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System76 on US Manufacturing and Open Hardware (system76.com)
404 points by reddotX 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments

I'm very excited for this. I have a pretty nasty love/hate relationship with my personal Thinkpad P51. It's a fantastic device on paper, and the build quality is great to match, but... I try to boot Linux and I remember why Linus once gave Nvidia the finger all over again. Even on Thinkpad, issues you wouldn't see with nearly any Linux desktop system crop up when Optimus is thrown into the mix. Nouveau actually outperforms proprietary Nvidia drivers in certain circumstances, which had me extraordinarily confused.

It would be nice to boot into a laptop actually designed to use Linux from the ground up. And I don't mean what Dell does - I'm grateful for what they do, but I really want unmodified Linux to work as well on my laptop as it does on nearly any desktop I've built. System76, with both properties that they are going open with firmware and designs, AND building entirely for Linux, seems perfect to me.

I wonder a lot about their stated goal of a completely open compute platform. Sure, there's ISAs like RISC-V on the horizon, but I get the feeling many components like GPUs are quite far away from having open source equivalents that can act as drop-in replacements. There's a whole lot more than raw computation in modern CPUs and certainly more in the motherboard. Id still be moderately pleased with a "mostly" open platform, which is better than today where your choices are basically Lemote Yeeloong or something useful but nearly entirely closed off.

I don't understand your assertion that unmodified Linux does not work "as well as on any desktop" on Dell laptops. I'm typing this on an XPS 13 9343, running the mainline Linux kernel from the Arch Linux repositories, and everything works flawlessly out of the box (WiFi, Bluetooth, touchpad, audio, OpenGL, webcam, extremely low power consumption, etc). To be fair, kernel patches were necessary to fix some issues with the behaviour of the sound card when the laptop was new, but right now everything as reliable is as you can hope for. Granted, it only has Intel's built-in GPU, but that is more than enough for what I do on this machine.

Another thing I really like about Dell is that their products are designed to be repairable. The service manuals for their computers are freely available online[1] and even private customers can buy replacement parts directly from them. I've replaced the keyboard and the hinges on the screen before, and soon I will get a fresh battery to extend the life of this lovely machine even longer.

[1] e.g. for my laptop: https://downloads.dell.com/manuals/all-products/esuprt_lapto...

Mainline Linux eventually works on Dell laptops, like most vendors, but I've learned the hard way that this is far from guaranteed and out of the gate most laptops that come with Linux (not just Dell) are modified.

You can see the disclaimer that Ubuntu puts on all their certifications:


.. Which may well not apply to this laptop in particular, but it absolutely applies to laptops I've used.

Notably absent from the certification list is the XPS 15, which is sad because personally it's the one I'd want. From what I've seen of Linux running on XPS 15, it isn't great, though it is "functional."

Typing from my dell xps 15... what "isn't great" about it?

I bought a 9343 XPS 13 on release and it was horrible. Overtime it got better, but on first boot here is a list of issues it had:

* Resume from suspend didn't work and often left machines in an usable state. Relatively simple workaround was to disable suspend but definitely caught you off guard the first couple times.

* Keyboard would insert multiple characters per key press. This made the machine unusable without an external keyboard.

* There was a null pointer issue in the WiFi driver so if you were connected to WiFi but tried to switch networks it would trigger a full blown kernel panic. Workaround was to buy a USB -> Ethernet adapter so you could line in your network.

* Track pad issues to the point that the laptop required an external mouse.

I don't know if I remember all of the issues, but you can dig through the Dell Sputnik forum to find all sorts of old forum posts about issues...here is one from my own post history:


I spent a lot of time reporting, debugging, fixing, and helping other users try to fix issues in the early days.

In Dell's defense, they upstreamed the fixes so fixing a lot of the issues like resume from suspend and the keyboard was as simple as updating kernels. Additionally, the null pointer WiFi driver bug was fixed in a subsequent driver release.

But these changes didn't get included until several kernel releases later and the only way to unbrick/make the laptop usable was to hotfix/upgrade your kernel to an unstable version. But for a $1500+ laptop to come out of the box in an unusable state was extremely painful for early adopters. And I would say that my experience was far from perfect.

Sounds like they have improved greatly and I am still a tremendous supporter of the Sputnik effort at Dell (and overall fan)...but I (personally) wouldn't dismiss people's comments about it being imperfect.

that list reads like my typical woes with MS Windows... half the time or more they're caused by the hardware, not the software: ask anyone who does device driver programming.

back in the day (Windows XP era) i bought components and built a gaming computer, nothing extravagant but Windows, because games. there was a very narrow window between the newly installed vanilla OS booting up and BSODing. the problem disappeared once i managed to install drivers from the CD that came with the motherboard (had to act quick before the BSOD would hit).

hardware is crap.

    commit 277918494930ec3fb0c7fdbd4d35060a3bc6d181
    Author: imp <imp@FreeBSD.org>
    Date:   Thu Oct 25 17:17:11 2018 +0000

        Update comment for AMI00[12]0 override.
        The AML is even stupider than always returning 0. It will only return
        non-zero for an OS that reports itself as "Windows 2015", at least
        on the Threadripper board's AML that I've examined.
        Those AMLs also suggest we may need this quirk for AMI0030 as well.
        There may be other cases where we need to override the _STA in a
        generic way, so we should consider writing code to do that.

