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Don’t buy System76 hardware and expect to get firmware updates from the LVFS (gnome.org)
163 points by anarcat 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments

General FYI: most/all System76 hardware is actually rebranded models from Clevo, so the build quality issues people are discussing aren't that surprising. For example, the "Galago Pro" is actually a Clevo N130WU.



Some googling suggests the Serval WS is a Clevo P775DM3-G, and the Oryx Pro is a Clevo P650SE.

People upthread were wondering how they're doing all that with just 21 people or whatever, that's how. They slap a new label on Clevo hardware and dress it up with some nice photos. Most of those 21 people are probably web developers, marketing/photographers, and warehouse staff.

They might not even be doing their own firmware updates, they might just be getting Clevo to deliver specific features for them. Maybe they are doing some minor OS customization, or EFI tweaks to help Linux compatibility, but they can't be doing all that much work with 21 people to spread between development and normal sales/warehouse work.

System76 UX architect here!

This vastly trivializes the work System76 does for months and sometimes years leading up to a product release. We don't simply take an off-the-shelf product that already exists, throw an OS on it, and sell it.

System76 works with upstream manufacturers (like, yes, Clevo for laptops) to determine what types of products to develop, including their specifications, design, etc. for months up to a release. These products do not exist before we enter into these conversations.

Once that has been determined, designed, and goes into production, we start on firmware. We ensure all components are working together and with the Linux kernel (often requiring changes to the components' low level interactions with the OS, since the upstream components themselves are often manufactured with the assumption they will be used by Windows).

Once that is complete, we test with Ubuntu and Pop!_OS specifically, ensuring the OS is working perfectly with the hardware. If there are any OS-specific changes to be done, we write that behavior into Pop!_OS and/or our "driver" which is preloaded on all machines (and available in any Ubuntu-based distro, Arch, Fedora, etc.), with the intent to upstream that into Ubuntu, GNOME, and/or Linux itself as quickly as possible. When this is more generic like ensuring HiDPI works great out of the box, this actually ends up benefiting competitors like Dell's XPS 13 probably as much as it benefits us, but we put in the effort to file the bugs, track them, write the code, and get it upstreamed.

Once all of that is complete, we finally offer it for purchase and market it with all of our pretty photographs, sales pages, etc.

What ends up happening, then, is Clevo offers a machine with a similar-looking chassis for sale as a barebones laptop. This is the result partially of the decision making System76 has made for what to produce in the first place. These products, however, do not contain any of the firmware or driver work that System76 has invested in. They do benefit from the nice photography and advertising System76 has done, and since they look similar, people assume they're going to get the same machine for cheaper "directly from the manufacturer."

Edit: regardless, this is a bit beside the point of the linked blog post, and is also becoming less and less true as we work on designing and manufacturing our products completely in-house.

I'm a System76 customer (bought a second laptop 1 year ago, works ok but with issues). I think you exaggerating your current work with the upstream manufactures a little bit, otherwise you wouldn't have completely unsupported things like fingerprint reader in your laptops.

Sometimes we have to make hard decisions like that where the upstream manufacturer insists on a feature in order to get a certain class of design (because then they can resell it to Windows companies and have it be an extra selling point). That sort of thing is happening less and less, though, as we continue to do well and help design successful products.

I’ve seen this reply from System76 over and over and while what you are saying could be correct having the same copypasta make it look suspiciously like a marketing ploy.


> System76 works with upstream manufacturers (like, yes, Clevo for laptops) to determine what types of products to develop, including their specifications, design, etc. for months up to a release. These products do not exist before we enter into these conversations.

What do you mean by "products"? Is it a particular combination of a specific barebones Clevo laptop installed with specific components (make+model) picked by System76?

> Once that has been determined, designed, and goes into production, we start on firmware. We ensure all components are working together and with the Linux kernel (often requiring changes to the components' low level interactions with the OS, since the upstream components themselves are often manufactured with the assumption they will be used by Windows).

What do you mean by "ensure all components are working together"? Do you mean check whether a component is already supported by linux and in case the support is iffy the System76 staff picks some other component (make+model) that's better supported?

>What do you mean by "products"? Is it a particular combination of a specific barebones Clevo laptop installed with specific components (make+model) picked by System76?

It's kind of a case-by-case basis. But some products, like the Galago Pro and new Oryx Pro, are the result of years of working with our partners to even develop a certain class of computer. For a long time, Clevo wasn't even interested in a thin and light aluminum machine (much less a sane HiDPI resolution), but we worked with them to get that into production. The display resolution in particular was a win for us, as they had originally planned to go with a 3840×2160 display, but at 13", it was too-dense for most of our customers without fractional scaling. So we had them source a 3200×1800 display, which is just right. And when our customers and fans wanted a slimmer bezel on that machine, we released the 14" version with the same exact chassis but a bigger display and smaller bezels.

>What do you mean by "ensure all components are working together"? Do you mean check whether a component is already supported by linux and in case the support is iffy the System76 staff picks some other component (make+model) that's better supported?

