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At System76, we empower the world’s curious and capable makers of tomorrow with custom Linux computers.
Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

COSMIC to Arrive in June Release of Pop!_OS 21.04With April in full swing, it’s time to preview the...

Tuesday 13th of April 2021 05:34:32 PM
COSMIC to Arrive in June Release of Pop!_OS 21.04

With April in full swing, it’s time to preview the upcoming version of Pop!_OS! New features are lined up for the release like kids at a candy store. Among them is the tale…the legend…the ultimate customizer…the COSMIC desktop. To ensure the best taste, we’re slow-cooking COSMIC to deliver a *chef’s kiss* quality experience. As a result, Pop!_OS 21.04 will release in June.


WHAT IS COSMIC?

We’re providing a honed desktop user experience in Pop!_OS through our GNOME-based desktop environment: COSMIC. It’s a refined solution that makes the desktop easier to use, yet more powerful and efficient for our users through customization. The new designs are developed from extensive testing and user feedback since the Pop!_OS 20.04 release, and are currently being further refined in their testing phase.

As we finalize these new designs, read on for some preliminary info on a few of the major changes COSMIC brings to Pop!_OS.

Video shown is an animated mockup of our design prototypes. True screencasts will be shown leading up to the release of COSMIC in June.


Workspaces and Applications

We separated the Activities Overview into two distinct views: Workspaces and Applications. As before, the Workspaces view will allow you to view your open windows and workspaces, while the Applications view will open an application picker. The latter’s new dark background looks slick as a tuxedo and makes it easier to scan for your desired application.

During user testing, we found that even GNOME veterans have a tendency to pause in their task after opening the Activities Overview. The split views allow you to access the application picker in a single click, while the cleaner UI design prevents visual distraction.

The Super Key

In COSMIC, the Super key activates the launcher by default. Using the launcher, you can launch or switch applications, execute a command, and calculate an equation. It’s like your own personal mission control!

The change is based on common behavior we observed with GNOME, where users would press the Super key and type the name of an application to launch it. However, COSMIC users can also set the Super key to open the Workspaces or Applications view instead of the launcher if they prefer.

A Dock(?!?!?!?!?)

Over 56% of Pop!_OS users surveyed say they use Dash to Dock or Dash to Panel. We’ve seen the dock signal shine bright in the night sky, and we will answer the call with glorious triumph!

COSMIC brings the option to have a dock to the Settings in Pop!_OS. Users will be able to configure their dock to be on the right, left, or bottom of their screen; to stretch from edge to edge; and given the ability to auto-hide. Users will also have the ability to minimize windows to the dock. We’ll provide more details as we approach Pop!_OS 21.04’s June release.

Two Workflows: Mouse-driven and Keyboard-driven

System76 has always supported the ability to have ownership over your essential hardware and software tools. COSMIC gives users more control over their desktop by adding additional customization. This opens up the desktop to cater to two main workflows: Mouse-driven and Keyboard-driven.

MOUSE-DRIVEN

The popularity of mouse-driven workflow has long shaped the user experience, and set expectations for veteran users. COSMIC maintains longtime UI practices to keep Pop!_OS comfortable and familiar.

Mouse-driven users can take advantage of features like the dock, Minimize and Maximize buttons, and hot corners (opening the Workspaces view by flinging your cursor to a corner of your screen) to seamlessly transition to Pop!_OS while keeping their existing habits. These users likely use their cursor to navigate the desktop, rather than keyboard shortcuts.

KEYBOARD-DRIVEN

Keyboard-driven users prefer a more efficient, distraction-free experience. In COSMIC, the minimalist would eschew the dock in favor of additional space for application windows. Auto-tiling would set the stage for a keyboard-driven workflow, which relies heavily on shortcuts and the launcher to navigate the desktop as quickly as possible.

Enter the Test Chamber

Are you as excited for COSMIC as we are? Is your eager heart accelerating in rhythm? Your hands trembling with anticipation? The walls oozing green slime? No wait, they always do that. WELL. Do we have great news for you.

We’re searching for Windows and macOS users to experience COSMIC firsthand. (Sorry Pop!_OS users, but we already have a long list of participants for this phase!) Those interested in participating in a user study can contact our UX Architect at ux(at)system76.com. Check out the GitHub repo for COSMIC here for a peek behind the curtain!

System76 Spotlight with Adam BallaWelcome to the first of an ongoing series where we get to know...

Thursday 8th of April 2021 02:33:36 PM
System76 Spotlight with Adam Balla

Welcome to the first of an ongoing series where we get to know some of the amazing people behind System76! This week, we kick things off with one of our newest members, Adam Balla (AKA chzbacon), who has just joined the Marketing Team as our Content Producer. Learn what makes his content creation heart go pitter-patter, and why his electric smoker is his must-have cooking appliance.

When did you first become interested in Linux computer systems?

When my roommate introduced me to Slackware in 1999, he was working as a Linux system admin and he really got me interested in Linux. I was going to the Art Institute of Houston at the time for a Multimedia Design degree, and the thought that you could create your own desktop operating system really appealed to me. I didn’t need to stare at the same old tacky operating system I’d used for years.

I found myself, like many nerds of the era, at a Micro Center in the early 2000s rummaging through the discount software bins, trying to snag up multi-CD Linux distributions. This journey exposed me to several of today’s most popular Linux distros. One of those was SUSE Linux 5.3, of which I still keep the tattered book on a bookshelf as a reminder. I did however finally find my place in the world of Debian, which is where I essentially live today. Honestly not much has really changed other than using Pop!_OS as my main distribution—though like any Linux diehard, I still love to download, test, and sometimes install all the Linux.


When did you start becoming a champion for open source hardware and software?

It was a few years after that. Once I got back from the Art Institute and I was working in the area, we needed a server for the screen printing shop that I worked at. Knowing about Linux at that point, I was able to set up a server using consumer-grade gear that we could store all of our artwork and assets on. Moving forward, I set up a server for the newspaper that I worked at for a decade, which I know is still running to this day. After using Linux in that sort of environment and knowing it was good enough for a business, I knew it was good enough for me and my needs.

How did you get involved in content creation as a career?

My father was an engineer. When I was young I was always, like most kids, into drawing cars and doodles and cartoons, but I was used to having a drafting table at the house. Computing came around, and my father bought an IBM 486 and one of the original digitizing tablets, and so I got to play around with that. Eventually, he got upset because I was on the computer more than he was, so he bought me an IBM 386 to use.

Around 1995, my dad learned from a coworker about Photoshop. I begged him to get me a copy, and he finally did for Christmas. That’s when I started playing around in Photoshop and really fell into wanting to create for a living. Similar to what my father does, but maybe not as stringent in the decision that I make—no building is going to fall down from my creative process.

And that’s how I got into the whole content creation piece. I created a cover for the album of my high school bands and then started doing work for more local bands. Back then, there were no digital art courses, so I learned a lot by doing and trial/error.


What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Working together as a team during the initial brainstorming process. Going through all of the ideas and details, sometimes writing them down, sometimes not, and even laughing at myself at how ridiculous an idea may sound. I love the process of the very first step. I love to set the vision for the project work from there to turn that vision into reality.

How did you first learn about System76?

I first learned about System76 through Chris Fisher and Jupiter Broadcasting. I believe they were reviewing the Leopard Extreme in 2012, on what at that time was the Linux Action Show. That’s when I started to look at System 76 and their offerings and wondered if it would be better for me to build my own Linux desktop, or adopt something and support the open source community. It’s been a little while since then, and I’ve always kept my eye on System76. Then with the release of Thelio, that really pushed me to the point of, “Wow, these guys are creating their own beautiful custom chassis and they’re incorporating different materials together. What a beautiful machine.”