    diff --git a/sys/dev/acpica/acpi.c b/sys/dev/acpica/acpi.c
    index 515370d5584..bed7ecd411c 100644
    --- a/sys/dev/acpica/acpi.c
    +++ b/sys/dev/acpica/acpi.c
    @@ -2222,10 +2222,10 @@ acpi_DeviceIsPresent(device_t dev)
            status = acpi_GetInteger(h, "_STA", &s);
    -        * Onboard serial ports on certain AMD motherboards have an invalid _STA
    -        * method that always returns 0.  Force them to always be treated as present.
    -        *
    -        * This may solely be a quirk of a preproduction BIOS.
    +        * Certain Treadripper boards always returns 0 for FreeBSD because it
    +        * only returns non-zero for the OS string "Windows 2015". Otherwise it
    +        * will return zero. Force them to always be treated as present.
    +        * Beata versions were worse: they always returned 0.
            if (acpi_MatchHid(h, "AMDI0020") || acpi_MatchHid(h, "AMDI0010"))
                    return (TRUE);

The laptop I witnessed had issues with sleep and resume (simply didn't work out of the box, sometimes wouldn't resume and other times would resume inappropriately and overheat in a bag) and very bad issues with audio. It was a coworkers laptop and they gave up after a while.

    > > I really want unmodified Linux to work as well on my laptop as it does on nearly any desktop I've built.
    > I don't understand your assertion ... everything works flawlessly out of the box ... To be fair, kernel patches were necessary to fix some issues ...
'needs kernel patches' != 'unmodified'

> And I don't mean what Dell does - I'm grateful for what they do, but I really want unmodified Linux to work as well on my laptop as it does on nearly any desktop I've built

While I'm very happy to see the work System76 are doing, I don't think this characterization of Dell is quite right. I'm typing this comment on a Precision 5510 that runs Arch flawlessly. It runs Arch flawlessly because it's not burdened with NVidia graphics -- I can well imagine that would be a nightmare, as I have to deal with NVidia's terrible hardware on several workstations.

Avoid Optimus like a plague if you are using Linux. There are quite decent Thinkpads with Ryzen/Vega APUs these days (like A485) which should work fine with upstream kernel and Mesa. But of course it's still Lenovo, so various blobs like UEFI remain.

While I agree generally on most distros, it works really well with Arch and is pretty easy to setup:

- https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/NVIDIA_Optimus

- https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PRIME

Nvidia blob doesn't really support PRIME properly. You can't use integrated GPU (Intel) to run your DE, while offloading specific heavy tasks to discrete one (Nvidia) which is kind of the main point. If you want to use PRIME, stick to AMD / Mesa.

Are you sure about that? I could swear when I was running Arch the DE was using my Intel GPU. I used either optirun or primusrun to use the Nvidia GPU. Granted, it was a pain to setup and I never could figure out why HDMI connected to a monitor would not work but was fine with a TV.

> I used either optirun or primusrun

Neither is PRIME. PRIME would mean doing something like:

    DRI_PRIME=1 glxinfo
Which will run it on one GPU, and display through another. Bumblebee is a workaround for this mess, not a proper upstream solution.

I have two system with integrated and discrete GPUs:

1. Intel Haswell + AMD RX460 (Desktop)

2. Intel Haswell + Nvidia GT750M (XPS 15 9530; Arch Linux)

Ultimately, I switched to using the discrete GPU on both systems.

Desktop: PRIME with Intel + AMD worked quite well (even with Steam applications running on the AMD GPU while the desktop was running on the Intel chip), but every now and then it caused the system to freeze, which was the reason I turned it off again :-/ Maybe I will try it again sometime in the future. But putting the additional energy costs aside, running the system exclusively on the AMD GPU is just fine (stable System + enough 3D performance for most games).

Laptop: Since nouveau had still the frequency issues last time I checked, I was mostly using the Intel GPU. Someday I was fed up with not being able to try any fancy new machine learning/neuronal network/CUDA based examples that I decided to install the proprietary Nvidia driver. I don't know what it is, but for me, the experience with the open source drivers feels much better (maybe the broken v-sync with the proprietary driver?!?). Every single time I come in contact with the Nvidia driver I wish that damn company would either die or provide (or at least support) open source drivers (and I don't really care about the license that much, the open source drivers just have a quality the proprietary ones lack).

Arch Linux is nearly entirely unusable with this Thinkpad, which is a shame since that's my distro of choice usually. I fiddled with drivers for a good while but was getting severe issues hanging with proprietary Nvidia, and Nouveau simply crashed on boot. I'm currently on Fedora, which is one of the few distros that seemed to work without crashing all the time.

Most painless config for me is to enable Nvidia only when I really need it. Say when I need to run a graphic-heavy application I spawn up a new X11 process running atop Nvidia drivers. For daily stuffs, I stick with Intel drivers

I got Arch working fine on a Thinkpad with a GTX 900m series card. I just followed the guide for bumblebee. This was a good number of years ago though, but it still works with updates and all

When did support for the APUs get added to the kernel? My wife got fed up with Windows a couple of years ago, and I tried to set up a dual boot on her HP laptop, but Ubuntu wouldn't display anything above 800x600. The best I could tell was that there just wasn't support (at the time) for her AMD APU, but I can't remember which model it was. All the drivers I found on the AMD website only officially supported 14.04, but even 14.04 wouldn't recognize the proper screen resolutions. I've been meaning to try again since 18.04 was released (or at least see if anything had been added to the kernel), but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Fingers crossed...

Depends on which APU you have and which features you need. The latest Raven Ridge APUs had stability problems until 4.17, anything older should work on 18.04 which ships 4.15. HDMI/Displayport audio support for the older models landed in 4.15 but wasn't enabled by default until 4.17, so in 4.15-4.16 you have to pass the amdgpu.dc=1 kernel parameter for it work.

I recommend 4.19+ if you are planning to use one with Vega. Anything lower will have problems.