Some components—like a DAC or Ethernet chipset—are not always directly chosen by System76; it's a decision our partners make when the product goes into production. Much of the time those components work perfectly fine out of the box in Linux, but sometimes it requires some firmware or driver work to get it working perfectly, usually if the component itself was only originally developed for and tested against Windows.

I wish the Oryx Pro had dropped the number pad (can't find any clear pictures to be sure) and used a 3:2 form factor for the display.

Thank you for your detailed responses! It really shows that System76 is working hard for their customers.

> What do you mean by "ensure all components are working together"?

Just as an anecdote, my Dell XPS 13 DE (9160) came with Ubuntu preinstalled and "support" from Dell and it still had issues. My personal favorite was a null pointer bug in the WiFi driver where switching WiFi connections would result in a kernel panic.

Hi, I've been using such Clevo N130WU on Linux with stock firmwares. I've received couple of updates since I bought it last year, mostly because of Spectre and some for Thunderbolt 3, there was one for the overreacting CPU vents. I can use all the peripherals on my one without special firmware. HiDPI is a challenge, but nothing that I can't solve with xrandr.

I'm curious what do your firmwares actually improve?

How’d you buy yours? I emailed them and also looked on their site but never saw where to purchase.

FWIW, they're supposedly switching from rebranded Clevos to their own custom laptops soon.

They have been saying that for two years.

And it's been something we've been working on for more than two years. Building a US-based manufacturing plant from the ground up is a long process, but it will be worth it in the end. You can come by the factory in Denver, Colorado and see where we are! The entire company is relocating to the factory in June, and we're currently building our latest prototypes designed by the team.

I'll pass. I almost bought a system76 several times and at no point was it made obvious these are re-packaged Chinese white label machines.

Why would the company benefit from making that obvious, in an industry where that behavior is the de facto standard, and their competitors make billions doing just that?

they wouldn't of course, but their competitors aren't doing this.

unless you can point me to the company that actually makes.. say dell's (or whoever's) laptops.

I’m up in Boulder and would absolutely enjoy a tour!

As someone who is using Linux as my main OS for over a decade, I totally appreciate initiatives like LVFS that makes using Linux more seamless.

Running Linux on MacBook Pro has also exposed me to the struggle of firmware updates and all that jazz.

So the hard work of Richard Hughes on LVFS is not lost me but I think he could have definitely handle the whole S76 issue more professionally. The whole blog post has a very personal vendetta overtone.

> The way forward from my point of view would be for System76 to spend a few hours making UpdateCapsule work correctly, another few days to build an EFI binary with the EC update, and a few more hours to write the metadata for the LVFS. I don’t require an apology, and would happily create them a OEM account on the LVFS.

That is not how large organizations work. And if you're trying to build something to get large vendors on board, this demand for apology nonsense is not going to help you.

PS. Don't own a S76 system, don't work for them.

> That is not how large organizations work.

Wikipedia indicates they employ 21 people. That could be off by an order of magnitude and it still wouldn't qualify as a "large organization."

Hmm I wonder how many employees s76 actually has? because in the reply from s76 it hints towards a rather larger company than 21 people.

"System76 is also focusing on several other time-intensive efforts (like building a US-based manufacturing plant, designing in-house products, and building a well-received GNOME-based OS for both System76 customers and any interested users)"

Like shit if they are designing and building a manufacturing plant with 21 people in house whilst also maintaining normal business selling and maintaining hardware... My hat goes off to them...for either being amazing or being so crazy stupid to think they could pull it off!

Building a US-based manufacturing plant is an SVP endeavor with another company offloading 90% of the design work. Been there, done that.

Designing in-house products is what they already do, and have done prior to Pop! so this shouldn't take user level app developer time that could be spent on better support for their users.

Building yet another distro is a waste of time and effort and only undermines goodwill with their users (I bought a Galago Pro to run Arch, and Pop came out 6 months after I received it -- I don't want yet another vendor controlled os). When Pop came out, they retargeted efforts around supporting only that system, leaving user choice by the wayside. The end result is that it burned me in the form of a missed firmware update that killed my battery, and customer support responses that boiled down to "run Pop!".

It's one thing to want to do something crazy -- it's quite another to hurt your customers in the process.

I'm literally on the factory floor right now, working with our designers and CEO on upcoming product designs. There's an area populated with a few dozen iterations of unreleased prototypes from the past couple of years, a couple of 3D printers running for prototype parts, as well as a laser cutting acrylic for new prototypes chassis today.

We're doing this work in-house, right here in Denver, Colorado.

I'm sorry you had a poor experience with support. We do still offer a choice between Ubuntu and Pop!_OS right from the site, but we also are focusing our efforts on making better products. And a large part of that (which we hear from our customers every day) is in the software experience. You're always welcome to install whatever you want on your machine, and we'll do our best to help you out with that.

How about focusing on making your firmware updates deliver via the existing, well established lvfs instead of some "not invented here" home grown bullshit, so I can use the distro I want, not Ubuntu or that other thing I never heard of before without being denied those updates?

