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At System76, we empower the world’s curious and capable makers of tomorrow with custom Linux computers.
Updated: 9 hours 14 min ago

Marquita Wiggins is Developing her Open Source Graphic Design Program: Designy

Thursday 7th of October 2021 03:19:10 PM

The Unleash Your Potential Program provides a System76 computer to six winners for accelerating the completion of their next project. This week, we interviewed Marquita Wiggins, who is in the early stages of developing her open source Canva alternative, Designy.

What prompted you to want to create Designy?

I like Canva, but because it’s owned by a company that keeps the software closed down, there’s no ability for people who know how to code to be like, “Oh, I want this. Let’s add it and make Canva even better.” To my knowledge, there aren’t any free tools out there that give the Canva Pro treatment. So I’d like to make a tool that’s better, and also free.

You mentioned you had heavy experience using Canva. What’s your background with it?

I work in marketing for WBEZ, a public radio station. I’ve been doing that for about three years. A good portion of my work involves designing, so I’m always in either Canva or Illustrator.

I like the ease of Canva because I can work on designs from my work laptop, or I can use someone else’s laptop and log in if I’m somewhere else. And then with Illustrator, you can expand artboards as much as you want.

What sorts of improvements are you implementing in your open source alternative?

When you’re working on a design in Canva, it’s very linear. Let’s say I am working on a poster, and I just started it, and I just want to keep iterating on small changes. In order to do that, you have to locate the artboard that you’re working on, and you can’t view them all on the board at the same time. The reason I like Illustrator is I like to have eight different artboards up at the same time, and I can zoom out and see all my iterations at the same time, and then zoom into the one I want to make changes on. That is my number one feature that I love about Illustrator, and that’s what I want to bring to Designy.

I’d also give Designy the ability to create templates and share them with other people on the same software. If you create a template, you can then put it on the template board for other people to use. In Canva, you can’t just put templates up in the marketplace. Canva creates your templates, and those are the only ones you’re able to see unless you know somebody who also uses Canva, and they send you the template to use.

Do you have a background in coding?

Not really. In my last job I sent out all the emails for the organization, and I also managed the website, so I did use HTML and CSS for that, but I was never an expert in it. That said, I was an expert Googler. I was able to make massive changes to the website by Googling what I needed to do and then figuring out the code for it.

I’ve been interested in the computer programming space for a while, and I’ve always dabbled in it and learned more about HTML and CSS. When I saw this program pop up, I felt that this was my opportunity to learn a lot more, and also be able to create something that would be useful to myself.

What software are you using to develop it?

I’m going to be using Javascript for the front end, Java for the back end, and likely MonoDB for the database. I’m almost done learning Javascript now, and it’s a lot! So after that, I’ll start building the front end of the site, and then learn Java, connect it to the back end, and then MonoDB for the database.

This was the perfect opportunity to get the momentum going on learning how to do this, because now I can’t stop until it’s done!

Why did you choose Javascript?

When Canva was created, they created it using Javascript, so I figured why not use the same software that they originally used? I think right now they’ve moved on to something else, but when they originally started they used Javascript.

What are your initial thoughts on Pop!_OS?

I never used Linux until I got this laptop, so it was a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to do certain things. I haven’t really downloaded that much—I only really use Visual Studio Code and Firefox, and I also downloaded the Brave browser on it—but I like the navigation. I like that I can open up Visual Studio Code and then open up Firefox and the auto-tiling will automatically arrange the windows. I wish more companies would develop that feature.

How has your experience been with the Oryx Pro so far?

It’s great! It has a huge screen, so I don’t even have to use an external monitor. I have it on a riser with an external keyboard. I haven’t had any issues so far.

Did you encounter any challenges in setting up your system out of the box?

It was super smooth. I don’t even know if it took 15 minutes from unboxing it to actually being able to use it. I also like that I’m able to secure my data with encryption before I log into my account.

You mentioned Designy will have a beta. What’s the plan for that currently?

I’m thinking the beta phase will start in March when it’s all done, where I’m sharing it with other people, getting feedback, and making changes. I’ll be using Reddit a lot to get folks to try it out and let me know what they think. It’ll also be up on GitHub, so people will be able to push updates if they have a change they want me to make.

I’m going to finish the front end of the site in November and the back end of the site will be done in January. The database connection will be done in February. I know there may be a lot of weird bugs and whatnot that other people will find, so the beta helps me work all that out. The goal is to put this out to the public and then iterate on it, so maybe down the line it’ll transition from Javascript to something else.

