Power Up!

A Review of the YDL PowerStation.
The Problems

My experience with the PowerStation was not without difficulties, however; although most issues were a result of the new nature of the product.

First and foremost on my list of issues is that Xorg on the PowerStation is unstable. It crashed several times. Even after updating the kernel to a more stable version, I still experienced crashes on occasion. However, this issue should be fixed by the time you read this, as it is known and Terra Soft is working on it.

Late in the development of the PowerStation there was a last-minute switch from using an XGI graphics card to using an ATI X1650 Pro. The reason for the switch, according to Terra Soft, was that the XGI graphics card was performing at a “sub-standard” level, and that “the resources required to enable reasonable X11 performance were not justified”. The full text of the graphics card announcement is here: lists.terrasoftsolutions.com/pipermail/yellowdog-announce/2008-July/000183.html.

Changing the graphics card pushed the delivery of the review unit back by almost an entire month. It's possible that this late change is responsible for some of the issues.

The next most annoying issue I encountered was the one I mentioned before. When I started Firefox after logging in the first time, I could go anywhere I wanted to on-line except any https:// Web sites. For some reason, Firefox complained about not having the Personal Security Manager, which was weird, because Firefox was installed (with all of the required pieces).

Figure 9. I ran into a strange Firefox error during testing.

The solution was to delete the default profile and create a new one using the profile manager, which leads me to believe that the default profile was corrupted in some way, probably due to the crash in the new-user setup wizard.

Figure 10. The fix for the Firefox error was to create a new profile and delete the old one.

To bring up the profile manager, first quit Firefox, and then open a terminal and type firefox -ProfileManager. With the profile manager open, I created a new profile and deleted the original one. The new profile worked fine, and I was able to connect to all of the secure https:// sites that I frequent, including my bank Web site and Webmail.

The next issue I ran into probably was my fault. Every PowerStation ships with a letter that has the root password specified on it. Unfortunately, I misplaced mine and had to talk with the support folks, who were very friendly and helpful, to get my root password. They had it on record, so I was able to get it without too much trouble.

The reason I needed the root password brings me to my last issue. Admittedly, this is in the realm of stylistic preference and not a “real” issue. Whenever you run an application that requires root privileges, you actually have to enter the root password. I never have liked this way of doing things. A much better option, in my opinion, is to have admin-level users run admin programs using sudo or gksudo. The fewer the number of people who actually know the root password, the better. I'm happiest when I never have to use the root password or log in as root. As I said before, this is more of a style issue, not a problem or showstopper in any way.


If you are a developer for Power-architecture systems and servers, I heartily recommend the PowerStation. It's a well-built, solid machine that can serve as your primary desktop as well as your main development box.

If you are just looking for a workstation, and you don't develop on or for Power, your best bet is to look elsewhere. Sure, nearly anyone could use the PowerStation as a full-time workstation. It has all the desktop applications most people require, but as focused as this system is on Power developers, non-Power developers would best be served with an x86-based system.

Daniel Bartholomew lives with his wife and children in North Carolina. His normal on-line presence is at daniel-bartholomew.com, but he also can be found on Twitter as daniel_bart and on identi.ca (and Jaiku and Pownce) as bartholomew.



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FredR's picture

I think the details of a PPC port of Linux KVM are a bit sketchy, but can you imagine buying one of these as a VM host? That would be interesting. I know historically PPC processors are better at math and floating point operations.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel