The Linux Setup - Michael Meeks, SUSE Labs
I’m a huge OpenSUSE fan so it’s great to have someone from SUSE labs. Michael’s work seems to require more power and processing than your average desktop Linux user. Hopefully, hardware will catch up with Michael’s work needs and the price points for organizations that don’t have insanely huge budgets. Especially since the work of Michael and his colleagues helps improve LibreOffice, which so many of us enjoy.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Michael Meeks, Christian, Husband, Hacker. I work inside SUSE labs, primarily on LibreOffice. I’m a board member of The Document Foundation, and do a diverse set of hacking and development tasks around our exciting and rapidly improving code-base.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Primarily openSUSE 12.1. Normally I’d run SLES11, but I had to do some hackery recently for our LibreOffice online prototype, which uses the very latest gtk3 and infrastructure. It was easier to switch to 12.1 at that stage.
What software do you depend upon with this distribution?
For my daily work, I use Emacs, Firefox, Evolution, Xchat, gnome-terminal, VirtualBox (for our windows builds), and that’s about it. Of course, that is the end-user visible software - really I depend very heavily on the excellent work from the SUSE gcc/binutils team without which our lives would be very much harder: LibreOffice is a substantial piece of C++ software and tends to exercise the compiler quite hard. Similarly we like to link and use most Linux desktop infrastructure, so really a lot of dependencies.
What kind of hardware do you run it on?
I have a Lenovo W500, which combines a rather nice big, wide screen for multiple side-by-side Emacs buffers with a reasonably fast Core 2 Duo CPU. I run a near identical backup setup on an 8 core desktop machine next to me that provides more compilation grunt. Using that to share compilation via icecream takes my from-clean build times down to 45 minutes from several hours before it arrived. Another nice feature of this setup is Intel’s kind provision of an SSD sample, which not only makes it perform excellently, but removes the fear of losing data by dropping a hard-disk that plagued me in the past.
What is your ideal Linux setup?
Working on one of the most challenging, and exciting projects out there in Free Software at the moment, and doing large scale code changes just now, I need speed. So, anything with a lot of parallel CPUs is great for me. There are lots of (lame, two disk) NAS boxes in the world, but really my ideal Linux seutp would be a (cheap) network attached CPU box with no disk that would run icecream, and provide a plug-and-play build accelerator. If we could specify and buy those cheaply, the Document Foundation would probably fund sending some to our best volunteers to improve their productivity. Unfortunately, it seems a cheap, disk-less, network-attached beefy CPU machine doesn’t exist. That’s a shame, since we can now build our software with a parallelism measured in the thousands of modules.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
My desktop generally looks quite boring — I tend to hide it behind lots of full-screen windows on a 3x4 virtual workspace grid, which I flick through fast, in a two dimensional/spatial way. This muscle memory (e.g., my mail-client is at the top-right) is one reason why I’ve not been able to move to the new GNOME 3 shell. So, you’ll notice I’m using the under-advertised fallback mode, which (if only more people knew about) might make the over-busy, power-user fringe a lot less annoyed with GNOME 3.
Interview conducted June 25, 2012