I've been running Ubuntu on my machines for something like a decade now, and have experience with Debian and Red Hat/Fedora from before that. I know what to expect from these distributions. When you tell me you've rolled your own distribution, I have no idea what to expect, which turns me off from your product. And if the answer is "you can expect exactly the same as what you'd get from Ubuntu/Debian/Fedora/whatever," then why bother rolling a new distro in the first place? Why take what should be a simple sales pitch and make it more confusing?
They seem to think the idea of learning my way around Yet Another Linux Distribution is an enticement. It isn't -- especially when the only community around the distribution is a single small company, which means that anything I do learn is unlikely to be useful beyond using that company's products. As soon as I buy from someone else, or that one small company goes out of business or loses interest in maintaining the distro, I can take all that knowledge and toss it in the bin. No thanks.
(Weirdly, the only company in this space that seems to really get this is Dell. I feel like I'm living in the Mirror Universe.)
Let's not get focused on a red herring because one person decided to shoot out a verbose comment.
But Dell often also screws it up. I ordered a really expensive workstation from them (>$15k), configured with Ubuntu as OS. However, it was not vanilla Ubuntu as advertised but a patched Ubuntu of the latest LTS. The machine always got stuck in an infinite loop after setting the timezone and entering user details within one of the welcome dialogs. Totally unacceptable.
I installed the very same Ubuntu LTS version, just a vanilla one, and everything worked fine.
I was pretty happy with this compromise (tho I wish I had known up front about the custom driver). They didn't delay shipping but did future proof it. If they ever don't push the fixes upstream tho, they'll be dead to me ;-)
I think you are severely undervaluing support and the logistics of running a business.
Support is, in fact, their strongest selling point. A new distro diminishes their offering (for me). We all understand that it's not something you toss together. It takes effort and as a buyer, I'd rather see that effort used for support, hardware testing, etc..
Selling hardware (even if it's rebadged), providing support, allowing returns, taking responsibility for key updates, multi-year warranties, etc... this, I think, is what most people are after in a vendor. Along with competitive pricing...
We can all install Linux (or try to) on Windows laptops but many of us don't want to deal with the headaches if we encounter a problem. We just want it to work out of the box so we can get to work soon after opening the box. There's an awful lot of value to this.
I can't help but think about Litebook (https://alpha.store/) and the disaster it turned out to be during the entire process. All of the failures were based on the support side, customer service, shipping, hardware testing, etc.
Their reputation was already developing, in the early stages, but users still wanted to believe in a "bang for the buck" Linux laptop running a time-tested distro (Elementary OS when they first started). The business crashed and burned. It had nothing to do with the distro.
That is, they believe that the ppl who opt into Pop OS over vanilla Ubuntu, are likely to fall in love with Pop OS and therefore purchase more System76 machines down the road.
The downside is perceived to be limited since new customers can opt out of Pop OS.
Without inside knowledge around customer retention and top of funnel conversion rate, it's hard to know whether it's a good or bad business decision.
I think they decided to create their own distro because they were wary that Canonical was going to be more focused on the server space when they decided to shutdown Unity and switch to Gnome for their desktop. System76 decided that they wanted to step up and take a little bit more of an active role in building a desktop experience.
In reality there is very little difference from Ubuntu and so you can install any Ubuntu packages or follow any Ubuntu based how-to.
Honestly, seeing as how you can download Ubuntu and install it yourself I think they'd be better off (from a sales perspective, I mean) just omitting the Ubuntu preinstall option altogether. Anyone who wants it could still get it, and it'd take a "wait, what?" moment out of the experience of using their configurator.
Since they offer both, I can't imaging you'd have any issues with their support due to running ubuntu instead of Pop.
Ubuntu have dropped Unity support and OEMs couldn't anything about it. Suddenly user experience changed and transition Unity-> Gnome wasn't smooth. This was breaking point.
OEMs wasn't happy about it and to make sure they don't have to be same situation again they have made their Ubuntu flavors/distributions
They aspire to be another Apple w/iOS, or another Google w/Android.
Embracing GNU/Linux and the free-software ecosystem is the shortest path towards achieving this goal. These companies aren't necessarily concerned with supporting libre software in reality. It's just the most convenient option for the moment, what realistic alternatives are there? They aren't pursuing control over the access to and deliery of apps without any intention of leveraging it should they succeed in acquiring sufficient market share.