Is there anything we didn’t ask about that you wanted to share?

A random fact is I have a dog named Mr. President. People seem to get a kick out of that.

Stay tuned for further updates from Marquita Wiggins’ Designy and other cool projects from our UYPP winners!

Massimo Pascale and his Lemur Pro Explore Dark Matter Substructure with the Sunburst Arc

Thursday 9th of September 2021 03:03:10 PM

Unleash Your Potential Program winner Massimo Pascale is a graduate student studying astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley. Using his Lemur Pro, he’s studying early galaxies and dark matter in the sunburst arc, a distant galaxy magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Read the whole interview for more details on the project and his experience with the Lemur Pro!

Give readers a rundown on what your project entails.

A galaxy cluster is a conglomeration of many galaxies that ends up weighing 10^14 solar masses. It’s incomprehensibly massive. Mass is not only able to gravitationally attract objects, but it’s also able to deflect the path of light, and the more massive it is the more it can deflect that light. This is what’s called gravitational lensing. When you have a massive galaxy cluster, and somewhere behind that galaxy cluster is another galaxy, the light from that galaxy can get deflected due to the mass of that galaxy cluster. Gravity causes the light to get stretched, sheared, and even magnified because of the way that it retains surface brightness, so these objects end up being a lot brighter than they would ever be if we didn’t have this galaxy cluster in front of it.

We’re using an arc of light called the sunburst arc. If we take our telescope and look at that galaxy cluster, we actually see that background galaxy all stretched out, and it appears as if it’s in the foreground. So truly we’re using this galaxy cluster as a natural telescope in the sky. And there’s many, many scientific impacts that we get from that.

If you want to see some of the earliest galaxies in the universe—we can say the most distant galaxies are the earliest galaxies because it takes time for that light to travel to us—this might be a good opportunity because you have this natural telescope of this massive galaxy cluster.

When we look at these beautiful arcs of light, these beautiful stretched out background galaxies in the galaxy cluster, we can actually use that as evidence to reverse engineer the mass distribution of the galaxy cluster itself. You can think of it as looking at a footprint in the sand and reconstructing what the shape and weight of that foot must’ve been to make that footprint.

Something I’m personally very interested in is how we can probe dark matter in this galaxy cluster. Visible matter interacts with light, and that’s why we can see it. The light bounces off and goes to our eyes, and that tells our eyes, “okay, there’s an object there.” Dark matter doesn’t interact with light in that way. It still does gravitationally, still deflects that light. But we can’t see what that dark matter is, and that makes it one of the most mysterious things in the universe to us.

So I’m very interested in exploring that dark matter, and specifically the substructure of that dark matter. We’re using the evidence of the sunburst arc to try and discover not only what the mass distribution of the overall galaxy cluster is, but also to get a greater insight into the dark matter itself that makes up that galaxy cluster, and dark matter as a whole.

Where did the idea to do this come from?

I’ll have to admit that it’s not my original idea entirely. I work with an advisor here at UC Berkeley where I’m attending as a graduate student, Professor Liang Dai, who previously was looking at the effects of microlensing in this galaxy cluster. He’s an expert when it comes to doing a lot of these microlensing statistics. And I had previously had work on doing cluster scale modeling on a number of previous clusters as part of my undergraduate work. So it was a really nice pairing when we had found this common interest, and that we can both use our expertise to solve the problems in this cluster, specifically the sunburst arc.

What kind of information are you drawing from?

Very generally, in astronomy we are lucky to be funded usually through various governments as well as various philanthropists to build these great telescopes. If you have a cluster or any object in the sky that you’re very interested in, there’s usually some formal channel that you can write a proposal, and you will propose your project. Luckily for us, these objects had already been observed before by Hubble Space Telescope. The big benefit with Hubble is that it doesn’t have to worry about the atmosphere messing up the observations.

Because a lot of these telescopes are publicly funded, we want to make sure this information gets to the public. Usually when you observe you get a few months where that’s only your data—that way no one else can steal your project—but then after that it goes up into an archive. So all of this data that we’re using is publicly available, and we’re able to reference other astronomers that studied it in their previous works, and see what information we’re able to glean from the data and build off of that. What’s so great about astronomy is you’re always building off of the shoulders of others, and that’s how we come to such great discoveries.

