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A Week in Limbo, Epilogue: An outstanding machine

December 27, 2011 11 comments

Before I start, there is only one thing glaringly wrong with the ZaReason Limbo 5440: having to give back the review model to ZaReason in Berkeley (it’s on its way back to you, Earl).

SCALE 10XThe ZaReason Limbo 5440 is, in three words, an outstanding machine; a simply outstanding machine that can easily handle any work load ranging from that of the average household user who’s just surfing the Web to the constant tinkering and tweaking by the most restless Linux user (to the latter, I plead guilty). Ruggedly built and with a clean design, the desktop fits in nearly any location in the home — it spent a day or two in the “lab” (a.k.a, “The Jungle Room,” where all our computers live in the house and where I do my best work) but spent the rest of the week in the living room in an unobtrusive manner.

But enough of the interior decor talk: The attention to design, both internally and externally, is completely as functional as it is stylish. But perhaps its best physical feature — expandability — makes this model an exceptional one for those who may have an overwhelming desire to add the latest and greatest hardware features to an already exceptional desktop. (A side note: In conversation with ZaReason CTO Earl Malmrose, I was given a green light to add software and hardware to my liking. But I passed on the latter — why spoil a good thing?)

As far as performance goes, everything I threw at the desktop during the course of the week, the Limbo 5440 handled without breaking a proverbial sweat. The only time I could get any of the processors to peak at 100 percent was running folding@home on a regular basis: Using the system monitor, CPU1 (which I would assume is processor 0 in the quad-core scheme of things) ran at 100 percent while using folding@home while any of the other CPUs displayed on the program barely passed 20 percent at any time during program use. The rest of the time, even running multiple programs, I got the sense that reading the graphs on the system monitor, the lines were gentle smiles laughing at me at my attempts in vain to make the desktop work hard.

The price tag for the Limbo 5440 as tested — $969, which is up from the base price of $499 thanks to a variety of upgrades (specs are below) — might seem a little steep to some. But ZaReason’s advantage, one that clearly benefits the consumer, is the issue of value, and how the value of this outstanding machine eclipses the issue of cost. Yes, you could by a cheap box from an OEM that has Windows presinstalled, but then there are a plethora of issues around that — buying a cheaper box at a big box allows Redmond to chalk up another user and the hardware in some of the cheaper desktops are — how can I put this tactfully? — not up to par.

So buying hardware from a company dedicated to Linux has its advantages. To his credit and that of the company, Earl Malmrose and the engineering staff at ZaReason sends out 100 percent high-quality Linux-supported hardware.

Quality and value are ZaReason hallmarks,and the Limbo 5440 lives up to them. This desktop would be a keeper, if I didn’t have to give this review desktop back, and given the opportunity to purchase this machine in the (near) future, I would easily jump on the opportunity to do so.

Now to find a spare $969 . . . .

Specs as tested (the standard Limbo 5440 specs can be found here):

2nd Generation Intel Core i5 3.3 GHz
Fedora 16 GNOME with shell extensions (changed to Fedora 16 KDE at mid-week)
8 GB DDR3-1600 RAM
3 500GB Hard Drives, 7,200 RPM, RAID-5 array
One year warranty

Size of case: 7″ x 14.6″ x 13.8″ / 17.8 x 37.1 x 35.1 cm
Internal Slots: 2x PCI, 1x PCI-Express x16
Rear Ports: 4x USB 2.0 Ports; 1x PS/2 Ports (for that old keyboard/mouse); 1x VGA Port; 1x 10/100 Ethernet Port; Audio I/O Jacks
Front Ports: 2x USB Ports; Headphone Jack; Mic Jack

“A Week in Limbo Series” (for those of you keeping track)
A Week in Limbo, Day 0
A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood
A Week in Limbo, Day 2: Fedora 16
A Week in Limbo, Day 3: Fedora 16 KDE
A Week in Limbo, Day 4: On second thought . . .
A Week in Limbo, Days 5 and 6: Get with the program
A Week in Limbo, Epilogue: An oustanding machine

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)

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Eliminate DRM!

