Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Linux Setup - Andrey Hihlovskiy, Software Engineer

Andrey makes a fascinating point in his interview: that specific software isn’t important when you have choice. For instance, Andrey doesn’t rely on one type of text editor. Instead, he has a few different text editors, in case there’s an issue with one. While it’s nice to have just one piece of software for one type of task, the reality is most of us have some redundancy in our setups, since there aren’t many pieces of software that are completely flawless. Choice allows us to make software perfect by committee.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My name is Andrey Hihlovskiy, I am a Russian software engineer working and living in Bonn, Germany. I work for a German company, startext GmbH. We develop software for archives and museums in Germany and other countries.

    I’m passionate about interpreted languages and open-source software. My tools include Groovy, Gradle, Git and many modern JVM-based frameworks and libraries.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Linux at work as well as at home. A Linux system for a programmer is like water for a fish—you just live in it. The whole stack—from bash and tcpdump to build tools to IDEs—is open, modular, fast and reliable.

    The ext4 file system is a blessing. It is extremely fast and reliable. I haven’t had any performance or integrity problems with it for years. I reinstall Linux systems once or twice a year; just out of curiosity about new versions or alternate desktops. But I leave /home intact so it just works. Of course, all important files are synced elsewhere, so surviving probable future hard drive failure is not a problem.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    Currently it is Linux Mint 17 64-bit.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    On power machines I use Cinnamon. Nowadays it is a very stable and usable DE, requiring very little (if any) tweaking after installation.

    On legacy machines I use Xfce. Sometimes it seems to be less convenient than Cinnamon, but it is still extremely fast and very stable.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    I don’t depend on any particular piece of Linux software. Quite the reverse, I enjoy the interchangeability of all parts. If gedit could not open a 500MB text file, I use Mousepad for it. If diffuse stumbles on comparing files, I use meld instead. Every popular program has alternatives.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    Power machines: Intel i5 with 16GB operating memory and 500GB hard drive.

    Legacy machines: Intel Atom, 1GB operating memory, 100GB hard drive.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes!

Andrey Hihlovskiy's desktop

Interview conducted August 4, 2014


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Linux Setup - Saleem Khan, Physician

Saleem’s interview is great because he’s a medical doctor, so he provides a slightly different perspective than we usually see here. I’m constantly shocked by how many doctors’ offices use Windows. I’ve even seen some running XP virtually. That always makes me feel very confident in the privacy of my medical records. Saleem is a KDE fan, but he’s also a fan of inexpensive hardware, and the combination of the two seems to work for him.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    I am a medical doctor, trained in adult psychiatry and currently working at Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad, Pakistan. I have previously worked as a sitting supervisor at the computer lab and e-library at Ayub Medical College.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    That’s a bit of a complicated question. I started using Linux back in 2003 as a hobby and as an escape. I was looking for something different from Windows. The hobby turned into a habit and the habit later turned into a necessity. Now I use Linux on every computer I can get my hands on for all kinds of computing, both at home and work. I still use Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1, as mutiboot options, but mainly I use Linux.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    I was, and still am, an obsessional distro-hopper (that’s why I always keep one “test” partition handy for satisfying my distro-hopping), but since 2009 I have used Arch Linux as my main OS, both on my laptops and desktops, for all of my work . For my test drives, I only install and check distros that attract me for a while. Along with Arch Linux, I am multibooting PCLinuxOS (I am a faithful user of it since version 92; I like it because it can be remastered, which I like to do for my friends and for installations on different computers). I am also a big fan of Debian stable (I also remaster it). I can’t forget to mention Kubuntu LTS (also remastered). But basically I am an Archian ever since I installed it for the first time. Pacman and AUR are my best best friends after Google.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    I am a KDE fan and use KDE as my main desktop. I was, and am, a big fan of GNOME 2, and now MATE. I also like Openbox and Fluxbox because I like to manually tweak my working environment.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    Not one but three. Firefox and LibreOffice, because all my work is either through the Internet or using office software. The third one is Terminal, which I need since I am always doing something with pacman. So I can’t live without a terminal.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    Frankly, I am not a hardware fan. I don’t think software should run at the cost of hardware. My computers are mostly old and are the type most people would have discarded. They range from Intel Centrino Duo to Core2 DUO to Dual core. My desktop PC is an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5000+. I am using a maximum of 4GB RAM on all my computers. If I had any extra money, I would buy a new AMD computer, but that looks impossible at the present. It is worth mentioning my smart phone and tablet, which are from MTK processors. I manage to install all kinds of custom ROMs which do things like get me extra virtual memory. This is better than spending money on new a smart phone with so-called “extra smart” hardware or new features.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    I will but it won’t be of much interest since I am not an eye-candy lover. It’s yet another plain KDE desktop.

Saleem Khan's desktop

Interview conducted July 29, 2014


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Thursday, September 11, 2014 Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twitter Respected Our Choices Until It Didn’t

screenshot of Twitter

Twitter was the best. Twitter did no content curation (except, I recently learned, for the anti-spam bots). Instead, it was up to the user to filter, as much or as little as she wanted. Twitter’s filtering tools aren’t great. There are third-party tools to help, but it’s yet another barrier for new or non-technical users. Some people say that’s the reason Twitter’s growth is slowing. But it’s also what made Twitter great. Twitter was pure. Twitter was honest. You saw everything you asked to see. Twitter didn’t hide content from you (even when we sometimes wished it would…). Twitter didn’t guess what you want to see. It dumped everything on you and it was up to you to figure out what you want to read. It looks likes that’s going to change.

Earlier this summer, I read Mat Honan’s Wired piece about liking everything on Facebook for a week. I’m not a Facebook person (I have a hidden account that I use a handful of times a year for things like looking at something that isn’t public-facing or linking the account to games for extra points) so I view Facebook as an outsider who does not see much value in the network. But still, I continue to be struck by how much curation Facebook does on behalf of its users. Tim Herrera tried to figure out just how much Facebook isn’t showing him and could only conclude that it’s a lot.

Although the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm is heavily guarded, conceptually we know the goal is to show people stuff they’ll like. As Eli Pariser has shown us, that can be a potentially dangerous behavior, reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions, rather than broadening worlds for people. Of course, Facebook’s mission isn’t to make us better people. It’s a business with responsibilities to stock-holders. Now Twitter, another public company with stock-holders, is going in the same direction.

Twitter was the Linux of social networks (I know. I know. Identi.ca. I just don’t know anyone who uses it…). Not that all Linux users should use Twitter or like Twitter or tolerate Twitter. But it was worthy of our appreciation. Because as a service, it tried to give users choice. People have been concerned about Twitter becoming more like Facebook for a while now, but for me the question was if Twitter let me see everything posted by the accounts I chose to follow. As long as Twitter let me see everything I asked to see, then it wasn’t too much like Facebook.

Choice is becoming tougher to maintain in technology. My phone is full of apps I can’t tweak. I could choose not use the apps or the phone, but it’s not a realistic option for me. So I make the most of the situation, hoping that as Android matures and as other mobile operating systems emerge, that maybe one day I’ll have the customizability on my phone that I have on my computers. Twitter was another area where I felt my choices were being respected. Right now, Twitter is respecting my choices, but it seems like that’s going to change very soon.

Emily Bell nails it: algorithms are values. Twitter is about to force us to adopt its values whether we want to or not. What’s good for a business isn’t necessarily good for its users. It’s a lesson we seem to keep learning (and forgetting).


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Linux Setup - Eric Mesa, Programmer/Blogger

Eric’s a KDE user who makes use of Activities to create virtual desktops for different kinds of work. Like a lot of KDE users, Eric likes that desktop environment because of the granular control it gives him over his system. KDE isn’t for everyone, but people who know how to use it seem to really stick with it. I’ve never been able to really solve KDE for myself, but I remain ever hopeful that one day I might figure it out.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My name is Eric Mesa. My day job is to program and manage programmers, but I’m also a blogger and I cover the comics industry. I’ll be attending Baltimore Comic-Con as press again this year.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I first came to Linux in 2003 when I was trying to figure out how to run my own server. I did some research and saw that you could do that with Linux. So I went to the local bookstore (I think it was a Borders) and found a book on Fedora Core 1 (as it was known back then). I installed it on an old computer I bought for like $25 and was off.

    Nowadays I use Linux because I believe in the principles of free software. To me, Linux is the DRM-free OS. I don’t buy DRM-encumbered movies, music, or books. Why should I buy DRM-encumbered operating systems? I want to make my computer do whatever I want it to do, not what some corporation wants it to do. Also, I love that a Linux desktop is fully functional without spending money. I have spent or donated money for software, but I’m glad you don’t have to. As the world becomes more dependent upon computing, I think it’s important for those with less access to money to still have access to up-to-date and world-class operating systems.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    I use Fedora—been there since the beginning—on my desktop and laptop. My wife’s computer and laptop run Kubuntu because Ubuntu’s traditionally been a lot easier for in-place upgrades.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    I use KDE 4.x on all the computers in my house (Fedora or Kubuntu). I use it because it is infinitely configurable. GNOME 3 is when I stopped using GNOME and went back to KDE. I also make HUGE use of the Activities to have sets of virtual desktops. I just love how KDE respects the user’s vision—it is the most Linux of desktop environments.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    A while ago I would have said Blender, when I was really active in 3D animation. Now it’s Amarok. I LOVE the Amarok music player. I’ve written over and over about everything I love about the way it allows me to create dynamic playlists and the way it presents the music.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My desktop is a 6 Core AMD computer with 8GB RAM and an nVidia graphics card.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Because I use so many Activities, I’m not sure how many screenshots you’d like. You can start at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericsbinaryworld/13961741879/in/photostream/ and then go (left arrow) until the desktop screenshots end.

Eric Mesa's desktop

Interview conducted July 28, 2014


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Thursday, September 4, 2014