News, tips, advice, support for Windows, Office, PCs & more. Tech help. No bull. We're community supported by donations from our Plus Members, and proud of it
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • System76’s Thelio PCs: Frustratingly Inaccessible

    Posted on Wheel_D Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums Tech Accessibility System76’s Thelio PCs: Frustratingly Inaccessible

    Viewing 11 reply threads
    • Author
      Posts
      • #2263602 Reply
        Wheel_D
        AskWoody Plus

        Note: My original post seemed to disappear into the internet ether. Apologies if this topic appears twice.

        Hello!

        You may have heard of System76, a Colorado-based company that’s become known for offering high-quality Linux-based computers. I certainly want one: my primary PC–once a high-end Windows box–is nearly eleven years old, and I imagine I’ll only be able to squeeze another few years from it.

        Still, my needs aren’t fully mainstream, as I have full-body cerebral palsy. Thus, the crucial drawback presents itself. Have a look:

        Walnut desktop

        See it? The System76 Thelio is clean, elegant . . . and without a single port or jack to be reached. All connectivity is located in the rear.

        Yes, it definitely would be a pain-in-the-rear. Indeed, it effectively renders the machine unusable for me.

        Early this year I contacted System76 to express my concerns. The results were predictable, although I don’t think it’s fair to fault the person on the other end of the line. Finally, the other day I sent an e-mail to an editor at Forbes who likely has connections at System76. Here’s a portion of my message:

        I was wondering whether you’d have any suggestions about connecting with System76. My intention is to go “all-in” with the company over the next several years, spending many thousands of dollars on a Thelio Major. But there’s a “major” problem: I have significant physical impairments; as such, the Thelio’s lack of front-facing I/O means the system would be impossible for me to use. (What–you need a headphone jack? Fuggetaboutit!!!)

        I’ve voiced my frustrations by phone, but the System76 representative answered with perfunctory assurances that he’d pass my concerns along.

        Right.

        What would be the most effective way for me to reach System76? Would it be possible for me to talk with the CEO? I don’t expect miracles, but I am prepared to be patient, if they’Il [sic] listen.

        Let’s see how the situation develops. And if you all have suggestions, please feel free to share ’em!

        With thanks and kind regards,

        Wheel_D

      • #2263623 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Wheel_D: I would like to make some suggestions, giving Web links to related articles. If any of them looks like is something you might find useful, the corresponding article might help you — and maybe also others here that would like to comment on this — get started getting more information, if needed, on that particular idea. Or even some different and better idea.

        (1) If you have not looked into this yet, there are small devices, called port hubs, that have several different types of sockets on them and can be plugged with one connector to the computer to then connect the computer to a variety of devices that can be plugged into the hub’s sockets. If the problem is reaching behind the back of the computer, perhaps by placing the hub in front of the computer you could reach those ports in the hub itself, depending on how difficult that might be. This would be useful to you if someone helped by connecting first the hub to the one of the USB ports at the back. If you do not have to carry the computer from place to place, this could be a permanent arrangement for a machine that sits always in the same place. Even if you need to move the computer, there may be ways of doing this without disconnecting the hub. If a using hub looked to you like something practical, except for that detail, perhaps others here might suggest some solutions to that.

        https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Computers-Accessories-USB-Hubs/zgbs/pc/17387627011

        (2) The hubs I have seen do not have sockets for audio, but Bluetooth connected headphones might be used instead:

        https://www.amazon.com/bluetooth-headphones/s?k=bluetooth+headphones

        Bluetooth devices can be used from a Linux computer. You might have to research this a bit, to make sure that any Bluetooth headphones you might like are compatible with your Linux distribution (Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, etc.) There are some people here who are quite knowledgeable of Linux and might be able to add to this.

        I hope this is helpful. Good luck.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2263795 Reply
        Alex5723
        AskWoody Plus

        Try reaching Syetm76 CEO CARL RICHELL here : https://carlrichell.com/ask

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2263812 Reply
        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        And if you all have suggestions, please feel free to share ’em!

        How firm are you on going with System 76?