A Week in Limbo, Days 5 and 6: Get with the program

December 26, 2011 2 comments

Forgive me, folks: Blame the holidays for the delay. What normally would have been a simple and easy week leading up to Christmas — the end of the week leading up to Sunday, actually — became somewhat complicated, as only the end of the week leading up to Christmas can. And we’ll leave it at that, except with an apology to anyone who was at the edge of their seat waiting for this next installment (thanks, Mom), which should have immediately followed Day 4 on, well, the actual Day 5.

SCALE 10XDuring those opportunities over the last few days when I wasn’t doubling and tripling up on my work shift thanks to vacations and when I was not taking care of holiday business at home — you know, I move that next year no one buy any gifts until after New Year’s Day — I remained transfixed behind the monitor connected to the ZaReason Limbo 5440 while putting it through its paces. Before I outline what I used, I should mention that I worked on my SCALE 10X presentation as well as the SCALE 10X UpSCALE talk that I will be doing with darling daughter Mimi (hint: It involves music and lab coats — and that’s all I’m going to say about that). So the primarly lineup involved GIMP, LibreOffice Impress and Audacity.

[As an aside on the latter, author Carla Schroder and I conspired to give Mimi a great Christmas gift: a signed copy of "The Book of Audacity." Thank you, Carla!]

In short (which will become “in long” in later pargraphs), all three programs ran flawlessly and quickly on the desktop box that, had I enough money, would stay in the household. There’s nothing yet that I’ve thrown at this hardware that it hasn’t handled without breaking a sweat, and to be honest, after a few days I’ve truly given up on trying to trip it up.

Meanwhile, LibreOffice’s suite of software ran with aplomb — with as much aplomb as an inanimate object can run, for the nit-pickers out there — on this hardware. Switching back and forth from the LibreOffice Draw to LibreOffice Impress to LibreOffice Writer was a breeze, and the benefit of having a larger monitor to move windows around was a treat (how I made all those presentations on a laptop is a mystery).

Audacity? I’m the quintessential newb at it, though the far more Audacity-adept (does that make her Audacious?) Mimi zoomed her way around it quickly and can show the old man a thing or two. Audacity 1.3.13 beta ran and sounded perfect, though I think there could be a lot less bass in this presentation — an easy fix.

Finally, processing photos on GIMP was also a snap. Before I start, let me stike a Tebow-like pose and pray to all diety that will listen to my begging for the the single-window GIMP (2.7, I think) to come soon. Amen. With the multiple windows, using GIMP 2.6 was also a breeze and with the larger screen on the desktop monitor, multitasking was a lot easier than the same exercise — performed by yours truly for years on this old ThinkPad T30 — has been.

Note to self: Do more stuff on the desktops you have.

Before we go off to the next installment which wraps up this series, I should say that for the entire week, I have never had a negative “aha!” moment, nor have I uttered a brow-furrowing “hmmm” over the ZaReason Limbo 5440’s performance. Some software hiccups which were clearly the result of PEBCAK errors ocurred, but these were few and far between (of course) and were not a reflection on the machine’s abilities or performance. But we’ll leave the rest of that for the next installment, coming to you tomorrow.

Tomorrow wraps up the series with A Week in Limbo, Epilogue: The final review

“A Week in Limbo Series” (for those of you keeping track)
A Week in Limbo, Day 0
A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood
A Week in Limbo, Day 2: Fedora 16
A Week in Limbo, Day 3: Fedora 16 KDE
A Week in Limbo, Day 4: On second thought . . .
A Week in Limbo, Days 5 and 6: Get with the program

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)

Add to Technorati Favorites EFF Binary Freedom Dead button Wordpress button Xfce button dbEntrance button AntiX 7.0 fedora badge Xubuntu GIMP Scribus Linux Mint Kororaa Salix OS Fluxbox Conky Thunderbird LibreOffice Crunchbang Bodhi Linux PostgreSQL identi.ca python scale 10x

Eliminate DRM!

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