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July 30, 2004
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Mike Angelo discusses Pogo Linux Computers with Pogo CEO Tim Lee and Pogo Linux Engineer Jesse Keating

The Mettle of Pogo Linux

The Pogo Linux advantage is that you get a system that is guaranteed to have made it through a rigorous [Linux] compatibility check and Linux burn-in test. We select components that we know will work with Linux, and we burn them in with Linux tests to ensure they will work well in Linux.
- - Tim Lee

Mike Angelo -- 30 July 2004 (C) -- Page 2


Article Index
Note: since this interview was conducted, Pogo has switched from the ASUS K8V SE Deluxe motherboard to the MSI K8T motherboard for its Altura64 system.
Note: we discussed the Asus K8V SE Deluxe motherboard problem in more detail in our recent article Asus Anti-Linux Attitude Sucks.

Additionally, since that article was published and as a direct result of that article, it appears that Asus has provided a fix for the K8V SE Deluxe motherboard network interface problem -- and Asus now says it does support Linux. Look for a story about that soon on MozillaQuest Magazine.

  • The ASUS K8V SE Deluxe Motherboard Problem

MozillaQuest Magazine: Fedora Core and SUSE seem to have problems with the onboard network interface on the ASUS K8V SE Deluxe motherboard that came with the Pogo Altura64 Workstation. Mandrake does not seem to have a problem working with that onboard network interface -- however, the shutdown messages indicate it does have a problem with the Asus K8V SE Deluxe network interface's missing VPD (Vital Product Data). When this was reported to you all, you shipped to us an Intel NIC (network interface card), which works well with all three Linux distros on the box now.

Jesse Keating: This network interface hit us blind. When this system was originally developed, one revision of the motherboard was used. Recently a new revision came out, and the original was no longer available. We were assured that there were minimal changes, but as you can see, that was not the case. Because of our ongoing troubles with Asus and their ever-changing product lineup, we've begun investigating a replacement vendor for this system. Currently MSI is standing out as a replacement vendor, and the product we chose is nearing completion in our research and development labs.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What is the problem with the Asus K8V SE Deluxe network interface?

Jesse Keating: The data Asus flashed to the firmware on the motherboard is corrupt. Linux looks to this data to determine some settings for the network interface. Because the data is corrupt, messages get displayed to the console, and we think it has been linked to some system instability.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What is Asus doing to fix the problem?

Jesse Keating: Nothing that we know of. We've reported it, and duplicated the problem in Microsoft Windows 2000. Asus techs feel that because you have to probe for the error, that there is no problem and they will do nothing to fix it. They really did not care if the device did not work well in Linux because Asus "does not support open source operating systems".

MozillaQuest Magazine: Also, the Pogo Altura64 Workstation came with a SoundBlaster (SB) card installed and the ASUS K8V SE Deluxe motherboard's onboard sound adapter disabled in the BIOS.

Tim Lee: Creative Labs makes great sound cards, and Asus makes motherboards. We opted to go with a vendor that has consistently produced great sound cards in the past.

Jesse Keating: With Fedora Core 1, the onboard [Asus K8V SE Deluxe motherboard] audio was not functioning properly. In the time between Fedora Core 1, and our move to Fedora Core 2, it was decided to override the onboard sound and use a very well supported SB Live device. When we make the move to Fedora Core 2, many more onboard sound chips will be supported, and the add-on card will not be necessary.

    MozillaQuest Magazine: How about SUSE 9.1?

    Jesse Keating: Yes, I do believe SUSE 9.1 can use it as well. In fact, I think SUSE 9.0 could, because of SUSE's early adoption of the Alsa sound system.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What is Asus doing to fix the onboard sound adapter problem?

Jesse Keating: Asus doesn't view this as a problem as Linux is an open source operating system.

MozillaQuest Magazine: This leads into some other interesting issues.