I was speaking to my wife (financial advisor) about purchasing one in 2019, and I spoke to Emma and some other people at System76 about my desire for one, and I don’t know how, but Emma encouraged me not to buy one! And then I was given the opportunity to come to System76 for the Superfan event, where I was fortunate enough to be one of a dozen people who were gifted a Thelio desktop. It sits on my desk to this day; I even bought a larger desk just so I could put it up there and see it every day. I really appreciate the humble beginnings of System76, and I’m so glad to finally be a part of this amazing team.


Let’s get into that creative brain. What is your favorite viral video and/or ad, and why do you love it so much?

I have a few ads that I like. I’ve always liked Honda’s messaging and their ads.

I like these ads because of the way in which they go through their history and lineage and the way that Honda itself has marketed its products as “People First” products—very similar to when they introduced their motorcycles to the US with their “You meet the nicest people on a Honda,” campaign. I think that was in 1962, so this was during the height of the motorcycle gang craze. Then comes this little Japanese motorcycle company and markets their products in a completely opposite image from the rest of the industry. They dared to be different and it paid off for them. Selling over 100 million Honda Cubs since 1958. Being given the title of most produced motor vehicle in the world.

This may come as a surprise to some, but I also really love the original Orwellian-inspired Macintosh commercial, which only aired once during the 1984 Super Bowl. Created by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow. In my opinion, these guys really created disruptive advertising, so much so that the ad still resonates today as much as it did then. While I don’t think you need to incite fear to sell a product, it showed that Apple dared to be different.

I’m not sure what constitutes a viral video these days. I’m not sure if it’s having a billion trillion views or just simply infecting one person who saw your video. One that always gives me a chuckle has to be “News Anchor Laughs At Worst Police Sketch Fail”. The honesty on the anchor’s face makes me lose it every time.


When you’re not helping to lead the Open Source revolution, what do you like to do with your free time?

I really like going on walks and taking photos. Photography to me is one of the last honest art forms. What you see really is what you get. I love to tinker and make things, I have a 3D printer that my wife and I purchased as a joint valentine’s gift to each other last year. We started using it right when COVID broke out, so we made around 900 face shields which we distributed to schools, day cares, dentist’s offices, anyone who needed one. That’s what we did for about the first 6 months when we first got it. Now, my wife loves to print earrings, for example, and I like to build different fun electronics projects.

I also love to cook, especially for large groups. I just got done with an Easter Weekend + Birthday celebration where we cooked 100 lbs of crawfish, 10 lbs of pork shoulder, sausage, and boudin (which is basically rice and pieces of pork that have been mixed together with seasonings and then put into a casing like sausage). One of my main requirements actually for a place in Denver is somewhere I can bring my electric smoker. It’s a must-have for any Texan.

What are you most excited about with your new role here at System76?

To help change the computing landscape as we know it today. Into a future where technology is free and open. A world where you’re encouraged to break things, fix things, and learn how they work. Aside from changing the world and stuff, I’m really excited to have a chance to work with such an insanely talented group of people.

Gaming on Pop!_OS: Alex’s PicksLinux gaming has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few...

Thursday 1st of April 2021 03:09:44 PM
Gaming on Pop!_OS: Alex’s Picks

Linux gaming has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Over 14,000 games are now compatible on Steam and Steam Play, including top titles like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, No Man’s Sky, and Skyrim—and the list is constantly growing. To give you the scoop on some fun, Linux-compatible games you may not have tried or even heard of, System76 asked their writer, Alex, to recommend a few.

Oh yeah, that’s me. I’m Alex. Uh… How ya doin’!

My recommendations come from each of 5 different genres: Dark RPG, Shooter, Narrative, Crafting Survival, and Free to Play. I played all 5 of these games on my System76 Adder WS laptop using Pop!_OS. All worked for me flawlessly on startup.

Generally, when I do have trouble with a game, I find changing Proton versions usually solves the issue. Select the game in your sidebar, click the gear icon on the right side of the screen, and then select “Properties”. After checking the box on the Compatibility screen, you can select which Proton version to use from the drop-down menu.

Before we continue, I’d also like to recommend any new or potential new users to check out our beginner’s guide to gaming on Pop!_OS.

DARK RPG: OMORI

OMORGHERD. Fight absurd enemies like a reanimated boombox, or… The Earth… as you and your (in-game) friends explore imaginative realms. As a spiritual successor to the Mother series, this game will make you laugh at the sheer randomness of its world’s dangers.

And then it won’t. Instead, it will make you sad. Horrified, even. Darkness looms over childlike fun, introducing themes of trauma and loss. To your heart, I say good luck.

OMORI’s battle system uses a combination of friendship and emotion. Making a character Angry, Happy, or Sad can either weaken or power up their moves, based on the opposing character’s emotional state. When a character attacks, you have the option to heal an ally, change their emotional state, or give them an extra opportunity to attack, depending on who’s attacking. Occasionally, it may be wise to save up your friendship power for a super combo attack extraordinaire to dish out tons of damage. Take that, Space Ex-Boyfriend.

SHOOTER: GUNFIRE REBORN

If I were good at games, I’d be able to tell you about level diversity, powerful weapons, challenging bosses, and various playable heroes. Instead, I am playing as a cat, the first hero in the story, and his paw keeps getting jammed in the trigger hole. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I miss a shot. I am not good at games.

Gunfire Reborn is an engaging co-op RPG FPS with what feels like a low-poly Sea of Thieves art style. (The game is in Early Access.) The first level is fairly straightforward: Navigate through a series of rooms in this underground desert temple, and collect treasures from chests and loot drops. Enemies are accurate enough to do some damage, but slow and inaccurate enough to give you a fighting chance.

If you’re accurate enough.

Weapon variants bear similarity to Borderlands. Corrosive weapons deplete armor, electricity depletes shields, and so on. The ammo and upgrades system, on the other hand, feels more like it did in Destiny. Guns carry Normal Ammo, Large Ammo, and Special Ammo, and you can carry one of each weapon type at a time. Additionally, players can upgrade their character’s stats and skills permanently, so those upgrades will remain with you even if you get a Game Over—a convenient bonus if Game Overs are what you collect the most.

NARRATIVE: WHERE THE WATER TASTES LIKE WINE

I originally came across this game through its soundtrack. Ryan Ike’s score is worth a listen, even if the game itself doesn’t sound like your glass of whiskey. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine stars a skeleton man wandering a classic U.S. landscape in search of people with good stories to tell. It’s perfect for people like me who love to be immersed in a narrative.

Stories are currency in this Wild West tale, to be collected, shared, and spread. Throughout your journey, a gruff narrator tells your tale in a way that’s reminiscent of a DnD quest. In your first interaction, you wander into a poker game that doesn’t go as planned. Now, you have a debt to repay.

The game map is a decent size, though thankfully it’s not even remotely to scale. I walked from Portland, Maine to Boston in about 20 minutes, with stops. That said, your character can be slow-moving at times, so whistle along to the music or hitchhike to reach your destination sooner.

A few times I received a message box to ‘Force Quit’ the game on startup, but after selecting the ‘Wait’ option, the game loaded for me immediately and without issue.

CRAFTING SURVIVAL: VALHEIM

Do I think people have heard of Valheim? Yes. Do I think people should play Valheim, especially my friends and coworkers, so that Kinbralak doesn’t have to face the burden of building a functioning roof all on his own? Also yes.

Sad face.