Personally I'm in favor of continuing to support independent operating system vendors and paying hardware manufacturers for standardized hardware we can use with any standards-compliant operating system of our choice.
It's unfortunate that the more GNU/Linux matures, the more it enables the proliferation of vendor-specific distributions competing for control over the software their users consume.
The build quality is such rubbish, and you begin to feel it almost immediately. I'm careful with my kit, not terribly hard on anything and I manage to flake bits of plastic or metal off each System76. They've always been in neoprene cases within a laptop backpack - because I'm that paranoid. They're just rubbish.
At this point Ubuntu (or Mint, or Debian!) on Alienware is my laptop of choice, and I run those Kingdel desktops.
I would really like to buy another System76 laptop, except for the build quality.
PRO: Linux worked out of the box, the price/performance was much better than a MacBook, and the customer support was great.
CON: IIRC went through 4 keyboards and multiple other part replacements.
Afterwards, I bought a ~2015 MacBook Pro, installed Ubuntu, and it stills runs great.
Very happy with my System76 purchase. But! I've only ever used the one device.
I’ve owned a large desktop and laptop from System76 and had tons of issues with both, along with consistently awful customer service, needing to argue for example that I should not have to pay shipping fees when returning the desktop that arrived with a non-functional motherboard when it was first shipped to me, and then later also having to argue for System76 to manage doorside pick-up for me to mailback the return (I live in a city without a car and no way to physically carry a huge desktop PC to the nearest UPS store, and I’m not paying for a taxi to mail back something that was broken on arrival).
I’ve since switched to Lenovo laptops and just reformat at install Ubuntu on them. Much simpler process, much better customer service.
But I don't run Linux, so I can't speak to any hardware/driver support issues.
Currently on that T480 I use the Nouveau drivers with the built-in panel plus two external 1440p monitors via a Lenovo Thunderbolt dock and it's great.
I've never had strange issues on other system with 2 or 3 monitor support (currently do this at home w/ a Lenovo + 3 monitors and with my wife w/ a MBP + 3 monitors.)
Sometimes I plug into a hight dpi 28". Thats hit or miss depending on the applications. There are a few that don't scale well at all.
The only problem I have sometimes is the apple thunder (lightning?) adapter sometimes doesn't wake up, so I have to unplug the usb cable thats powering it.
It’s not perfect but I haven’t had to spend much time on dealing with the os which is what I wanted and their “value add”. I don’t do much Linux system work, I just want to develop.
For a desktop I’d expect replacing Linux would be easier, but if it’s like their notebooks having a easy to support system it probably worth the premium.
That being said, what’s wrong with larger desktops that support 3.5 inch drives. I like cheap slow storage, but I work in bioinformatics.
My System76 lasts about an hour w/o power. However you can shut off or reduce the power on your GPU and it will last longer.
It is nicer than a desktop as many of us take the laptop home. Also, for light lounge usage and workshops/presentations, we usually turn off the GPU for longer life.
The machine I have requires a restart to do this. It’s one of the more annoying things because it won’t drive an external monitor without the Nvidia stack.
So it’s more like a portable workstation than a “work at the coffee shop all day” kinda of note book
1. I had to change my power adapter twice. I dunno why it has such low life. But an original new one is just costs around $20.
2. Since, it was non-developer edition came with broadcom wifi card, I switched it to Intel which has much better Linux drivers IMO. I think they now use some "Killers" wifi module. I've no idea how they are.
3. After 3 years, it stopped charging because the power socket was damaged. I think it wasn't unexpected because of my rough use, and often bending the cable there. I got it fixed for around $130. In hindsight, it probably wasn't hard thing to fix, as long as I can get the part from eBay.
4. After 3.5 years, the battery life got really bad (like < 2 hours on 4k). I bought an original battery from eBay and replacing it was pretty easy. Now I think I get like 7 hrs on 1080p, and maybe little less than 5 on 4k.
5. Using 4k resolution on GNOME is kind of laggy. I think its mostly software issue than hardware. Unity used to work great, and I think Windows was smooth too.
The body is still solid, and I think I can use it for another couple years for all my development needs. I really like the carbon fiber finish. Its usually pretty warm and comfortable (when you first open it), unlike aluminium bodies which gets chilly.
