A First Look at the Velocity-DX Workstation

by Pat Eyler

I recently picked up one of the new Velocity-DX Workstations from Pogo Linux. It was a chance to get my hands on a screaming desktop machine, as opposed to the under-powered systems I normally use--I've still got a pair of sub-100MHz Pentiums in service at home.

The Velocity-DX was coming out of development when I bought my system, so I was sitting on the bleeding edge. I knew a few things I wanted to do to kick the tires: compiling big stacks of software, seeing what kind of throughput Apache could serve up and so on. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the most telling benchmark was seeing how much my kids enjoyed playing games on the system.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Let's start at the beginning and see how things went from there. The Velocity-DX carries an impressive list of hardware:

  • Dual 3.06GHz 533MHz Intel Xeon Processors

  • Supermicro X5DAL-G Mobo

  • 2,048MB PC2100 RAM

  • 3x Seagate 7200RPM 80GB Serial ATA drives

  • 3Ware 8500-4 Serial RAID Adapter (RAID 5)

  • Plextor 48X CD-RW

  • Gainward GeForce4 Ti-4600 AGP Video (128 MB)

  • Creative Soundblaster Audigy w/ Firewire port

  • On-board Gigabit Ethernet

  • 400 watt power supply

All of this adds up to a machine that is flat-out fast. Compiling kernels, running compilers and using various other toys is a dream.

Once I'd satisfied my curiosity by building a few software packages, I sat down to the business of trying out the applications that matter most to me--Apache and MySQL. Again, I found the performance to be spectacular. The workstation handily outperformed many of the servers that I manage on a day-to-day basis.

The best thing about the new Velocity workstation, however, has to be the customer service behind it. Although I never had a problem difficult enough to warrant calling the Pogo Linux service line, everyone I spoke with in the rest of the company was helpful and friendly, bending over backwards to make sure everything was as good as possible.

While I was waiting for the box, Rawee Kambhiranond (the salesperson I worked with) kept in touch with me to let me know how things stood. I was going to be getting one of the first boxes off the assembly line, so I had to wait a bit until they got all of the nuances of Linux on the hardware ironed out. What could have been an anxious wait was made a lot smoother by his handling of the situation.

Even the delivery was unusually hands on. I was working in my one Saturday morning when a car pulled up in front of the house. A guy wearing a Pogo Linux shirt hopped out and pulled a box from the back seat. "Hey, you live so close to our office that I decided to deliver it myself", he said as he carried the box to my door. We chatted for a couple of minutes, then he told me to enjoy my new system and drove off.

Shortly after I received the system, I went to the Northwest LinuxFest. Pogo Linux had a booth there, so I went over to take a look. Rawee happened to be there, and he took the time to introduce my daughter and I to the rest of the folks manning the booth. He also spent some time talking to her about how she liked the system; she loves playing Tux Racer on it for those who need to know.

Not everything was happiness and lightness. I did experience some less-than-pleasant issues. All of these were minor, though, certainly not enough to turn me off of the system. The first thing I noticed was a couple of things were missing from the shipment, including a keyboard and a mouse. Pogo Linux offered to ship out a set, but I told them not to worry. I had plenty of spares so it wasn't really an issue.

There also were a couple of things I'd call early adopter problems, such as the manual wasn't ready yet and the installation CDs they shipped were only Red Hat 9.0 disks. The lack of a manual should be fixed by the time you read this, and it didn't really bother me because my stack of unread manuals was way too big. But, it would be nice to receive a set of CDs tuned for the Velocity-DX hardware with the system.

My final complaint is one of aesthetics. The case is gorgeous! Its mirrored surfaces and cutout viewport make the box too pretty to want to hide away. Unfortunately, it's also too big and too loud to live on your desktop. I'm stuck wondering whether I should hide the system away and miss out on its good looks or keep it out and deal with the noise and loss of free space in my office.

Overall, the Velocity is a solid box for the user who needs a lot of machine. It packs enough power to rival a lot of servers and has enough extras to keep most users happy. I'd love to be able to pick up a handful of these to drop on the desks of some of my favorite free software developers.

I've kept my coworkers drooling with stories of how the Velocity-DX Workstation handles, kept my kids entertained with some top-flight Linux games and kept myself busy with all the diversions a good fast desktop promises. Oh yeah, I got some work done on it too. Can you really ask for more?

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