Struggles with structural integrity aside, Valheim is a beautiful, relaxing survival game with an expansive world and addictive leveling. Play as a Viking warrior fallen in battle who was sent to the land of Valheim to fight creatures of chaos. Five bosses rule over this realm, and it’s up to you to defeat them. By the time I conjured the first boss at his stone altar, I had armed myself with three types of arrows, a bow, and leather armor. Fight Eikthyr bare-handed if you wish, but craft some rubber gloves at least. His lightning is sure to fry your fists.

Though it’s technically classified as a crafting survival game, Valheim focuses much more on exploration than survival. Starvation, cold, and wetness are mere inconveniences, penalizing you with stamina depletion or slower health regeneration. A bird companion will guide you through the mechanics of the game without holding your hand. You’re free to roam as you please.

FREE TO PLAY: ENDLESS SKY

Step 1: Pilot a ship. Step 2: Space pirates. Step 3: Liberation conflict. Step 4: Aliens! Step 5: Rule the galaxy. (Warning: Powerful organizations may not respect your rule.) In Endless Sky, new adventures reveal themselves as you progress through the game and upgrade your fleet, keeping the gameplay feeling fresh.

Travel through a myriad of star systems, transport goods, capture ships, and establish alliances…or break them. Outfit your fleet with different ships and weaponry. Terraform a planet. Just another day in the sky.

In this 2D space exploration game, different factions control different regions of space. Each has their own unique technology and ship design. Choose who to side with, and help them discover new advancements you can use to upgrade your fleet. My over 200 ships (and 150 hours) make me practically unstoppable.

In our everyday lives, we have the means to fix many of the tools we use on a daily basis. Even...

Friday 26th of March 2021 01:53:27 PM

In our everyday lives, we have the means to fix many of the tools we use on a daily basis. Even though many still choose to hire professionals, taking apart your blender, bike, or even your car takes only some simple tools and curiosity to find out how things work. When it comes to consumer electronics, however, the landscape is very different. Here at System76, we believe the right to repair your computer should be the same as the right to repair anything elsesadly, many of our representatives in government don’t feel the same way.

Yesterday, the state of Colorado held a hearing on Right to Repair legislation, known as the Consumer Digital Repair Bill of Rights (HB21-1199). According to the Colorado General Assembly, the bill would require electronics manufacturers to provide people with the resources needed to repair their equipment. This includes, “parts, embedded software, firmware, tools, or documentation, such as diagnostic, maintenance, or repair manuals, diagrams, or similar information.” As part of this effort, System76 Founder/CEO Carl Richell and Principal Engineer Jeremy Soller traveled to the Capitol to speak in support of this legislation.

System76’s stance as a pro-Right-to-Repair company goes all the way to the top. Open source technology has been the company mission since its inception, and the right to repair is no different. “To produce open source hardware means that we have developed and shared the recipe to create a high-end commercial product that can be learned from, adapted, and used by anyone else,” Carl said in a previous interview on our blog. “Everything about that product is owned by the user just as much as it’s owned by us.”

You can listen to Carl’s testimony here:

Transcript:

Thank you for holding this meeting and considering the Consumer Digital Repair Bill of Rights legislation. I’m Carl Richell, CEO and Founder of System76. We’re a 15 year old computer manufacture in your backyard. A few years ago we built a factory at 70 and Peoria. Our computer factory is one of only two in the United States. We ship most of our products to over 60 countries.When we ship a computer to a customer, they own it. They can open it and examine the components. They can observe the way the computer is designed. They can buy replacement parts. They can fix it themselves. They can break it. It’s their property.Not allowing someone to fix their property, means it’s not their property.Imagine if we were talking about cars. You get a flat tire and Ford tells you to stop. You’re not allowed to change that tire. I know you can’t get anywhere but you have to send that in to us to get going again. Electronics are no different. They don’t move when they break. Those that oppose right to repair would like you to think computers are incredibly complex things. They’re not. And the more people that are allowed to repair their own devices, the more people will understand that. That’s good for all of us because there is no more powerful tool than the computer.I was 25 when I founded System76. We’re now a successful company, but we started with nothing. I didn’t have much to put in except hard work. On a road trip at the time, the head-gaskets in my car blew and I didn’t have the money for a mechanic. I bought parts and fixed my engine with my father in law. I learned a lot about how engines work in the process.When I was younger than that, I took apart and built computers. Frankly, I took apart everything. Sometimes, I got it back together. Regardless of whether it worked afterward or not, I learned a lot in the process. That education through curious tinkering gave me the passion for computers and technology that I have today.I fear for a future locked behind security screws. What next small business like System76 won’t happen because we don’t allow people to learn about the products they own? Maybe that’s why massive corporations oppose this bill. They don’t want another System76.Thank you for taking the time to listen. I urge you to support and pass the Consumer Digital Repair Bill of Rights.

The right to repair has been advocated for as a means of consumer freedom, but Jeremy is bringing a new argument to the table. “American companies can not only still profit in a Right to Repair environment, they can even profit more. We are looking forward to this legislation so that we can leverage our upstream providers to provide even more details about the products that we sell.”

After acquiring hardware schematics for components such as motherboards and embedded controllers, Jeremy was able to write coreboot-based open source firmware and EC firmware for System76 laptops. As a result, we were free to innovate and engineer a better product for our customers.

You can listen to Jeremy’s testimony here:

Transcript:

Hello committee members,My name is Jeremy Soller. I am the Principal Engineer at System76—a Denver, Colorado based computer company. We are FOR the Consumer Digital Repair Bill Of Rights.I want to provide a unique perspective, as someone working in the computer industry in Colorado. Our company is based in Denver, Colorado, and has been in business for 15 years. We employ over 50 people in Colorado. We operate a manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado, manufacturing desktop computers.For the lifespan of our company, we have always been on the side of our customers. We have negotiated with component vendors to ensure customer access to parts and information. We have developed many of our products with independent repairs in mind. And I am here to tell you that the Right to Repair will help our Colorado based company grow, in both revenue and employees.This bill ensures that we can continue to negotiate with our component vendors on behalf of our customers, and gives us leverage to provide the customer with better products.This bill ensures that our customers continue to have access to the tools they need to repair our valuable products instead of throwing them away.Finally, this bill ensures that our competitors are operating on a level playing field — that consumers are treated fairly and that competition is encouraged in our marketplace.Please feel free to ask me any questions you have.

For Colorado!

Though Right to Repair legislation has so far been an uphill battle, Jeremy is certain that all it takes is one. “The first state that passes a Right to Repair act will completely change this industry,” he said in a recent interview. “Any American state would be too big for these overseas suppliers to ignore.”

Right now, if somebody wanted to open a Right to Repair-oriented company they may not even be able to, because they can’t get ahold of schematics for essential components. Passing this bill would create these opportunities, and create jobs for Coloradans.

Colorado has an opportunity to become an ethics-forward Silicon Valley that attracts the country’s brightest minds to work here. If you’re a Colorado resident and want to get involved, we highly encourage you to contact your local representatives and ask them to approve this legislation to help empower the Open Source revolution.

Things We Love About the New Thelio Mira

Thursday 11th of March 2021 04:28:11 PM

Today, we introduce you to the newest addition to our Thelio desktop line: Thelio Mira. Our in-house engineers have been hard at work creating this pro solution for you, so without further ado, let’s get into the things we love about our new desktop:

A Chimera of Size and Performance

One day, we wondered, “What if expanded Thelio to support more memory and more powerful GPUs?” Our in-house science team quickly got to work, splicing the compact genes of Thelio and the performant genes of Thelio Major. Then they removed the extra limbs, and presto! Thelio Mira was born. This happy little test tube baby is configurable with 4th Gen AMD Ryzen CPUs, PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage, and up to 128GB of RAM.