That sounds like a massive oversell of LVFS.

The site has barely been up 3 years given the notice at the bottom, while System76 have been selling preinstalled Linux computers for over a decade.

Eh, that's not that surprising. Making your team or company sound larger than it is in an effort to sound more legitimate or established is a time-honored tradition.

What kind of manufacturing plant is the question. Competing with Intel and a processor design and fab house is obviously beyond all but the largest companies. I suspect even designing a motherboard is beyond a company of their size (or even an order of magnitude larger). However it probably makes sense for them to do final assembly so they can integrate quality assurance steps where required. Take a case somebody else made (their design), a bunch of other components (mostly off the shelf, but some custom), and screw them together. At several points along the way power up the system and run some tests.

I don't think I can share intimate details, but we are designing the products, manufacturing the chassis and some internal components, and assembling the products all in Denver, CO.

Come on, don't be silly, only the world's largest 5 or 10 companies build their own processors; look how long it took apple to build their own arm. They will use an amd or intel cpu and put pieces together.

They could be off by two orders of magnitude and not qualify. 2100 is not what I would consider large by any stretch.

> I don’t require an apology, and would happily create them a OEM account on the LVFS

He is specifically not demanding an apology, and is explicitly saying he is happy to continue to work with them.

It implies that someone owes an apology or at least an apology is fitting but the author is willing to forgo it.

Well, it sounds like they ignored his emails for 6 months, which their point of contact with him did apologize for in the reddit thread.

And he's butt hurt that they shipped without LVFS so he's publicly admonishing them, trivializing the effort, and telling people to boycott their products.

But at least he's willing to work with them.

He doesn't sound particularly aggrieved, and he's not telling people to boycott their products.

> I don’t actually mind if System76 doesn’t use fwupd and the LVFS, I just don’t want people to buy new hardware and be disappointed.

As someone uninvolved who occasionally looks at linux laptops, this is really useful information for me. One of the (apparently) core developers of (apparently) a tool that allows cross hardware compatibility for linux is saying "this laptop does not adequately support arbitrary versions of linux, and they don't have a compelling technical reason why".

The post is not about spreading information, but attacking them for not using LVFS.

If what the author wanted to do was simply to spread information, the post would have been the length of a single Twitter post:

    Make note: System76 uses a custom fw update util only bundled with "Pop_OS!".
The entirety about this post is to hang System76 out for their process and decision, explaining how they are wrong, and how the author is willing to forgive them for this wrongdoing without the apology the author feels is in place. The post is nothing but emotional.

(I have no strong opinion about System76's decision, but I find this post format to be awful.)

Interesting that disinterested parties here are coming to such different conclusions.

If sharing the process issues was valueless, it would definitely seem personal. But it doesn't seem valueless for me. When making informed judgement about which companies to throw in with, their process matters.

It's like MongoDB from days of yore. There was someone who reported a bug and the mongo team were jerks about it. I've specifically chosen not to use Mongo because of that interaction. Don't want my projects hinging on dev teams with good marketing sense but poor communication skills. Don't want my hardware depending on vendors who can't make nice with the FOSS community.

It is interesting, although not that surprising. Human languages are awfully imprecise means of communication. :)

I agree that sharing process is important, and your MongoDB example is a good one (not that I am short on reason to not use MongoDB).

However, I don't find the post to describe System76 processes beyond "there was email communication", and that progress towards a goal aligning with the author's preferences was suspended. The only thing I can conclude from it is that the author is in disagreement with System76.

From the format of the post, I would quite frankly be biased towards assuming that the problem lies with the post author. This assumption is of course not based on tangible evidence, which would require access to the email exchange to obtain.

Obviously we only heard one side of the story here, but from personal experience I can sympathise with him.

You're trying to work with that company, help them to use your platform. There might already be some personal attachment here if you really believe in the platform you created and take personal pride in every OEM hopping on board, but even if he just believes in the "greater good" of having this unified experience on Linux I can see how he wants this to happen.

Then there is Apparently some capable person at system76 who reverse engineered the proprietary updater they had to use before, and this is where things start going wrong. This is the part I have experienced personally on both sides. The system76 guy gets a great ego trip out of his achievements, somehow management/marketing hears about it and together they brainstorm how they can build their own independent update infrastructure. Marketing sees their unique selling point, dev sees exciting new things to create, feels like internet super hero, tells lvfs how shitty their whole approach to this is since super-dev has so much more insight into how this should be done properly.

I definitely agree how an achievement can cloud judgement and lead to something akin to an ego-trip. We've all been there.

However, two inputs to this. One is that it appears that S76 had to work to do in order to become compatible with LVFS, and ended up just extending this to the point where they had an updater. Two, I can't possibly imagine anyone considering a custom firmware updater a selling point, especially not at the cost of not getting the free labor of having someone else maintain both tools and infrastructure.

I kinda suspect we were dealing with a "Hmm, we could just sprinkle a bit of UI on this and then move on to other tasks", knowing that it was suboptimal, but not finding the issue important for the time schedule.

