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At System76, we empower the world’s curious and capable makers of tomorrow with custom Linux computers.
Updated: 7 hours 46 min ago

Jon McDonald: How System76 paves the way for Linux hardware adoptionSystem76 has found its footing...

Friday 23rd of July 2021 06:36:08 PM
Jon McDonald: How System76 paves the way for Linux hardware adoption

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 PodcastThe System76 Unleash Your Potential Program...

Thursday 22nd of July 2021 02:49:58 PM
UYPP: Cameron Nagle’s Starting Small Podcast

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 CooperIn the previous System76 Spotlight, we interviewed Adam Balla...

Thursday 15th of July 2021 09:20:19 PM
System76 Spotlight with Crystal Cooper

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!

Pop!_OS 21.04: A Release of COSMIC ProportionsPop!_OS is developed to help you unleash your...

Tuesday 29th of June 2021 11:23:11 PM
Pop!_OS 21.04: A Release of COSMIC Proportions

Pop!_OS is developed to help you unleash your potential by providing you efficient tools that streamline your workflow. Pop!_OS 21.04 continues this ethos with COSMIC, a set of catered customizations geared towards accommodating a variety of use cases. Continue below for details on these new features!

COSMIC Workflow

Pop!_OS COSMIC (Computer Operating System Main Interface Components) gives you the freedom to navigate your workflow via your mouse, keyboard, and/or trackpad. Each navigation comes with a variety of shiny new features for you to enjoy:

During initial setup, you’ll be prompted to personalize your defaults by configuring COSMIC customizations to your liking. Each screen of the initial setup offers a preview of what your experience will look like. You can always make adjustments in Settings later on.

Mouse: To Dock or Not To Dock

That is one of many questions. The COSMIC desktop introduces a highly flexible dock to Pop!_OS that you can customize to your heart’s content, including:

  • Expanding full-screen or condensing to a central island
  • Arranging on the bottom, left, or right side of the screen
  • Adjusting size to small, medium, large, or a custom setting
  • Removing new icons for Workspaces, Applications, or the Launcher
  • Hiding the dock, or intelligently hiding the dock when windows approach the bottom of the screen
  • Going dockless, if having icons on-tap doesn’t fit your workflow

Mouse: Take it from the Top…Bar
The most notable change in the top bar is that the Activities Overview has been split into two views: Workspaces and Applications. This focused approach serves to reduce confusion while you navigate your desktop.

Tinker with the top bar to align your desktop with your mental habits. Whether you need a more minimalist setup or want to realign buttons, this update has you covered. New options for the top bar include:

  • Remove the Workspaces and/or Applications button
  • Move Date/Time & Notifications to the top-left or top-right corner
  • Toggle a hot corner to open the Workspaces view by flicking your mouse to the top-left corner of your screen

Keyboard: Super Key to the Rescue!

By default, the Super key opens the launcher in Pop!_OS 21.04. With the launcher, you can:

  • Launch applications
  • Open specific menus in Settings
  • Perform searches on specific websites (ex. google system76)
  • Perform calculations using the prefix: = (ex. =5+7+6)
  • Search recent files using the prefix: d: (ex. d:FileName)
  • Open file folders using one of two prefixes: / or ~/ (ex. ~/FolderName)
  • Run a command using one of three prefixes: t: or : or run (ex. run top)
  • Show launcher features by typing a question mark

It’s now possible to launch a search option in the launcher using Ctrl + Number, close a selected window (Ctrl + Q), and launch an application on dedicated graphics by right-clicking on the application.

If the launcher isn’t an efficient fit for your personal workflow, the Super key can also be configured to open either the Workspaces or Applications view!

Trackpad: Gestures!

A prequel to the tangible holograms of the future, trackpad gestures give your hand full command over your workspace. Here are some swift motions to keep you navigating smoothly:

  • Swipe four fingers right on the trackpad to open the Applications view
  • Swipe four fingers left to open the Workspaces view
  • Swipe four fingers up or down to switch to another workspace
  • Swipe with three fingers to switch between open windows

Additional Features

  • Optional minimize and maximize buttons for windows have been added! Minimize is enabled by default, and maximize can be enabled in Settings.
  • Tile windows with your mouse! Just click and drag tiled windows to rearrange them to your liking. A hint will appear to show you where it will be arranged on drop.
  • The recovery partition can now be upgraded through the OS Upgrade & Recovery menu in Settings!
  • The launcher’s search algorithm has been updated to prioritize relevant applications for a smoother experience.
  • A plugin system was added to the launcher so that you can create your own plugins to search with.

How to upgrade before version 20.10 reaches End of Life in July

Once 20.10 goes EOL next month, you will no longer receive new security updates until your operating system is upgraded to the newest version, 21.04. Though upgrading errors are unlikely, they do happen, so we recommend backing up your files before upgrading as seen in this article.

IN SETTINGS

Before diving into the upgrade, open up Pop!_Shop to the Installed view and perform any outstanding updates. This will ensure a faster and more reliable upgrade.

Open the Settings application to the OS Upgrade & Recovery menu. If you have an update available for your recovery partition, perform this first. Then, click the Download button at the top to download the upgrade. To apply the upgrade, click Upgrade once the download is complete. Once your computer restarts in your sparkling Pop!_OS 21.04 desktop, follow the prompts on-screen to set your preferences with the new COSMIC features. (You can always change these later in Settings.)

IN TERMINAL

Open Terminal from your desktop or with Super + T. To make sure you’re fully updated before upgrading, use the commands below one at a time, pressing Enter after each.

sudo apt updatesudo apt full-upgrade

You’ll be prompted to enter your password, which will be cloaked in invisible ink as you type. This is normal. Once the process is finished, run the following command:

pop-upgrade release upgrade

As your system upgrades, you may be prompted to answer a few yes or no questions. Press Y and then Enter to continue. After about 15 minutes, bam! Upgrade complete.

FRESH INSTALL

Back up your files. Then, head to this web page. Click the Download button at the top, then select Download 21.04. If you have or plan to have an NVIDIA GPU in your system, select the NVIDIA download instead. Once Pop!_OS is installed, you’ll encounter a series of prompts for setting up your operating system. Check out this article if you need guidance.