  • The Science and Art of Building Linux Computer Systems

MozillaQuest Magazine: It seems that most computer system manufacturers, such as Dell for example, either ship only computer systems with MS Windows installed or without an installed operating system. In such instances people who chose to use GNU-Linux must install the Linux distribution of their choice after they receive their computer systems. What do you see as the advantages to buying computer systems with Linux pre-installed in general and from Pogo in particular?

Tim Lee: The Pogo Linux advantage is that you get a system that is guaranteed to have made it through a rigorous [Linux] compatibility check and Linux burn-in test. We select components that we know will work with Linux, and we burn them in with Linux tests to ensure they will work well in Linux. Many OEM's out there just do a hardware burn by booting off a floppy. However, we actually boot Linux up into the OS, run a few real world tests, and burn them with a few different benchmark and stress utilities. When you buy a Pogo Linux system, you know it will work with Linux very well.

Jesse Keating: We've taken the time to ensure that the hardware we put in the box (and enable) works with the Linux operating system we install on the system. We also offer full hardware and software support on what we sell, including Linux software support.

  • Is Linux Better Than Microsoft Windows?

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is the GNU-Linux operating system a better OS than the MS Windows operating system? Why?

Tim Lee: Better is fairly subjective, since it depends upon for what you're using it. Someone who's comfortably complacent with Windows will not be interested in Linux very much. However, someone who's fed up with the viruses, worms, proprietary code, strong-arm tactics and just poor workmanship, will naturally be very drawn to Linux as a viable alternative.

Jesse Keating: This question highly depends on the customer's intended use. There is a right tool for every job, and Linux isn't always the right tool. However, we feel that Linux is the right tool for the majority of system uses out there that we target. Low cost, high quality, high stability, high security, and a very large collection of free software options are what make Linux the right tool for the majority of our customers.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is the GNU-Linux desktop, such as the GNOME or KDE desktop, a better desktop than the MS Windows desktop? Why?

Tim Lee: I believe it is, because it's massively customizable.

Jesse Keating: Again, this depends on the usages. For gamers, no, probably not. Most games are written for Windows, and Windows alone. For offices, for desktop rendering, for desktop publications, software development, etc., for all these uses Linux is a better choice for the above-mentioned reasons.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How do Linux and MS Windows match up when it comes to applications?

Tim Lee: Windows still has the edge because it has the Triple Crown: QuickBooks, MS Office, and Photoshop. Linux has its own alternatives, such as GnuCash, OpenOffice, and Gimp. But for the average user who's heavily invested into the Windows applications, they have a tough time converting over unless there's a compelling reason to do so. We talk to so many potential converts out there who would kill for an opportunity to use Linux regularly, but they're tied into using Photoshop because they've used it for years. Those are the ones that will need native applications before converting. Some have opted to use

WINE and Crossover Office Note

Crossover Office is a commercial version of WINE. As does WINE, Crossover Office provides a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow MS Windows programs to run directly (natively) on the GNU-Linux desktop. For more about CrossOver Office, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems.

Today's article was written using MS Word 2000 running under Crossover Office 3.0.1 running on 32-bit Mandrake 10.0 on the Pogo Altura64.

WINE or other Windows-on-Linux utilities, but it still adds a layer of complexity that some people are not willing to take on yet. We still are holding out hope that more of the software companies out there will seriously consider Linux as a viable alternative platform.

Jesse Keating: For the most part, you can find a decent if not better Linux alternative to a Windows application. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Dreamweaver, several Adobe products, and a few others. Games as well are more Windows-based than Linux-based. If planning a migration, the best thing is to identify what software you currently use and can't live without, then find its counterpart within the Linux world.

    Jesse Keating: . . . Here at Pogo we have resolved our issues by installing one Windows Terminal Server, and all of our Linux desktops can "Remote Desktop" into the Windows system to run what ever Windows application they may need at the time. One Windows installation well protected from the outside world is much easier to manage than a lot of dual boot systems, or a lot of VMWare installs on workstations, or....


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