ASUS For the Win

I've recently started modernizing some of my computers and peripherals. While I've been a fan of ASUS motherboards in the past, I never gave any of their other products a second look.

I just wanted to share a uniquely positive experience I had with ASUS this week. I have their Zenbook UX305. I bought it knowing it came with Windows 8, but had planned to either upgrade to Windows 10 immediately, or install a better operating system.

Long-story-short: Trying to install Windows 10 was a nightmare with this new hardware-based license key checking/authentication. Round two: I installed FreeBSD. FreeBSD doesn't have drivers for the GPU (Haswell) or the 802.11 adapter, and likely never will. Round three: I installed Debian for the first time I've ever installed a Linux-based system on the metal. The Linux kernel does support all the newfangled hardware, and handles most of the ACPI and unusual keys on the keyboard. Plus, since this system is meant to run a GUI, it's way less noticeable where a better operating system would make a difference.

Fast-forward to this week. I updated my kernel (for no reason in particular). I started getting some unusual errors from ACPI. Rather than downgrade my kernel, I decided to try to update my out-of-date BIOS as a first attempt to sort things out.

Somewhere in this product's life, the software/firmware people at ASUS decided to release BIOS updates via a Windows-specific installer-like-thing. I extracted the files hidden in the executable, and tried to find the BIOS image. It seems to either be auto-generated in the installer, or it's downloaded. However, since the laptop doesn't run Windows, I couldn't run the installer to find out. I tried to run the installer on a Windows computer, but it checked to make sure the computer's hardware could take the update. I was never able to figure out how the "update tool" created the image.

I decided to take the social approach, and contacted ASUS technical support (after fighting a really clunky web site that constantly timed out and presented a lot of incomprehensible errors when filling in their forms). I asked if it was possible to get the current firmware as a plain binary image like all their early releases for this computer. I wasn't very confident I'd get much more than a canned response and a link to the download that wouldn't work for me.

The first response from tech support claimed that Windows was necessary to update the BIOS. Of course that's untrue since the first four BIOS updates on their web site didn't require Windows, and only the latest three did. I pointed this out to the specialist. I was starting to prepare a Windows 10 installer on a USB drive just to see if it would be possible to run Windows 10 without installing it.

The second response I received had a direct download link to the BIOS image! I had nearly lost hope. Literally two minutes later, I had the current firmware on my computer. Fantastic.

In my experience, technical and customer support from large companies is about 90% negative, 5% satisfactory, and 5% excellent. It's easy to focus on the negative. Today, I'm adding a new outfit to my list of excellent.

Thanks ASUS!