If you find a source for the rubber strips on the bottom of the Dell, let me know. Dell's answer is to replace the entire bottom panel at a cost of $300AUD.
>> I have absolutely no idea why Dell use such terrible wifi cards. It gets worse - the 9380 (this years' model) has a "Killer"
That absolutely sucks. It is particularly annoying when a product that is so close to being perfect, screws up with something so trivial and obvious. A bad wifi is definitely a dealbreaker, whatever the other upsides are.
Maybe its just easier to buy the complete bottom panel from eBay, which is still much cheaper than $300 AUD.
Now if they could just get the build quality where it needs to be it would really be a great experience. With mine, generally, the software was the high point and the hardware was the low point.
Noteworthy, because I was one of those Mac refugees who needed a non-mac machine now that I don't like the new macbook keyboards or insane price bump that macs got.
I bought a 16 GB Ram, 14" Galago pro with 512 GB SSD with Ubuntu on it.
Battery life is around 2 hours. Not too good compared to a macbook.
- Keyboard is pretty nice, each key has a comfortable travel to it.
- The trackpad is awful or at least compared to what I'd gotten used to using the macbook for last many years. The trackpad feels rough, is not as responsive or smoother as the mac touchpad either. The click buttons aren't too nice to click either.
Bottom line is that the next time I need to buy another Linux laptop, I'll be looking to try out the newer System76 to make sure they've fixed their touchpad, if not, I'll go with Dell XPS developer edition, no questions asked.
Surprisingly, the touchpad being what it is, I've not seen it mentioned in the reviews of Galago pro all that much, I suspect it's because there are not too many ex-mac owners buying these, the touchpad feels like it belongs to year 2008.
This is honestly one of the biggest things locking me into the Mac ecosystem, I haven't found an alternative trackpad that even comes close. I even like Apple's new MacBook keyboards (even with them breaking all the time… at least they fix them).
This is mostly a software limitation with the linux desktop IMO... e.g. web browsers like chrome and firefox lack basic features like kinetic scrolling under linux:
And linux desktops don't really have any kind of gesture integration (the only one I'm aware of is gnome on wayland, and it basically only has one gesture available, switching desktops)
I prefer using linux on my laptop, but this is definitely a big annoyance
I just wish PopOS was built on Debian and not Ubuntu.
As a person who uses Debian for a long time, and Ubuntu for throw-away VMs; Debian feels more "pure" from a system perspective, and it's not just skin deep.
Debian is set-up to be a leaner OS out of the box. Everything is within reach, and deeply configurable from command line. Desktop environments are add-ons to the system, not integrated (even in desktop versions). I don't find surprising choices or hard to reach configuration stuff in Debian.
Even though derived from Debian, Ubuntu "standard" comes with packages from Amazon, et. al., and sends analytics. This is not something that I like. Also, when I install Ubuntu server, I get subtle ads of "Canonical Landscape" and their paid offerings. This signals me that I'm using a freemium product, and as a user, I'm not their primary focus.
Debian is of course sponsored by a lot of corporations, but at the end they are independent and they do as they wish at the end. I'm part of the process, and can talk with devs, and my bug reports and commits are not pre-filtered with "commercial" interests before even discussed.
These are my feelings and experiences though. YMMV.
The thing I think Ubuntu has over Debian is that they package proprietary software, which often means better driver support. Considering System76 is building the computer, though, this is probably not an actual issue.
IIRC, that visibility is rather new. Nevertheless, it's a step in the right direction.
> The thing I think Ubuntu has over Debian is that they package proprietary software.
Debian also has the non-free repository for a long time, which contains firmware and drivers.
However, building a computer with AMD graphics cards and Intel network adapters rarely needs any big binary blobs, maybe except the firmwares.
Fwiw I agree that the default Ubuntu desktop is a little heavy - but I also realize I'm not the typical target user.
Compared with a "minimal graphics" centos server build I did - which required a mouse to install the thing, I think I know where "little heavy" lies.
The thing I like about Debian is everything is inside a single ISO, and it's still an independent Linux distribution. FWIW, I don't like to use a distribution made by a for-profit company.
Ubuntu feels more polished out of the box for me on a laptop but a stripped down Debian can’t be beat for servers.