Don't use drivers from AMD site, use upstream kernel and latest Mesa release.

I have the A485, Windows is oddly a shit show with drivers. But linux is great with Arch and proton gaming. With the fat battery, it has great battery to boot

I will say Ryzen APU is very janky. The new model should be coming soon. Though it took a year and half for the first mobile apus to become obtainable.

> The new model should be coming soon.

Do you mean ones with Zen 2 / Navi? It might take a while, CPUs and GPUs aren't even out yet.

Not zen 2 / navi. There were some possible kernel patches for zen+ apu. There was a refresh coming for the desktop apus. I can't recall the name though. AMD has been really quite on the mobile front though :\

I see, thanks!

For a GPU we might get something based on RISC-V but not open source. That would already be a huge improvement if that was based on the RISC-V Vector ISA.

Esperanto systems will sell an IP core called ET-Graphics that should be able to handle a laptop workload.

The question is just if somebody will actually build end-user computer with that product. Its designed for machine learning after all and that is their core business.

> And I don't mean what Dell does - I'm grateful for what they do, but I really want unmodified Linux to work as well on my laptop as it does on nearly any desktop I've built.

Maybe I've been lucky, but over the last few years my rule has been "buy Dell" and Linux has just worked without any modifications. That includes laptops and desktops (I've replaced everything at home for everyone and at work) and I've never had problems.

This was the biggest pain point to me when looking for a new laptop. I wanted something where I could game after a day on the road lightly But no NVIDIA, It doesn't help AMD has subpar graphics performance per watt compared tt pascal.

I will say all my intel thinkpads were flawless with arch. My new a485(ryzen apu) is almost there

Speaking of System76, my 2011 Gazelle Pro has Nvidia graphics. It's never worked right, and is the only problem I've had. (Actually, it's a Sager Clevo.)

un-modified linux works fine on my xps 13 9360

I can throw basically any distro (at least anything that's fresher than debian stable) on it and all the hardware works out of the box

a laptop with open firmware would certainly be nice though

> Then we tried finding factory space in Colorado. That was much harder than expected and it took a full year.

This is amongst the things stacked against people trying to do business in the UK. I know a distributor that wanted a small warehouse with office space. They had the capital to buy and build. But in the ex- industrial that land of the UK no land could be found, despite the acres of tumble down old factories! There is a government controlled project for anyone wanting to build a huge factory, but nothing smaller.

One of the problems in the UK is land-banking and a tax system that encourages you to invest in land and leave it as wasteground.

I've experienced the same for office space in two countries. A kindly and clueful real-estate person eventually explained that small deals aren't worthwhile, sorry about that, no insult intended.

We are talking $70-80k a year in rent... But judging by the enormous warehouses down the road, only running a supermarket distribution hub is viable.

They were likely working for proximity to some location, or on price. Large city centers are the only really constrained spaces in the US. Most places have land available that comes with tax benefits for businesses.

In my example it was proximity as in 'same city' and price was not the limiting factor. No-one would sell the land. Of course in the US you have a lot more land to go at!

> UK is land-banking and a tax system that encourages you to invest in land and leave it as wasteground.

How and why does that work?

A good summary: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jan/31/britain-land-...

The Guardian argues that it's effectively cartelisation of building land by restricting the rate of building. There is a discussion of whether or not planning permission is a limiting factor - I think this is the main reason why you get almost no individual building in the UK, it's a lot of work to get the approvals so it's only worth doing on a big site for lots of houses.

There's no regular tax on unused land, and there is a tax on selling it, so there's a big incentive to just sit on it. I'd much rather see those two positions reversed. Not to mention the whole pseudo-property-tax system for funding local government needs drastic reform.

The ironic thing is that land bankers appear to do a useful service in that context - they go through the approval to 'process' the input land into something more valuable - land that is preapproved to build on. Of course that it is so valuable is in itself symptomatic of a larger dysfunction. In a more functioning system it should give far more modest returns since developers would have an option to do it themselves and cut out the middleman. It suggests that the process should be far more streamlined if possible and more broad in use permission categories when possible.

There are valid discussions to be had and due diligence involved in investigating the fitness of land for given purposes - it is more appropriate to use a heavy metal contaminated site for a garbage dump or factory than farm or residential for instance and industrial processes at risk of explosion shouldn't be kept near residences and schools.

I could see unused land being a tax break having some utility if there is some positive externality to it - especially if left accessible. Say that if you have some woods at the fringe of your property you could get some degree of property tax relief since keeping some wilderness does larger service to the environment. A derlict brownfield site however should have no bonus - it serves society best to get rid of it as soon as practical. This tax-break land could be developed if it is more lucrative to buy it and do so. The two could combine in a form of urban renewal incentives by at least encouraging landowners to clean up after themselves by transforming abandoned buildings to greenfield or parkland for tax purposes.

That is a good summary.

In terms of commercial property, in the UK a landlord will have to pay property rates on an empty factory or office related to a theoretical rental value. If you take a piece of wasteground and build a skyscraper on it you will be liable for the rates on all of the offices you can't rent out. This means developing comes with a risk.

This in my view is a good arguement for Land Value Tax, where you would be paying an amount based on the unimproved value of the land. If you put the land to good use you are not penalised.

A lot of commercial property in my part of the UK is owned by the Regional Development Agency, which are EU funded bodies that help regions attract investment. This would seem to suggest that the commercial realities of owning a warehouse are tough.

I wouldn't trust the Guardian alone.

Which information in the linked article was incorrect?

Do you have another source you could share with us?

Yep people often blame wages as the reason company off shore manufacturing and other jobs. Wage however are only a small factor

Government Bureaucracy and red tape is more often the cause than anything else.