When I cut corners as a programmer at work, it's usually due to time constraints, priorities or annoying customers, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of developers and managers alike...

Did he attempt to reach out to them via email to get a status update? It doesn't sound like it, he just went straight to whining on a blog.

He was given a notification by System76 back in January that we were busy with moving into the new warehouse, hardware testing, and developing our 18.04 release. Getting our firmware to work with his tool is not a high priority.

The warning that I can't run any linux distro I want is pretty fair. The blog post so he doesn't have to write a new email each time is also fair.

He could have just said "I was working with System76 in April of last year on implementing LVFS but they went dark and shipped with a proprietary tool, I'm not sure what happened but I'm disappointed. If you're interested in running a distro other than what they're shipping you might want to consider a different OEM."

Instead he went over their email exchanges and trivialized the amount of work they need to invest to change systems and what they needed to do to rectify the situation. Oh but they're no need to apologize, just right the injustice.

He completely ignores the fact that they're a business with external motivators driving their decision (i.e. needed to ship, Meltdown, Spectre) and he just complains that they left him hanging.

Sure they could have sent him an email giving him a heads up on what was going on and why they were tabling the LVFS implementation but this sort of thing happens all the time in industry.

Yeah, this is fair. One nit-pick is that the System76 firmware tool is not proprietary at all; the blobs themselves are (just like almost every other consumer product), but the firmware updater is all completely open source. It's just not LVFS.

We hope to make this all a moot point with completely open firmware in the future, but that's a long and difficult road we're on.

Is afuefi now open source?

Nah, it is a passive-aggressive turn of phrase to try to make System76 look bad by being the "lesser" party.

It is the kind of crap one would expect from a project spawned of the Gnome camp...

How did:

> I don’t require an apology

Get turned into:

> [...] this demand for apology nonsense [...]

When someone says "you don't need to apologize" it implies an apology is customary/necessary given the situation but the wronged party has decided to forgo formalities and just wants to move past the wrong and move forward with making it right.

Richard basically says "you don't need to apologize, just implement LVFS". This implies that the wrong which necessitated an apology was not shipping LVFS which is not the case. The only apology they might owe him is for not notifying him of the reason why they chose not to ship LVFS after spending time with him investigating using it.

This situation is like spending the day with a car salesman and then leaving without buying a car when the salesman takes a potty break. Then the car salesman runs a TV commercial that says "<you> wasted my time. I don't need an apology though, just buy one of my cars."

He said he doesn't need apology, because someone at System76 had already apologized on the reditt thread.

If that's the case then the matter should be closed. System76 was under no obligation to ship with LVFS support and it slipped due to other constraints.

I've been reading through posts on Reddit seeing if I could get a better understanding of the timing of what happened, if anything it's worse now but it seems that Richard's principal contact at System76 held off on notifying him until the release was finalized and is no longer with the company. (https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/8i6swc/system76_and_...) It's unclear if he left before or after the release.

Judging by the all of the inaccuracies in Richard's blog post about the timing of announcements, nature of the application, and the platforms it supports, which all reflect poorly on System76 and benefit his argument; I'm inclined to agree that this is a FUD campaign to shame System76 into supporting LVFS. If you take into account his blog history of shaming companies (e.g. Razer), and his speaking about himself in the third person on reddit; Richard really sounds like a self important twat who is trying to strong arm everyone into using his software.

I'm currently using a System76 laptop, but it's for sure my last one. The build quality is pretty poor and the touchpad is so annoying that I disabled it. When the fan broke and had to be replaced I had to take over the shipping costs and replace it myself. While I don't matter replacing parts, I don't see why I have to pay for the shipping during the warranty. Now this article on top, I'll see if I can get rid of it quickly, I went back using my old Lenovo X230 again anyway.

I have two laptops for work, one of which is a System76 and both are currently running POP! OS (made by System76). I have had a few hiccups with the OS but nothing major.

I would say that I am very satisfied with S76. The 2 times I have had to contact them during the last 16 months or so have been good experiences, as well.

I bought a lemur in 2012 and had consistent issues with overheating that caused the laptop to shut off. Bought an external fan, but that helped very little.

Ended up buying a Macbook Pro.

I did use a gazelle at one of my jobs, and had fewer issues with that. In general though, I'd be extremely chary of buying system76 in the future. They're basically just rebranding generic Clevo laptops with very little value added imho. If I absolutely needed a Linux laptop I'd preferring dual-booting a Mac using rEFIt, buying a Dell XPS, or virtualizing.

I got a work laptop 5+ years ago, system76 and it was Rock solid and still works. Bought a home PC sys76 in 2016 also solid. Bought a new laptop 2 months ago, Onynx and doing great minus an issue with dual mini display port inputs on login (the displays shutoff on desktop dislpay and I have to open/close the laptop lid to redetect all attached displays...)

I've had 1 or 2 minor help request issues and they've always come through promptly.

Similar story here.