You’ve done it! Play around with all the new features Pop!_OS 21.04 and COSMIC have to offer, and see which configuration works best for you.

Pop!_Chat: The official chat for everything Pop!_OS!

Hosted on Mattermost, the Pop!_Chat is our one-stop shop for everything Pop! Talk with community members and Pop!_OS engineers, discuss ideas, and seek help with software projects. Create an account and join the Pop!_Chat here!

How we Arrived at the Pop!_OS COSMIC DesignPop!_OS 21.04 introduces the COSMIC desktop, which...

Tuesday 29th of June 2021 11:23:03 PM
How we Arrived at the Pop!_OS COSMIC Design

Pop!_OS 21.04 introduces the COSMIC desktop, which changes the workflow that users have become accustomed to since Pop!_OS first released. With such a considerable alteration, we’d like to walk you through the design decisions that led to the new COSMIC experience, and why we think it improves computing for users and customers.

Guiding Principles

Deliver advanced computing features in easily consumable ways. Auto-tiling in Pop!_OS 20.04 was the first major realization of this principle. Auto-tiling manages the window layout for users rather than users managing all those floating windows themselves. In COSMIC, we eschew a traditional “Start” menu for the launcher. The launcher is a fast and modern way to launch and switch between applications and access operating system features.

Simple and straightforward. We prefer literal design, in that there should be little to no guessing what a button or UI component does; it should say what it is and do what it says. The interface should be easy to describe, and no single component should do too much. Keep components focused on the user’s intended action.

Meaningful customization doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Some people prefer a minimalist setup and navigate their desktop with the keyboard. Some navigate primarily by the mouse, opening applications from a dock or application picker and clicking the system menu to suspend or shutdown. Others love gestures to glide around the interface. These preferences can exist simultaneously without complicating settings to the point of being overwhelming. Careful, considerate design can accommodate them all.

Launching Apps

In previous versions of Pop!_OS, you opened applications by opening the Activities Overview then clicking the app’s icon in the Dash or typing the app’s name and pressing enter. Each time a user opened Activities, all windows zoomed out, and the dash and workspace picker appeared.

Opening three applications involved:

Windows zoom out, open application, windows zoom in. Windows zoom out, open application, windows zoom in. Windows zoom out, open application, windows zoom in.

That’s a lot of zooming out and in. These transitions are heavy for the simple task of opening applications. And give the feeling that the interface is slow, taking the user out of context. In Pop!_OS 21.04, press Super, type the beginning of the app name and press enter, or click the app icon in the dock. No heavy transitions, animations, or context switching. Simple and straightforward.

Switching Between Apps

Switching between applications with Alt+tab is messy. Everyone has experienced the over-tab. Alt+tab tab tab. Dang, I missed it. Tab tab, oh I have two Firefox windows open. It’s painful. In Pop!_OS 21.04, press super and arrow down to switch to the app you want. Pop!_OS will highlight the window so you know you’re in the right place. Or, press Super then type the first few characters of the app you want and press enter. You can jump from your first monitor to your third or to an app three workspaces down. It’s fast and simple.

Oh, but there’s more. Have newer laptop hardware with a nice, large touchpad? Swipe three fingers in the direction of the app you want. You’ll be transported immediately to your intended destination.

Search

We’re pretty skeptical of universal search in operating systems. User testing revealed it’s uncommon to search for files or contacts in the Pop!_OS Activities Overview. We have some hunches as to why.

Mixing apps, files, settings, contacts, and web results in one place clutters the interface and is never quite universal enough to be the starting point for all desktop activities. You might be able to send an email to a contact in a search result, but you can’t start a conversation with them in Slack or Discord. Users end up using the app where the content or person resides. They search the web in a browser, a contact where you want to talk to them, or files in the file browser. The search results are better simply because an app’s results are inherently limited to what the user anticipates finding in the app.

For those reasons we keep default launcher results limited and focused on what the operating system provides: applications to launch or switch to and system features such as suspend, shutdown, logout, settings, and switching graphics modes on supported hardware (type “Switch” to try it).

And while we don’t think showing results from all sources for all queries is a good idea, we can make opening search sources faster. Open the Launcher and type “google system76” and the browser will open with Google’s search results, or type “?” into the Launcher to see more features. We’ll be adding carefully curated tools and improving them over time.

Applications

Browsing installed applications is a necessary component of any operating system, especially for new users. As new users become accustomed to the Pop!_OS workflow and the applications they have installed, they may migrate to the more efficient launcher or simply prefer to use the Applications view.

With that in mind, two improvements will arrive after release: One, windows on secondary monitors won’t spread, and two the Application picker will open on whichever monitor has focus. Because the vast majority of our customers use multiple monitors, we’re slowly moving away from the primary/additional monitor concept and toward treating all monitors equally.

We are also discussing ways to make the Applications view more useful, but more research and experimentation is necessary to flesh out possible improvements.

Workspaces

Of all the surprises that show up in user testing, how few people use workspaces was at the top of the list. Many used multiple monitors so spreading out windows to different workspaces wasn’t valuable. For others, their task focus didn’t take them beyond what fit well enough on a single workspace.

Then on the flip side, there were some folks who couldn’t live without workspaces. It’s how they organize their work and thought process. They generally maximized windows and separated them on different workspaces on smaller laptop displays.

We don’t think the fact that fewer people than anticipated use workspaces is a flaw in the concept or implementation of workspaces. Rather, we think it’s simply a need or preference to use them or not. Armed with the evidence, we decided not to put workspaces front and center. They’re easy to access and the buttons to access them can be disabled if they’re not part of the user’s workflow.

In a post-release update, we will add the workspace picker to all monitors when “Workspace Span Displays” is enabled. This is once more an extension of our effort to treat all monitors equally for our multi-monitor loving customers.

More to Come
  • An option to add the Top Bar to all monitors
  • An option to auto-hide the Top Bar
  • Dock and Top Bar transparency
  • Gesture controls in Settings
  • Tiling options in Settings
  • Additional Hot Corner options
  • Horizontal Workspace Picker position options

Developing Games on Linux: An Interview with Little Red Dog GamesLittle Red Dog Games is an indie...