        Even though I use Linux myself, and I nominally would rather not fund Microsoft any more than necessary, this unit would be a no-go for me if I was in the desktop market. I don’t have any physical disabilities, but I do require the usual front panel controls on a desktop: USB ports, SD card reader, reset button, HDD light, power light, and headphone and mic jacks. As always, form follows function for me, and I’d rather have something resembling one of those plain-jane beige cases from the mid ’90s with all of the requisite stuff than a beautiful but sparse case.  It’s a shame that System 76 has apparently gone all-in on their minimalist wooden aesthetic, with no more conventional options available. The desire for front-panel ports and controls is by no means unique!

        The huge variety of hardware choices and price points is one of the great benefits of the PC market, and is one of the things that endeared the platform to me back in 1990, when I got my first PC.  That’s why all of my Linux laptops (I’ve never bought a desktop PC in one piece) have started life as Windows laptops.

        It’s worth noting that the two OS choices available are Pop! OS and Ubuntu, both of which use the GNOME 3 desktop, my absolute least favorite of all of the ones I’ve tried.  It’s suffered the same lopping off of features in the name of minimalism that the Thelio has physically (a trend also followed by Apple, the company that “bravely” removed the headphone jack from their iPhones). I’d end up having to reinstall Linux anyway, so it wouldn’t even be any less work than repurposing a Windows machine. That’s never been a problem to me, as my point of perspective on PCs has always been one of it being a collection of components, acquired in a state not immediately usable, of which the operating system is just one.

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.5).

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2264281 Reply
        owburp
        AskWoody Plus

        Just a thought … not sure if this might work, but do a search on “Wavlink USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station”. These docking stations are really intended for laptops but perhaps it will provide you with the connections you need in a location that works for you. All you’d need to do is a one-time connection of a single USB 3.0 cable to the rear of the Thelio and, depending on long that cable is, you can position the docking station somewhere convenient. I doubt Wavlink is the only company out there making these and please don’t take this as an endorsement of them or these products either as I have no experience one way or the other with these.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2264481 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Wheel_D: I am not sure about the cost, but one potential option, if it turned out to be an affordable one, would be to have a machine custom-built to your precise specifications and delivered to you with the operating system and additional software of your choice pre-installed, along with all the technical information necessary for it to be taken along with the computer, if it ever needs to be repaired, to a good computer shop and have them fixed it, helped with that information, in case the makers of the machine do not make repairs themselves, or are no longer in business at that future time.

        If this were a viable option for you, perhaps it might be worthwhile for you to try to find out about any reputable shops that will custom-build a computer for you. I imagine there may be some around. Also there are quite a few here, at AskWoody, who build computer desktops for themselves, as a hobby, and they might know of others who do it as a business.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2264493 Reply
        DrBonzo
        AskWoody Plus

        There are other places to get Linux computers:

        https://www.thinkpenguin.com/

        https://www.linuxmint.com/store_mintbox3.php

        https://www.linuxmint.com/store_mintbox.php

        https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/overview/cp/linuxsystems
        scroll down a ways and you’ll see plenty of desktops with usb ports on the front.

        Do a search and you’ll find a bunch more.

        Or simply buy a high end computer you want (even if it comes with Windows) and install – or have installed – the Linux distro of your choice.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2264542 Reply
        Alex5723
        AskWoody Plus

        Or simply buy a high end computer you want (even if it comes with Windows) and install – or have installed – the Linux distro of your choice.

        A pre-installed Windows OS on a PC can be refunded (~50) if EULA has been rejected / replaced with Linux.

        Buying a PC with pre-installed Linux give you peace of mind that all the right drivers are installed and tested.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2264778 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Knowing that everything is tested and working can be beneficial, and if there’s some level of documentation from the OEM, all the better.  On the other hand, though, you can often search a PC’s model number and see if anyone has used it with Linux, and how well it works.  Just to be certain, all three of my laptops that I bought with the intent of installing Linux came from a store that accepts returns without a restocking fee, so if I find that it does not work as well as I would hope, I can return it. That’s a good thing even if the system has the OS you want preinstalled, since there may be other annoyances or issues that are part of the design that will become apparent when you sit down with the unit and use it.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.5).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2264763 Reply
        Wheel_D
        AskWoody Plus

        Hello!