Got mine since 2010 or 2011. It's my only machine, is used daily and regularly, and works without issues.

That touchpad though; it does acquire sentience sometimes :) [I don't care, tbh; it's something I can easily tolerate from a small retailer doing Linux-only work, versus e.g. Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.]

My S76 laptop that I use for work has been solid in terms of functionality and reliability. I can't complain about those things. The overall build quality of the laptop is terrible. The touchpad is terrible and has poor fit and finish. The keyboard is terrible. The display is pretty decent, no complaints there. Thing is this machine cost around $1600, which is not cheap and puts it in a category where flaws like these are not acceptable. I like literally everything else about the company, and would want to support them on my next purchase, but they need to produce higher quality products at the price point.

Touchpads and linux is a very sad story in general. It would be great to see hardware, firmware and kernel driver deliver the same feel like Apple. However the current situation is Apple clearly being the market leader when it comes to trackpad quality.

Fun fact: my precision 3800 trackpad works way better on Fedora 27 than on windows 10. However, that is no match at all compared to a macbook pro.

Just curious, what laptop do you have? I'm always open to hearing constructive criticism like this, and it's something we've been more aggressively addressing with recent products. But I'd love to know which product it is so I can share that feedback with our team.

It's a gazelle, 4 core, 16GB, purchased just short of two years ago. Since you asked for feedback I'll be more specific: the touchpad plastic cover curls up at the front and has a sharp edge, the buttons are very thin, don't sit evenly, and have a very mushy feel. The keyboard is also mushy and has very poor feel. The joinery on the case is poor with unfinished sharp edges. The case/chassis itself is not stiff, flexes slightly and creaks when you pick it up one-handed for example. I use the laptop over vnc these days from another machine with monitors/keyboard/mouse so the issues don't affect me much, and performance wise I'm rather happy with it. Fwiw.

When I sent my ThinkPad X220 to Lenovo for service under warranty, they sent UPS to my house to pick it and sent it back to me via UPS. All for free.

For my ThinkPad x1 they came to the restaurant I was fixed it in like 3 minutes (had to replace the CPU fan), like a ninja. But I still cannot update the BIOS from Linux with the fwup, and fingerprint reader doesn't work. I had XPS 15 and if it wasn't because of the horrid coil whine I would have kept it. Their linux support is very good.

They still haven't fixed the coil whine? I've heard complaints about that since the first Dell XPS. Their forums were filled with them. Most reviews mentioned it. They used to even do motherboard replacements to fix it. Youd think their number one priority for their next-model power supply would be to eliminate that. No other manufacturer seems to have this issue.

It's a matter of luck.

We use XPS at work for all technical employees and only one laptop had coil wine issues, and we got it replaced.

Argh, I should've gotten mine fixed before the warranty expired.

Just got a new XPS 15 yesterday.

First, all the Linux installers I tried couldn't see the SSD, like, at all. I had to disable RAID support in the BIOS (I still don't understand WTF is RAID doing there provided there's only one disk). Then, no matter how I tried, it just refused to boot from UEFI. Then, when I enabled legacy boot in the BIOS and finally managed to make it boot into the system, it hung up when switching to graphics mode, screaming that "watchdog detected a hard/soft lockup on CPU". When I finally managed to have X running, it's apparently running on the CPU, and xdriinfo says there's no direct rendering support. It took me nearly 2 days to get kind-of-but-not-really usable system. I still can't adjust screen brightness (other than in BIOS...)

The last time I had this much trouble with installing Linux was back in the nineties. But hey, the HiDPI display is indeed beautiful.

The RAID thing is a Intel hack, iirc.

If you buy a T-series Thinkpad (probably also the X1), they will even send out technicians to your workplace or home with replacement parts - at least in Germany and I suppose a lot of other countries.

I love my x220 I use it everyday.

I've had my System76 Lemur for a couple years now and have had absolutely no problems with it.

I had the same experience with a fan in my System76 laptop, though I was a week or so out of warranty so I had to pay $40 and install it as well. That combined with an internal standoff in the corner breaking within the first month, causing the laptop to flex open like a book, really killed any confidence I had in their build quality.

Librem 13 is pretty good so far.

I just moved from my x230 (FHD mod, coreboot, and x220 keyboard) and the only thing I miss is the trackpoint so far.

Comparing it to galago pro 13", Librem 13 seems to be $200-$400 more expensive with half the memory. Is there something extra you get with Librem that you wouldn't get with a galago? Is it about the company, the hardware, the software, something else?

Asking out of actual curiosity. I'm not familiar with puri.sm

Not affiliated with system76 but I do own one of their laptops.

Yep, came here to recommend the Librem laptops. The hardware's not quite as high-spec, but their security + libre focus more than makes up for it.

That sounds like an awesome setup. Why'd you move? And are you selling your old x230? I'd be interested.

I also bought a lemur several years ago, paying ~$150 for customs for Canadian shipment (obviously not S76's fault).

Thought it was worth it because I was supporting a Linux-friendly company.

