Sometimes, giving away free stickers can get you a $500 sale.
I hadn’t heard of system76 before coming across a post at the Ubuntu Blog back in August. It mentioned free (as in free beer!) stickers, courtesy of the folks at system76. Well, actually for the low low price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
But look! My $0.78 investment got me four of these neat “powered by: ubuntu linux” stickers. Coincidentally just the right size to replace a “Designed for Microsoft Windows XP” sticker, or whatever.
I didn’t know what I’d do with them. Pop one on the box if I ever got an Ubuntu system going, of course. Mainly I sent in for them because they looked cool and appealed to the little boy inside me who still likes to play with stickers. But then when they arrived about a month later, there was a note about a contest. Fun! Find cool places to put your “powered by Ubuntu” stickers, submit a picture, and have a chance at fame and fortune!
I submitted “Chainbuntu,” an Ubuntu-powered chainsaw that made it in to the top 10. For my efforts, I would have won a beer stein, but in my experience those things tend to sit in cupboards and never get used. Instead, they were cool about sending a t-shirt when I asked for one. (If you look at their /etc store prices, I lost $9 on the swap.) Free techie t-shirts are always a welcome bonus. (And it looks like you can still get free stickers, even internationally.)
So, with all that, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about system76 and their offerings. The web site is really well done. I’ve been thinking I could use another computer real soon now after the death of Eeyore and in light of the aging of Wintermute.
The idea of ordering a machine pre-installed with GNU/Linux is appealing to me. Knowing that all the drivers and software will be ready to go and not having to research hardware compatibility in advance would be a nice feature.
I’d feel good about supporting a company that promotes GNU/Linux use. Dell is practically giving machines away, but A) I’m not happy with the last computer I bought from them and the lack of support for what I see as a subtle problem with it, and B) I might save money but then if the components aren’t supported very well on GNU/Linux, it would be such a hassle. Even if supported, I could spend a lot of time getting things to work.
System76 has some decent budget systems. I’m looking at the Ratel Series. Starts at $399; essentially just the box. No monitor or peripherals. But I already have plenty of those, so that’s fine. I’d bump up the memory and a couple of other options so it would be more in the $500 neighborhood. It might cost a little bit more than a low-end Dell, but I have a good feeling overall about starting with a system that is made to run GNU/Linux.
Warm fuzzy feelings are great and all, but how good are these machines? Hard to say in advance. I don’t see a lot of angry people in the support forums. Just noticed yesterday some positive buzz from Allison Randal over at O’Reilly Radar. I do varying levels of research when making a purchase like this. Often I go with a gut feeling and that’s what might happen here.
I don’t like researching purchasing decisions to death. Maybe this makes me happier. I’ve read about studies where people that research purchases a lot are more often unhappy with their decision, maybe because they know about all the other options they’re not getting. At the same time, I suppose some level of “due diligence” is in order before spending a half grand. But system76 has done their marketing well. I’m inclined to trust and go with them for my next PC.
If nothing else, it provides some material to feed to the beast here.
And it all started with free stickers.