That sounds very similar to our mission here.

Yeah exactly. I see a lot of parallels between System76 and the open source community as a whole, and how we operate here in astronomy and the rest of the sciences as well.

How do you determine the age of origin based on this information?

We can estimate the general age of the object based off the object’s light profile. We do something called spectroscopy and we look at the spectrum of the object through a slit. Have you ever taken a prism and held it outside, and seen the rainbow that’s shown on the ground through the light of the sun? We do that, but with this very distant object.

Based off of the light profile, we can figure out how far away it is, because the universe is ever-expanding and things that are further away from us are expanding away faster. The object effectively gets red-shifted by the Doppler effect, so the light gets made more red. By looking at how reddened it’s become, we can figure out the distance of the object. We usually refer to it by its red-shift. You can do this with any object, really.

Based off of the distance from the lensed object, which we find through spectroscopy, and the objects in the cluster, which we also find through spectroscopy, we can then figure out what the mass distribution of the cluster must be. Those are two important variables for us to know in order to do our science.

How do you divide the work between the Lemur Pro and the department’s supercomputer?

A lot of what I do is MCMC, or Markov-chain monte carlo work, so usually I’m trying to explore some sort of parameter space. The models that I make might have anywhere from six to two dozen parameters that I’m trying to fit for at once that all represent different parts of this galaxy cluster. The parameters can be something like the orientation of a specific galaxy, things like that. This can end up being a lot of parameters, so I do a lot of shorter runs first on the Lemur Pro, which Lemur Pro is a great workhorse for, and then I ssh into a supercomputer and I use what I got from those shorter runs to do one really long run to get an accurate estimate.

We’re basically throwing darts at a massive board that represents the different combinations of parameters, where every dart lands on a specific set of parameters, and we’re testing how those parameters work via a formula which determines what the likelihood of their accuracy is. It can be up to 10-plus runs just to test out a single idea or a single new constraint. so it’s easier to do short runs where I test out different ranges. After that, I move to the supercomputer. If I’ve done my job well, it’s just one really long run where I throw lots of darts, but in a very concentrated area. It doesn’t always end up that way since sometimes I have to go back to the drawing board and repeat them.

What software are you using for this project?

Almost all of what I do is in Python, and I am using an MCMC package called Emcee that’s written by another astronomer. It’s seen great success even outside of the field of astronomy, but it’s a really great program and it’s completely open source and available to the public. Most of the other stuff is code that I’ve written myself. Every once in a while I’ll dabble in using C if I need something to be faster, but for the most part I’m programming in Python, and I’m using packages made by other astronomers.

How has your experience been with the Lemur Pro overall?

It’s been really fantastic. I knew going in that it was going to be a decently powerful machine, but I’m surprised by how powerful it is. The ability to get the job done is the highest priority, and it knocked it out of the park with that.

Mobility is really important to me. It’s so light and so small, I can really take it wherever I need to go. It’s just really easy to put in my bag until I get to the department. And being a graduate student, I’m constantly working from home, or working from the office, or sometimes I like to go work at the coffee shop, and I might have to go to a conference. These are all things you can expect that the average astronomer will be doing, especially one that’s a graduate student like me.

I’ve had to travel on a plane twice since I’ve had it, and it was actually a delight to be able to do. Usually I hate working on planes because it’s so bulky, and you open the laptop and it starts to hit the seat in front of you, you don’t know if you can really put it on the tray table, maybe your elbows start pushing up against the person next to you because the computer’s so big, but this was the most comfortable experience I’ve had working on a plane.

What will findings on dark matter and early galaxies tell us about our universe?

First let’s think about the galaxy that’s getting magnified. This is a background galaxy behind the cluster, and the mass from the cluster is stretching out its light and magnifying it so that it appears as an arc to us. Through my MCMC I figure out what the mass distribution of the galaxy cluster is. And using that, I can reconstruct the arc into what it really looked like before it was stretched and sheared out, because I know now how it was stretched and sheared.

A lot of people are interested in looking at the first galaxies. How did the first galaxies form? What were the first galaxies like? Looking at these galaxies gives us insight into the early parts of the universe, because the more distant a galaxy is, the earlier in the universe it’s from. We’re seeing back in time, effectively.