        I haven’t got the energy or time to post a proper reply, but I wanted to thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I’ll try to follow up in the next day or so.

        Best regards,

        Wheel_D

      • #2265394 Reply
        Wheel_D
        AskWoody Plus

        Again, my thanks to all.

        I’ve been doing a great deal of research; it’s a wonderful distraction from my obligations. (Just don’t tell anyone, ok? <Grin>) Per your suggestions, I’ve looked at conventional desktop options from a massive assortment of vendors. Specific Linux-oriented offerings include those from Think Penguin, Tuxedo Computers, ZaReason, Linucity, and CompuLab.

        Incidentally, CompuLab’s MintBox3 Pro seems like an amazing piece of work. It’s a shame it isn’t right for me, because I want one!

        The non-Linux options I investigated consisted of systems from Puget Systems, Velocity Micro, CyberPowerPC, Adamant, Falcon Northwest, Origin PC (Corsair), Digital Storm, DogHouse Systems, Xidax, iBuyPower, Bizon, NZXT, Maingear, and several others.

        Among Linux-oriented PCs, it seems to me that System76 is far and away the best choice for a conventional desktop computer, at least in North America. Indeed, System76 carries AMD GPUs, an important consideration for full compatibility with Linux. (Maingear and Velocity Micro also offer AMD GPUs, despite their Windows-only audience.)

        Well, it appears my meandering PC explorations have essentially led me back where I started. No, I can’t get a System76 Thelio: it presents too many compromises for my needs. I did find the CEO’s actual e-mail address, so he’ll be hearing from me. . . .

        If I had to buy a new computer tomorrow, I’d choose Puget Systems–GPU compatibility be d****d! I’ve got eleven years of experience with their system, and their service and support remain the best I’ve found.

        I’ll keep y’all updated as the saga continues. Thanks for reading!

        ~Wheel_D

        • #2266956 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Indeed, System76 carries AMD GPUs, an important consideration for full compatibility with Linux.

          I am not sure what you mean by AMD being important for full compatibility with Linux.  Intel has long been regarded as being at the top of the heap in terms of Linux support, though AMD has been making a lot of progress, dropping their proprietary Linux drivers and throwing all of their support behind open source.  That leaves nVidia, which is probably what you were referring to. I am still not sure what you mean by them not being fully compatible, though. It’s quite possible you know something I don’t, but nVidia has worked well for me in Linux.

          I have three main PCs at the moment… one uses a nVidia card as its only GPU (the desktop), one uses Intel integrated (Swift), and one has a hybrid setup with both a nVidia and Intel GPU (also known as “Optimus” in Windows or “Prime” in Linux).  The nVidia PCs work quite well, but only when the nVidia (as opposed to the open-source) drivers are used (also called proprietary drivers).

          It’s true that nVidia has not been helpful when it comes to the development of open-source nVidia drivers (Nouveau), and as a result the Nouveau drivers are pretty bad, but that alone doesn’t mean nVidia cards are not fully compatible with Linux. It is true, though, that you have to use the nVidia proprietary rivers to get decent performance. In Windows, the nVidia drivers are proprietary too, but so is the whole of Windows, so it hardly seems to matter at that point.

          While nVidia is the GPU maker that is least friendly to Linux, it’s not bad compared to the support from a lot of vendors of other kinds of non-GPU things… which is to say, “None at all.”  They do offer and maintain drivers for Linux right alongside their Windows drivers, and my experience has been that they’re fast and stable.

          It’s true that nVidia has often been slow or reluctant to roll out features that have been in Windows for some time (like dynamic GPU offloading on Optimus/Prime systems), but they are still moving forward with that kind of thing.  On the good side, I get similar framerates playing a Windows game using WINE and DXVK as I do in actual Windows on the same PC.  Linux is lower, but it’s on the order of ~5% in the games and benchmarks I’ve tried on both (Win 8.1 in the case of Windows). There is some overhead translating DirectX calls to Vulkan, so only losing a small bit of the framerate is very impressive.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.5).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2266895 Reply
        Wheel_D
        AskWoody Plus

        Hello!

