Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Linux Setup - Robert Nunnally, Musician/Attorney

Robert has a great story. He was a Linux enthusiast in theory who became one in practice when he could no longer run the Windows programs he wanted to run. It’s the perfect story for this moment, because as this is being written, Windows finally ended support for XP after 13 years (making Debian look downright bleeding-edge). I suspect a lot of XP users will experiment with Linux, because if you stayed with XP for this long, there’s something very specific about it that you like and odds are Windows 7 and Windows 8 aren’t going to address that need. Linux provides a flexibility that will allow at least some XP refugees to create a familiar experience on their computers. That’s what brought Robert to Linux and it’s what kept him 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 Robert Nunnally. I grew up in Arkansas, USA. I now live in Allen, Texas. By day, I am an attorney who handles cases involving commercial litigation, insurance company rehabilitation and liquidation, and intellectual property. My wife and I live with a little black shelter-adopted dog 25 miles north of Dallas, on the edge of the prairie.

    My passion/avocation is to share Creative Commons music under my performing name, Gurdonark. I am active at the music site ccMixter.org, and have released a number of releases on netlabels. My music appears in documentaries, museum exhibits, Android games, podcasts and in thousands of online videos. I also like to share Creative Commons photos, and I am an avid-if-non-expert birder and chess player.

    I run a little cloudcast on Mixcloud, sharing culture commentary and interviews, called the Graham Wafercast.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I run Linux for two reasons. I believe strongly in sharing culture—open source, liberal licensing and Creative Commons culture. I believe that our culture deserves an alternative to the royalty-based culture. I do not oppose intellectual property laws, but rather support liberal licensing to create a vast public commons of freely-available work. I am all about Creative Commons BY, donate-what-you-will and a a culture of attribution.

    I also use Linux for a very pragmatic reason. I have owned a Linux machine for years. My first Linux netbook was the (in)famous Cherrypal Africa, the sub-$100 machine from an pre-Android era, when sub-$100 sounded like an impressive price. This very simple netbook offered the advantage of nearly-instantaneous boot and a vaguely KDE set up, but lacked a proper command line, a proper package manager with access to repositories, and even proper stereo. It was fun for play and basic browsing (an xBurst chip pushing Konqueror a mighty 800 MHz), but it failed to suffice for daily use.

    Years later, @lopta on Twitter turned me on to running Linux in virtual machines. I loved being able to load up Debian, Peppermint, Damn Small Linux, Puppy and more distros than I can count, onto a VMWare player. I began to see how easy Linux for the desktop had become.

    I mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sister program. I found that my little brother lacked a laptop computer, which I considered a significant omission. The digital divide concerns me. I went on eBay, got him a used computer for $50, and loaded it with Linux (at first Pear, which proved too heavyweight, but then we loaded on Xubuntu, which was just right). Within weeks, he was using it regularly, changing out distros, and enjoying it thoroughly.

    Our experiment with his system worked so well that I got myself an eBay computer for $53, plus a $3 case, from Goodwill. I loaded Linux on it and although it only had a U1400 1.2 GHz single-core chip, the computer became my daily driver.

    I loved the free software and the ability to customize and change things. I moved from Linux supporter to Linux convert. I eventually converted my desktop to Linux and then ordered a new pre-configured Linux rig.

    This preface leads me into the second reason for the change. I changed to Linux in part because only Linux could easily help me use my XP music-making software. I make offbeat electronic music with a strong ambient influence (so-called “weirdbient” music). I use a lot of software developed as freeware or shareware in an XP environment. I found when I got my first Windows 7 computer that much of my essential software would not run in it. I read that almost all of my favorite music software would not run in Windows 8. Although Microsoft had developed virtual machine technology to help alleviate this issue, I learned that the VM solution would require the additional purchase of an enterprise license.

    On the other hand, I now have all of my favorite software installed to run via WINE in my Linux rig. I can also easily set up a VM via VirtualBox (or GNOME Boxes) if I need an XP virtual machine at some point in the future.

    Thus, I switched to Linux because I believe in sharing culture, and because switching to Linux set me free of the treadmill of software being rendered obsolete due to operating system changes.

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

    I use Fedora 20. I got some good advice to go that route from a Fedora user who works for Red Hat, and I’ve been happy with it. I am not at all an operating system zealot, though. I like lots of them, and run them on VMs for fun. Lately, I am taken with the CorePlus spin of Tiny Core Linux. I like my systems lightweight.

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

    I use LXDE. I originally loaded LXDE because I had a less powerful laptop. I found myself very attracted to its simplicity and ease of use. I like that it is so lightweight that it never burdens my system. I like, too, leaving my screen landscape free for a bird photo. My other favorite DE is Razor-Qt, which is what I use when I run Porteus via USB on my old “Windows” laptop.

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

    I depend on Audacity. This helps me record my music and export it for re-use.

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

    This year I got a ZaReason Limbo-6220A, with AMD’s FX-4130 as the CPU. I’ve been very happy with my ZaReason, which was pre-loaded at my request for Fedora 20 LXDE.

Interview conducted February 9, 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.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Linux Setup - Phil Baker, Lead Forecaster, National Weather Service

Weathermen are like rock stars. I remember when local New York City forecaster Nick Gregory came to my junior high school. Everyone was genuinely excited, and at that age, we were rarely excited about anything (except Faces of Death — man did we love that movie). It’s only gotten more glamorous for the weather industry. Gawker has a weather site. Nate Silver’s given weathermen his blessing. So it’s great to talk to Phil, who’s a Linux-using forecaster with the (U.S.) National Weather Service. He’s a GNOME fan who runs a simple setup that lets him try out different distros. And it’s yet another example of just how many different fields can successfully work with Linux desktops.

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 Phil Baker. I’m a Lead Forecaster with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Memphis, TN. I’ve been with the NWS for 21 years (time flies!), after graduating from the University of Nebraska. While not officially on the IT side of the house, I help out the IT staff where I can, particularly when it comes to Linux or networking.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I was introduced to Unix in the late 90s. At that time, each NWS office had an HP-UX RISC workstation that was a precursor to our present day AWIPS infrastructure, which originally ran HP-UX. I bought my first PC in 1998 and Windows felt like a toy compared to Unix. About this time, a sysadmin at the office was testing a new operating system called “Linux” on a spare PC. I was intrigued. It definitely was not a toy and the shell commands I’d learned on HP-UX were transferable to this Linux box. I went home and installed Caldera Linux on my one-year-old PC, then quickly moved to Mandrake — “Red Hat with KDE,” as it was known back then. I’ve been running Linux ever since.

    Soon after Red Hat introduced Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the NWS migrated AWIPS from HP-UX to RHEL, which ran on faster Intel hardware. The WSR-88D radar was also upgraded to open hardware running RHEL, which significantly expanded the radar’s post processing capabilities.

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

    I distro hop quite a bit. Currently, I’m running Linux Mint 15 on my desktop and Crunchbang Linux on my server. With Mint’s underlying Ubuntu 13.04 soon running out of support, and the harder-than-it-needs-to-be nature of upgrading Mint, my desktop will soon be upgraded to Fedora 20. My laptop is an old MacBook Pro that runs Fedora 20 through VMware Fusion. I’ve been impressed with Fedora 20 and it’s a good platform with which to stay current on the future technologies in RHEL.

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

    I personally prefer GNOME 3. I’ve tried KDE and really like it, but there’s just so many knobs to turn to get it like I want it. GNOME 3 is simple and it gets out of my way. There are still a few areas where I think it needs to mature, and I’m sure it will. I see myself as a GNOME user for many years.

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

    I develop web pages for our internal situational awareness server at work. We have thin clients (LTSP) with 42-inch monitors that contain supplementary weather information from sources internal and external to the NWS. I also like work on the family intranet at home. Besides the Chrome browser and GNOME Terminal, the app that I spend most of my time in is Geany. It’s my go-to app for web development.

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

    My home desktop is an Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge, with SSD and 16GB RAM. I hope to soon pass on my old MacBook Pro to my wife, so that I can buy a System76 Kudu Professional. It’ll be nice to run Linux natively on a powerful laptop, with all the hardware visualization support and a higher resolution screen. I’m just waiting on available funds. :)

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    This screenshot is from my Fedora 20 VM.

Phil Baker's desktop

Interview conducted January 10, 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.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Linux Setup - Allan Day, GNOME Designer

Part of the reason GNOME is such a successful project is the focus and dedication of its members. I’ve interviewed a few of them and common strands always emerge — ideas like GNOME as an operating system, GNOME staying out of the user’s way, and GNOME as a way to enhance Linux. Allan, a designer for the project, touches on a lot of these points. His design workflow is also wonderfully straightforward and helps to address the concern that good design work can’t be done on Linux.

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 Allan Day. I live in London and work on the GNOME project as a designer. I contributed for a number of years as a volunteer before being hired by Red Hat to work on the project full-time.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I was dissatisfied with Windows and wanted to try something different. When I tried my first distro I found that I really liked GNOME.

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

    I’m currently running the Fedora 20 pre-release, so I can get the latest GNOME version.

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

    Obviously I use GNOME, but I don’t really think of it as a desktop environment. The GNOME project has learned that you have to take a holistic view of the whole product if you want to create good user experiences. It is for this reason that, over the years, our contributors have created low-level technologies when they have been needed. It is also why we regularly collaborate with developers from every level of the stack, going right down to the kernel.

    Nowadays my engagement with GNOME is driven by a belief in the necessity of a competitive Free Software operating system for personal computing devices. I think that GNOME is unique in its focus on user experience, working in the open, and working with others to create a complete product. GNOME 3 is something that I love to use, but it is also important for the future of software.

    The main things I like as a user of GNOME are the lack of distraction, clarity of organization, and the feeling I get that the software is working for me (rather than the other way around). Anything else I try feels distracting and confused in comparison. Often it feels downright unfriendly. GNOME 3 lets me do what I want without getting in the way.

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

    My main tools are Inkscape, Git and IRC — Inkscape for creating mockups, Git for sharing those mockups with others (we have public repositories for all our designs), and IRC for communication. Each of those tools reflects an aspect of the design work that I do; it’s all about developing and sharing ideas in collaboration with others.

    It is important to me that these tools are free, both in terms of cost and liberty. This makes it easy for collaborators to get involved, and is consistent with the goals of the GNOME project as a whole.

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

    My hardware isn’t particularly special. I have a Thinkpad T420s, which is generally docked and used in conjunction with a 24” Dell Ultrasharp Monitor, as well as a separate keyboard and mouse. The monitor makes drawing mockups a lot easier.

    I also listen to a lot of music and have the laptop connected to a fairly decent stereo (Sherwood amplifier, Eltax speakers).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! This is what my setup tends to look like while I’m working - a browser, Inkscape, Notes, IRC, and a Terminal for Git and building development code.

    I tend to use all of the latest GNOME apps. In this screenshot you can see Web, Notes, and our new IRC client, which is called Polari.

Allan Day's desktop

Interview conducted October 24, 2013


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.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Linux Setup - Bastien Nocera, GNOME/Red Hat

Bastien is my second GNOME developer in three weeks! Like Emmanuele Bassi, Bastien has a commitment to improving things for users, which in his case means GNOME. Interestingly, Bastien points out how GNOME’s work has been used to improve other desktop environments, which is the power of free and open source software.

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 Bastien Nocera. I work on GNOME for Red Hat’s Desktop Team from my home in Lyon, France. I’m the maintainer for GNOME’s Settings, which means that I get to work on things like integration of Wacom tablets, geolocation, fingerprint readers, power management, Bluetooth and many more interesting things, with colleagues and community members.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I’ll rephrase the question slightly if you don’t mind (EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t.). I use the Linux kernel, sure, but I also use a lot of tools and libraries on top of that.

    The reason why I started using Linux distributions was because I was curious, and it was different, but that was a long time ago. Nowadays it would be because it’s something that I can help build and that can solve people’s problems, whether it’s improving the everyday experience, as with GNOME 3, or building something that fits Free Software values (such as freedom or privacy).

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

    I use Fedora on all the devices that can run it, and even some that shouldn’t be able to :)

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

    GNOME.

    I started GNOME using it for its looks, back in the 1.0 days, but I stayed for the goals that the project set out. People related to the GNOME project set out to fix problems in the desktop by fixing them from the ground up, and you’ll see many technologies on typical Linux desktops that are from that era, from D-Bus up to the very latest color management.

    If you connect to Wi-Fi in Xfce, color calibrate your display in KDE, or use your Bluetooth headset in Unity, you’re probably using software that GNOME developers wrote.

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

    I don’t think there’s one particular piece of software that I use that’s only available to Fedora. What Fedora does have is a great community of developers and packagers that will get the latest software from upstream and make sure it integrates nicely with the distribution. So when we rely on features and fixes from the kernel, the display drivers, or even a GNOME library, we can be sure that it will be in Fedora in a timely manner.

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

    An all-in-one desktop from Lenovo, and a MacBook Air that doesn’t run MacOS X.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    It’s stock GNOME 3 running on Fedora, so it’s fairly boring. I usually use the keyboard to switch between windows when I’m coding so this screenshot isn’t quite an accurate representation of my running setup.

Bastien Nocera's desktop

Interview conducted July 25, 2013


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.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Linux Setup - Emmanuele Bassi, GNOME Developer

Emmanuele’s interview is wonderful because he embodies the true spirit of open source software — he sees broken things and he fixes them. It sounds simple, but it’s people like Emmanuele that make Linux possible. His setup is GNOME-intensive, as you might expect from someone on the board of the GNOME Foundation. You’ll also want to be sure to check out Emmanuele’s thoughts on the future of distros, which is very interesting, and could really be a post in itself.

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 Emmanuele Bassi, and I’ve been working on GNOME and GNOME-related technologies for the past 10 years, both as a hobbyist and as a paid software engineer. I am part of the team working on the core GNOME platform (GLib, GTK+, and Clutter, plus other libraries); I have been elected to the GNOME Foundation board of directors for three years and I’m currently working as its secretary. I am also lead architect for Endless Mobile, a start up using GNOME technology.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux in 1997 because it was already better than Windows at the time: I could run Doom 2 in a window, instead of rebooting Windows 95 into DOS mode. Sure, I had to install random packages, and I had to recompile my kernel, and configure X11 and fvwm2 so that I could actually run Doom 2, but it was definitely worth it. I use Linux because it allows me to improve it whenever I find something that does not work the way I want it to. Thanks to that, I found a great community inside GNOME, as well as a day job that lets me work on what I like.

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

    I’m currently running Fedora 19 on my 2011 MacBook Pro. I started off with Slackware, moved to SUSE, then Red Hat (back when Fedora did not exist), then Debian, then Ubuntu, then back to Debian, until I switched to Fedora. As I’m working on the development of GNOME, I’m always a bit on the bleeding edge of everything, and Fedora suits me well in that regard. That doesn’t stop me from ranting when something breaks horribly, though. Also, Fedora works really nicely on Apple hardware, which replaced my long-lasting love for ThinkPads a couple of years ago.

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

    I use GNOME, given what I do every day. I started using GNOME 1.4 years ago, and I was there for the first major transition between 1.x and 2.x. Now I am using GNOME 3.8, and cannot wait to update to 3.10. I started getting excited about GNOME with the 2.0 release, when instead of wasting a week to set up the system to my liking, I got a system that worked out of the box. After getting involved in the GNOME community and developing on and for GNOME, I realized that everyone there shares the same belief that the shell and operating system should just work for everyone using a computer to create things or consume things, not just for the geeky people like me, that can spend a week customizing the machine to my own liking because I know what to do and where to look. To be fair, the older I got, the more fed up I was about having to customize my system; I just wanted something that let me hack away.

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

    I don’t strictly “depend” on anything on Fedora, except GNOME. I’m not overly attached to distributions at all. I’ve switched between most of them already, and all of them have something broken. I also don’t think the distribution model works any more, and that going forward we’ll have to drop the illusion. I am waiting for the day when I can get a GNOME system straight from gnome.org, dump it on my machine, and then just install applications from the application’s website.

    My only requirements are development tools: Vim, make, autotools, and compilers. Obviously, I need a stable version of GNOME, so that I can use my computer while I build everything.

