Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Linux Setup - Stefano Zacchiroli, Former Debian Project Leader

Stefano is my great white whale. I’ve been trying to interview him for years, so I was very excited when he was able to make some time for this. He’s a Debian user, as you might expect from a former Debian Project Leader. Stefano also has a lot of nice things to say about GNOME Shell. And mutt users will want to check out his software list, as there’s a lot of nice Emacs integrations in there.

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 Stefano Zacchiroli, but I usually go by the nickname “Zack.” I’m a computer science researcher and teacher, as well as a Free Software activist. I’m a Debian Developer, former three-time Debian Project Leader, and a Director at the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

    These days my Debian involvement is mostly in Quality Assurance and in the development of infrastructure pieces like Debian Sources. In the past I’ve maintained many packages, e.g., the OCaml stack, Vim, and various Python modules.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Free Software in general—Linux, GNU, GNOME, end-user applications, etc.—to be in control of my own computations. I love the feeling of knowing that I can peek at any point in the software stack, make the changes that I see fit, and share any bit I please with my peers. I refuse to believe that software is a black box, remotely controlled by someone else, and that users should need permission to exercise elementary digital rights on software.

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

    Debian testing. It’s just the best (not to mention the first) “rolling release” out there: it offers a great trade-off between software freshness and not being too bleeding edge for use on your productivity machine.

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

    GNOME 3 with GNOME Shell. Philosophically, I like the GNOME project, their vision, and the courage they have had to reinvent the desktop after many years in which nobody was innovating. But I’m also technically quite happy about GNOME Shell. I love full-text searching for applications, the big switch to mute notifications, the no-frills approach, and the well-rounded app integration.

    The only feature I miss in off-the-shelf GNOME Shell is tiling window management (there is some tiling support in GNOME Shell, like splitting the screen in half with two main windows, but I do use more complex window arrangements than that). To fill that gap I’m using the Shellshape extension; the result is good enough for my needs.

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

    To give an idea of my work flow, here is a list of tools that I use on a daily basis (in no particular order):

    • mutt
    • notmuch (with mutt integration)
    • Emacs (in client/server mode)
    • git
    • git-annex
    • org-mode (again, with mutt integration)
    • Chromium (although I’m considering switching back to Firefox)
    • screen
    • irssi
    • ssh (and more and more often mosh)
    • ikiwiki
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My main hardware is my laptop, which I always carry with me. I’m now at my third iteration of (Lenovo) ThinkPads over a period of more than six years and, overall, I’m a satisfied user. As a geek I mostly interact with my OS by typing, and ThinkPad’s keyboards are just unparalleled, in my estimation.

    My current ThinkPad is a T440s, i7 CPU, 12GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a Full HD display (not touchscreen, as I don’t see the point of it). My main regret with ThinkPads is the need to use non-free firmware to get the Intel Wi-Fi working.

    Dear Intel, would you please give up on that, liberate your firmware, and finally set your users free?

    When at the office I connect my laptop to an external LCD monitor and the best mechanical keyboard I’ve ever used: a Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate. To ease the connection, I use a basic Lenovo docking station, and I also have many (five or more, I think) Lenovo-ish AC adapters: one for the office, one near the couch at home, one for each backpack, etc.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure!

    Here is my GNOME Shell workspace three, the one I use for the main ongoing “work” activity during a typical coding session. In the screenshot you can see three windows, tailed automatically by Shellshape: Emacs for coding, Evince for doc reading, and a GNOME terminal running tests (in case you’re wondering, no, I refuse to use Emacs as an entire OS, and I dislike running “terminals” in it).

Stefano Zacchiroli'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.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014 Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Linux Setup - Niels Kobschaetzki, System Administrator/Podcaster

I feel very invested in Niels’ Linux conversion. We chatted a little before he switched, during the switch, and then after. He also updated this interview after he moved from Mint to Manjaro, which just goes to show you that working with desktop Linux is dynamic for many people. Your distro might change, or your desktop, or your preferred applications. It’s nice that so many of us get so many opportunities to reconsider our workflow.