Thursday 24th of June 2021 03:02:12 PM
Developing Games on Linux: An Interview with Little Red Dog Games

Little Red Dog Games is an indie game developer that primarily uses Godot to create games such as Deep Sixed, Precipice, and their latest game, Rogue State Revolution. To learn more about their experience developing games in Linux, we sat down for an interview with CEO Ryan Hewer and Lead Programmer, Denis Comtesse.

Tell us a little about Little Red Dog Games. How did you come into being as a company?

Ryan: We’ve been around for the better part of a decade now—I’d say maybe 8 years. We’re based out of northern New York, and Denis resides in Germany. We started off as a hobby business making point-and-click adventure games and playing around with various tools that are out there. With every product we said, alright, well what if we take it a little bit further? What if we push ourselves a little bit more? Then we started taking on increasingly ambitious games.

Now we’ve come to the point where we’re not really a hobby business anymore, we’re all full-time developers. We’ve got a studio that has put out four commercial games—and a smattering of other things we won’t admit to. I think we’re one of the larger companies out there that uses the Godot open source software, and we’re definitely one of the larger Linux-focused companies out there.

How long have you been using Linux to develop games?

Ryan: Denis is our lead programmer, and he works within the Linux environment, so it’s kind of a requirement for anything that we do. We have to play nicely with Linux.

Denis: It’s all my fault. Originally the first game was made with Adventure Game Studio, which I believe was still Windows-based, but from 2016 onward we started to use Godot. Since I’ve been a Linux user since about 2008, I just used the tools that I’d always used, and we just went with it.

Linux, and by extension Godot, are not usually the go-to game development platforms. Why did you choose to design your games in this software?

Ryan: We’re not exclusively Linux developers, and working within the Godot system doesn’t come at the expense of other platforms. So for us, because we use Godot for a lot of our products, adapting from Windows to Linux is quite literally like flipping a switch, changing a few parameters here and there; but I would say it’s less than a half-hour’s work to be able to support Linux consumers out there. Linux users represent about 7 percent of our market right now as game developers, which is more than enough to justify the minimal steps needed to be able to make the game compatible for Linux PCs.

Denis: For my case, I’ve always been using Linux. It’s just my favorite operating system. I’m doing all my work in it. I’m also a musician and I’m recording all my music in Linux, and so for me it was just obvious since most game engines support Linux.

On the other hand, I didn’t pick Godot because it has good Linux support—that’s a welcome bonus—but because I really like the workflow of it. I tested a couple of engines, and this was the one I preferred. And since I had already worked with Godot, it was obvious that we would continue using this engine for similar projects.



What do you find are the benefits of Linux game development over more traditional avenues? Why is it your preference?

Denis: I usually encourage everyone to use the tools they like. Of course in a game development team we have to agree on certain things like which game engine we use. But other than that, some people use Linux, and some people use Windows on our team. Everyone just uses what they like to use within the limitations of the project. We’re not forcing anyone to work in an operating system they don’t like.

What additional challenges are present when designing in Linux?

Denis: Most of the work is translatable unless you need certain tools that aren’t available on Linux. Sometimes you have to use workarounds, but with compatibility layouts like WINE and all the possibilities that allow you to run Windows software on Linux quite easily now, I haven’t run into any problems. As a Linux user for many years, I know how to approach these things. I’ve mostly used open source software even before I switched to Linux, so the switch wasn’t difficult for me.

What do you think the future of Linux gaming looks like?

Ryan: Right now there exists very little pressure or incentive pushing game developers, practically speaking, into developing for Linux. It’s more of a spillover benefit of trying to work with new and diverse tools. Godot’s market share is slowly growing within the realm of non-traditional engines. And it’s inevitable that with that, with an increasing number of developers that are adopting Godot as an engine, you’re going to see more Linux games coming out into the market. There’s no reason not to. It would be a huge oversight for any developer to not be putting out packages for that 7 percent demographic, and it’s painless within Godot to do that. I think just for that reason you’re going to see more content.

We will say that our Linux users are often very grateful for all of our products that come out in the Linux environment, and they can be some of your biggest cheerleaders. I would encourage developers to pay attention to these overlooked markets, just because that kind of publicity can go a very long way.

Denis: The only thing that any developer has to be aware of is that as soon as you release something for Linux, you have to do support for Linux. For us it’s easy. If the lead programmer is already working in Linux, then it’s no problem. Every build is tested in Linux by default because I’m using it every day, but for other developers it’s definitely something to consider because you need someone who knows Linux and knows how it works to be able to provide support. Godot was very easy to work with in that regard, and I don’t think we had any Linux-specific bug reports, have we?

Ryan: No. Actually it’s the opposite. Historically when it comes to development we always get issues in Windows, and then the response back is, well we’re not seeing that on the Linux build at all. And that’s nice—unless you’re us, in which case that’s just frustrating and awful. But I would say that usually the Linux builds have fewer stability issues. I would encourage developers to generally use a mix of OSes in their pipeline really early on in development, because you can catch some real weird behavior that way before it’s too late. We’ve definitely caught some issues when it comes to file naming for the Linux environment, for example, and that sometimes things that would be acceptable in Windows are not acceptable in Linux and vice versa.

Do you game on Linux? If so, any favorites?

Denis: I game almost exclusively on Linux because it’s getting easier. A couple of years ago, I occasionally had to use WINE to run Linux games when I had to run Windows games on Linux, which is getting more and more reliable. It works surprisingly well, and now with Steam Play it’s getting even easier. Most of the time the game just runs out of the box. It surprises me, I usually don’t even check to see if a game has Linux support when I buy it, just because even if it doesn’t, I can usually get it to run.

As for favorite games, I’m not playing enough, to be honest. I play strategy games and adventure games, and the most recent title that had native Linux support that I played was Beyond a Steel Sky. I like that one.

How does that experience compare to gaming on Windows for you?