There isn't that much red tape in the UK - it's a myth that there is.

> This is amongst the things stacked against people trying to do business in the UK

And yet the UK is generally thought to be far friendlier to business than say, France or Germany, isn't it? I know that when I set up a business in the UK it took a few days and cost a couple of hundred quid, which compares pretty well to many other countries, as I understand it.

>We’ll continue to open source more functionality. Eventually, all that will be left are proprietary hardware initialization bits and convincing Intel and AMD to open up there. We think there’s reason for optimism. Intel contributes lots of code to Linux and AMD graphics drivers are open source already. Maybe open hardware is next for them. Let’s keep pushing.

Even if AMD would like to, they probably could not because of cross-licensing.



At our facility, we take in US-sourced sheet metal, aluminum extrusions, and other raw materials. ... We use components that we source outside the US, like the motherboard, memory, and drives.

So these guys just make the case.

What's the point? You're not going to get a more secure machine that way.

Over on Phoronix, folks seem to have been much more excited about the Talos II by Raptor Computing Systems. They come with IBM POWER9 CPUs.

"The Talos™ II mainboard is the first modern (post-2013), owner-controllable, workstation- and enterprise-class mainboard. Built around the brand-new IBM POWER9 processor, and leveraging Linux and OpenPOWER™ technology, Talos™ II allows you to secure your data without sacrificing performance. Designed with a fully owner-controlled CPU domain, you can audit and modify any portion of the open source firmware on the Talos™ II mainboard, all the way down to the CPU microcode. This is an unprecedented level of access for any modern workstation- or enterprise-class machine, and one that is increasingly needed to assure safety and compliance with new regulations, such as the EU's GDPR. "


While also not 100% open, it sounds like a lot more important bits are.

The Talos machines sure are pricey though.

People claim to want open hardware and the security you get from not being forced to trust a variety of companies. But then when it's time to put their money down suddenly freedom is too expensive. This is exactly why we've arrived in this position in the first place.

Talos is following the Tesla Master Plan. You can't afford a Tesla Roadster? That's fine, the people who can will buy it, that covers the R&D and the next model will be cheaper.

Talos machines are large workstations. Much of the System 76 business, and much of the "daily computing" is now laptops. I don't think a laptop with a Power9 would make sense, even if the system could be crammed into a laptop-ish case.

I may sound like a broken record, but I'm hoping for a laptop with NXP's iMX8M. The same SoC that will be in Purism Libre 5. Mainline kernel with open source GPU drivers. Etnaviv may need more work, but with more hardware available it will be easier, as more work could be shared.

I've not heard of Purism before. Have you ever owned any of their products and how was your experience?

I have their latest Librem 13.

I bought the base model and upgraded it with 16gb of RAM (wish I could have done 32gb), 1TB NVMe, and a 1TB SATA SSD.

So far it is great. I've been using it as my daily driver for about 6 months with Manjaro. I get about 8 hours of battery life unless I'm running my Windows VM needed for some work tasks. Otherwise it's just firefox, slack-cli, thunderbird, and webstorm.

If anyone from System76 is reading this thread, I just want you to know that the Oryx Pro is my endgame -- I plan to buy it ASAP replace my desktop and laptop as soon as I can get my hands on one.

I am a stan of your business.

How well does it run non-Ubuntu distros? I only run Debian these days — been burnt too many times by Ubuntu.

I don't know because I haven't bought one, but I do know they run their own distro called Pop_OS[0] which is improved ubuntu (with likely impeccable support for their hardware).

That in-and-of-itself is a pretty impressive investment to me, but I would probably take it off and put arch on it. Honestly I am not too worried, it seems like I can actually call them for support/file bugs/ask for technical help if I actually came across an issue -- surely someone over there knows something if they want to maintain their own distro.

[0]: https://system76.com/pop

I've been running Pop for about 6 months now and it's been fantastic.

It's the first Linux distro that I've been able to run full-time, after trying the main Ubuntu distro for 6+ years with VMs and dual-booting.

Beyond its stability and compatibility with Nvidia hardware, its design is pretty and touch-friendly.

Thanks for the comments on this, I'm generally skeptical with these things... my only linux desktop is currently running Elementary, which I've liked a lot, but nice hardware support will be great. Still running a late 2014 (iirc) rMBP for my laptop, may swap out late next year or the year after.

I'm tired of the stuff Apple pulls, so would be nice to see a good/supported linux distro for hardware. I've been bitten too many times trying to maintain Linux on a primary desktop/laptop (hackintosh has been easier for me).

The good to hear. I was kind of skeptical at first of it, and the name doesn't really help. But I liked their stated goals for it.

Looks like Gnome3 with a flatter theme. That's fine, but a few of their design choices still grate on me enough to use Mate.

I have one and it's an abdolute beast.

Could you comment on the amount of sound it makes/how notable it is? Maybe with a decibel meter app or something?

I found a review here: https://www.linuxjournal.com/content/review-system76-oryx-pr...

No mention of machine noise, just that the speakers were not impressive.

It varies alot, it's noticably loud when the GPU is enabled, when I'm on integrated graphics it's usually not noticable.

well i would prefer some docking stations instead of what they offer. (and a usb-c loading cable)

I hear this, but honestly the fact that they have enough graphical power and the ports to power two monitors is enough to put the oryx pro in a category of it's own.

I looked around for a bit and no other company had the combination of ports, dual monitor support, OS alignment, ridiculously powerful specs, and price (even if it's kinda high).

The only thing that could possibly put me off is reliability or maybe weight/bulkiness, but it's almost an ultrabook form factor.