A Tale of Two GPUs

Thelio Mira can house two of the largest, most powerful GPUs on the market, like the NVIDIA Quadro RTX 8000. Legend has it that when these two components are brought together, humanity will accelerate past its archaic technology towards an enlightened future. Double your multitasking capabilities, rendering resources, and CUDA cores to provide the might your project deserves. It also deserves a large cookie. We don’t sell those, though.


A Terraformed Interior Climate

Thelio Mira is thermally engineered to prevent throttling and allow your pro-grade components to perform to their maximum potential. To account for the accumulating heat generated by these components, we’ve taken advantage of the jet streams to draw cool air through the bottom of the chassis and expunge hot air out through a CPU duct. Meanwhile, liquid in copper pipes absorbs heat from the CPU and carries it into the heat sink as a gas, where it’s cooled back into a liquid. Our in-house meteorologists predict sunny days and strong winds, resulting in a perfect temperate day for your system.

A Gentle Whisper

What’s it saying? If you listen closely, you’ll hear your system pledge to keep things quiet while the fans are running. More importantly, you’ll hear yourself on video calls, as well as your cat’s many pleas for a gourmet salmon dinner. Maybe tomorrow, Coriander.


A Humble Origin

Thelio Mira is born from a single sheet of aluminum that’s then cut, bent, powder-coated, and dipped in a soothing acid, all at our manufacturing facility in Denver. The chassis is then etched with elegant design and topped off with a veneer of real wood, adding character to your office. Legally, we may or may not be required to say that this character absolutely 100% will not be Mickey Mouse.

Handcrafting computers in-house also means better support for YOU, noble citizen. Our team of real humans is here to ensure you enjoy the best product experience possible. Unlike those other guys, who rely on a team of real desk-birds-who-dip-faces-in-water to peck at the problem to no avail.

And that’s the list! Head to our website to learn more about all the things to love about Thelio Mira. Our team would love to hear about what you’ll be using it for!

The Innovation Lab: A Space for Creative Learning

Thursday 25th of February 2021 03:46:39 PM

Luis Hernandez is in the process of organizing the completion of an Innovation Lab for Vista Global Academies in Santa Ana. This week, we sat down with him to find out more about the project, why he chose to use System76 machines, and what benefits he hopes to see for his students.

What do you aim to accomplish with the Innovation Lab?

Originally when we decided to dedicate a building for our students to have a workspace, we wanted to move away from having a traditional maker space. We started on something different called the Innovation Lab where students are encouraged to experiment, whether it’s with technology or not. The idea is to create a welcoming space where students can relax, read books, and have hands-on access to different types of tools such as soldering irons, 3-D printers, and Raspberry Pis.

The reason why we use System76 to power all the computers in the space is because I’m a big supporter of Linux in general, and System76 has been really consistent and helpful. I think the openness of System76 definitely gives the students the ability to experiment and the freedom to break stuff in a creative environment, without being too constrained by proprietary software.

Have you experimented with Linux in the past?

Growing up, software wasn’t readily available to me as a teenager, so Linux was kind of the go-to for me. I was getting into Ubuntu when I first started, but then I moved to Debian and more advanced operating systems for other purposes. Linux has always been accessible and easy for me to use.

System76 came to my attention through a colleague of mine when I mentioned to them that I wanted a device that just worked with Linux. Nothing that I had to hack myself to try to define the kernel or anything like that, just something that works out of the box. There were a few options, but I was told about System76 and I figured why not, let’s give it a try.

The first time there were a few bumps in the road because I wasn’t as familiar with the hardware for that specific device, but as I got more hands-on with it, it became something that I became more interested in. Since then it’s the only company that I buy hardware from, unless I’m told to use something by work. But for personal use, unless I’m building a custom rig, it’s usually a System76 device that I use for any web development, programming, or experimentation I want to do.

Which machines are you looking at for the lab?

We’ve already purchased 10 Lemur Pros for mobility so that when students don’t want to be tied down to one spot, they can freely work from anywhere in the Innovation Lab. We also have a Thelio Major, and we are going to look at getting more Thelios as well for our esports component. We want to house a little area for kids to do esports on open source software utilizing Steam.

Emma has been your point of contact for organizing this with System76. How did you first meet?

Emma: We met at a SCaLE conference. They had a coding competition with his kids over there, so we let them use the laptops we had with us. We sponsored them with participation prizes and gave them laptop bags for the winners.

Luis: And because of that, I’ve actually had several adults and students say that using those devices at the CTF Security Competition for SCaLE, and even just learning more about the company, they’ve actually bought System76 devices for themselves.

What would you like to see from students at the lab?

Pretty much whatever the students can come up with. They’ll have guidance in learning how to use the different tools and technologies that are there, but we just want to give them the foundational knowledge to be able to use these devices. I would really like to use System76 devices and just Linux in general for esports because I think the more people who use open source for gaming, the more companies are going to start seeing that there’s a huge need for it. Obviously we know that gaming is usually accredited to proprietary hardware and software, but the more schools that have access to esports, whether it’s Rocket League or just through Steam in general, the more companies are going to have to start seeing that there is a community desire and they need to start supporting it more.

Have you seen a lot of interest from students so far?

Definitely, because we service a lower income area. We’re a Title I school, so I know that a lot of students would never imagine having access to these technologies. In addition to the Innovation Lab, we also have a recording studio that’s fully furnished and equipped as of right now. We’ve also created a TV studio, so students are now being given access to not only the technology but also access to potential career pathways and new ideas that they’ve probably never seen themselves either in or using. They have been very, very excited. We’ve actually had a lot of students asking me specifically when the lab will be ready so that they can be “guinea pigs,” because they want to just get in there. Similar to the recording studio, like we already have a few students saying that they want to create beats and record songs.

These students have probably never imagined themselves ever going to a school that would have all of these things, especially in Santa Ana. Because of the area we’re in, many schools probably don’t prioritize these kinds of rooms and access, since they have other priorities. It’s understandable. But we believe that as a school it’s not just about focusing on academics. While that’s a hugely important part, we also want to focus on having these kids understand that there’s something beyond middle school and high school—and that’s having a career. So by providing these resources and opportunities, students are able to actually start looking into their future while they’re still in middle school while gaining those long-lasting skills that they’ll need.

How do you think your career path would’ve changed had you had access to these resources when you were a student?

I really enjoy what I do, but having some of the programs that I teach them when I was in school—like the CyberPatriot program, which teaches them all about cybersecurity—I think definitely would’ve put me on a different path. That would’ve made me say, “Yeah, I want to go work at a company that does that.” The fact that we’re providing these opportunities gives them that exposure, and I think that’s the most important thing is showing them there’s a bigger world out there.

Is there a timeline for when the lab will become active?

As of right now we’re still doing renovations to the building. They just put in the flooring, so the walls are completely blank right now. We’re told that the building will be handed over to us by April 1st, but we might start furnishing some of the rooms before then because we want to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our grand opening around mid-April. But right now it’s just a skeleton.

If all goes well at this particular location, are you planning to open up the Innovation Lab to other schools in the area?

We are looking into that. This is going to be our first time investing this much effort and money into just one room as it is. So this will definitely be the pilot, and if we see a huge success with it and we see students being engaged with it, it will definitely be something we look at as we expand. The organization’s idea is to expand not only in these two cities but in other locations as well.

Behind the Scenes of System76: Sales Team

Thursday 18th of February 2021 05:11:51 PM

The System76 Behind the Scenes series aims to give readers an inside look at the people behind our mission. This week, we spoke with VP of Sales Sam Mondlick about the challenges of conducting business during a pandemic, and how long it’ll take the Sales Team to make a certain blog author a millionaire.

You know. The important things.

Take a moment to describe the different functions of the Sales Team.