Secondarily, we don’t know much about dark matter. By getting an idea of dark matter substructure by looking at these arcs, we can get insight and test different theories of dark matter. and what its makeup might be. If you learned that 80 percent of all mass in your universe was something that you couldn’t see, and you understood nothing about, I’m sure you would want to figure out something about it too, right? It’s one of the greatest mysteries not just of our generation, but of any generation. I think it will continue to be one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

The third prong of this project is that we can also figure out more about the galaxy cluster itself. The idea of how galaxy clusters form. We can get the mass distribution of this cluster, and by comparing it to things like the brightness of the galaxies in the cluster or their speed, we can get an idea for where the cluster is in its evolution. Clusters weren’t always clusters, it’s the mass that caused them to merge together in these violent collisions to become clusters. If you know the mass distribution which we get by this gravitational lensing, as well as a couple of other things about the galaxies, you can figure out how far along the cluster is in this process.

There’s a big impact morally on humanity by doing this sort of thing, because everybody can get behind it. When everybody looks up and they see that we came up with the first image of a black hole, I think that brings everybody together, and that’s something that everybody can be very interested and want to explore.

Stay tuned for further updates from Massimo Pascale’s exploration of dark matter and the sunburst arc, as well as cool projects from our other UYPP winners!

Behind the Scenes: Production Team

Thursday 5th of August 2021 04:38:58 PM

The Production Team is responsible for making our physical products a reality. In this week’s Spotlight, we talk with our Production Manager and 4th-generation machinist Chris Fielder. Have a look!

Win a $10,000 Thelio Major Workstation!The computer and operating system are the most powerful tools...

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021 07:49:26 PM
Win a $10,000 Thelio Major Workstation!

The computer and operating system are the most powerful tools in existence. The Launch into Learning season encourages STEM and creative professionals like you to hone their craft, learn a new skill, or make something they’re proud to share.

This year, we’re empowering one lucky user with a $10,000 Thelio Major workstation. The complete package includes a Launch keyboard, an MX Master 3 wireless mouse, a 27” 1440p IPS display, and a decked-out Thelio Major.

To enter the giveaway, retweet our contest tweet and read our terms and conditions.

The Launch Keyboard

The Launch configurable keyboard is fully customizable and engineered for comfort and efficiency. Remap your layout in the Keyboard Configurator, swap keycaps and accent colors, use up to four layers, and transfer data at high speeds through the USB hub. By personalizing your workflow, Launch propels users forward at max velocity. That’s max for Maximillion, a measurement equal to one million maximums.

Thelio Major

Thelio Major is a high-end desktop (HEDT) that’s thermally engineered to ensure components perform to their fullest potential. For the Launch into Learning giveaway, one randomly selected winner will receive a system with an AMD Threadripper 3970X processor, 64GB of RAM, 2TB of fast PCIe 4.0 storage, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 GPU. Thelio Major does not skimp on power. Or beauty.

Retweet this post before September 30th, 2021 to enter System76’s Launch into Learning Twitter giveaway. Good luck!

Jon McDonald: How System76 paves the way for Linux hardware adoption

Friday 23rd of July 2021 06:36:08 PM

System76 has found its footing in an industry largely geared towards Windows users. Jon McDonald, Contributing Editor for web hosting company HostingAdvice, took to the company’s blog to share a deep dive on System76’s success in the world of Linux hardware. He’s joined by Sam Mondlick, VP of Sales at System76.

Check out the article in full for an informative read that offers an industry-focused perspective on the products and strategy that’s led to our success so far.

UYPP: Cameron Nagle’s Starting Small Podcast

Thursday 22nd of July 2021 02:49:58 PM

The System76 Unleash Your Potential Program selected six winners this year to receive a System76 computer to help them pursue their next project. This week we spoke with UYPP winner Cameron Nagle about the Starting Small Podcast, in which he hosts, records, and edits interviews with CEOs from all walks of life.

Tell us about the Starting Small Podcast.

I started Starting Small pre-COVID. When we launched in 2020, my plan was to tell stories of entrepreneurs and their upbringing, education, and the story of their overall brand. I had my first guest Chuck Surack out of Indiana, the CEO of Sweetwater Sound, a music retailer. That set my guests at a pretty high caliber from the start, because Sweetwater Sound is the largest music retailer in the world.

