Me and My System76 Darter

So my Darter showed up yesterday (DHL rocks), and it is just super-sweet. The screen is bright and clear, the keyboard is sturdy and responsive and a good size. The battery life is superb, and the touchpad is one of the best I’ve ever used. I think my complaints are limited to the speakers, and the lack of manuals.
About my two criticisms, before I go any further, I’d like to explain what I mean when I complain about speakers. I’m used to very high-quality desktop speakers. I never buy OEM speakers because they always end up being less than what I expected, so I always buy them separately. The audio quality of this machine is outstanding, but only when it’s coming through another set of speakers. Laptop speakers are notoriously lousy… but these ones are satisfactory for laptop speakers.
The manuals that I would have expected could have explained how to use all of the different hardware components on the machine, and what all the little buttons on the top do. I had to contact support at first to get a quick tutorial on how to turn on the wireless because the button for the wireless looks more like a speaker with a harpoon through it than a speaker. Called them up and a very polite gentleman by the name of Tom answered my questions very quickly.
Now onto the things I really like about this machine…
It’s small, but not too small. When I thought of a 12.1″ widescreen, at first I thought for sure it would be too small. It’s definitely smaller than my 17″ widescreen, but pleasantly so. I wanted a machine I could move around with, and I certainly got it. This bad boy can move anywhere with me without trouble. It’s light and compact, and will be very nice for train rides. It’s nice to have a laptop that fits comfortably on your lap for a change.
This machine came with a fantastic Ubuntu install! I’ve never seen anybody do Feisty so much justice. While I’ve got it up and running on Kubuntu Gutsy now, the default Ubuntu install would be perfect for anybody, particularly newbies.
This keyboard is blowing my mind. It might be that I’ve had a crappy HP keyboard that missed keystrokes, but this keyboard is sturdy and very responsive. There are a couple issues with it, such as having the function key where the control key is traditionally placed, and some of the keys are a bit small, so I have to get used to that, too. All-in-all this is a fine keyboard.
I’m getting about four to four-and-a-half hours of battery life out of this fella. On my HP laptop I only got about 2 hours if I was lucky. This Darter is giving me more than four hours consistently, and I’m loving it. I can actually do things wirelessly and not have to worry about running out of battery.
Also, as expected, buying from System76 eliminates most of the common problems that you have with a GNU/Linux machine. The graphics card works fantastically with 3D out of the box, though it does need a little tweaking for compositing, the wireless works out of the box once you figure out what the silly button looks like, and I’m told the webcam works as well, though I haven’t gotten around to playing with it yet. I don’t know if the finger-print scanner works either, but I don’t really care about that one.
The bottom line is that I love this machine. It is sturdy, functional, portable, and will undoubtedly serve me well for quite some time. I give a standing ovation to System76 for their support of Free Software and the Ubuntu community. Their success really does help the free software movement as a whole.

8 Replies to “Me and My System76 Darter”

  1. Sounds nice. Mmm, four hours of battery life… What’s the battery capacity in Wh?
    The fingerprint scanner is something that you can get used to very quickly, especially if you use sudo often.

  2. I wonder why it is that laptop speakers always suck. Bose makes some very impressive tiny speakers. I can’t see any reason that technology can’t be employed on laptops. If we are expected to use headphones or our own speakers, why bother putting any speakers in at all? Why torture us with crap?

  3. Hello,
    I’m reading your post with lots of envy… I want system76 to sell those machines here in Turkey too. I’m stuck with self built desktop computers because there are no decent mobile options on the market here. The machines that comes with linux are only the low end models too heavy to carry around and no support. I’d prefer ordering on the web if they ship to my country.

  4. You mentioned that your Darter came with a fantastic Ubuntu install and you’ve never seen anybody do Feisty so much justice.
    Just curious, as I’ve been considering ordering a Darter too, but does that mean it didn’t come with a ‘standard’ Ubuntu install? Was it customized in some way?

  5. The darter is based on an MSI barebone. So its not System76’s fault that the speakers suck. There is no alternative. As Asus has pretty much discontinued their small laptop barebones.

  6. I own a Darter as well. The camera does work well in Ekiga and Cheese(I installed from The fingerprint reader does not work ATM, but they are working on getting it working so you can use it vs password entry for admin tasks.

  7. Sounds great! Thanks for the update!
    I’m really leaning toward System76, what with the Dell shortages and all.

  8. I just picked up a Pangolin Performance. Overall, I like the machine except for the trackpad which is slippery and needs real force to manage a click. The jack for the power supply looks a bit flimsy. The machine eats through battery life quickly and runs a bit hot. I’m buying a mouse to avoid the trackpad as much as possible.

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