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 system administrator in a Windows environment, with some Linux servers in the mix. Besides that, I am a student of Japanese Science and Economics and therefore I need my own computer for doing research in that area (so I can write my master’s thesis at some point). Besides all that, I podcast about old video games from the 8- and 16-bit era, and I like to play those games—on the original consoles and emulated, too.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux at the end of the 90s and switched to it from Windows in the beginning of the 2000s. When a laptop of mine got stolen, I wanted a replacement that had an OS that was Unix-like, was small, and had a long battery life. The result was an iBook G4 and that’s how I moved over to OS X in 2004. Ten years, several laptops and desktop computers, and two kids later, our household needed a new laptop. Since the serviceability of Apple laptops is pretty bad, I wouldn’t buy a used one, and a new one was just too expensive. So I decided to move back to Linux. I can buy good, serviceable, used hardware for cheap and still have a good operating system. My workflow had gotten less and less dependent on software that is only available on OS X, so the switch wasn’t that hard.

    In conclusion, it is because I can save money in contrast to OS X and because using open source software in light of the events of the last year gives me a better feeling.

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

    After a couple of weeks using Mint 17, I switched to Manjaro, which is Arch-based. The reason is that a rolling distro is probably a better fit for my needs. When I read that Mint recommends a clean install instead of an upgrade every six months, I was not really comfortable with it. Thus I decided to switch to Manjaro after hearing about it on Going Linux. It seems to be a bit more problem-free than Arch, but has similar advantages. I can use new packages and get a slightly better user-experience.

    It is still quite fiddly, but I like fiddling around!

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

    I am using GNOME Shell. It has a couple of new paradigms in how a desktop works, which I like. For example, getting a second layer desktop by pressing Super, which reveals a dock, shows me all open applications, has an application search, etc. When I saw this a year ago, I was excited that a desktop finally did something new, and that it was really good. Someone is finally experimenting with what a desktop environment can do instead of treading in old water.

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

    Well, it is not only available on Linux, but Vim is probably the most important tool on my computer. It is a text editor that is available on any Linux machine and I can use it for maintaining and configuring our servers at work, the software on my webspace, and my private laptop. In addition, I use it to write posts for my blog, I use it with XeTeX for writing my thesis, I use it with mutt, and I take my notes with it, so there is usually some instance of Vim running in some terminal.

    Besides that, I use Higan and Kega Fusion as emulators for Nintendo and Sega consoles, and ScummVM, which I need when I am playing games for the podcast I am part of. QuickSave helps a lot with the harder games.

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

    My laptop is a Thinkpad X201 with a Core i5 2.53GHZ, 4GB RAM and a 250GB SSD. I also have the docking station, which is great because of the accumulated external hard disks I have at home, the optical drive, and the game pads I use for playing games. I just can leave all the stuff connected and take the laptop out of the docking station when I am ready to go. That’s really awesome after life with only two USB ports and having to disconnect the cables each time I take my laptop with me.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Niels Kobschaetzki's desktop

Interview conducted July 24, 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, August 20, 2014 Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Linux Setup - Alex J. Reissig, Writer

Alex is great because he’s a real distro-hopper. By practice, but also by vocation. So his setup has lots of tweaks, no doubt based upon things he’s seen in lots of other distros. I myself distro-hop much less than I used to. Part of it is a need for stability. But another part is knowing (or thinking I know) what I like. Like I’m fairly certain I’ll never be a KDE guy. It’s nothing against KDE — it just doesn’t quite click for me. But Alex reminds us it’s good to kick the tires on new distros, just to see if there’s something we can steal for use in our distro of choice.

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 Alex J. Reissig, although online you’ll see my pen name…AJ Reissig (AJ being a nickname from my childhood). My background is in chemistry, and my day job is as an analyst at Zimmer PowerStation in Moscow, Ohio (USA). Since there is no rest for the wicked, I also keep myself busy by producing YouTube videos about all things Linux (my channel is https://www.youtube.com/user/freedomredux). I also write novels: political fiction and science fiction (my SciFi blog is ariaprime.com). It is my hope that one day the writing and videos can become my full-time profession, but we’re not there…yet.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    There’s a few reasons why I’m a Linux user. First, I’m not a follow-the-herd kind of person; I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I also like to try new distributions and play with the latest/greatest software, something you can’t do with Windows or Mac. And while I’m not an anti-closed source person, I’m not a particular fan of Microsoft’s business practices, so using Linux is my little way of giving Microsoft (and Apple) the middle finger. And of course there is the cost factor…why run Windows when you can get a more flexible OS for free?