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

    I am using a 13” MacBook Pro from 2011, Core i5 with Sandy Bridge, 4GB of RAM, and 128 GB on a SSD. I just bought a 13” MacBook Air with Core i7 and 8GB of RAM and 256 GB on a SSD. Before 2012 I used ThinkPads (series T and series X), until Lenovo screwed both the build quality and the one thing they shouldn’t have touched, i.e. the keyboard.

    The Apple hardware is pretty good, and runs well enough on Linux, if you exclude the Broadcom chipsets for Wifi (which I replaced with a small USB wifi dongle).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! This is my current overview. I have a bunch of terminals lying around for IRC and development, plus Firefox. I generally keep everything on a separate workspace and switch between them when needed. I usually have a media player in the background as well, but haven’t started it today.

Emmanuele Bassi's desktop

Interview conducted July 17, 2013


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.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Linux Setup - Dave Neary, Red Hat

Dave’s setup is pretty standard, but it makes sense when you read how he described his ideal Linux setup: “The less time I spend thinking about what my desktop is running, and the more time I spend doing stuff, the better.” That wonderfully summarizes how I think about Linux. I turned to it because it was customizable, which allowed me to make it run more effectively for me, but now I run it because it works well, without a lot of fiddling. The customization angle might be less important to me because I now have a handle on what I like and dislike in a desktop experience, or it could be that the desktops are getting better. Either way, this interview is another example of how Linux is a great path for anyone looking to have a machine that just works.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow us on Google+ here.

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

    Dave Neary, Open Source and Standards, Red Hat. We’re a team of people working to make all the Open Source projects Red Hat works with better.

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

    Fedora 17.

  3. What software do you depend upon with this distribution?

    I use Thunderbird for email, Firefox for web, Empathy for IM, XChat-gnome for IRC, LibreOffice for office productivity, Simple Scan for scanning, Shotwell for photo management, Gnote for note taking, and then terminal for other stuff.

  4. What kind of hardware do you run it on?

    A Lenovo Thinkpad X220. Nice and light for travel, with a dock and bigger screen for when I’m at home.

  5. What is your ideal Linux setup?

    Whatever works :-) There are some pet hates I have, which are more integration and polish issues than anything else.The less time I spend thinking about what my desktop is running, and the more time I spend doing stuff, the better.

  6. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! (With extra blurring of email client window).

Dave Neary's desktop

Interview conducted January 28, 2013


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 us on Google+ here and subscribe to our feed here.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Linux Setup - Aditya Patawari, Systems Engineer/Fedora Contributor

Aditya is a technical guy with a simple setup. I think by now we know most people use their computers for typing and web-browsing. Aditya is no different, but Linux gives him access to more specialized tools that make his work easier. Of course, these tools exist for other operating systems, but it’s nice to think how easily all Linux users can access the same tools. Which is how and why I’m about to try out Hotot…

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow us on Google+ here.

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

    I am Aditya Patawari and I am a Fedora contributor. I blog about Linux and other open source technologies at various places. I have also been a speaker at the Fedora Users and Developers Conference, FOSS.in, GNUnify, and several other conferences. I am a systems engineer by profession. I work on large scale production deployments, making sure they’re always available and creating setup redundancy. I also manage tools like Puppet, Graphite and Nagios.

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

    I have been running Fedora for quite a few years.

  3. What software do you depend upon with this distribution?

    I use Chromium for browsing, Hotot for microblogging and XChat for IRC. Because of the nature of my work, terminator and Vim are the most essential part of my setup.

  4. What kind of hardware do you run it on?

    I have a Lenovo x220 Thinkpad running an i5 processor with 4GB RAM.

  5. What is your ideal Linux setup?

    From a hardware perspective, I would want my machine to be lightweight and offer longer battery life. The device drivers should be easily available. The operating system has to be highly flexible to allow me to play with it easily and yet stable enough so that it does not crash with the kind of heavy-duty work I do. It should be fine running a couple of virtual machines.

  6. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    My desktop generally has a bunch of terminals open. Here is a screenshot:

Aditya Patawari's desktop

Interview conducted January 21, 2013


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 us on Google+ here and subscribe to our feed here.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013