Archive for November, 2011

System 76 review

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

So when I started my new job at seatgeek.com, I got to chose my computer.  I asked for a system 76.  I wanted to support a company which made quality ubuntu machines.  I really wanted to like this machine.

Ordering experience

I decided that I was looking for the wilddog performance model.  I then had to tell my boss I wanted a computer named the “wilddog performance”.  Come on, I’m an adult, not a gamer.  I wanted a model with two dual-dvi out ports on the graphics card, it was hard to figure out which of the available cards from the website would have this feature.  The card that seemed most applicable – the system76 listed “nVidia GeForce GTS 550″ didn’t exist anywhere on nVidia’s site.  Eventually I figured out that this was a GTX 550 Ti, which did indeed have two dual dvi out ports.  I notified a salesperson from system76 about this via email, they still haven’t updated their website.  I placed my order, about 10 days later the machine came.

Build quality.

The machine was boxed without a manual and only a couple of pieces of styrofoam, I appreciated this. It would have been nice for them to send an ubuntu recovery USB stick, but no great loss. Overall, it seemed like a well built machine, simple but well built, which is fine.  I really don’t see much need for mini-towers anymore.  My machine has no cd drives and only a single ssd drive, I don’t need all that extra volume.  When I first picked up the machine I could hear something rattling around inside it, opening the access panel revealed an errant screw.

Initial startup experience

The machine started up into a fresh ubuntu install, with a very clean onboarding process.  The second reboot however resulted in a blank screen.  Ctrl-Alt-F2 to a terminal, and startx had me back into the windowing environment.   After some googling, I realized that I needed to run

$ sudo apt-get install --reinstall nvidia-current

With that, ubuntu booted normally and I had a reasonable ubuntu experience, system76 was out of the picture.

Overall impression

It worked, it’s a simple machine with (eventually) supported hardware. I don’t think that system76 actually did that much to make it a pleasant linux experience. I’m on the fence as to whether or not I would buy from them again. The machine is blazing fast, but that’s thanks to intel (ssd and quadcore processor), not system76.