When your principles fail (or rather, when your principles fail you), part 4: The Tuxedo Book XP-15

Half of me does not even want to bother with this post. However, I think I do have something worth mentioning here.

The first post in this series was written because I had purchased a Laptop (WELL before it was ever endorsed by Joe Rogan and whatever goon he had on his Podcast) that, while being hyper-privacy focused, was such a colossal pain in the dick to use that using it ultimately didn’t seem worth it. For as much as I don’t like him as a person or a political thinker, but Thomas Sowell was right when he said something along the lines of there not being right or wrong actions, just consequences. That is a great way to think about our purchase. I unfortunately have people in my family who seem to think that one should merely buy an iPhone and any decision to the contrary is wrong.

In the middle of 2021 I decided that it was time to buy a new laptop. It was not a decision in any real sense of the word, as my current laptop had reached unacceptable levels of wonky and unreliable behavior, and it was at the second or third spontaneous reset that I decided it was no longer worth the risk, particularly considering the looming work deadlines I had. If the fact that I had only had that laptop for about 3.5 years seems wasteful, consider that said laptop lived with me in three different countries, six or seven different houses, and moved about with me everywhere I went in that time. I had gutted it once or twice to try and fix it, it was missing a battery, and I generally did not treat it well. I am surprised it did not break sooner.

Now the real question – what god damned laptop should I buy? Let us layout the initial principles:

  • I have declared myself a Linux User. I might be the worst Linux user, but I am dedicated to never again give Microsoft money after a fiasco way back in the day. However, this does not exclude me from buying a laptop with Windows and nuking the OS from orbit.
  • This does however exclude Apple hardware, as they guard their bios like its Ft.-fucking-Knox. Also, by all accounts their hardware is hot garbage for the price1.
  • I don’t want to give the big fucking computer companies my money. They all have awful. Business practices, all of them.
  • However, the smaller companies are liable to potentially screw me, either via incompetent software as outlined in the first post, or for economy of scale reasons as outlines in the second post.

Those considerations led me down rabbit holes of all the smaller, laptop manufacturers that put Linux on by default. Not wanting to get slammed with taxes twice, I refined my search to European manufacturers (again, more about this in the second post).

The next issue to tackle was whether or not to have a damned graphics card. 18 months ago I wouldn’t have even considered it, but my last two positions had me making videos in some capacity, and I knew the pain of losing a computer to an eight hour rendering period. It is not a pain I would like to experience too frequently. However, I have no idea what the future would hold, and it might be that I never need to make a video again. Ultimately, I thought it better to have and not need than to want. So, graphics card in, and an extra 500 bucks out.

This narrowed down my search. The rest of the choice was a bit arbitrary. There are painfully few reviews for Linux hardware online, and so at some point it just felt like a dice roll. I was at first going to go with some kind of Slimbook, but due to supply issues I ended up going with a Tuxedo.

I spent more than I would like to have. And I still didn’t get everything I wanted. Which brings me to Kvetch number one:

THE ABSOLUTE PRICKS charge more money to keep the branding off the machine you order. And not a little to. This irritated me terribly, as I didn’t want to shill out the (if memory serves) nearly 50 hard earned for the pleasure of not being a walking add for this company. I almost did it, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend money on a non-functional upgrade for my computer. But if nothing else, I am happy because this whole incident suggests that everyone knows that branding is little more than a boil on the fat of our collective asses.

Assembly and shipping were fine. Slower than the mass manufacturers, obviously, but these people don’t have warehouses of shit just hanging out. In about three weeks, I had it.

I booted it up, and before a few hours went by I noticed a problem…

This isn’t the first time I got a computer with issues out of a box. Ages ago I bought a Samsung laptop a few days before I was leaving the US, and it had a stupid defect that made me have to return the damn thing. I couldn’t find another model, and had to settle for a Lenovo. Production isn’t perfect. It never has been. Just the other day I bought some food that was rotten when I got home. Its a XXI century thing. So I don’t ever fault an initial error with the company itself. But when you just had a month waiting period and you bought from a small batch company, you are no looking at doubling your wait time.

Shit. No one wants to do that.

So I observed the problem for a bit and figured out that it was likely software, not hardware. I sent an email to support, and waited what I thought was a pretty unforgivable time. They asked for a report from under the hood, which I sent to them. Indeed, it was the problem I thought it was (there were more than one forum talking about it online), but I couldn’t figure out the solve. I got another email from tech support, and the the answer was pretty much:

GET FUCKED – THAT’S A KERNEL ISSUE.

– My take on what Tech Support said.

No, they didn’t say it like that.

Joke as a I might, there is nothing wrong with that as an answer. For those of you who don’t speak Linux, what that means is that there is nothing we can do. The Kernel of the Linux operating system is maintained by… well I am not exactly who maintains the Linux kernel. A consortium of some sort? Here’s an analogy: the Linux Kernel is like the mother sauce in French cooking – you master it and then you make varieties of it which you put your own spin on. But the mother sauce is the mother sauce, and no one will change it.

So I will just wait till someone fixes it. Ah, the trials of being a Linux user.

But a month into using the damn thing and the problem has either resolved itself, or is irrelevant.

The problem is that I am not great with Linux. These days we talk about people about being ‘digital natives’ as a way of describing their familiarity and comfort with technology. Keeping up with that metaphor, I am guy who went to Linux on Vacation that one time, decided I would never go back home, and now live under a bridge and am not paying into social services2. I do know how to function, basically, in Linux, but the subtleties will always allude me. But that is the thing about living by your principles – it isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be. This computer will give me problems, but I will have the smug satisfaction of not having given my money to Apple, Samsung, Windows, etc.

 

1 Or was? I am not sure if this is the case, was the case, or it is just that their hardware is designed to only really work well with in combination with their software.

2 If this sounds like a dumb metaphor, know that I have met that person. It was a couple actually, a German man and a Dutch woman living under a bridge in Spain. But that is an anecdote for a different day.

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