The Sales Team itself is currently made up of two different positions. The Customer Experience Specialist (CES) is the first line of conversation with System76 with regards to anything order-related. Their job is to make your process from purchase to shipment as easy as possible and provide you with as much information as you might need, such as giving status updates about orders or answering questions that may have arisen.

The other position within Sales is Account Management. They’re the people you talk to from first inquiry to System76 about products. These guys help anyone, from my 80-year-old grandma who’s looking to transition from Windows to Linux, to Fortune 50 companies. They deal with a wide variety of customer base, so they’re pretty much experts in getting the customer what they need.

Then there’s the Product Management side of Sales. The Product Manager stays up to date on all-new technology, and then informs and directs the team. The position was built to ensure System76 is at the forefront of new and exciting technologies, whether that’s within the Thelio product line or in the form of updates that come to our laptops. And that could be as simple as tracking memory updates from DDR4 to DDR5, or with PCIe 3.0 updating to PCIe 4.0. For things like that we’ll track and update products throughout their lifetime.

What is the guiding principle for how the System76 Sales Team operates?

The Sales Team philosophy we push is what I call, “Consultative Sales.” We’re here to be an assistant to the user in order to get them the right product for the job; we’re not going to upgrade you for the sake of upgrading. The team is there to understand what you want to accomplish so that they can get you the right machine with the optimal performance for your use case.

What factors into the decision to introduce a new product?

There’s quite a few factors internally that we’ll go through. Looking at our product line we ask ourselves, is there something that’s missing from it? And if we do find something, what are the benefits to it? How is it going to make us as a company better, and us as a provider of Linux-based technologies the right fit for our customers?

For the Lemur Pro, battery life had always been a high-value item for our customer base. Before the Lemur Pro and Darter Pro were introduced about 2 years ago, the average battery life on a System76 computer was about 3-5 hours. The ability to introduce a product with a higher battery wattage allowed us to extend battery life almost threefold. That value is really what drives a product forward. 

What is your team’s background with Linux?

A lot of the team members have a background in Linux as users. That’s what we tend to typically hire and bring on. They are apt in review and understanding, and helping customers that have specific tasks and needs within the Linux environment. Charles was using Raspberry Pis in order to do some cool things, and Bradley used Ubuntu even before he was hired. The same can be said for Jeremy and John. They all believe that Linux is the right tool for people, and they showcase that for incoming customers. Even if they’re not tech-savvy within Linux, there’s a background there with using it and seeing it in the wild.

What challenges did the pandemic present when it first started?

I think at the very beginning, the biggest challenge for us was the loss of the team camaraderie. A lot of Sales is personal relationships, and the team feeds off of each other, so having everyone in the same area was a huge benefit pre-pandemic.

In the first month or so after it started, there were definitely challenges with productivity and communication because Sales works a lot with Engineering, Support, and other departments in order to give the customers the information they need to make an educated decision, or to update them on the status of their order.

But, I think one of the best tools we have is our employee messaging client. That was already ingrained in us as something that was used pre-pandemic that really started to show its value post-pandemic, especially with the team members being in different homes—and in some cases, different states. It allowed us to provide our staff with as much as they needed to make their environment feel like they were still in an office, still able to get the camaraderie, and still able to get almost the same instantaneous response as they would in the office, but now done remote.

Our ability to put tech first, especially within Sales and Service, is one of the things we do really well. We never throw people at a problem. By that I mean we don’t delegate a problem up the chain to solve it. Instead we work for a solution, and our people evolve into that solution. From my viewpoint, we’ve established that a remote environment is as productive as an in-person environment, which has opened up the door for System76 to grow. Instead of working within a local pool, we’ve now moved to the ocean. Whereas you used to have to hire and work to provide resources for new hires to move to Denver so they can work with the team, now we can bring on team members from pretty much anywhere on the globe to come help make System76 better. 

System76 has seen steady growth in the past year despite drastic political and economic changes. What do you attribute the success to?

I think we’ve matured as an organization. We have introduced products and product lines that are meeting and exceeding a lot of different customer requirements. When I look at our desktop line from when I started seven years ago, our options were the Ratel, the Wild Dog, the Leopard, and the Sable. With production moving in-house and the introduction of Thelio in the last two and a half years, keeping in mind both Intel and AMD, we’ve gone from offering a four-desktop solution to nine.

Laptop and desktop quality has also increased in the last seven years, and a lot of that has to do with what we’ve done in our new manufacturing facility. We have made leaps and bounds with regards to what we’re doing with software engineering now. There’s a huge demand for what our Software Engineering Team has done, driven by Jeremy and our open firmware/open EC that speak to a lot of people. Companies are looking at an open source solution instead of proprietary because they want more control over what their team and their organization are doing.

One of the things we’ve noticed is that our business clients have grown. There’s significantly more support and drive from both the end user and the corporate side to make it so Linux is a valued and desired solution for their teams. Today, I can probably put a Windows 10 machine next to my Pop!_OS 20.10 machine and accomplish everything in the same amount of time or faster. Maybe I’m not using the same applications, but anything I as a businessperson could do within Windows, I can now do with Pop!_OS or Ubuntu. The Linux ecosystem is continuously changing, and that only helps us as a company.

You’ve been at System76 for quite a while. What’s it been like watching the company grow?

It’s amazing. When I started at the company, I was really the first Sales-oriented person. I was the 8th employee at the time, and now I’m the 5th-oldest employee of System76 out of over 50 employees. So it’s huge, man.

When you look at a lot of big corporations, change is hard to make happen. It’s looked at as too different, too risky. But here, change is really something we strive for. We work to be different, to be new, to figure out new ways to help our customers or create solutions to help them, or figure out ways that can change us for the better that you just typically wouldn’t see from a corporation.

What was your favorite moment?

When I first looked at System76, back when we were only offering Ubuntu, I saw the beginning of something very similar to another major player. Very grassroots, very much specialized and hardware-specific. They also created their own operating system, so when I interviewed in 2014, I made comments during my interview with Carl that I expected us to probably produce our own operating system as well. I thought that would be our endgame as a company. At that time, and Carl might contradict my memory on this, but I remember he didn’t think that would ever happen. And then in October 2017, we released the first version of Pop!_OS. That made everything come kind of full-circle for me.

The following year, we brought hardware inside in order to make it the best that we could. So in three short years from me starting, we took what we were doing and elevating it to something that only a handful of companies do, and do well. Our potential is really limitless from what I’ve seen so far, and it’s very apparent with what we’ve done with Pop!_OS since its release, as well as where we’ve taken Thelio. I bet you we never thought we would’ve implemented something like i3 tiling into Pop!_OS. I really goes back to how we view change. We embrace it. We see it as trying to do something better than we did before. Carl and the Engineering Team view software as always being about revision, and we bring that philosophy back to hardware and back to the company as a whole.

Coming 02/11 to our Website: Two-Factor Authentication, Argon2 Hashing

Tuesday 9th of February 2021 04:11:00 PM

At System76, we pride ourselves on making computers by nerds, for nerds. Our dedicated group of engineers work hard to create the best solutions for like-minded professionals, including on our website.

Today, we’re happy to announce new security updates for all system76.com accounts in the form of Recognizer, our open source authenticator service. The most notable changes this tool brings are the introduction of two-factor authentication and an upgrade in password hashing to further protect your login credentials. These updates, releasing this Thursday (February 11th 2021), will substantially increase security and make our site more flexible as we grow. Once the update is released, all users will be required to reset their password.


Two-Factor Authentication

Setting up two-factor authentication protects your account in the event that someone gets ahold of your login credentials. Beginning Thursday, February 11th, you can turn on 2FA by signing in to your system76.com account. From there, go to the Account Details page, where you’ll find the Two-Factor Authentication section. Follow the instructions to link your account with your third-party authentication app, such as Google Authenticator or 1Password.

