A System76 tale of woe.

Discussion in 'Linux' started by smallhagrid, May 16, 2017.

  1. smallhagrid

    smallhagrid MDL Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2013
    A couple of months ago I investigated the idea of getting purpose-built Linux hardware for a very long-term client & friend who is now retired & preparing to move around a bit.
    This man is the kindest, most decent of souls and was ready to become free of the 'windows affliction' forever.

    I assured him that after transitioning a bunch of other folks to Linux in recent years that it is a very good, reliable, stable OS for his purposes.
    That much was completely accurate; but sadly we were mislead into spending far too much in all ways upon System76 hardware that has clearly proven that it is not up to this (or any) task.

    His wife has also transitioned from windows to Linux during this adventure - but rather than spending such a large amount for her minimal uses, we set her up with a $500 HP notebook which I cleansed of that other OS & installed Ubuntu + Mate.

    So, what is wrong here, you may ask ??
    Nothing with the cheapo HP, its performance has been flawless - it all just works as it should even with the so-different OS; it may be a cheapo - but much to my surprise, it is also a delight.

    The Oryx Pro NB that her husband bought ??
    Absolutely gorgeous to look at - a real work of art for the eyes to behold - sturdy and even its packaging was impressive...But otherwise it has been a total nightmare.

    Right out of the box its wireless & BT were inoperative and it had the default setup of Ubuntu 16.04 with Unity.
    This was NOT acceptable as the owner prefers NOT to have his computing environment looking & working just like a windows phone (cringing...) and having working wireless for travel is very important too.

    Installing Mate to improve that made things 100X worse - and then, finding that it would ONLY display at 1920 x 1080, but also that its brightness could not be adjusted - was very, very bad as it altogether was the perfect recipe for blinding the user painfully.

    Multiple contacts with their support brought no improvements, sadly.
    They had me try several things then told me to just reinstall the OS totally, followed by the Nvidia driver(s).

    Some mention was made of using their 'System76 driver' as well - but when asked in so many words 'why is it needed & what does it do ?' - no reply was ever forthcoming even after I asked repeatedly.

    After doing as they suggested according to the EXACT info their site provides for this procedure it was not better - it was actually worse.

    Of all the problems though, this is the real deal breaker:
    That system will be used for both mobile & desktop settings and as such is desired to be connected via HDMI to a very high quality & much larger monitor, using a resolution that is easier on the eyes.

    After making quite a few trips back & forth to either service the nightmare notebook on-site or to get it & bring it back to my workbench to try & make it right (using an exact duplicate of that external monitor), their 'support' then advised to replace Ubuntu 16.04 with 17.04 as it has been known to correct the various wireless bugs brought on by that company's inability to use good, standard Atheros wifi hardware.

    This was done, testing and adjustments were made - and all APPEARED to work perfectly well...finally.
    Just long enough for the return to be made, to set it up, test & explain it - and for me to drive home.
    During the time on-site several re-starts were made to affirm that the display settings would hold as they should, and they did...for a short while.

    2 days of good service resulted - followed by a single power down for an overnight, and when powered up again somehow the system had made its own adjustments that were so screwy as to defy clear description.

    Rather than mirroring the same desktop on both screens as it was set up to do, it placed the external screen on the right & the panel & some other stuff were just...gone.

    As of this telling I made entirely too many trips back & forth & spent far too many days on getting that supposedly wonderful hardware to do just what it should have done from the start (and with and far less effort than has been needed).

    I have many years of experience with Linux and have NEVER encountered such a nightmare as this in all my time as a Linux user - literally - NEVER, not once.

    My advice to that poor man previously was to go right to his CC company and start a dispute based upon the possibilities of disreputable selling and/or fraud being involved...but:
    Given that more than their 30 day return limit had elapsed by then along with his being a gentle soul - he contacted them instead, and got a very 'hardball' type response (his words); so he decided to simply keep the thing & tolerate it...somehow.

    Then things got even worse.
    The situation became so much worse that it became 100% unacceptable - so he arranged to get another of the 'cheapie' notebooks for himself now that it is confirmed that the Oryx Pro is a total disaster that has wasted time & money far beyond any possible value that it may have.

    We consider this to be a very serious situation.
    Now it is time to make this into a public matter - to make the misleading nature of this company's offerings very clear to as widely spread an audience as possible.

    This was sold as the 'Rolls Royce' of notebooks whereas it has turned out to actually be a broken old jalopy underneath a very shiny, fancy paint job.

    Their hardware choices, solutions and support have combined to create this mess - and NOT any lack of time, effort or competence on our parts.

    The final act in this comedy of errors was when (quoted directly from their site...):
    "Björn, Manager of Absolutely Everything"

    Circumvented my technical advocacy, figured out which of their (maybe 3 ??) recent customers this was all about - and called his residence directly.

    This man then proceeded to spin quite the web of lies, and nearly intimidated my friend into accepting that his ONLY recourse was to ship the NB to them, accept the loss of all his data & settings, and then get it back in their default configuration of Ubuntu with Unity...period.