The laptop had constant fan noise issues and the touchpad stopped working after a year.

Now I use a fanless desktop mini pc that I found on AliExpress that has Ubuntu pre-installed. Life is much better now.

Where do you live? I'm pretty sure that is illegal in the EU

I think he lives in Singapore. Consumer protection rules there weren't great from what I remember, although I only tended to buy a few things for the office from Sim Lim square

There's also a response from someone at System76 here: https://plus.google.com/+CassidyJames/posts/RDKMJtGoX62

> Classy. That's a great, professional way to build relationships and really makes people want to work with you on your project.

That's.... not how this should be handled. Unsure this person's position, but if they're high enough to matter, that's not the position they should be taking here, regardless of their feelings on the matter.

They also didn't address the technical parts of the article besides saying "it will probably work though we haven't tested it". They didn't discuss the reason for the degradation of communication, nor the particulars of the decisions made, or even acknowledge the scenario the article outlined, instead talking about the author negatively.

It sounds like the "breakdown in communication" amounts to the LVFS maintainer not being informed, as everyone is naturally obliged to do so(!), that System76 were adopting a different strategy, and according to this reply due to a simple matter of commercial priority. Maintainer continues by indicating they do not require an apology, after all, everyone is obliged to inform them of all matters firmware!

I didn't like the attitude in the original post, and I can understand why there is a little spice in System76's reply. Recommending a competing laptop brand over an issue as trivial as an alternative BIOS update mechanism that doesn't match Microsoft's compliance requirements seems like seriously sour grapes.

It seems they expect System76 to invent an in-house firmware update system that does not use the official mechanism supplied by their chipset's support package, and somehow this is automatically a better outcome than what existed already.

Maintainer should be reminded that toiling for free (presumably) on an important subsystem grants no special rights or entitlements, and lashing out at a vendor because they didn't toe an ideal line looks very immature

edit: sadly maintainer isn't even working for free, they're a Red Hat employee

To be clear, I wasn't making a comment on the tone of the original author. I tend to agree with you about the tone, but that person is not a company and is therefore held to slightly different standards. As far as the Microsoft thing, my read of that was that it was a vehicle for saying "everyone else already does this, it's the norm and expectation of consumers, don't be weird and proprietary" rather than wanting to bring in anything about Windows or whatever, especially since the article was talking about Linux distros. I have no ponies in this race, but I found System76's response very poor.

For what it's worth, that was my personal response and not anything official or reviewed by System76 "the company." I try to retain a bit of autonomy while working for Sytem76.

I agree that my tone may have been a little unprofessional itself, and that's on me. It has just been a frustrating time trying to do what's best for both our customers and the Linux ecosystem at large, and then being raked across the coals for it with a misleading and seemingly emotional blog post from a core Red Hat desktop employee and high-profile GNOME contributor. It's just not a fun thing to wake up to when you're also actively working with the guy on his other projects and contributing to GNOME itself, you know?

We all get frustrated, I get it. I've found a good rule of thumb for those types of situations is thinking about how the post would look if you said "I work at $COMPANY and directly represent them". Even if you don't include that copy in your posts (which larger companies enforce, see the typical "I work at X" disclaimers all over HN), it helps frame how your post may be interpreted.

Yay drama! Why act like adults when we can squabble.

It sounds like the folks at System76 have a limited amount of resources available and this is not an immediate priority for them. That's understandable considering the last 6 months have been a security shit show. I mean sure why not overhaul your firmware delivery system on top of everything else?

It also sounds like Richard is butt hurt that they didn't notify him of their priorities. And so he passive aggressively wrote a public blog post trivializing the amount of effort it was going to take to switch and then advised people not to purchase their products. That's kind of petty.

I find it really insulting when someone tells me how long it will take me to do something without knowing what constraints I'm forced to work under, so the "just a few hours" remarks annoyed me.

I don't see him talking about the closed source flashing tool afuefi, which seemed to be the reason for the hickup in working together.

Richard's post made it clear that they didn't need to use it, they should be able to use UpdateCapsule.

As someone who've never heard of LVFS or System76, this response seems to be a bit unprofessional to me. He opens and ends with passive-aggressiveness, he points to 2 tweets as if saying "How did you not see these 2 tweets!" Well okay one of them is his reply to the original blog poster's reply to another thread, but a random non-commital tweet after several months of radio silence seems unprofessional too.

Aah System76. I had a terrible experience with their keyboard back in 2012 and they just said they can send a replacement keyboard but would not refund because as a consumer, it is my responsibility to install a new keyboard even though it was their fault. So I had to figure out how to become a technician, rip open the faulty keyboard and try and install the new one. Looks like they have not changed much. Good riddance.

That sounds fantastic provided the keyboard is easy to replace, or easy enough for a local technician, no need to ship the whole laptop around the country (ow world) and have it formatted by useless OEM tech support.

The fact that they ship replacement parts at all puts them above most OEM's who don't believe you have the right to repair your own machine.