Under the hood, System76 uses the Erlang ‘pot’ library, which generates RFC 6238 time based one-time tokens compatible with these third-party apps. Our authentication system also uses OAuth2.0 and JSON Web Token (JWT), two secure industry standards for authorization flows and communication between systems. The use of OAuth2.0 opens up the door for the potential to sign in with a third party, or even Pop!_OS, using a “Log In with System76” button; though for now, it’s only being used with System76 projects.


Password Hashing

Another piece within Recognizer is the migration to Argon2 password hashing. In addition to sounding delicious, password hashing is a secure way to store passwords for when you want to access your account at login. Passwords are transformed into a long string of characters that cannot be converted back to your actual password. A “salt” is added for further security, which adds a random set of characters to your password hash. This ensures your password is linked solely to your account, even in the event that another account uses the same password as you. Lastly, we increased our password requirements to include a minimum character length, special characters, capital letters, and numbers.

While your passwords have always been stored safely, we’re taking this opportunity to move to a newer and stronger algorithm. We chose Argon2 for its modern hashing technique and resilience to new attack methods. It also has a standard format for storing the hash, salt, and parameters as a single string, making it easy to change hashing options in the future without having to force a password reset. However, because existing passwords are currently hashed using an alternative algorithm, all existing users will need to reset their passwords to migrate their accounts over to this new algorithm on Thursday, February 11th.


Open Source Security Measures

System76 has always led by example with open source solutions. So far, we’ve open sourced our Protobuf messages, our notification microservice, and our Zendesk integration. The newest addition, Recognizer, is written in Elixir, styled in Bulma, and released under a GPLv3 license.

Open source tools have the advantage of being audited by independent developers, resulting in a stronger solution. By open sourcing security, companies can provide the most secure experience for their users and better address any vulnerabilities that may arise.

The System76 Guide to Gaming on Pop!_OS

Thursday 28th of January 2021 04:12:47 PM

Over the years, Microsoft Windows has had a lock on gaming. Most PC games are developed with Windows in mind. For Linux—and Linux distributions like Pop!_OS—this complicated matters. However, thanks to contributions from developers and engineers across the Linux community, gaming on Linux is now easier than ever. Read on for a fundamental guide on how to get the best gaming experience on Pop!_OS.

What is Proton?

Developed by Valve Software, Proton works through Steam Play to take games developed for Windows and translate their code into a language that’s compatible with Linux. To do this, it uses tools like DirectX Vulkan that would normally have to be installed and maintained by each user. Built from a fork of WINE, Proton translates Windows commands into code compatible with Linux systems, allowing games to launch and run smoothly. The end result for Linux users is the desired outcome: Buy the game, install it, and press play.

Of course, adding support for each and every game in Steam’s hefty library will take time. Valve’s team prioritizes making newer games compatible over older titles. If you’re wondering how well your game works on Linux, ProtonDB is an essential source of information. There, you’ll find tens of thousands of games rated by gamers. The ratings are as follows:

  • Native (developed for Linux)
  • Platinum (Runs perfectly out of the box)
  • Gold (Runs perfectly after tweaks)
  • Silver (Runs with minor issues, but is generally playable)
  • Bronze (Runs, but often has crashes or has issues preventing from playing comfortably)
  • Borked (Game either won’t start or is crucially unplayable)
  • Unrated

Of the top thousand games at the time of writing this blog, only 6% received a Borked rating. Even if your game hasn’t yet reached Platinum or Gold status, that doesn’t mean it’s doomed to be buggy forever. Valve is still in the process of expanding compatibility, so keep checking back in to see how your game is faring. And as with all things in Linux, if you search the issue you’re having in your search engine, you’re likely to find a solution.

Steam is available for download in the Pop!_Shop or by using the following command:

sudo apt install steam

How to turn on Steam Play

In the Steam application, head to the Steam menu at the top of your window and click on “Settings” and then “Steam Play” at the bottom. From there, make sure both boxes are checked to enable Steam Play on supported and all other titles, and you’re good to go!

While Steam Play has revolutionized gaming on Linux, it’s still a work in progress. There are thousands upon thousands of games out there, so it will take a while to translate all that code into a flawless experience. This is where Lutris comes in.

What’s Lutris?

Lutris is an open source game library that uses various emulators and WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) to get games developed for Windows running on your Linux machine. A little research online will tell you which emulator/translator to select for the best experience with each specific game. Whereas on Steam non-Platinum-rated games may require additional technical magic to get them set up, Lutris pulls existing install scripts from the community to get those games up and running quickly. So if your game isn’t yet available through Steam Play, Lutris is your best bet.

A sidebar in the app allows you to launch games in your library, search for specific games from a source, and choose between programs for running your game. However, functionality for browsing and reviewing games has not yet been integrated into the application. For now, those features are limited to their website: lutris.net.

Lutris is available for download in the Pop!_Shop or using the following command:

sudo apt install lutris

Organize your game libraries with GameHub

GameHub is an application that allows you to link your accounts to multiple game libraries. Sync up with your Steam, Lutris, GOG, Humble Bundle, and itch.io accounts. Install, run, and remove games from one location.

As with Steam and Lutris, Gamehub can be downloaded from the Pop!_Shop or by using the following command:

sudo apt install com.github.tkashkin.gamehub

What GPU should I get?

Sometimes integrated graphics are technically sufficient to run smaller games, but you’ll need more power to run your AAA blockbusters. Configuring your gaming rig with a GPU will reduce stutters and dropped frames; the better your GPU, the more buttery smooth your game will feel.

For casual gaming, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 16-Series or AMD 6800 GPU will run games just fine. Meanwhile, an NVIDIA RTX 20-Series or AMD 6800 XT GPU will run AAA games more smoothly with a visually stunning experience. If you plan on streaming and recording your AAA gameplay in competitive matchmaking on a 4K monitor, and you have a tendency to leave open a large quantity of windows, the RTX 2080 Super or AMD 6900 XT have the firepower you’ll need, and then some.

What CPU?

The CPU is responsible for running programs like Steam, WINE, Discord, web browsers, and your game. Your CPU’s clock speed determines how fast your machine processes instructions to complete a task. Nearly every task touches your processor at some point, so a higher clock speed will make for a more performant system. Because of this, at least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 is recommended.

How much RAM?

A configuration with 16GB RAM is most commonly recommended for any gaming machine. That’s because RAM is responsible for your system’s short-term memory. The more RAM you have, the more information can be saved in the faster, short-term memory, and the more programs you can run at one time.

When it comes to gaming, RAM works alongside the GPU to process your game. While the GPU handles the graphical elements, RAM remembers things like the X-Y coordinate of your character, how many enemies are in a level, and NPC behaviors. These parts are loaded in as you traverse the 3-D environment.

Is NVMe storage worth it?

NVMe storage drives drives take advantage of a direct PCIe connection to deliver faster transfer speeds between your hard drive and your CPU. Solid-state hard drives (SSDs) connected to your system using a SATA connection limit your transfer speeds to SATA’s 500 Mb/s. In contrast, an NVMe SSD plugged into a PCIe 3.0 lane on your motherboard offers a bandwidth of 32 GB/s, half of the 64 GB/s bandwidth of a PCIe 4.0 lane.

When applied to your game, a hard drive utilizing a PCIe connection will noticeably decrease how long it takes to start up and load your game, including loading screens. Of course, the overall time decrease depends on how the game itself is programmed to load. While games like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed use loading screens heavily, games like Cyberpunk 2077 are much more dependent on memory to load your game.