Denis: I rarely play on Windows. Only in the very rare case where a game just won’t run, and that hasn’t happened in a while. Most stores come with their own launchers, and installing a game is just a couple of mouse clicks, so for me it’s not any different.

What’s next for Little Red Dog Games?

Ryan: Oh, man. The things I could tell you. We’ve started work on what is our largest and most ambitious project ever, and I don’t like saying the word magnum opus because I say it too much, but this really does qualify. This is a big one. Our team has grown rapidly over the past year or so, and we’re going to be experiencing growth for the next year or so after that. The next game will be stunningly gorgeous.

Denis: No pressure.

UYPP: Ben Ruel’s Garage GardenBack in March, we announced the winners for our Unleash Your...

Thursday 10th of June 2021 01:57:08 PM
UYPP: Ben Ruel’s Garage Garden

Back in March, we announced the winners for our Unleash Your Potential Program, in which six participants got to configure their own System76 computer to use for their awesome projects. This first awesome project is the Garage Garden, helmed by awesome project-er, engineer, and mighty green thumb Ben Ruel. We sat down with Ben to see how his project has been growing on the Meerkat.

Can you tell us about the Garage Garden project? What’s it all about?

I spent a career with the Coast Guard and came up here—my final tour with the Coast Guard was in Juneau. Being in southeast Alaska, we’re constrained with what they call off-the-road systems, and the only way in or out of town is by boat or by plane. So all of our food comes up here by barge for a small nominal fee, or by aircraft for an incredibly large fee.

When I came up to Juneau with my wife and kids 11 years ago, we noticed that by the time our produce gets up here, it’s lived on a barge a week, two weeks out of Seattle, and you have no shelf life left on them. We started trying to grow food within the first year of getting here, and we came to the conclusion pretty quickly that with 300 days plus of rain every year, outdoor growing wasn’t really a viable option. That’s when we started a hobby farm in a garage growing some stuff in soil under fluorescent lights, as odd as that sounds.

Since then, we’ve progressed into hydroponics, but we’ve done it very manually. We go out every other day and take readings by hand, so I’ve been doing some research about building IOT devices that will talk back and automate some of the readings. My dream would be using it to actually control the concentration of nutrient solutions that we use. The overall goal is we’re going to build the hydroponic monitoring network of IOT devices, and use the Meerkat as a control center for the devices and a repository for all the data. We’ve also been doing some investigating behind the scenes into whether or not it could grow enough legs to become a business.

Is there a specific type of produce that you’re starting with?

We’ve been all over the road. Right now we’ve got lettuce. We’ve always got some kind of green leafy vegetables whether it’s any variety of lettuce that will grow hydro, some bok choy and tatsoi, and we’re growing kale like it’s going out of style. We’ve grown cucumbers to the point where I think I’ve harvested 65 pounds of cucumbers off of 4 plants over the last couple of months, but we’re really constrained by our size.

I live in a relatively small 3-bedroom house, and we’re just using a one-and-a-half car garage as our grow area. Right now I’ve got two tents. As funny as it sounds, cannabis is legal in Alaska and has been forever—my wife and I don’t touch the stuff, but because it’s been legalized, the infrastructure and the supplies that we need are freely available. We’re growing tomatoes in a tent that’s designed for marijuana growth. It works really well. It helps to maintain efficient temperature control; you can maintain temperature and humidity, block out extraneous light if you don’t want it, and cycle the lights on and off.

Depending on whether it’s too hot in the summer we’ll run the lights at night, and in the wintertime we’re looking for extra warmth, we can shift the cycle and run the lights during the day. Our big benefit up here is that, because Juneau’s all on hydroelectric power, electricity is really cheap.

What variables are being monitored?

With hydroponics, there’s a good number of parameters that you’ve got to try and keep track of. You’re basically diluting nutrients in a solution of as pure water as you can get. You want to keep track of things—your pH can’t be too acidic or too alkaline, for example.

The other big parameter is the electrical conductivity, or total dissolved solids. You want to make sure you’ve got the right concentration of nutrients, and that your nutrient solution isn’t salting up. As you’re adjusting pH back and forth, it’ll start demineralizing salt, so tracking that data gives you a good indication for when it’s time to dump the reservoir and start over.

We’re doing it manually now. I go out every couple of days and we take samples, and sit down and log it into a spreadsheet. The Meerkat acts as a control center for programming devices, keeping a repository of the programming for the IOT devices that we’re using (Arduinos with the esp8266 chips) as well as running different database programs as Docker containers, so that they can be spun up and knocked down fast enough as we try and figure out what the best way to move forward is. We’ve got a couple of database servers that I’ve been playing around with, trying to break from traditional SQL and looking at NoSQL type of databases.

I’m not an IT guy by trade. I’m more of an electronics guy, so I’m kind of doing it as a study-by-night type of project.

What has your experience been like with the Meerkat so far?

I’m actually completely blown away by the Meerkat’s performance. It’s astounding what that small form factor and footprint is able to do. I’ve used Linux for a number of years, and basically everybody’s heard of System76. I’ve seen Pop!_OS before and never really played with it all that much, but I’ve actually grown to love it. The feel, the ergonomics, the interface, and even down to the color schemes that come bone-stock right out of the box. They just make more sense to me. I’m looking forward to the COSMIC update after researching that to see how the differences in the workflow will affect things.

What software are you using for this project?

Right now we’re writing in Docker containers and running the Tick Stack from Influx. We’re also running Telegraf, Protograph, Capacitor, playing around with the Time Series Database, I’ve got a container running MongoDB I run with SQLite, and there’s a couple different IDEs I’ve got loaded on there as well for programming Arduinos or esp8266 chip flashing.

How was the setup process for the machine?

It was up and running within 10–15 minutes of pulling it out of the box. I actually took it to work, too. We do a lot of work with government agencies, and I’ve been doing a lot of microwave radio repair. I’ve got a pretty small workbench at our shop here in Juneau, so using the Meerkat to drive all of our test equipment to control the radio while logging data coming out of the radio, it was perfect. It had enough horsepower to remotely control the test equipment. I wasn’t pushing it all that hard, but setting it up and going back and forth between having it at home or at work, it was negligible to get it up and running.