>> the ports to power two monitors

That is great but the problem is having to connect Monitor cables, keyboard cables, Power Cables, etc each time you want to travel

a Dock / Port replicator provide all of those things in a Single Cable or bottom mount connection

This it what separates Business Laptops from Consumer Laptops, until System 76 has that they will for ever be a Consumer device not a Business Device.

Yeah but if you leave these cables on your desk, that's like... <5 minutes of connecting/disconnecting every time you want to move. Most good docks will have a disconnect button which you at least have to press as well. Again I agree it's inconvenient to not have this, but if that's what "business device" means I don't think that distinction is important (at least not to me). When I think of "business device" I think of portability and power -- "workstations", not necessarily whether they have docks/port replicators.

I also think that this issue is a knock against the product I'm infaturated with (Oryx Pro) but more the surrounding ecosystem -- surely some vendors will pop up (if not System76 themselves) to remedy this.

>>means I don't think that distinction is important (at least not to me).

and you would be in the minority of business users. We had major issues with Lenovo discontinued the Bottom mount connector and moved to a cable based unit, users complained ALOT about having to plug in a single cable.

>if that's what "business device" means

It is not the only factor but it is a factor

>. When I think of "business device" I think of portability and power -- "workstations", not necessarily whether they have docks/port replicators.

No, portable workstations are a class of unit all to their self, most portable workstations are "business class" however

Business or Enterprise vs Consumer is

Dell Latitude Line (Enterprise) vs Dell Precision (Consumer)

ThinkPad branded (Enterprise) vs Lenovo Branded (Consumer)

Generally speaking the consumer products do not have enterprise features including docks, hardware /driver standardization / deployment packs, cheaper in build quality, and a variety of other things that make them enterprise systems

"<5 minutes of connecting/disconnecting every time you want to move."

Seriously? I'm looking for <5 seconds.

5 minutes was me being very very generous for the sake of argument. Normally it should take an able bodied person <10 seconds to shut a laptop lid and unplug 3 cables that are sitting prominently on the desk.

I think it's safe to say we differ here, and that's fine. No the Oryx Pro doesn't have a enterprise-grade dock/port replicator yet. If that's a deal-breaker then that's that, for now at least.

Speak for yourself. My ThinkPad has 2x DVI, 1x Ethernet, 1x charger, 5x USB, 1x audio connected to the dock. It's a pain and quite a bit more than a few seconds to connect disconnect every time vs pressing the eject button.

> The only thing that could possibly put me off is reliability

I'd be curious to know what the noise is like. One of the ways the MBP spoils you is by being almost completely silent most of the time.

I don't know what you do with your MBP but this is absolutely not the case I've seen on any of our machines at work (if you do any sort of container work). The fans are running 50% of the time.

If you think post-2012 MBP fans are noisy, you should try a Dell - you'd go insane after a day.

As long as you don't run in clamshell mode (which kills airflow) and have reasonably powerful models, MBP fans are usually little more than a gentle whirr when the system is a bit taxed. The big Dell models seem vacuum cleaners in comparison.

I use mostly Jetbrain IDEs, Firefox and VirtualBox, with an external 4k screen, on a late-2016 MBP, and it's silent most of the time.

I am also thinking of getting one as a machine learning laptop. The 1070 8G GPU memory is very adequate.

The reliability from a small company is a concern of mine also, so I intend to purchase the 3 year warranty - a first for me, I have never bought an extended product warranty before.

The specs do look amazing.

While you could get one for machine learning... If you're buying an additional computer just for that I'm not sure a laptop is the most cost effective choice, though this laptop in particular seems like it could handle that just fine. Running GPU intensive machine learning seems like a really good way to find out about reliability issues before anyone else... Make sure it's covered under warranty, I don't know if you can argue that it's normal wear and tear (though I guess it might be identical to someone playing Crysis for hours and hours).

Again, I think the Oryx Pro would be able to handle it, but the use case seems just a tad wrong... Unless of course you routinely do your machine learning on the go.

Thanks for the comments. I have been buying GPU compute from Hetzner, GCP, and AWS. I am comfortable working in SSH shells and running aJupyter server on rented compute, but there is a lot of convenience of just using a local computer.

I really don’t want to be encumbered by a desktop computer, so a sem-portable laptop with a GPU makes sense to me.

In that case absolutely carry on! I didn't want to sound prescriptive since I'm not familiar with wear patterns of GPU-heavy calculations (it's entirely possible that they're built well enough to just run pegged at 100% for a very long time), and I also don't know much about GFX card durability for a card like the 1070 -- I thought it might be a pain to try and replace, with how tight the form factor must be.

iFixit doesn't have anything on the Oryx Pro yet[0] so...

I also didn't know Hetzner sold GPU compute! Is it a package or are you going to market and searching "gpu"?

[0]: https://www.ifixit.com/Device/System76_Laptop

They have a dedicated server with a 1080 GPU, i7, lots or RAM, for about $105/month. A good deal.

I'm not a hardware design guy. I did work as a QA engineer at Transmeta, a 90s/00s CPU company for 2.5 years. My sense of things was the hardest part of delivering CPUs was the manufacturing, not the design. Building a chip took several weeks, debugging hardware was hard, and thr feedback loop was relatively long. The best designed chip could be damn slow if manufacturing was not optimal at every step. I'd guess there's not much risk in opening up the chip designs, and it might even make chip design cheaper, faster, and higher quality. Building a fab that can build chips sounds hard no matter what you do.

Am I speculating in the right direction?

It all depends. If you are using existing IP, then the design part might be shorter. Conversely if you are using a proven process from a contact fab, you just need to follow their design rules and they will do all the manufacturing work for you. But companies like Intel, AMD, Nvidia push the boundaries of everything. They have separate teams working in parallel on different aspects (design, fab, etc) and generations of products.