Another benefit of PCIe NVMe drives is that they will boot up your computer faster and make your operating system feel more fluid, so they’re worth a look for the day-to-day efficiencies as well.

What if I have a 4K monitor?

Gaming in 4K requires extra graphics power. Consider upgrading your GPU a level to account for your system processing four times more pixels than it would on a standard 1080p monitor.

Often, 4K resolution will make your operating system’s user interface to appear “tiny” due to the increase in pixels. In Pop!_OS, you can use what’s called fractional scaling to adjust the size of what you see on-screen. To do this, go to the “Displays” menu in your Settings application. By toggling Fractional Scaling on, you’ll be able to tell your operating system to account for more display pixels. Choose between 125%, 150%, 175%, and 200% scaling until your UI is to your liking.

Here, you can also set your 4K monitor to run at 1080p resolution, which reduces the load on your graphics card. This results in a smoother, albeit lower-res, experience.

Game Tip: Disable mouse acceleration

By default, the speed at which you move your mouse may affect the distance it travels. Jerk your mouse across the desk, and you’ll likely hit the edge of the screen with your cursor. This setting is useful in day-to-day activities, saving you the trouble of knocking over your morning coffee on the way to closing your browser window. However, when playing a game—especially an FPS—this feature could wreak havoc on your skill level.

There’s an easy fix: Disable it. With your external mouse plugged in, go to the Mouse and Touchpad menu in your Settings application and toggle Mouse Acceleration to the off position.

Do I need to worry about drivers?

If you purchased a computer from System76 with an NVIDIA GPU in it, your system is ready to go! If not, follow these instructions on our support page for downloading the system76 driver. Folks running Ubuntu 19.10 or later will need to follow all instructions on the page, while Pop!_OS users can skip to the System76 NVIDIA Driver section at the bottom.

To download Pop!_OS with this driver installed, go to pop.system76.com, click “Download”, and then “Download 20.10 (NVIDIA)”. (In the event this article has not been updated since publishing, the current version number may be different.) We update the NVIDIA driver through the OS, so be on the lookout for new updates!

AMD drivers are included in the kernel, so Pop!_OS users with AMD graphics are good to go! If you’re downloading Pop!_OS, click “Download 20.10” in the window above.

For More Info on Linux Gaming:

  • GamingOnLinux is a self-explanatory site for all things gaming. On Linux! Get the latest in new game reviews, hardware reviews, software news, and info on driver updates.
  • Boiling Steam has been covering PC gaming on Linux since 2014. Check out hardware and game reviews, monthly game releases through Proton, and tutorials for setting up your rig. You can also pop into the forums to discuss your experience with like-minded folks.
  • The Linux Gamer offers guides and analysis on Linux tech, gaming, and open source software, often with an angle regarding where the movement as a whole is headed.  
  • Jay LaCroix of LearnLinuxTV frequently uploads Linux guides and tutorials, distro reviews to his YouTube channel. If you’re looking for a testimonial on how well games run on Linux, Jay’s hardware reviews are a good place to look!
  • LinuxGameCast creates a variety of Linux-focused content, including streaming, news, and weekly/daily chats. Check them out on their website or YouTube channel.

Behind the Scenes of System76: Customer Happiness Team

Thursday 14th of January 2021 05:32:33 PM

In this installment of our Behind the Scenes series, we spoke with head happiness guru Emma Marshall, an enthusiastic Linux, pink, and T-Swift enthusiast who helms the Support Team. Read on for an inside look at the methods—and the madness—of System76’s tech support crew.

First off, let’s talk a little bit about the Customer Happiness Team’s role at System76.

We handle the customer experience after the sale. We want our customers to know that we care about them, and we make sure that they’re feeling like they’re getting the attention they deserve when they do have a problem. We also make sure that they’re happy at the end of their solution.

If a customer has a specific complaint, or if we see something that hasn’t been communicated correctly that gave them a wrong impression, then I communicate with the other departments in a productive and positive way so we can get to a better solution as a company. So I report things to QA, we get bugs filed and handled, and we ask questions to engineering when we don’t know how to fix something. We try to collaborate as efficiently as possible.

As the head of all things Happiness, what is your approach to the process of providing support?

We have this little acronym, it’s the H.A.P.P.Y. approach to tech support. The H stands for Human. Instead of using scripts and sending out links every time, we’ll put the actual solution in the ticket and we’ll greet them with empathy and their name. We don’t have any automated things happening in there. Nothing is robotic in tech support. Everything is handled by a human.

The A is for Active, meaning we keep the tickets active until they’re resolved. So if a customer has gone quiet, or if a repair tech has gone quiet, we make sure to ping them constantly until the problem is 100% taken care of.

The first P is for Positivity, which helps keep our customers and our team happy, and the second P is for Productive - we want to keep our queue moving as quickly as possible. We don’t want to ask questions that aren’t relevant to the case. We want to keep customers on the track of being productive as well, so if they’re focused on voicing negativity, we try to steer the conversation in a more productive direction to keep everyone focused on reaching a solution.

And then the Y is for You. We encourage everyone on the team to be their nerdy selves, so if a customer mentions something they love, they can chime in and nerd out with the customer for a few minutes and have that little touch of their personality to the call or to the ticket. So that’s our H.A.P.P.Y. approach to tech support.

This year was the System76 Care Team’s “happiest” year on record. What do you think made it so successful?

It’s a combination of the work of everyone in the company. I think we have a mix of really good products, incredible engineering, a QA team that caught potential issues before shipping products, and a sales team that provided the right information so the customer purchased the best product for them. And then a support team that made sure things were solved quickly and happily at the end. That’s what we strive for every year! I also have an epic team right now.

How would you describe you and your team’s backgrounds in Linux?

They’re all Linux fans. Two of them are customers, and one of those customers is a SuperFan! I used to have another Superfan on the team, so that seems to be a trend for us. Two guys on our team did tech support for colleges, so they have server and sysadmin backgrounds, and then we have two team members with customer service backgrounds as well.

I actually met Thomas at a Linux conference when he was still a customer service rep for an office supply company. He was clearly like all of us: a complete nerd. He just naturally fit. We all have our nerdy quirks and come from very different backgrounds, but combining our knowledge and collaborating helps us solve the tickets with the same quality. The individuality on the team is what makes it so fun!

I went to school for journalism and worked for a couple newspapers. Then, I had a customer service job for a couple of years. After that I came to System76. Actually I just reached 9 years of working at System76 today! I’ve done every single role at System76 basically, besides being an engineer. My last positions were a combination of customer service and communication. Communication is by far the hardest part of my job, so that experience has really helped me gain better communication with everyone across the company.

How do you ensure your team stays close amid the chaos?

We all do game nights together. We have a really tight bond as a team, which I think really contributes to our success.

Are there any new “features” planned for the Care Team in the near future?

A major focus for this year is one-and-done tickets, as well as cutting down on response times. We want to get everything we can in the initial message to the customer to hopefully get a solution accomplished within one message. The team has been doing a contest the past couple months, and it is amazing how many tickets they can get one-and-done. So I know we can do that sort of motivation work a lot more often to get tickets solved quicker, and have less in the queue for longer periods of time. It’ll be awesome.

Any advice for people looking to start their tech career in a support role?

I think it’s important to have a customer service background. And I mean any customer service, even working at a retail store. Being a human and putting yourself in other people’s shoes is such an integral part of being a tech support technician. Anything where you have to communicate with other people for a year. At least get some of that under your belt.

And if you’re a hobbyist, just keep learning. Learn everything you can all the time. You can’t know enough as a tech support rep, and you have to always be curious. Be curious about the problem and be curious about the solution. You have to have a desire to always want to find answers and find new ways to fix things.