    The REALLY glaring lie during that call was when this man claimed that 'different OSes might not work with their h/w' - OK - I guess he forgot what else their site says (quoting):
    "System76 computers use a standard Ubuntu installation disc"

    So - both versions of Ubuntu tried on that thing which were obtained DIRECTLY from the Ubuntu download site are somehow 'different' from what they use ?!?
    Sorry, not buying that rubbish.

    That man went on to clearly reveal that even though it is sold as a very high quality & high class system, the target market for this ~$2000 beast is really...gamers - and as such it is far beyond what is needed for routine programs, email, browsing, etc.

    OK then - if it is THAT powerful - then why can it NOT keep things together enough to give even a full week of dependable service without screwing up big time ?!?

    I have seen repeatedly over the course of 20+ years that when IT scoundrels are panicking they usually resort to these sorts of intimidation, outright lies and abuse just to avoid making honest refunds.

    If these folks honestly cared so much about their customers as they claim to, then it seems quite certain that they would be more flexible & helpful in such situations - if only to avoid any bad publicity in the community that they would be very eager to give easier refunds rather than to have folks looking at them with disdain as is happening here, UNLESS:
    They simply cannot do so because they are already in the process of going broke from returns of bad stuff.

    My conclusions here are much simpler & shorter than all the lengthy description above:
    1 - System76 is a disreputable company and should not be trusted to deliver what they claim;
    2 - Their claimed expertise as well as the hardware they sell all fall far below their claimed qualities.

    I came to expect such poor stuff from the 'windows world' while I helped folks with that for so many years.
    It saddens me to see that such scoundrels have now come to infest the Linux Community.

    Now I can only try to shout out...
  2. smallhagrid

    smallhagrid MDL Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2013
    Closure...sort of...maybe ?!?
    After yet a final period of seemingly dependable performance the Oryx Pro quit altogether for no apparent reason.
    This is rather a short period of service for such an expensive system I think.

    The owner packed it up & sent it back to System76 with a letter explaining that it is a total disappointment & that he would vastly prefer a refund over anything else.

    So, at some future time we will see just what those folks are made of - whether integrity matters to them, or if their sole motivation is the almighty dollar despite claims of caring so much for their customers.

    My own POV on the matter is that I am delighted to have seen the last of that nightmare and will assuredly NEVER recommend that company's products to anyone for any purpose, ever again.

    A final twist that puts this firmly into perspective IMO:
    Following 'the end' of that adventure, another HP 17-x061nr (cheapie) NB was bought as a replacement - the same exact OS installation media was used to set it up along with a restore of his apps, settings & data via Aptik - and that one runs perfectly.
    Go figure.
  3. Kim100

    Kim100 MDL Senior Member

    Jun 17, 2009
    HP do provide good Linux support for all their products and always have done. Someone in the company sees a future for Linux, I'm not holding my breath.
  4. smallhagrid

    smallhagrid MDL Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2013
    Just a quick follow-up after some time has passed...
    The nice folks who had the disappointment of spending ~$2000 on the s76 thing have a single use for it:
    As an overpriced browser-only appliance.

    Here's the kicker (a rather extreme contrast) :
    The $500 HP notebook was so very good that they grabbed a 2nd one so they have his & hers notebooks, both using Ubuntu Mate with great reliability & stability.

    Now I sincerely wish I could have afforded that exact NB when it was actively being sold - it is truly THAT good !!
    (And for a mere quarter of what the nasty s76 beast cost even before the expense of sending it back for replacement.)
  5. Super Spartan

    Super Spartan MDL Expert

    May 30, 2014
    Thanks for sharing your experience man. I've always wanted to get into Linux with a laptop that comes installed with it from the get go. When I contacted System76's support one time asking them how do they get all the FN keys and whatnot in a laptop to work in Linux, they said that they have their own drivers team who write drivers for their laptops to make everything work so I had their site bookmarked so one day I will buy a laptop from them. Not anymore after reading your story.

    thanks again for sharing
  6. smallhagrid

    smallhagrid MDL Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2013
    #6 smallhagrid, Jan 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019
    Even better news:
    A friend who I got into Linux some years ago wanted to have a notebook PC in addition to his desktop PC - and I was happy to help him with that quest.
    We found him an HP 17-by0055nr at BJ's for $399 !!
    (Looking around a bit, this model sells at some spots for $649, but there it is $499 right now.)

    Pentium Silver N5000 processor
    17.3" diagonal HD+(33a) SVA BrightView WLED-backlit display
    1TB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive
    8GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM memory
    Card reader
    HDMI output socket

    This is a newer model that is very similar to the 17" ones we got about a year ago for the other folks (which are still 100% fine).

    Bearing in mind that the original goal with the s76 junker was to get a very nice NB with a BIG screen - which it had - along with endless troubles, BUT;
    These HP NBs are TWICE AS NICE, simply because they weigh about 1/2 what that nasty thing did, and are about 1/2 as thick too.

    Ubuntu Mate sailed right in from install media & the only fault was sort of expected - the inbuilt wifi was stubborn - so in went a $7 USB wifi adapter, and all is 100% well.

    No extra drivers or fussing needed - just plugged it into an ethernet cable during the install to let it auto-update, all went just as smooth as glass.