This thread isn't about CPUs, but...

the hardest part of delivering CPUs was the manufacturing, not the design

Now you basically have to outsource the manufacturing to TSMC and they are very good at what they do so in some sense that's not hard because you aren't doing it.

I bought a Gazelle Pro in 2011 and the thing still works great(paid 1600$ at the time). I only upgraded the RAM from 8 to 16 GB and put in an SSD. Last year I was considering buying the Oryx, but since the Gazelle works so great, I don't see any need for new purchases. I never had any issues. Only game I played was LoL, and it worked smoothly at highest settings.

How are they not going to go out of business when cheap Chinese competitors copy their open source design?

I think this misunderstands System76's business. Today they are selling rebranded Clevo laptops so they are already facing cheap Chinese competitors... and yet they stay in business because what they are really selling is Linux certification, branding, support, warranty, etc.

Exactly this.

I bought one (an Oryx) to replace a macbook because it comes all set up and ready to go (no driver problems, no tinkering needed). I know it would have been cheaper to buy a machine and install linux on it but its a lot of extra work. I'd honestly just rather pay them to deal with it.

I'm using there OS (pop!) which is Ubuntu based, and works fine (although I'm not sure why they have there own OS, it gave me pause frankly, they have Ubuntu as well). It works well and seems to have updates quite frequently.

I really like the machine, its had no problems and has been easy to setup and use. There are some minor things I don't love, the battery life isn't great and I have to reboot to switch video cards (the laptop has 2 and only one supports external screens).

But jetbrains software works and the web works fine, so I'm pretty happy.

>although I'm not sure why they have there own OS.

I think this makes sense. Their core bussiness is producing an integrated Linux hardware/software package. When a compatability issue comes up, they probably don't want to have to wait on a third party to resolve it; especially when they can still leverage most of the work that said third party does (and; I presume, contribute back their work).

Anyone can hold any status in Ubuntu regardless of who they work for. This is explicitly stated in Ubuntu's code of conduct which doubles as a sort of constitution. They could be Ubuntu developers themselves; then they wouldn't have to "wait on a third party" to resolve anything.

Yes but anything that goes into Ubuntu needs to work on all systems, not just System 76 devices. This would like reduce the realistic rate of change, even if they were (co-)maintainers of all the relevant packages.

Not necessary to upstream packages to Ubuntu Repositories when they could set their own repositories (which I assume it's how they mantain their distro)

It's a matter of branding. Which is great too as long as they keep up to date with security updates and such.

I don't think Canonical would look kindly on someone shipping 'Ubuntu' with 3rd-party modifications to critical system-level packages, at least without participating in the Ubuntu Desktop certification program.

They could contribute, but still have to go through the process to push any changes. This is the same reason that Ubuntu maintains a fork of Linux.

I also use POP!_OS, pretty awesome actually. I have found it to be a really great experience, and I am not sure if this was just fluke, but the installation process was mega easy. Non of the usual wifi driver issues I got with Ubunutu.

Yeah I'm running Pop OS as well. Interestingly, it has the best Optimus support out of any distro I've seen thus far. It installed without issue and allows me to switch between graphics via a GUI (albeit requiring a reboot).

The only issue I have with Pop is the name... and I guess that's something I can get over given how well it works. :)

pop os allows them to apply their own branding, and they also use their own installer that's more tailored towards OEM installations (which makes sense, since they're an OEM and all)

How is the noise like, compared to the average modern MBP?

Its not loud, but its not silent either. You notice them running, but not so much to be annoying. My 13 MacBook pro was usually quite quiet except when pushed. Its noiser than that.

The fans run a lot, (especially when using the Nvidia graphics). I tend to push the machine a little though.

Precisely. I bought from them because I know that Linux will work - and it did flawlessly. I am not even using their distro, standard Ubuntu or Kubuntu has no issues, and I can't say the same about many other laptops.

They sell Linux machines that "just work" out of the box. Think of them as the Macintosh of Linux. You can build a Hackintosh out of cheap Chinese machines and cracked MacOS versions. Virtually nobody does, because the reason you buy from Apple in the first place is that you want the convenience of an all-in-one solution that just works and are willing to pay a premium for it.

I used a Pangolin for my personal machine from 2013-2015. Replaced it with a MBP because I wanted to do some iOS/watchOS development, but it still works, and I still go back to it when I need a Linux laptop in a pinch. They're good, solid machines, and I could unbox it and boot up Linux without worrying whether some driver would be incompatible with the hardware.

I thought I would be getting that when I bought this Asus with Ubuntu pre-installed a couple of years ago.

Since then, the wlan drivers got replaced, disk encryption had to be manually fixed and video hardware acceleration was gone and required patching the distribution.

So much for Macintosh of Linux.

Good question. So many companies go out of business because of Chinese competitors undermining the R&D margins. But then again, somehow companies like Prusa Research have steadily increased in sales even after three years of Chinese kits flooding the market before he (Prusa) even started his company. I hope it's the same for System76.

I hadn't heard of Prusa Research before, which is odd considering I seem to own a 3d printer that's been manufactured by them.

I know where I will be getting my first sls 3d printer from.

I think you mean SLA printer? Prusa has nothing in the pipeline for sls, but they do sla.

to me it seems as though there is no precedent for it.

Compare to IBM. IBM created the somewhat open "PC" platform in the 80s. Within ten years there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of companies making "PC Compatible" computers. IBM stopped making PCs. Their platform "won" the marketplace but they, as a company, left the marketplace. IBM is still in business because their primary business was not making or selling personal computers.