You’re one of System76’s longest-running staff members. What’s it been like to watch the company grow?

It’s been unreal. Amazing. It actually makes me tear up a little because I couldn’t be more proud of a project that I’ve been a part of, you know? It’s been very cool watching Carl as an owner and as an innovator. To have someone that inspires you so much, and to be able to be part of their project as well makes me not want to go away. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. That’s the best part.

Do you have a favorite moment?

I have two. Wait… I have a lot. But I’ll try to keep it to two. The Pop!_OS release in 2017, when we released the operating system and were flashing USBs, like hundreds of USBs in this side room. We were in an office building, but we were actually starting to try to manufacture things with a laser in this side room that had black curtains so no one could see what we were doing in there. So all of us bunched into this really small room and we popped champagne bottles and they were flashing the USBs. They were all over the table. It was so cool. I think we all got a little tipsy that day. Maybe a lot tipsy, actually.

Then we had our first million dollar month. That was when our office was downtown. It was a day of celebration for everyone. It was the realization of how big we’d become. There was so much laughing and excitement, and we were a small, tight-knit team at the time. I remember that day feeling like, wow, we’re really doing well. That was a really cool feeling.

Do you miss being at the office?

Oh yeah. I think it gets to me some days. I miss everyone, and I just want to be around people. I want to go bug Bjorn, or make people smoothies, or flip some hamburgers or bring lunches. I want to do all that fun stuff that I used to, but now I’m having to try to manage that remotely. But the video calls, those help.

The game nights help as well. We used to do those in person, but we can’t really do them in person right now so I’m having to settle with remote things. It’s been rough, but it’s something we’ve got to deal with, just like everything else. So deal with it with a smile and we’ll get through it.

What’s your favorite cat gif?

I have a lot. Fixing time clocks is an annoying little task. Sometimes the time clock we use just poops and doesn’t work right, so my rule is any time I have to fix the time clock for a team member, they have to send me cat gifs. That’s their payment. So I get quite a few cat gifs every week. In our team chat, any time I’m upset about something, the cat gifs come in a waterfall.

The one that really sticks with me is the cat with the pink wig on, and a headset, typing on a computer. I saved that one myself.

I can’t help but notice I’m in a couple of these photos.

You’re one of us, Alex. Just accept it.

More in Tux Machines

Mozilla Leftovers

  • Firefox Nightly: These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 91
  • Phabricator Etiquette Part 1: The Reviewer

    In the next two posts we will examine the etiquette of using Phabricator. This post will examine tips from the reviewer’s perspective, and next week will focus on the author’s point of view. While the social aspects of etiquette are incredibly important, we should all be polite and considerate, these posts will focus more on the mechanics of using Phabricator. In other words, how to make the review process as smooth as possible without wasting anyone’s time.

  • Robert O'Callahan: Visualizing Control Flow In Pernosco

    In traditional debuggers, developers often single-step through the execution of a function to discover its control flow. One of Pernosco's main themes is avoiding single-stepping by visualizing state over time "all at once". Therefore, presenting control flow through a function "at a glance" is an important Pernosco feature and we've recently made significant improvements in this area. This is a surprisingly hard problem. Pernosco records control flow at the instruction level. Compiler-generated debuginfo maps instructions to source lines, but lacks other potentially useful information such as the static control flow graph. We think developers want to understand control flow in the context of their source code (so approaches taken by, e.g., reverse engineering tools are not optimal for Pernosco). However, mapping potentially complex control flow onto the simple top-to-bottom source code view is inherently lossy or confusing or both. For functions without loops there is a simple, obvious and good solution: highlight the lines executed, and let the user jump in time to that line's execution when clicked on. In the example below, we can see immediately where the function took an early exit.

  • Marco Castelluccio: On code coverage and regressions

    There are two schools of thought when it comes to code coverage: those who think it is a useless metric and those who think the opposite (OK, I’m a bit exaggerating, there are people in the middle…). I belong to the second “school”: I have always thought, intuitively, that patches without tests are more likely to cause postrelease regressions, and so having test coverage decreases risk. A few days ago, I set out to confirm this intuition, and I found this interesting study: Code Coverage and Postrelease Defects: A Large-Scale Study on Open Source Projects. The authors showed (on projects that are very different from Firefox, but still…) that there was no correlation between project coverage and the amount of bugs that are introduced in the project and, more importantly, there was no correlation between file coverage and the amount of bugs that are introduced in the file.

today's howtos

Nvidia GPU Passthrough To Windows VM From Linux Host

Nvidia has now officially enabled GPU passthrough support for Windows virtual machines on GeForce graphics cards. In other words, this effectively means it?s possible to run a Linux machine and then run a virtual Windows machine within it, and hand that unfettered access to a graphics card. This is a big win for those wanting to run Windows games from within a virtual machine on your Linux desktop. They will be able to play Windows-based games using a virtual machine with GPU passthrough enabled. Read more

IBM/Red Hat/Fedora Leftovers

  • Red Hat Satellite 6.8.6 has been released [Ed: They have unpublised this since.]

    We are pleased to announce that Red Hat Satellite 6.8.6 is generally available as of April 13, 2021.

  • A brief intro to Red Hat OpenShift for Node.js developers – IBM Developer

    Container-based deployment models are the modern way to develop and deliver your applications. The most common tool for building with containers is Kubernetes, an open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management. Kubernetes has helped usher in a standardized way to deploy and manage applications at scale, but it can be a sprawling, difficult beast to manage when your application becomes more mature and more complex. A company will need to have a robust DevOps team to manage a full-fledged Kubernetes-based production system. [...] My colleague, JJ Asghar summed it up nicely: “OpenShift provides creature comforts to talk to the Kubernetes “API”—at the same level of robustness—as long as you’re willing to use the opinions OpenShift brings.” The good news? Those opinions are tried and tested, enterprise-ready choices with the backing and support of Red Hat. So, what do Node.js developers need to know about OpenShift deployment? This blog post covers the “what” and “how” of deploying your Node.js application in an OpenShift environment.

  • Fedora Community Blog: Community Blog monthly update: March 2021

    In March, we published 21 posts. The site had 5,520 visits from 3,652 unique viewers. 888 visits came from search engines, while 450 came from the WordPress Android app, and 386 came from Twitter and 208 from Reddit.

  • How Red Hat data scientists use and contribute to Open Data Hub

    Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) drive much of the world around us, from the apps on our phones to electric cars on the highway. Allowing such things to run as accurately as possible takes huge amounts of data to be collected and understood. At the helm of that critical information are data scientists. So, what’s a day on the job look like for data scientists at Red Hat? Don Chesworth, Principal Data Scientist, gives you a glimpse into his day-to-day in a short video (aptly named "A Day in the Life of a Red Hat Data Scientist") that’s now available on our website. Isabel Zimmerman, Data Science Intern, provides a look at some of the tools she uses on the job in "Using Open Data Hub as a Red Hat Data Scientist." We’ll cover some of the highlights in this post.

  • IBM Brings COBOL Capabilities to the Linux on x86 Environment

    IBM has announced COBOL for Linux on x86 1.1, bringing IBM's COBOL compilation technologies and capabilities to the Linux on x86 environment. According to the IBM announcement, COBOL for Linux on x86 can help modernize, integrate, and manage existing applications, data, and skill sets to ease an organization’s transformation into a more flexible business. To connect business components with suppliers, partners, employees, and clients, and to position organizations to quickly take advantage of opportunities and respond to challenges in real time, COBOL for Linux on x86 can help meet these challenges and enable use of existing COBOL code while upgrading applications with the newest technologies.

  • <./ul>