        I sent an e-mail to System 76 CEO Carl Richell, who was kind enough to respond the same day. Here’s the body of my message:

        I admire System76’s principles, and in the coming year I was planning to go “all-in” by buying a Thelio or Thelio Major. Yet, as a person with major physical impairments, I am frustrated to find that the Thelio’s design is unsuitable for my needs. Indeed, it is simply not practical for me to access the rear of the system just to connect headphones or basic USB devices.

        Have you considered revisions to incorporate connectivity on the Thelio’s front panel? I would urge you to bear in mind that access–full access–is crucial for those like me who might otherwise be excluded from supporting the values your company strives to represent.

        Here’s the CEO’s response:

        Front ports are on the roadmap but we don’t have timeline at the moment.

        Yes, I’m sure it will be quite some time. . . .

        ~Wheel_D

        • This reply was modified 6 days, 17 hours ago by Wheel_D.
        • This reply was modified 6 days, 17 hours ago by Wheel_D.
      • #2266962 Reply
        Wheel_D
        AskWoody Plus

        Indeed, System76 carries AMD GPUs, an important consideration for full compatibility with Linux.

        I am not sure what you mean by AMD being important for full compatibility with Linux.  Intel has long been regarded as being at the top of the heap in terms of Linux support, though AMD has been making a lot of progress, dropping their proprietary Linux drivers and throwing all of their support behind open source.  That leaves nVidia, which is probably what you were referring to. I am still not sure what you mean by them not being fully compatible, though. It’s quite possible you know something I don’t, but nVidia has worked well for me in Linux.

        I have three main PCs at the moment… one uses a nVidia card as its only GPU (the desktop), one uses Intel integrated (Swift), and one has a hybrid setup with both a nVidia and Intel GPU (also known as “Optimus” in Windows or “Prime” in Linux).  The nVidia PCs work quite well, but only when the nVidia (as opposed to the open-source) drivers are used (also called proprietary drivers).

        It’s true that nVidia has not been helpful when it comes to the development of open-source nVidia drivers (Nouveau), and as a result the Nouveau drivers are pretty bad, but that alone doesn’t mean nVidia cards are not fully compatible with Linux. It is true, though, that you have to use the nVidia proprietary rivers to get decent performance. In Windows, the nVidia drivers are proprietary too, but so is the whole of Windows, so it hardly seems to matter at that point.

        While nVidia is the GPU maker that is least friendly to Linux, it’s not bad compared to the support from a lot of vendors of other kinds of non-GPU things… which is to say, “None at all.”  They do offer and maintain drivers for Linux right alongside their Windows drivers, and my experience has been that they’re fast and stable.

        It’s true that nVidia has often been slow or reluctant to roll out features that have been in Windows for some time (like dynamic GPU offloading on Optimus/Prime systems), but they are still moving forward with that kind of thing.  On the good side, I get similar framerates playing a Windows game using WINE and DXVK as I do in actual Windows on the same PC.  Linux is lower, but it’s on the order of ~5% in the games and benchmarks I’ve tried on both (Win 8.1 in the case of Windows). There is some overhead translating DirectX calls to Vulkan, so only losing a small bit of the framerate is very impressive.

        Regarding compatibility, I was referring specifically to AMD GPUs. Still, I’ve had to re-evaluate my stance, as sources I trust have told me that AMD-based graphics boards have a higher failure rate than those from nVidia. I imagine reliability is a major reason AMD’s video hardware isn’t more common, even among Linux vendors. Well, OK–I’d choose nVidia as my GPU.

        Nevertheless, were I to buy a desktop tomorrow, I’d still opt for Ryzen or Threadripper.

    Viewing 11 reply threads

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

    Reply To: System76’s Thelio PCs: Frustratingly Inaccessible

    You can use BBCodes to format your content.
    Your account can't use Advanced BBCodes, they will be stripped before saving.