Report on VA Linux Startx SP2/VA Linux 420 [longish]

Report on VA Linux Startx SP2/VA Linux 420 [longish]

Post by Robert Lync » Mon, 15 May 2000 04:00:00

I recently bought a VA Linux Startx SP2 system. [Now called a "VA Linux
420 Workstation", I find when checking the VA Linux site today.]  I
bought their base workstation, it sells for US$795 (no monitor). I chose
to upgrade: 466 -> 533MHz Celeron processor, 64MB -> 128MB 1-DIMM RAM,
and added a 56K internal PCI modem (I had an ISA 56K internal modem, but
this system only has PCI slots.) With shipping and CA tax, this brought
the system to a little under US$1400 total.

I ordered the system from the Web site on 3 May.  After placing the order
I was surprised that no e-mail confirmation arrived.  I sent some site
feedback about this and received a telephone call, then an e-mail.  Problem
was they had two places to enter one's e-mail address, and I had missed the
second.  The VALinux rep told me that the system would probably ship in
a couple of weeks.  The e-mail gave some links to my "account" on the
site, which I checked every so often, to find "system not yet shipped."
On the morning of 10 May I checked and found the same prediction, but
"BING!" went my doorbell a while later and there was a UPS guy with the
system.  OKAY!

Hooking up the system, I found it worked fine.  Then I embarked on my
plan to take the 8.2GB Western Digital Caviar out of my old system and
put it in the empty bay of this one. I opened the system with the idea
that I would find an empty connector on the 2nd IDE controller cable and
a convenient power supply cable.  Pop the drive in (slaved to the
CD-ROM), connect cable and power, done.

Foiled.  Someone at the factory had installed the 2nd IDE data cable
backwards, so that the two drive connector end was near the motherboard,
not the CD-ROM.  Also, there was no bay hardware for mounting the
drive.  I called VALinux tech support and got a guy in Oklahoma who
couldn't offer any help; I don't think he even logged the call since he
didn't ask for a serial number, etc.  This is surprising for a company
that is into supplying high-end servers, you would expect the response
to be "we have it, it will be overnighted to you, sorry 'bout that." So
I went a couple of times to "Tom's Computer Warehouse" here in Berkeley
whence Tom and his side-kick concocted a bay thingie out of surplus
dinguses.  About US$12 poorer, and after losing some knuckle skin, 2nd
drive was in, power up, ... all was well.  Whew!

The factory-installed 10GB hard drive was partitioned strangely, seems
to me anyhow:

/boot   ~ 23MB
/       ~ 1.5 GB
/home   ~ 8.2 GB (the rest of drive except some swap)

When I tried to install my copy of Applix Office, wouldn't go because it
wants to install in /opt, but the root filesystem didn't have enough
space.  This was cured by making a symlink /opt -> /home/opt.

Another nudgie I found when replacing sendmail with postfix, was that
named was not running; kept dying after restart because there was no
user "named".  No biggie to debug and fix, but annoying.

It was also annoying-fun to find that every time one logged in a kfm
window would come with a VALinux readme.  The document itself told one
how to get rid of itself (remove from Autostart).  But more mysterious
and harder to "fix" was the way that Netscape Navigator always came up
with a VA Linux page from /usr/doc, overriding Netscape preferences.  I
won't tell you how I solved that one, so as not to spoil the pleasure of
other people who buy such a system.

Overall I am very pleased with my VALinux system.  I can pretty much do
my own tech support, so the poor response from my single encounter with
VA Linux techs doesn't bother me. I don't know if I could recommend this
system for PC/Linux newbies, tho.

My wife and I agree that the most impressive part of the system is the
deep-blue light on the power-on button. :)

FWIW. Bob L.

P.S. If the fan could be a trifle quieter, I'd like that in retrospect.


Report on VA Linux Startx SP2/VA Linux 420 [longish]

Post by Leslie Mikese » Wed, 17 May 2000 04:00:00

Quote:>The factory-installed 10GB hard drive was partitioned strangely, seems
>to me anyhow:

>/boot       ~ 23MB
>/   ~ 1.5 GB
>/home       ~ 8.2 GB (the rest of drive except some swap)

>When I tried to install my copy of Applix Office, wouldn't go because it
>wants to install in /opt, but the root filesystem didn't have enough
>space.  This was cured by making a symlink /opt -> /home/opt.

This is not a bad arrangement.  It will let you completely replace
the system in /,/boot, possibly with a different distribution
while keeping your own work and custom add-ons in the /home

  Les Mikesell


1. Darwin or Linux (Re: The decline of VA Linux)

: Yes.  The claim was that Linux has its own independent momentum and
: community about it (true) that Darwin will not (true) and therefore Apple
: just 'has' to do something with Linux like use it instead of Darwin and
: write free OpenStep for Linux (false).   Oh yeah and h/w clones too.

As I've said, I think that Apple can make a tidy business with MacOS X on
their proprietary hardware.  (In the short term, anyway.)  Just the same,
I think it is important to remember that consumers may have other
priorities.  Your reference to clones is an excellent case in point.  A
lot of consumers felt that they needed clones to have confidence in the
Mac platform.  The clone-killing decision went down hard - to stay with
the Mac you had to accept a reduction in choice.

Apple doesn't have to do anything with Linux, but as with clone-killing
they are defining the limits to their business.  Linux on the other hand,
has less well-defined borders.  People use Mac software in one place only
(on Macintoshes), while Linux continues to creep into the most unlikely

I'm sure that enough people will like the Mac as a product that Apple
factories will humm for some time, but I find it hard to get excited about
that.  I find it much more interesting when the Chinese, the American NSA,
and Swedish phone companies are choosing the same open soruce OS.


2. MAKE is missing!!

3. /etc/mscreencap for Link MC-420 or VT-420

4. me vs. vi survey *please read*

5. IPO for VA Linux is another $1B+

6. Quad Ethernet Card: rename interfaces impossible?

7. Dual boot Slackware 7 and VA Linux

8. EiC bytecode C interpreter

9. WTB: VA Linux 9205SE disk array

10. VA-Linux Enhanced RedHat

11. VA Linux Server and FreeBSD

12. Anyone using Linux on the FIC VA-503+?

13. VA Linux Systems lays off 35% of its employees