VA Linux Workstation VArStation XMP
The future of VA Linux is a subject of optimistic speculation. VA seems to have adopted Sun's commitment to top-quality hardware with Dell's business model and is already the most famous exclusively Linux systems provider. After the Red Hat episode, it seems like everyone hopes to get in on the next Linux IPO, and rumors have been circulating about VA. Finances aside, the technology that will emerge from the organization formerly known as VA Research is bound to be impressive. Already some big names have gone to VA, the most prominent being Theodore T'so, Leonard Zubkoff, the Enlightenment team of Mandrake (Geoff Harrison) and Raster (Carsten Haitzler), Nettwerk (San Mehat), the nickname-less Michael Jennings, as well as Mark Vojkovich of XF86 fame, H.J. Lu of GNU/Bintools and NFS, and many others who deserve more mention than they receive.
What would you need brain power like that for? Try porting the Linux kernel to the new 64-bit Merced chip as part of the Trillion project, which is apparently going much smoother than Microsoft's port of Win32. VA is also developing VACM (a cluster manager to be released under the GPL), the Enlightenment Window Manager, Perl bindings for GTK, the Linux kernel (in areas such as file systems, RAID, and large memory, Ethernet, and file system support), XFree86 and card drivers (Matrox in particular), and apparently some work on glibc.
I have had the pleasure of using this machine for a couple months now, and it has done all sorts of things such as serving web-based e-mail, web-site hosting, code development, graphics programming, audio work and all the usual network things, as well as running all sorts of distributions. (You're not stuck with Red Hat, by the way, just copy the config files and install whichever distribution you like.) Any software I tested in the last few months was tested on the VAr. Modern software is made for slower, single-processor machines—everything runs better on the VArStation. Compilation times are short, graphic manipulation is instantaneous and almost never leaves tracers or flickers. The hardware stands up to everything. I even told the machine that it's the year 2000 right now, and everything still works—such a surprise! As far as improvements, I would like to see better audio support and digital flatscreen LCD monitors. Also, the keyboards feel nice, but have Windows keys and that's irritating. On a sillier note, the color scheme is fine and all, but I'd prefer something sinister like black. Nevertheless, whatever color it is and however many keys it has, it is still the fastest, most stable computer I have ever used.
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