One of the downsides of the Debian is, its stable branch is very slow, and generally very outdated for desktop use. For a more "rolling" and modern release, which is more suitable for desktop/laptop usage, Debian testing is more preferable. While it's called testing, it is as stable as Ubuntu stable.
> Ubuntu feels more polished out of the box...
That's a fair point, and since Ubuntu is a desktop first bistro, that's expected.
> ...a stripped down Debian can’t be beat for servers.
When setup right, a Debian box is a set-and-forget it affair. I personally lost a server in the system room since it was working as it should and the hardware didn't die. :D
https://www.sfflab.com/products/ncase_m1 - 12.6L
https://www.dan-cases.com/dana4.php - 7.2L
There's a pretty big community that builds high-end gaming rigs / workstations in these cases. I've built in both. Originally I built in the Ncase but sold it to a colleague when I moved abroad. Recently I just built in the DANcase and wish I had have stuck with the Ncase. The extra 4 liters of volume goes a long way in improving thermals, due to the extra clearance for a CPU cooler.
Anyway, just found that line in the article annoying, even a cursory Google search shows that there's a plethora of 7-12L SFF PC cases out there.
It's probably easier for them to vertically integrate the case into their business than go with a low volume niche manufacturer and deal with the hazards that come with that
Meanwhile it looks like this product is targeted at the very people who know how to configure their distros for their hardware, precisely nullifying the value-add, as far as I can tell.
> Both of the Thelio’s vents show the solar system at the time of the UNIX epoch.
Money well spent
(But at least the I/o board is “reliable”!...ok)
Also, the author is a college undergrad writing on her own blog. If there’s ever a time and place for rationalizing something, that’s it!
One major downside is that right now the supported models are Intel-only laptops, but in the future it's highly likely that we'll be able to fully support all of our systems.
A 'coach built' tower PC is fine, however, have you seen how the independent manufacturers such as System 76 compare in laptop land? The Dells and the Huawei PCs have bezels around the screen that you have to squint to see, the System 76 type of laptops have bezels wider than I can remember them being in 1993. Then there is the general girth of the things, it is like you need a padded wrist support to reach the keyboard.
With autos there are people with rose tinted eyewear products that can remember the good old days when you could fix everything yourself with just a Haynes manual and a set of spanners. They moan about the modern cars that might as well have the bonnet welded shut. I am a bit like this with PCs but when it comes to actually putting money towards a PC I prefer the new and shiny rather than the 'coach built'. Sure I want to run linux but I would gladly risk my chances with those 'Windows only' machines from the likes of Lenovo, Huawei, Dell and HP rather than go with something designed for Linux.
Enthusiasts don't mind spending hours trying to figure out why their new system won't POST, but most people by far are not enthusiasts and see that as frustrating and tedious. Charging those people a markup to work all that stuff out for them in advance isn't unreasonable.
Don't get me wrong, I build my own PCs, because I enjoy choosing just the right components and then putting them all together. I just don't kid myself into thinking that, just because this stuff is fun for me, it is therefore fun for most people. It isn't. Most people consider this stuff work, and they just want to take the thing out of the box and have it all work when they press the power button. A system vendor can provide that, and most people view that service as worth spending a little more for.
It turned out that I needed to upgrade the motherboard's firmware for it to support APU CPUs. I ended up taking the system back to my place, disassembling and using my own non-APU Ryzen CPU to upgrade the new motherboard's firmware and assembling both systems again. Massive PITA even though everything was compatible.
PS: Aside from that, I'm still surprised by how well that system works. I definitely recommend low-end ryzen APUs for "office" usecases!
Not only do they get lower costs on parts, but they can afford lower margins per unit since they have much higher volume relative to the fixed costs of running the business.
If you sell ultra high quality waterproof headsets to audiophiles for $2500, including a $1000 markup, your customers have only the choices of A) not buying or B) paying the markup. With desktops, they get the 3rd choice of building it themselves for $1600/1700.
When building your own system (and running Windows), you can be pretty sure that windows will work without issues.
With linux though, it's more of a gamble, which is why a vendor that tests/pre-configures/supports linux can be appealing
I lived through Progeny Linux. Never again. Ubuntu is the one Debian fork that I've seen survive, and it began with a huge financial outlay from an individual. It's just like the old joke: How do you make a million dollars? Start with a billion dollars...
Other than that, it's a decent workstation.