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

    I’m a self professed distro-hopper, and since I produce YouTube review of Linux distros, I typically have 4-5 different operating systems on my desktop at any given time. My current OS of choice is Ubuntu GNOME 14.04, which is my main driver on my desktop computer. On my laptop, I have a highly modified Xubuntu 14.04 setup. I’ve switched the Window manager to Gala (from Elementary OS), swapped out the Thunar file manager for Nemo (from Cinnamon), and a host of other changes.

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

    The GNOME 3 desktop is my favorite environment. While it is a radical departure from traditional desktop layout, once you get used to it, you realize this is a desktop made for people who want to get work done. No icons cluttering up the desktop, tons of extensions to customize it just the way you want it, and you can hotkey to your heart’s content (I love hotkeys!). Some of the extension I use are:

    • Appindicator support
    • Caffeine
    • Clipboard indicator
    • Coverflow alt-tab
    • Drop down terminal
    • Gno-Menu
    • Native window placement
    • Put windows
    • Top icons

    My number two desktop has to be Xfce because it is rock-solid and so versatile.

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

    There’s lots of Linux software that I love, but hands down my can’t-live-without software is Kdenlive. It’s an open source video editor that can perform just as well as editors that cost hundreds of dollars…what’s not to like? Of course, there’s other Linux software that I use on a daily basis, and it would be hard to find suitable replacements. Here are my favorites:

    • Evolution email
    • LibreOffice Writer
    • Simple Screen Recorder
    • GIMP
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My desktop is an Acer running a quad core AMD processor @3.1GHz and 16GB RAM. Graphics and sound cards are stock, baseline units. I have three hard drives on this unit, one being an SSD for my OS. My laptop is a ThinkPad Edge E430, with i3 processor @2.2GHz and 8GB RAM. It has a 320GB hard drive (standard 5400 RPM) along with a 64GB mSATA, which is where my OS resides.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Here’s a shot from my desktop. The background is one-of-a-kind (created in GIMP), and if you’re interested in the theming, I use:

    • Window Borders: Dorian 3.10
    • GTK Theme: Gnomish-Gray
    • Icons: Square
    • GNOME Shell Theme: Zukitwo-Cupertino

Alex Reissig's desktop

Interview conducted June 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, August 14, 2014 Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Linux Setup - Jason Myers, Systems Software Engineer

Not everyone loves tiling window managers, but people who do really love them. Jason is a tiling fan. And he uses Ubuntu. I’m as guilt as anyone of obsessing over desktop environments, but the great thing about Linux is you can pretty much use whatever desktop you want with whatever distribution you want. That’s kind of freedom and flexibility never ceases to amaze me.

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’m Jason Myers a systems software engineer with Emma, chair of PyTennessee, and co-organizer of PyNash. I help mitigate delivery system abuse and spam. I use mostly Python at my day job, however I occasionally dabble in JavaScript and golang on the side.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Linux because I like a bit of the freedom it offers, the community it has created, and tiling window managers. It started back in high school, when I wanted to become an analytical chemist. The software used at my internship ran on IRIX, and I wanted something similar at home. A great coworker at the time help me get setup with Slackware 3.1 (so many floppies…) on my terrible Packard Bell. I moved to RedHat (pre Fedora) 4.0 the following year. It wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to do computer science instead and started working at an ISP.

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

    I use Ubuntu LTSs as my primary distro, so now it’s 14.04.

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

    Xmonad, which I like because of its super-fast tiling, sparse interface, and keyboard-driven behavior. But I really just want a good terminal (I’m a Terminator fan) in whatever window manager I’m using.

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

    Vim and WeeChat are my top two applications. I use Vim for all development and text editing, and WeeChat keeps me connected to IRC and ultimately the Python and local (Nashville) developer communities.

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

    I’m using a Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (i7-4500, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), with a CODE keyboard.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Boring but attached. Dotfiles are online at GitHub.

Jason Myers' desktop

Interview conducted June 26, 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.