temperature monitor and Task Manager. It is the Jupiter application that sits in the notification area of the panel with a blue icon, as I mentioned above.

The Accessories in WattOS include Brasero, File Manager, Calculator, Archive manager XArchiver, LeafPad, KeePassX and Terminal.

There is a usual LXDE configuration panel available in the menu as well.

You can see that WattOS comes pretty much ready for all the typical tasks right out of the box. If you need more, you still have an option to use the Ubuntu repositories and PPAs for additional software.


The default keyboard layout in WattOS R5 is English US.

I have written several times that LXDE desktop environment has the standard issue with multiple keyboard layouts. There is no configuration for this task. I have only seen 1 Linux distribution so far, which solved this problem out of the box. Unfortunately, it is not WattOS. That’s why I won’t moan any more here.

On the positive note, my laptop’s touchpad was configured for my preferences right out of the box. Scrolling and tapping worked as I like seeing them.

Network partition

The PCManFM version included into WattOS R5 has an option to browse network folders. Unfortunately, it was not able to see the fileserver in my home network.

That is why I had to revert to the manual mounting. The smbfs package is not in the default distribution, unfortunately, so I had to install it manually from the repository using the sudo apt-get install smbfs command.

When smbfs was installed, I was able to mount my fileserver partition and browse it without any issues.

Singing and dancing

Unfortunately, I was not able to start the playback of the multimedia files in WattOS R5 by double-click on the MP3 file. The problem is the same as with ODT files: there is no default application for this type of files in the distribution. But the process of assigning Audacious to the task took me literally 5 seconds.

Once this was done, Audacious started the playback of music straight away. It means that WattOS R5 comes with all the necessary multimedia codecs included.

The same is valid for Flash Player. I was able to play YouTube videos immediately. No additional installation was necessary.

No Nonsense OS

WattOS R5 showed me in my LiveUSB run that the developers achieved their goal with their operating system. They promised to deliver an OS which would work on low-end computers, and it is very likely to be true.

There were no operations in my Live session that took longer to complete than I expected. More often the system worked much faster than I thought it would. The memory usage remained quite low during all the process. The maximum I saw in the Task Manager was just below 500 Mb, and that was with several Midori tabs showing resource-hungry sites like GMail, YouTube (with video playing back), and Blogger.

The only crash I experienced in my LiveUSB run of WattOS R5 was with the same Midori browser. It crashed when I tried to detach the tab from the main window and create a new one. Unfortunately, the restore function on the browser restart lost that tab completely.

As a minor defect, I'd like to remember again the absence of the scrot utility, which is linked in the keyboard shortkey configuration. Another minor defect is in the absence of links between the popular file types and the default applications

Otherwise, WattOS can be a nice system for those who have low-end computers, but still want to use their power for the everyday needs.

Have you tried WattOS? What is your opinion about it?

Video used in the screenshot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mifnMC_Kn1Q


  1. 11.10? Why would anyone want to install an already out of date release?

    1. 11.10 is still supported, though. I hope that WattOS team will release a newer system some time soon.

    2. @Carl Dapper

      When R5 was released Oneiric was the "Current" version of Ubuntu.

      As for the time being 7-8 hours behind GMT, "this is an American Distro" might be the answer.
      Don't get angry but a HD install (You'll probably go like"WHAATT?" But I'm just noting...)should do it.

  2. @Carl, true. I fell in love with MoonOS. Felt it was perfect, but it's based on an outdated release of Ubuntu as well.

  3. never tried this distro but you review encouraged me to try this distro , soon I am going to try it when its final stable version will be launch.

  4. I have an older XP computer with an upgraded motherboard and 1 gig of new memory. I have tried Lubuntu and Zorin Lite. (Love Zorin 5.2 on a newer computer). I will try this as I am still trying to find the optimal OS for this computer. It is an older processor that slows everything down right now from 2001.Tends to go to 100% when running most applications. Will let you know what I think of Watts and it's applications.

  5. Pinta leaves scattered blue dots when you use it to alter a photo.

    1. That's most likely the problem of Pinta, not WattOS.

  6. I am using the live cd/dvd but wont power down, ejecta the media but won't power off

    1. Justo, sorry to hear about that. It happens with some distributions. I've seen it too. It may be incompatibility of distribution with the hardware.