Another comparison might be Google. Its a stretch because android is not a hardware platform as such, more of software. However Android phone is relatively open. As a platform Android has 'won' the marketplace. But Google's primary business is not selling phones or phone OSes. They make a handful of phones, and might stop at any time.

There was the 3d printer company. Makerbot. They were theoretically supposed to be open. However they, well some of them in the company, wound up deciding it was not possible because of clones. So they went closed. They also sold out to a huge conglomerate whose primary business is not personal 3d printers. I am not sure if you could say their 'platform' has 'won'....

So if I am right, then if System76 creates an 'open platform' then there will be Compatibles springing up all over. System76 'platform' might win the marketplace. But what will happen to them as a company? What is their primary business.

People mention Prusa. Maybe that might work.

IBM did not create anything, Compaq took it away from them and IBM failed to regain control.

There would be no open PC clones if IBM had succeed suing the clone makers or if PS/2 MCA architecture had actually worked out.

They did assemble a standard from off the shelf parts. Few things are built from first principles since the scientific revolution.

Without Compaq reverse engineering the BIOS and doing it in such a way that IBM could not release their lawyers on them, there would not be an open PC, regardless where those parts came from.

We would all be using variants of Atari, Amiga, Mac, Archimedes by now instead.

Which ironically is what laptops, 2-1 and mobile platforms have become.

> if System76 creates an 'open platform' then there will be Compatibles springing up all over...

The open platform already exists, they are merely a player in it. Perhaps they've brought some new hardware, but unless it is x86/64 legacy compatible there is little chance it will succeed.

They're selling trust, something even the high end Chinese (and many elsewhere) brands don't have.

Trust it's going to work, trust they'll support it and trust that it won't come with spyware built in.

Not that I know anything about manufacturing but from outside it looks like Apple's secrecy hasn't exactly prevented Chinese competitors from copying either.

Well that’s the thing, once you start manufacturing something in China, you’re sunk. Doesn’t matter who you are, your IP is going to be stolen, midnight shifts will produce extra units that won’t be going to you, etc.

Same reason Apple's survived this long: It just works.

These systems still rely on closed, untrustworthy x86 hardware and mainboard implementations. I'd hardly call it more open than anything Purism provide, except perhaps for the custom case and backplane (which isn't much, in terms of the system design)

That said, it's a step forward. I look forward to seeing what System76 do next.

- I agree that eliminating those closed components is a good goal

- I think we should avoid setting the main bar for system76 at purism or vice versa. I say this as a big Purism fan, reading this post is very exciting for all fans of openness in computing.

Oh, I agree. The bar shouldn't be set any lower than completely open systems. Unfortunately, while they remain on x86 - and Intel and/or AMD refuse to manufacture chips without the Management Engine or the Platform Security Processor or provide documentation - they'll always be less open than alternative architecture implementations like RISC-V's SiFive or OpenPOWER's IBM POWER and their vendors/integrators like Raptor Computing Systems.

I forgot to mention - If you're looking for a far more open source system (you get mainboard schematics, firmware is open source, complete documentation all the way down to the processor configuration registers, and the last device firmware blob (non-cpu-loaded mainboard device, assuming you don't need the optional SAS controller) - the built-in ethernet chipset - is almost completely reverse engineered) you might take a look at the Talos (and soon Blackbird) line of systems from Raptor Computing Systems.

Though, do note that it's relatively expensive and it's POWER9 (PowerPC 64 endian-switchable). Also, if it's important, the mainboard and processor are fabbed in the US.


Any chance to get a >= 15" model with a centered keyboard? In not so distant future maybe? :)

This would be amazing! Not a fan of the numpad on my laptop.

system76.. i recently dropped 2600 on one; after a few months of use I can't say i'm that impressed, and running linux on it is still not that great.. I've since put windows 10 on for better performance and functionality..which i didn't think would be something i'd end up doing.. but here i am.. next time it's unlikely i'll go with them again;

one killer feature i bought this was for the nvidia card, and it's difficult to even type when that thing gets going because the keys get so hot my fingers are like touching hot coals

really i wish i could get my money back

Pretty excited but part of me is kind of disappointed that the unit is a desktop rather than a laptop (from the teaser pics)

Electronics manufacturing is already some of the most automated industry around, second only to microelectronics. Human labour adds just few percents to the end product's value, it can easily be doubled and tripled without the market ever noticing.

The opinion that it never took of in USA because of Chinese undercut you on labour doesn't hold water. No, automation will not do nothing about America giving you 100 times more reasons to not to do manufacturing there other than the cost of labour.

Does anyone have any detail about this device? From what I've read it seems really cool. Just wish there was something to chew on before the big reveal.

There's a little bit of info here: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=System76...

The marketing seems to hint at premium product / premium price.

I'm pretty excited about system76 and purism, hoping for a linux based alternative to the macbook pro

How are the trackpad on the system76 laptops? Any as good as the MBP? or at least as good as the Dell XPS13?

I would love to support them, but I need a trackpoint and 3 buttons.

The three physical buttons are an anti-feature for me personally, because they reduce the size of the trackpad. And the trackpoint is a net neutral. I've used ThinkPads on and off for years and I still feel like a trackpad is more efficient than a trackpoint.

I like the ThinkPads best where the size of the touchpad/trackpoint is reduced to the logical extreme. (It wasn't until I discovered ThinkPads, and specifically TrackPoints, that I could use a laptop as a "lap" top. I just unplug the touchpad on models which have 'em as I'll only ever touch it by mistake.)

To each their own style. I am much more efficient with a track pad and 3 buttons. I wish they offered that as an option on their laptop line.