They should have never had to ship replacement keyboards at all. I had the same laptop, and the keyboard it shipped with was horribly unusable. For many keys you could only expect it to register a keypress around 80% of the time. This wasn't a case of fixing a damaged part, this was a case of shockingly bad design and QA followed by ignoring customers for months. OP had every right to be annoyed that they made him install his own keyboard. System76 absolutely should have paid to have its defective product fully repaired if that's what the customer desired.

System76 tech support here. One of our primary principles is empowerment and enablement. I strive to teach, support, and educate individuals on Linux and hardware maintenance. We tend to have individuals handle minor repairs, as shipping a whole laptop is time consuming and exposes the hardware to the additional possibility of shipping damage or other loss. At any point in time, we are more than happy to bring a computer in and do the repair work. Unless otherwise requested, keeping a computer with an individual tends to be the best, as it allows the computer to continue to be used until the replacement part arrives.

Using "empowerment and enablement" as an excuse for not doing the repair during warranty is not acceptable.

Why would I want to repair a computer in warranty if I could instead spend time with my friends?

If not in warranty, I of course would appreciate manuals' and spare parts' availability.

But those are two very different kind of situations.

As I indicated:

"At any point in time, we are more than happy to bring a computer in and do the repair work."

No one has to do the repair work if they don't want to!

That's good to know. What does your support look like? Do you send me a loaner? How long does it normally take you to do repairs?

Cut the marketing slang please

System76 has a littered history with firmware updates and drivers, especially for a company that brands itself as a specialist in Linux systems. If you're paying that premium in hopes you'll get a fully working system without quirks, be prepared for disappointment. I have had better luck with simply buying the most popular laptop since it's more likely to be working correctly without hours of configurations.

> If you're paying that premium in hopes you'll get a fully working system without quirks, be prepared for disappointment. I have had better luck with simply buying the most popular laptop since it's more likely to be working correctly without hours of configurations.

I disagree. I buy from, for example, ThinkPenguin, precisely because they've vetted the systems and I'm confident they will "just work" if I do a fresh reinstall.

I'm not saying it's impossible or unwanted, just my experience with System76 and my friends had similar problems.

yes, agreed completely. In general I've come to this conclusion: avoid buying hardware from small/lesser-known companies if possible. It doesn't matter how cool their tech is - what I'm sacrificing is not worth it. Every time, I'm missing build quality, support, and an online community that has already gone through and found solutions to most of the major issues.

I find it hard to imagine a situation where a s76 laptop can do something that a Dell XPS can't.

What premium are you paying? I never found that System76 products were that expensive. I owned one a while ago. It lasted 6 years and was still working when I replaced it.

Mainly comparing what you can get for a similar price in terms of CPU speed and memory size for half the cost. Their $920 laptop compares to a $500 Dell. In theory this is worth it because you're paying for that awesome Linux integration, but in practice more people buy the Dell laptop so more people are invested in making it work for daily use.

> In theory this is worth it because you're paying for that awesome Linux integration

Dell's hardware generally works quite well with Linux. Since 2014, I've bought two desktops and two laptops from Dell, and everything has worked out of the box with the Linux distributions I've tried. My employer bought a new desktop computer for me from Dell with Ubuntu installed. There's no need to pay a premium.

+1 For Dell. Their hardware isn't the best but I've never had a problem running GNU/Linux on my XPS.

Their cheapest laptop costs $1000, which is Macbook money, which is a premium-priced product.

A 13" Macbook Pro as well as a Macbook (without Pro) start at $1,300 nowadays, which is 30% more than you are suggesting. 15" MBPs start at $2,400, which is 140% more.

They are often on sale however at e.g. MicroCenter.com , where the base MacBook Air is selling for $799 .

To be honest these are premium prices: https://system76.com/laptops

Those are prices I'm comfortable paying for a ThinkPad, XPS, or Macbook. And all of them run a Unix variant (Linux or MacOS) very well. System76 needs to be offering similar levels of build quality and support for those systems to be worthwhile.

They are not offering the same level of build quality. Not by a long shot. At my last company we started with System76 for both desktops and laptops, but ended up switching to Dell for laptops and Exxact for desktops.

The System76 machines are also just Clevo laptops that are rebranded and sold. You're literally paying a "premium" for them to install a working version of linux and offer support on top.

Yeah, that's what I've heard. I don't have firsthand experience with their laptops, but I have no reason to expect (and many reasons to doubt, based on reports here) that they match up to the others in their price class.

System76 tech support here. An important part of comparing prices between two products is to make sure to make apples to apples comparisons. Our pricing includes a couple of value-adds that our competitor's do not.

First, all of our computers come with lifetime technical support. Me and my team are readily accessible both via the phone and our support system, for as long as you own the product. We not only support the Ubuntu and Pop! operating systems, and all of their software components, but we also help with printers, installed software, hardware issues, network configuration, and everything that comes our way. Few competitors will teach and educate and help in the ways that we do.