Once COVID struck, I had to figure out a way to interview remotely, and that’s what allowed me to really branch off and connect with these amazing entrepreneurs from across the globe like Reebok, North Face, Cards Against Humanity, and more. And ever since then, the podcast has been going great. My audience—and myself at the same time as a business student—has been able to learn so much from these entrepreneurs. My own personal network has grown exponentially, and I’m connecting with people I normally wouldn’t have been able to connect with without this podcast.

There’s a lot of people here who would be interested in hearing that Cards Against Humanity interview.

Max Tempkin was an amazing guest, a very early guest of mine. He has a really cool story.

Are you looking to move to in-person interviews?

My initial thought was to interview locally because I didn’t really know much about Zoom when I first started the podcast. Originally I was going to keep my interviews to a two-hour radius from my home, but my plan now after having some success interviewing remotely is to continue doing it remotely, as long as I’m still connecting to these executives and they’re open to it. There are some circumstances where I might drive or fly to a guest if the opportunity arises, but remotely it’s been going great and it’s super efficient for both myself and the guest.

What’s your process like for recording and editing the podcast?

For recording, I use my System76 Oryx Pro laptop. I have the guest log in to Zoom on their end and I log in on my end, and I record both sides of the audio. Once that’s recorded, we post-edit the episode and make sure the guest is okay with what they stated and the sound and everything, and then we bring it into our podcast host, which distributes everything to all the platforms. We use Podbean to distribute all of our episodes. We upload the audio and then all the copy that we want the descriptions to say, and then from there we can track all analytics and progress, and how many listens and downloads we’re getting.

What software do you use?

We record in Zoom. For editing we are currently using Pro Tools. Because I’m new to the Oryx Pro I’m still trying to figure out the editing software. After the interview I’ll take the audio and go into Pro Tools, edit, and go back in for distribution.

Is there someone who works on the podcast with you?

We have two other team members on our team. Gabby manages our social media accounts, and Kylie does PR. It’s been an amazing ride so far, and a ton of fun.

Why did you choose the Oryx Pro for this project, and how do you like it so far?

One of my friends actually owned an Oryx Pro, so I’ve used it in the past. What I recall is my own personal laptop that I had was so laggy and not up to speed when I had multiple documents open and different files open.

When I received the Oryx Pro, I was able to do multiple tasks at once, such as having multiple documents open to read for our show notes, having one of our host platforms open, having Zoom open, etc. That allows me to have much more bandwidth on this one laptop than any other laptop that I’ve ever used in the past.

How was the setup process for you?

The setup process was fairly easy. When I powered it on, the instruction walkthrough was pretty self-explanatory. I went into the settings to add a couple custom shortcuts, but other than that the setup of the laptop is very much how it would be if you were to just turn on an Oryx Pro. For someone who just buys their laptop, it’s pretty much ready for them out of the box.

How much experience do you have with Linux?

I don’t have too much experience myself recently before I received the Oryx Pro, but my family did have a mixed desktop growing up. I recall using my brother’s computer, I would play some games on their Linux system back in the day. I am fairly familiar with the software and how Linux runs, but it has been a while. I switched to Apple a few years ago and then switched back.

What’s next for the Starting Small Podcast?

We are working on transforming our podcast from audio-only to incorporating video, in order to hopefully draw in a larger audience that prefers video content. So that is definitely the next step for us. Following from there, we would be very interested in joining a network such as an NPR or other podcast network that acquires shows and be part of that network.

Where can people go to follow the podcast online?

On Instagram we’re @StartingSmallPod, and the same thing for Facebook. For listening to the episodes you can go to almost any streaming platform that hosts podcasts, such as Spotify, Apple podcasts, Pandora, and more.

And where can folks listen to your interview with System76’s own Carl Richell?

Right here!

Carl’s certainly happy with his new Starting Small Podcast notebook!

Stay tuned for further updates from Cameron Nagle’s Starting Small Podcast and cool projects from our other UYPP winners!

System76 Spotlight with Crystal Cooper

Thursday 15th of July 2021 09:20:19 PM

In the previous System76 Spotlight, we interviewed Adam Balla (aka chzbacon), about his journey with Linux and becoming System76’s new Content Producer. Then, we put his content producing to the test, ensuring he could withstand the elements of a noisy factory. A slight drop in decibel detection later, he’s put together the second System76 Spotlight—this one for CNC Machinist Crystal Cooper!

Check out the sparkling footage of the interview! It’s got info. It’s got banter. It’s got…fish? So if you’re fishing for answers, get that popcorn ready and have yourself a view!