Stay tuned for further updates from Ben Ruel’s Garage Garden and cool projects from our other UYPP winners!

Things We Love About Our Brand New, Fully Configurable, US-Manufactured, Beautifully Handcrafted...

Thursday 20th of May 2021 03:01:43 PM
Things We Love About Our Brand New, Fully Configurable, US-Manufactured, Beautifully Handcrafted Open Source Keyboard

The robots have donned their space gear, and are now boarding the rocket. The Launch configurable keyboard is available for pre-order!

Before we start the countdown, here’s a quick rundown of the things we love about La—oh my that’s a lot of things. Let’s see…What info about our fully configurable keyboard can we sum up about how much we love the fully configurable Launch? It’s on the tip of our tongue, but we can’t fully configure it…

No wait, you can!


IF IT’S FULLY CONFIGURABLE…WHAT CAN I CONFIGURE?

Your Layout

Bring commonly used keys right beneath your fingertips. Remap your layout in the System76 Keyboard Configurator application, and then move your keycaps to match. Launch uses only three key sizes (1U, 1.5U, and 2U) to expand your options!

Your “Space” Bar

We’ve shrunk the traditional Space Bar from a single 5U key down to two adjacent 2U keys in the same location. This allows you to swap a Space key with Fn, Bksp, Shift, or Esc key for easy access with your thumb—without losing existing habits.

Your Layers

Simply put, layers are layouts. Toggling to a second layer gives you access to specific functionalities mapped to each key in that layer. Launch has two layers mapped by default, with up to four layers total for you to play around with.

With layers, you have the freedom to fully configure™ your keyboard to your liking: Swap Caps Lock with Esc, add an Insert key or NumPad, use a non-QWERTY layout, and so on. You can even set a layer to reconfigure an application’s shortcuts to keys that make more sense to you. Your customization options are endless!

Your Accent Colors

Launch’s brown Esc key and arrow keys spruce up the keyboard’s aesthetic with a rich, I’m-not-at-my-desk-I’m-at-a-French-cafe-having-chocolate-and-coffee vibe. But if brown’s not your style, Launch packaging also includes red or blue replacements. Match the wood veneer of your Thelio or mix-and-match colors until your palate is adequately pleased.

Your LEDs

By default, Launch exhibits a soothing, side-flowing rainbow pattern to hypnotize users into loving their product. (It works.) Scientifically speaking, however, only 10 percent of the population is highly susceptible to hypnosis—so chances are, you’ll be alert enough to succumb to curiosity. Cycle through various LED patterns straight from your keyboard or from the keyboard configurator. Set a vortex pattern, solid color, or a pattern which only lights up mapped keys on the current layer. And for minimalists, “OFF” is also an available cycle!

Launch LEDs flash U-N-L-O-C-K-E-D in sequence to let you know that your firmware is being updated. In addition to telling you that something is happening behind the scenes, it also makes for a fun light show.

Your Workplace

Once you save your configurations, your personal adjustments will travel with you wherever you go. Simply plug your keyboard into any workstation and plug away at whatever awesomeness you need to do!

Your Workspace

From the central USB-C port on Launch, you can connect to your computer via the included USB-A or USB-C cords. The attached USB hub also brings two USB-A and two USB-C ports to your desk. Plug accessories straight into the keyboard’s hub and take advantage of fast file transfers — such as a 1TB video file in as little as 15 minutes. Let the wire organizing commence!

Your Platform

System76’s Launch keyboard is compatible not only with Pop!_OS and other Linux distros, but on Windows and macOS as well. Download the Keyboard Configurator application wherever it’s available, and have fun personalizing your Launch!


UM…CAN YOU CONFIGURE ME UP A KEYBOARD?!

Launch pre-orders begin shipping in July. We’ll keep you up to date on potential delays as we navigate ongoing global supply shortages. Subscribe to our email newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for further updates.

Like our laptops, Launch is available in over 60 countries. Check out our shipping locations here! And the GitHub repo for Launch as well!

Behind the Scenes of System76: Industrial DesignSince moving into a factory space in 2018, System76...

Thursday 6th of May 2021 03:00:21 PM
Behind the Scenes of System76: Industrial Design

Since moving into a factory space in 2018, System76 has delved deeper and deeper into manufacturing hardware in-house. Three years later, we’ve introduced five Thelio desktops, fine-tuned the hardware, developed our fully configurable Launch keyboard, and optimized our production processes. Helming the design process is Mechanical Engineer John Grano, who wears a number of different hats here. We sat down with John this week to discuss industrial design and the team behind our beautiful open source hardware.

How would you describe industrial design for people unfamiliar with the term?

To me, industrial design is basically the art of making something into a usable product. In industrial design, you have to balance looks and function, and that drives your form. It’s kind of like hardware UX in that it’s really important to have the right feel. If you can make the system connect better with people, they’ll like it more. Adding that softness we do with Thelio, like slightly rounded edges and darker wood, it makes it a little more approachable to have a semi-natural looking system and not something that’s blinking at you with red lights all the time.

System76 itself is a group of hardcore programmers and people that are really into Linux, but I think the idea of trying to democratize Linux is extremely important. If you can create something that doesn’t have that robotic aesthetic, it will provide people with something that feels more familiar and usable. No one really wants to go sit in a car that looks like a square with wheels on it. They want something that makes them feel something, maybe openness or comfort, when they’re in it.

What inspired you to get into mechanical engineering, and how did you end up at System76?

The way my brain works lends itself well to engineering, for better or for worse. There’s a lot of really solid engineers who don’t have much creativity, and then there are a lot of people who have great creative ability, but can’t do math. I kind of fluctuate in the middle; I wouldn’t say I’m the best at math or the most creative person in the entire world, but I have enough of each that the combination pushed me towards mechanical engineering. I like working with my hands, and it’s more of a study of how things work in the real world versus computer science, which is a purely digital and nontangible practice.

