Aims and Philosophy
Quality Computers, Energized by Linux
Empowered by Free Software
The principal aim of STS is to build computers using quality components, energized by the Linux kernel and empowered by Free Software, and only Free Software. This means that we use the GNU/Linux Operating System.
At STS one computer Engineer builds a complete system, then installs the software on that system, and then tests that system. Only if the system passes our comprehensive hardware and software tests will the system be sent to the customer. All our systems have a label signed by the Engineer who built and tested that system.
Our use of the GNU/Linux operating system reflects the philosophy behind STS - to provide computers which are reliable (having been fully tested) and whose operating system is secure, robust, cost-effective, flexible, powerful and which has no restrictions concerning re-distribution.
We have chosen to produce machines using GNU/Linux because: (1) we support
the principles behind the development of 'free software' - for example,
the GNU Project, and (2) in our opinion GNU/Linux is an operating system
(OS) ideally suited to business use, as well as for ordinary 'desktop'
computers used by individuals at home.
Free software (for a definition, see below) promotes software robustness
and quality by allowing computer programmers, world-wide, to test and develope
the source code which is made freely available.
The operating system (OS) which is now generally known as 'Linux' should really be called GNU/Linux:
" Linux is not an operating system, it is a kernel. The GNU Project started in 1984 to develop a completely free operating system. In 1991, Linus wrote a kernel, Linux. The kernel was the last essential core component of the system to be developed, and that's why, as soon as it existed, a complete free system was available. It is a combination of GNU and Linux; in other words, it is the GNU/Linux operating system." Richard Stallman,The GNU Project
We believe that GNU/Linux is the future of operating systems for computers.
The main advantages of using GNU/Linux are:
1) It has good security
2) It has excellent networking capabilities
3) It is both powerful and flexible
4) It is cheap to install - compared to other OS
5) Add-on software (such as Apache server) can be obtained free, compared to hundreds of pounds for proprietary software for other OS
6) It supports multiple users on the same machine
7) It offers excellent multitasking
8) Its source code is freely available - unlike the copyrighted code of other OS. This means (among many other things) that any 'bugs' in new versions of GNU/Linux software are usually fixed within hours by the world-wide GNU/Linux community compared to the months it can take for other OS
9) There are no expensive licenses to buy to install GNU/Linux on additional machines
10) It is possible to create a custom GNU/Linux OS for each particular machine
11) It is fast
All these things make GNU/Linux the ideal business and desktop system.
Furthermore, one of the greatest benefits of GNU/Linux is that it gives the user control over their operating system. That is, GNU/Linux users can not only configure their own system but they can also repair it if anything goes wrong - for all the tools necessary to do this are included in all GNU/Linux distributions.
To do both of these things requires some knowledge - and this where GNU/Linux really excels. It is possible to 'take GNU/Linux apart' to see how it works, and then put it back together again. This practical approach is how learning to use computers should be - and with GNU/Linux this learning can be, and mostly is, interesting, fun and very useful.
In addition, GNU/Linux really is free software which can be redistributed
We currently offer two different distributions of GNU/Linux: Debian and SuSE. Debian is our standard distribution, but we also offer SuSE as an alternative. However, we do not install the 'commercial', non-free, packages which come with SuSE as these have restrictions concerning re-distribution placed upon them. Debian is completely free of such restrictions, and so upholds the principles of free software - which is why we have chosen it as our main distribution. You are free to install Debian on other computers as well as copy the Debian GNU/Linux discs.
We endeavour to provide the latest distribution. Currently, we install Debian 2.1 (Slink) and SuSE 6.1 (6.2 when released). SuSE GNU/Linux presently comes with a 450 page manual.
Debian features Gnome - the GNU Project's graphical interface. We have used the IceWindowManager as the default X server manager. The SuSE distribution features the KDE manager (kwm) which we configure so that the system is ready for use.
STS is firmly committed to producing quality computers. This means that all machines are built with quality components, fully tested for 48 hrs. and that all software is individually loaded onto each machine and then 'tweaked' to run as it should. This takes time - but is the only way to ensure that each and every machine works as it should as soon as the customer turns it on.
Computers should not be mass-produced like other items - they should be assembled with skill, the software loaded properly and then tested. It is the combination of advanced electronics and software which makes computers unique. It is sad fact that most large (and many medium size) computers manufacturers treat computers as just another product to be mass-produced. Thus, in their quest for profits over quality they use 'ghosting' software to place an image of the OS on the hard disc, and only test a percentage of machines they build. Furthermore, some companies employ people to assemble computers who know little if anything about computers - to them, assembling a computer is just another 'production line' task. The result of these and similar mass manufacturing techniques is thousands of unhappy customers.
STS aims to remain a computer business - run by people who understand
computers and who are interested in computers and their development. This
means we will not compromise on what makes computers unique, and, in our
opinion, wonderful and exciting. We want to build machines which we can
be truly proud of and which will be both useful and valuable to our customers.
A Question of Principle
As a matter of principle, we do not offer either the 'fastest' systems available, or the very latest technological devices/accessories.
There are three main reasons:
1) The 'fastest' systems - with the very latest CPU's, for instance - are generally not worth the money, for if you wait just a while, this 'fast' system will be outdated, and invariably cheaper to buy. The same applies to new devices/accessories.
2) Most computer users do not need the fastest system, or the very latest devices/accessories, and we refuse to sell what is unnecessary just to make money. We also refuse to use 'media hype' - and trendy advertising - just to try and sell what is probably not needed by the customer.
3) GNU/Linux - our OS - generally does not support the very latest devices/accessories; the Linux kernel will be updated to include them, in due course, by which time they will be much cheaper and probably more useful, with more software developed to take advantage of them.
We also do not put photographs of our systems in our advertisements
or on our web-page because there seems no point - one system looks like
any other, and all systems, from whatever manufacturer, consist of some
sort of box, a keyboard, a mouse, some sort of monitor and probably a pair
Contributing to GNU/Linux and Free Software
We make regular donations to those helping to develop Free Software.
These donations are split equally between Debian's SPI organization
(Software in the Public Interest, Inc) and the Free Software Foundation
(the GNU Project).
Advertising, Web-site and Logo
Our web-site is simple because we support browsers such as lynx and amaya. Our advertisements are basic, and simple, because we dislike the attitude of, and principles behind, most commercial advertising.
Our logo is from Euclid's Elements; the colour purple was chosen partly because of its associations with Ancient Greece and Rome, but mostly because it looks nice (IMO).
This is the definition given by Richard Stallman, of the GNU Project:
"Free Software" refers to the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
A program is free software if users have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission.
Free Software Foundation
Software in the Public Interest