Next, all of our products also support our engineering efforts in the Linux community. Many desktop bugs and issues that we discover and fix affect every Linux user. For instance, NVMe drives had been around for a few years, but it was our engineer that found the GRUB install bug that prevented automatic installation on those drives due to a regex error with handing /dev/sda vs. /dev/nvme0n1. That fix was incorporated in Debian, Red Hat, and every other version of Linux that used the GRUB bootloader. The work we put into our operating system benefits all users in many cases. Buying our products means that when we discover bugs in the operating system, we can get them addressed quickly and effectively without waiting to deliver patches.

OK, I guess based on the downvotes people mostly think that these are premium prices. I honestly thought it was in the average range for the given specs.

From the System76 reply (emphasis mine):

> LVFS is neat and we'd love to use it. We also have a couple of constraints that make that difficult: licensing/legal constraints imposed on us, plus time/effort constraints due to everything else going on.

...ok, that means there's non-free software in their machines, right?

Yes, just like every consumer computer at this point. But we're working on that. ;)

The lesson here is that your devs were not up front about that with the LVFS guys and the fallout got negative enough to go public. Keep trying! Somebody's got to do it. :)

No opinions on how anyone should update firmware but I just wanted to chime in that I bought a fairly expensive System76 laptop in 2011 and was very disappointed with how rough & clunky it was.

System76 is actually re-selling unbranded Sager/Clevo base models, customized to work smoothly with Linux. I believe there was talk from them about getting their own manufacturing up, but last I knew, that wasn't online.

Whether the Linux customization is enough value-add is your call, but that's how all of these companies work.

I always thought their early products looked rough and clunky, which has held me off their products. Their new Oryx Pro seems like a step in the right direction, though.

Their firmware updates are just straight up not working for me on my work laptop. To be fair, I've had zero gripes with how this machine has worked so far (got it about a year ago), and it's probably still the best computer I've gotten to work on. But it keeps prompting me with the same firmware update - one that supposedly disables Intel ME, a feature I definitely want disabled. But when I run the update it just prompts me a few days later to run the same update again. So I'm not at all surprised to learn that this is a proprietary system.

System76 support here. One of the important final steps to the firmware update is that 'load setup defaults' needs to be issued manually in the BIOS. The hardware has a limitation that even after we apply the new firmware, the settings have to applied by a manual step. This is written out in the firmware flashing steps, but it's still easy to miss! Please 'load setup defaults' in the exit tab of the BIOS (F2 on boot), at which time the Intel Management Engine will be fully disabled, and future firmware prompts will cease. If you are still getting the prompt, please reach out at support.system76.com and we will help further!

Hrm, that's strange and I haven't heard that being a widespread issue; thousands of customers have updated without issue. I'd open a support case so someone can get that sorted out for you.

So what distributions actually use LVFS? I vaguely recognize the name.

The website mentions the GNOME Software center and automatically installing everything. Does it work through the package manager (apt, etc.) similar to the proprietary driver installer in Ubuntu, or does it just automatically do its own thing?

In last few days, I actually wanted to order powerful laptop from System76. I want laptop with strong GPU (e.g. Nvidia) that will run Linux very well.

Aside from System76, can anybody recommend powerful laptop fully compatible with Linux?

Of course, I can buy any laptop with several GPUs and install some Linux distribution. But I don't want to spend 4000 USD and then discover that some hardware isn't supported.

P.S. This time, I really don't understand why my comment is being downvoted.

Dell sells several workstation models with powerful GPUs and Linux preinstalled. If you don't need CUDA specifically AMD has much better Linux drivers than NVIDIA these days.


AMD has much better drivers? Which? The open source ones? The binary blob ones? Compared to which nvidia drivers?

I've been tracking this for some time and whenever I look the nvidia binary driver is the gold standard, intel is close, and amd's binary blob is a distant (and problematic) 3rd. So bad game reviews on linux often put a "doesn't work" in the AMD column.

I recommend phoronix as source for anything linux graphics driver related: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=category&item=Display...

I have a System 76 Galago Pro, which I absolutely love. However, the battery died, which required warranty replacement and a firmware update. But, I’m still happy with my purchase. The laptop’s features all work well under Linux, which may or may not be the case for other vendors. The only other gripe I had was that the screen was almost unreadable when I received the laptop due to tiny desktop fonts, which I was able to fix somehiw, perhaps through GNOME settings.

I've looked into linux laptops for a bit. It seems there isn't a great resource about which laptops work well with linux and which don't. There are so many models, I imagine that is the problem.

From my poking around a bit, It seems the Dell xps series (it can come with linux preinstalled), many ThinkPads and some HP machines play nice with many distributions. Wifi cards can (still) be a bit of a pain point.

Can I recommend the Dell precision 5520? Dedicated GPU, up to 32gb ram and sold with Ubuntu.

I buy from ThinkPenguin and am very happy with them, but I don't know how their GPUs compare to other systems. They sell fully-compatible systems.

I don't recall where I first heard of them, but I see they're listed at https://www.gnu.org/links/non-ryf.html .

I'd prefer Purism laptops, but they don't have any Ryzen+Vega options.

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