During school I worked mainly as a bike mechanic, and that helped me to think about how to build things better. That led me to my first internship at a bike company working in a wind tunnel, which was really fun. Realizing that I could probably never get a job there—or at least one that would pay me enough to live—I started working at an environmental engineering company, where I prototyped scientific sampling systems for R&D that would process materials with all these gasses at really high heat and tried not to die. It was kind of fun making these large-scale systems that were basically just gigantic science experiments, but I didn’t really have the creative outlet I wanted in terms of making something that looks good.

One of the main things that drew me to System76 was being able to have a solid influence on what tools we were able to use and how we were going to push the design. In the past three years, it’s pretty wild to see what we’ve been able to accomplish coming from a completely empty warehouse to being able to crank out parts.

I had also previously, while working at these scientific instrument companies, been working with a local company to design and develop a cargo bicycle, so I had that experience as well in terms of consumer product development with overseas manufacturing. I think that helped get me in the door here.

Let’s talk a bit about your team. Who do you collaborate with on a typical day?

It’s a very small team and everyone does a lot. I pretty much lead the mechanical engineering team slash design team…slash manufacturing team. Being a small company, we are all wearing a bunch of different hats. Aside from doing the initial design work on all of our Thelio desktops and the Launch keyboard, I also program our laser-punch machine and our brake press and run through all of the design for manufacturing hang ups that show up. Those changes tend to be a result of our current tools, and internal capabilities.

Crystal came on last August as our first CNC Machinist. She heads up all of the machining, trains our operators, makes sure our parts are coming out in a nice clean fashion, and has done a lot of work on minimizing machine time and maximizing the parts we can get out. She also provides really great feedback on what’s possible and what kind of special fixtures or tools we’ll need to make for a specific part. Around the same time we picked up our first Haas 3-axis CNC mill to start working on the Launch project. That led to some other opportunities to make parts for Thelio and improve the feel of some of the parts that we were pumping out.

We just hired Cary, who came from a similar background as me in consumer product development, as well as low-scale scientific machine development. He’s going to help build manufacturing tools for us, and he’s only been here now for two or three weeks. Going forward, Cary will be heading up the Thelio line long-term, and I’ll be moving to some interesting R&D work.

And Zooey?

Zooey doesn’t really do much. She just kind of sits there and waits for people to feed her their lunch. I take her out for walks during the day so she can get away from everyone petting her. She doesn’t like when they do that.

What was the R&D process like for Launch?

Launch is a less complicated product in that we don’t have to deal with things like cooling. Even dropping a PCB into aluminum housing deals with multiple processes, like using the laser and CNC machine. This was a start to looking at those processes to see how much time it takes to produce parts, the costs going into making them, and monitoring the cutting quality. You have to be familiar with the machines and know what you’re looking for when you see a tool going dull.

We first let the software experts do their thing and optimize a layout they wanted for their programming life. Then I was given that template, built a couple of sheet metal chassis that we wired up to test that layout, and made a bunch of little changes to that to get that right secret sauce for our keyboard-centric workflow in Pop!_OS. Once we got a sheet metal product that we were sure was going to be usable, we decided officially that we were going to pursue making a keyboard. That came with a whole new set of manufacturing requirements that we would have to look into.

We spent a ton of time working on pocket profile. When you look at a Launch, you’ll see that it’s not a perfect rectangle. That’s because when you’re using a mill, you have a round tool, so you can go through and get close to a pretty small radius on the corner, but you can never make it exact. If we wanted to get a very small, tight pocket, we’d have to use a very small cutter that takes an extremely long period of time.

We’re taking raw billet, which are these huge 12-foot-long sticks of aluminum that we cut down to get our final product. We went with a rounded rectangle so that we could use our cutter and decrease the overall time to machine that part. There was a lot of work in that and making sure the pockets were all 13.95mm versus 13.9mm versus 14.1mm.

We also did a lot of R&D on how we go about putting the angle bar on. Magnetic assembly seemed to be a good idea. We went from trying to glue magnets in to doing what’s called press fitting. The bars come right out of powder coating while they’re nice and warm, when the aluminum is slightly larger than when it cools down. Those magnets aren’t actually adhered to anything in the bars; they’re squeezed in nice and tight from the aluminum cooling and contracting around them. That’s called a press fit, and doing that makes the process faster and less expensive.

It’s similar with the bottoms of Launch; we have steel plates that we press fit into that part as opposed to gluing or screwing, but that we do before powder coating; steel rusts, and we don’t want someone opening up their keyboard in a year and finding a little bit of rust floating underneath their super high-end PCB. So we do that, sand it down, use our media blaster to clean off the surface from the tool paths you see from the mill, and then we powder coat it through and through.

Word on the Denver streets is that Thelio Major is getting a redesign soon. What does that entail?

We’re bringing Thelio Major a lot more in line with Thelio Mega in terms of a different PCI mount for graphics cards, because we know that’s been a pain point for a lot of our users. We want to provide a little bit more robust installation for these graphics cards, which continue to increase in size and weight. The NVIDIA 3000-series cards are almost a pound heavier in some instances, and that’s a lot of weight to be shipping across the country.

We also want to continue to make Thelio Major cooler and quieter when it’s running with these new GPUs. Our new brake press allows us to make radius bends on parts, so we’re starting to run through R&D of a laser-welded external. It’s a wholesale departure from us using custom brackets and 3M VHB tape. That will provide a nicer finished product to our end user, and it’ll allow us to make our product faster with less material and less steps.

What qualities do you look for when adding someone to the team?

Creativity is extremely important. As a small manufacturing company, our priorities can shift on a day or in an afternoon where we don’t have the full line of product anymore. There are all sorts of examples in the past few years of times where you have to react pretty quickly. The motherboard’s been EOL’d, or we have to change our sheet metal design, build a new part, things like that. Making sure that someone can adapt to those changes on a moment’s notice is one of the key parts of the job.

We also want people who get excited about a new challenge and have the desire to keep improving something. I look for people who like to make things and go back in and refine it and not hold it up on this pillar. It’s good to not look at something like it’s perfect.

You have a lot of love for your Audi. What do you love about it over other options?