A smaller touchpad is better for my workflow as I only use them for 2-finger scrolling and it leaves more space for the keyboard.

Ugh, how do you even begin to use rio? ;p

Something like this (https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/accessories-and-monitors/keyboa...) might work for you. They're definitely building a "desktop" desktop, not a laptop, and from the description of 128-768gb ECC RAM/46-86TB storage, it sounds like the higher-end models will be rackmount form factors.

I hadn't realised they only produce a desktop only, I was looking at their laptop line.

Weren't patents designed because they were beneficial to society (and to people who had ideas) ?

I think these days patents are mostly high resistance and very few social value.

Its because the old system prior to patents was the guild system.

The biggest problem with guilds was the massive amount of information lost. So the balance was "tell is how you did it clearly, and you get protections for 20 years-ish".

Turns out the description of what and how is easily games with horrendous legalese language.

This is why I believe that open hardware could be a solution nowadays. 100 years ago, a patent had lots of benefits. Today there's more side effects than social value. We could share, solve, enjoy more buy having a bit of reusable open parts and machines.

And then the NSA intercepts your shiny new open hardware on the way to the customer, and inserts some nasty closed source spying device.

If you’re targeted by NSA you are going to lose anyway. Sanity, if nothing else.

I was having doubts on buying a System76 machine next, this lessened those doubts significantly.

It's awesome that they're doing all this within the US but I tried to design an Oryx yesterday I just wanted a nice graphics card, 32gb of ram and the 1tb ssd and it quickly approached Apple prices. I understand the underlying components aren't cheap but I don't think companies that aren't operating at Apple's scale, who has some of the brightest engineering hardware and software minds in the world, have any business charging close to $3k for a laptop for similar specs.

I'm guessing the cost is due to being based in the US. I just want a nice laptop for a reasonable cost, I'm not concerned where it's built. Where a laptop was made doesn't make any difference to how I use it or what it does for me. If System76 is close to Apple prices for similar specs I might as well just buy a Macbook Pro.

Scale provides, well, economies of scale. If you want to buy from a smaller outfit, then expect to not get economies of scale.

There is a reason Apple charges those prices. Components like 16GB dual channel DDR4 SO-DIMMs, Nvidia 1070GTX w/ 8GB RAM, 4K HiDPI/retina displays, and NVMe SSDs that can do 3500MB/sec. are not cheap.

Here's an interesting exercise: Go to Newegg or Amazon and fill your shopping cart with all of the components you want in your system, then compare the price of all the components separately with the system price you get for a well engineered system that runs Linux flawlessly.

If you are looking for 32GB of RAM and 1TB NVMe SSD in a laptop, you are by definition an early adopter, and should expect to pay an early adopter penalty. If you want the sub-$500 notebook you're going to get the technology that early adopters were buying a few years ago.

In other words, the case is open and manufactured in the US while the part the matters—the motherboard—is proprietary and made in China.

But they've actually gone one step further than just manufacturing their own case: the "Thelio Io" board that they mention looks very much like a replacement for (part of) the motherboard's "embedded controller" (EC) functionality, and all of the design files and source code [1] certainly seems to meet the criteria to be called open hardware with open source firmware.

For some context, the EC in most laptops is usually a highly proprietary ASIC (good luck even finding a datasheet) running a blob of proprietary firmware on an 8051 core. It's responsible for handling the power and lid switches, sequencing the powering on and off of the main system CPU, controlling fan speed and temperature sensors, etc.

[1] https://github.com/system76/thelio-io

What Carl and co are doing here is hard, and more than most PC manufacturers in the US are doing. Is it perfect? Of course not but they are doing the best they can given their resources. Given more I have no doubt they would do more.

Please keep that in mind.

Gotta start somewhere. Kudos to them for actually trying to manufacture something in the US instead of throwing up their hands and saying “those jobs aren’t coming back.”


People seem to miss the forest for the trees. Anyone who thinks a company as small as System76 could make every part of a computer in the US is just delusional. It'd take billions of dollars just to build a fab for CPUs, let alone everything other part.

There's been growing discontent in the US about the loss of our manufacturing capability, but instead of encouraging companies like this to bootstrap (some) manufacturing by building the parts that make sense here, people choose to mock them.

Meanwhile, Apple makes products completely in China, slaps a sticker that says "Proudly designed in California" and everyone is all oohs and aahs are every time they launch a product.

> There's been growing discontent in the US about the loss of our manufacturing capability

No. The discontent is about less people working in manufacturing. Manufacturing itself is actually fine.

I guess we are talking about different things. Yes, there is the obvious issue of automation and increases in efficiency decreasing the number of jobs in manufacturing, so you are correct.

There's also a different issue: strategically. it's pretty bad to depend on a handful of countries (China and Taiwan mostly) to make most of the products we consume. If - $deity forbid - the US and China went to war, it'd take years to get anywhere close to the manufacturing output we currently take for granted.

On the other hand, one could argue that such dependence makes the likelihood of such a war, and the loss of life it'd lead to, almost nil.

You sound so smart when talking a shit on other peoples hard work.

I've been eyeing a Meerkat for awhile now. Is there going to be a Thelios equivalent?

I hope they have a better battery this time around.

As soon as I'm not a student anymore and have a career, I buy one. Before then, any laptop I buy will be under 450$ CAD.

I bought the Galago Pro in my last year of college from my CTF winnings. Worked out great.

How's the battery life on that?

The battery swelled just after the end of first year, so I had to replace it. The replacement still gives me around 2-3 hrs depending on usage.

This is the old Galago Pro (I reviewed it at [0]), not the new aluminium one.

[0]: https://captnemo.in/blog/2014/07/04/galago-ultra-pro-review/

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