I like German cars. We have a family of them. They’re high-performance and not too expensive if you do all the work on it yourself. There’s a huge after-market community that tunes and changes these cars, which is pretty fun. Plus I prefer the metric system. Having a standard system drives me nuts, because what the [REDACTED] are fractions?

My real love, though, is bikes. I love tuning and riding bikes, and I love that more than I like to work on cars. It comes out of tinkering. I work with carbon fiber, I’ve done a lot of repairs on bikes over the years—there’s a certain sense of freedom you get from riding a bike that you can’t get from anything else. Not motorcycles, not cars.

Gaming on Linux: Guide to GraphicsGPUs are in short supply across the board due to delays brought by...

Thursday 29th of April 2021 03:30:55 PM
Gaming on Linux: Guide to Graphics

GPUs are in short supply across the board due to delays brought by COVID-19, but don’t fret! Now is the perfect time to plan out your dream machine. If questions surrounding your graphics preferences render you confused, we’ve compiled some useful info below on NVIDIA GPUs and AMD GPUs, as well as suggestions for how much power you may desire.

Don’t I just need a GPU?

For games that require less rendering, any GPU will run just fine, like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 that’s served you well over the years. However, if you want newer games to run like smooth butter at their maximum settings, your old GPU puts a technical limitation on which ones you can add to your library.

Comparing generations of NVIDIA GPUs

NVIDIA’s GTX 10-series GPUs run the older Pascal architecture, referring to the design of the GPU’s main silicon chip. While the Pascal line is fast, the Turing architecture in the RTX 20-series cards is up to six times faster. This has to do with both upgrades to the physical hardware and new features engineered by NVIDIA. The Ampere architecture then improved on these features alongside additional hardware upgrades for RTX 30-series GPUs.

How the hardware differs

The number of cores in a GPU determines how many calculations it can perform at once. The Pascal architecture is fit with up to 3,584 computing cores, which ultimately limits its capacity.

Turing architecture has far more cores than Pascal, including Tensor Cores for complex calculations specific to machine learning. It also has faster memory at nearly double the speed (14 Gbps vs 8 Gbps). Turing architecture also introduced NVIDIA’s new RT Cores, which are responsible for something called ray tracing. The ray tracing feature renders light and simulates its interaction with virtual objects in games, though the feature still has limited games it supports.

Ampere architecture doubles the maximum memory available in the GPU (11GB vs 24GB) as well as the memory speeds compared to Turing. It also doubles its CUDA Core count, vastly increasing the GPU’s multitasking capabilities. To sum up - it’s very, very fast.

NVIDIA GPU features explained

Features added in the Turing architecture and improved on in the Ampere architecture serve to boost your GPU’s performance during complex image rendering.

Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) mimics the appearance of high resolutions in games by running them at a reduced resolution, and then uses artificial intelligence to upscale (add additional pixels to) these images. Using this technique boosts the performance of your GPU by about 30% when mimicking a 4K resolution.

Turing shaders are used to render games faster. The shaders direct the GPU’s resources towards rendering the more detailed objects in a game so the GPU isn’t wasting resources on rendering simpler objects. While there is a slight loss in resolution similar to with DLSS, this technique of prioritizing complex objects increases performance by about 15-20 frames per second.

As mentioned before, the ray tracing algorithm creates lifelike lighting, shadows, reflections, and refractions, among other lighting effects, in real time. Since its release, NVIDIA has updated its drivers to allow for ray tracing on GTX 10- and 16-series GPUs. However, because Pascal hardware lacks dedicated RT Cores, ray tracing processing is split between the CPU and the GPU, causing your system to take a sizable hit in performance as a result on GPUs with this type of older architecture.

Comparing generations of AMD GPUs

AMD GPUs now run two architectures: the older GCN (on RX 500 and RX Vega Series GPUs) and the newer RDNA (on RX 5000 and RX 6000 GPUs). GPUs with the RDNA architecture can process four times more instructions per cycle (IPS) than on GCN. RDNA also improved on single-threaded performance, and tends to run cooler than its predecessor.

The newest AMD RX 6000 Series GPUs are the company’s fastest yet, performing twice as fast as the previous generation while gaming in 4K. This is in part due to the GPU’s new Infinity Cache, which improves efficiency and performance by increasing memory bandwidth by up to 3.25 times the previous bandwidth.

AMD GPU features explained

Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS) uses a similar technique as NVIDIA’s DLSS, allowing players to use a lower resolution for better performance while receiving virtually the same image quality.

Radeon Chill keeps your system cool by telling the GPU to use its resources only when it needs to. In cases where there’s no motion on your screen, the GPU will automatically reduce the frames per second rendered in order to save power consumption.

Radeon Boost reduces latency (the delay between an instruction to transfer data and its actual transfer) by lowering resolution in frames where your in-game character is in motion. This is especially helpful for online multiplayer games, where the advantage goes to the player with the least amount of latency in their button presses. (It’s worth noting that NVIDIA Reflex reduces latency using a different method that improves communication between the CPU and GPU—a method which has been found to yield better reaction times from players.)

Graphics Drivers

Like the drivers for your printer, graphics drivers are required to ensure your computer knows how to communicate with your GPU. The open source AMDGPU driver is included in the Linux kernel, while non-System76 customers can download the ISO of Pop!_OS with NVIDIA here. An open source NVIDIA driver, called Nouveau, is also included in the Linux kernel. However, due to the discrete (pun always intended) nature of proprietary technology, the project is still working to achieve comparable performance with the proprietary NVIDIA driver. For now, users who prefer open source drivers should look to AMD for the best performance possible.

What GPU is right for me?

Well, that depends. What kinds of games will you be playing the most? By breaking down games into tiers based on graphical intensity, we can recommend what GPU series would be sufficient for smooth-as-silk gaming.

Static or 2D: Intel or AMD Integrated graphics

Not every game requires a dedicated GPU to run smoothly. Games (usually 2D) with limited animations and polygons run perfectly fine on integrated graphics. Depending on your hardware, you may run into higher fan speeds or warmer temperatures, so you may look to upgrade your CPU for a more comfortable experience.

Low-Poly 3D: GTX 16-Series or low-end AMD RX Vega

While the 3D space is more intensive, the use of simpler models and less detailed textures reduces the computing power necessary to make any derpy shapeman game run beautifully.

AAA: RTX 20-Series or AMD RX 5000 Series

AAA games tend to be backed by high budgets and large development teams. As a result, these graphically-heavy games require a GPU capable of making (let’s see… add that, carry the 1…) A LOT more calculations. Look to the higher end if you plan to use ray tracing, as it takes many a math to keep up these glowing appearances.

AAA 4K: RTX 30-Series or AMD 6000 Series

AMD claims that the Radeon RX 6700 XT GPU is the pick for gaming in 1440p, so keep that in mind if your heart is set on a 4K gaming rig. Compared to 1080p, a 4K resolution quadruples the number of pixels that your GPU needs to render. That requires a high-end GPU capable of doing four times the work. If budget is a concern, consider going with the more cost-effective AMD 6000-Series or a higher-end RTX 20-Series GPU.

Online Multiplayer: Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 CPU w/ 16GB RAM

Though games tend to be graphics-intensive, the CPU and RAM still play their role. The CPU is responsible for sending tasks to the GPU to process. Meanwhile, the RAM stores the runtime of your game, and works alongside the GPU to render that data around your player. It also keeps track of your player’s in-game location in relation to the floor, structures, and other players. In some games 8GB RAM is enough, but 16GB is the standard recommendation for gamers looking for the smoothest experience out there.

Thelio Massive at the Lab: An interview with Luca Della SantinaEvery now and then we like to check...

Thursday 22nd of April 2021 02:41:43 PM
Thelio Massive at the Lab: An interview with Luca Della Santina

Every now and then we like to check in on our customers to find out about what coolness they’re up to. This week, we sat down with Luca Della Santina, an assistant professor at UCSF in the Department of Ophthalmology, to see what he and his Thelio Massives are discovering at the lab.

What kind of work goes on in the Department of Ophthalmology?

Everything we do is focused on the eye and on vision. I am also part of the Bakar Institute, which is a computational institute specializing in machine learning and deep learning applied to health sciences. The lab that I run is divided between working on computational approaches, mainly image analysis.

What projects are you working on right now?

One major current project is detecting an infection of the eye called trachoma. Trachoma is an infection that affects the inside of the eyelid. It usually occurs in countries below the tropics, and it’s a major cause of blindness for people across the world—except for in wealthy countries like the US where it’s very rare. Eliminating it elsewhere is a major goal of the World Health Organization. Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania still have many cases, so we’re taking photographs of the afflicted eyelid to look at the sites where bacteria has infected the eye. Then we use deep learning to detect it automatically to help public health experts decide which communities will require antibiotic treatment.

We’re also taking images of neurons in the eyes and map the connection between them, called synapses, to study how degenerative diseases of the eye such as glaucoma can alter the wires between neurons. Knowing which neurons are the most susceptible to disease will shine a light on new and more sensitive tests to catch these blinding diseases before they can actually cause major vision loss. This type of research generates really large data sets, in which each image is large many gigabytes and for which the analysis is very computationally intensive, both for the GPU and the CPU.

How long have you been using System76 workstations for your projects?

We started to use System76 systems two years ago, give or take. It was part of setting up my computational lab. One of the goals was to have a completely open a stack, and your workstations were an integral part of this strategy.

What is the computational stack you’re using?

We have the Thelio Massives configured for deep learning and for processing large image data. One of the systems has NVIDIA Quadro RTX 8000 GPUs for training larger models than we usually do. In the other system, we have it configured with dual CPUs and dual NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Tis. The reason for that is that some of the computational work is being developed with parallel computing, both on GPUs and CPUs. The more cores and the more CPUs we get this on, the better.

How do you balance workloads between the CPUs and GPUs?

Strictly for the projects I’m on, they’re each about as important. All of the machine learning runs off the GPU right now, but all of the basic image analysis and parallel computing actually works off the CPU. The reason for the latter is there’s no significant advantage to push that work onto a GPU. There are a few algorithms that we cannot parallelize on the GPU because of the way they are designed, and one of these is actually pretty fundamental in the way we segment images, so if we put it on the GPU there is not much increase in speed because we cannot push it onto every core of the GPU. For most of it, we need the raw power of the CPU.

What were the determining factors when you decided to go with System76 and our Thelio Massives?

A few things. We wanted a system that was designed to run Linux from its foundations. There are not a lot of systems like yours, so that was a major factor in our choice. We also wanted a system that we could expand easily in the future, and we found out that the Thelio Massive has has great expandability.

The most important factor for me was being able to double or triple the RAM somewhere down the line, and maybe have another couple of GPUs in the system. Having storage options is useful for us because we may generate a dataset and on a single 4TB hard drive, so the ability to just pop out and pop in hard drives is very easy. It’s actually huge for us. I ended up buying a bunch of 5TB drives and just packed them in. Most of the small stuff we just run off of the NVMe drive, and that’s much better than the rest of the storage we have.

I really enjoy how quiet these machines are! I can testify that we’re sharing the same room with another computer from a different vendor with similar components, and it’s about 10 times louder than the Thelio Massives.

What operating system do you use?

So far we’ve been keeping both Thelio Massives on Pop!_OS. The other workstation we have in the lab is either Ubuntu or Windows.

How has Pop!_OS been for you?

The software pipeline we use runs out of the box pretty well on Pop!_OS, so that’s not been an issue so far. I appreciate that you guys have full disk encryption out of the box.

We’ve also heard you’re thinking about buying a Lemur Pro. What made you consider that machine?

I need something that’s light that I can bring around with me. It’s also got a good number of ports, which lately has been hard to find on a laptop, which frees me up from having to carry dongles on my trips. I can also configure it up to 40GB of RAM, and I need at least 32GB, so that’s perfect for me.

Would you like to share how System76 has improved workflow for you and your organization? Contact myriah@system76.com to set up an interview!

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 (Testing Phase COMPLETE!)

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!

Update: The testing phase has been completed. Be on the lookout for the official release of Pop!_OS 20.04 in June!

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.

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