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.


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.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Linux Setup - Tom Callaway, Red Hat

As near as I can tell, the overlap between hockey fans and Linux fans is pretty small. By my informal, unscientific count, there’s me, there’s Jorge Castro, and now we can add Tom Callaway to the list. I actually found him through a shared disdain for NBC’s NHL coverage but his Linux credentials are very impressive. Tom is a GNOME user who takes advantage of its extensive extension collection. I know GNOME has taken some customization options out of the base install, but with extensions, I sometimes wonder if there isn’t more flexibility in the project now.

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 Inigo Mont… err… Tom Callaway. I’ve been interested in Linux and FOSS in general since 1997, and employed by Red Hat since 2001. My current job is in the Open Source & Standards team in the Red Hat CTO Office. I am leading up the effort within Red Hat to promote Free and Open Source Software in education. I also do work to promote open hardware and support 3D printers on Fedora. Last, but not least, I handle Fedora’s legal issues (but am not a lawyer). I maintain around 300 packages in Fedora.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux because I was frustrated at how inflexible Windows was. I still use it because I believe in the power of FOSS to innovate, and I love digging into things, discovering how they work, and making changes.

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

    Fedora 20.

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

    I’ve upgraded to GNOME 3.12, with a number of extensions to make it more usable for me. Currently, I use these:

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

    Hmm. I’m not sure I depend on one particular piece of software. I tend to use Thunderbird an awful lot for email, calendar and RSS reading.

    The apps I open on startup are:

    • XChat
    • Pidgin
    • Pithos (Pandora GUI client)
    • gnome-terminal
    • Firefox
    • Thunderbird
    • Corebird (Twitter GUI client)
    • Tomboy (sticky notes)
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    A Lenovo T440s laptop. It’s Quad Core i7-4600U @ 2.10GHz, 12GB memory, 256GB SSD. When I’m in the office, it runs in a dock with a second screen attached to it. At home, I usually connect a second monitor and my office TV to it (love that screen real estate).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! I’ll even leave some of my windows unminimized.

Tom Callaway's desktop

Interview conducted April 21, 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, May 20, 2014

The Linux Setup - Sean LeRoy, Urban Planner

I found Sean through Twitter. He gives a wonderful explanation of why he uses Linux, breaking the reasons down into four categories. It’s a very cool framework that really captures the strength of Linux, and other open source software. Sean is also yet another user who likes Linux because it stays out of his way. It’s a common explanation for why people use Linux (and is one of the reasons I use it) and I’m always curious if it makes sense to everyone. Whenever I see someone struggling to work with an interface, I always want to ask “Is this interface getting in the way of your work?” But I’m not sure how someone already frustrated might take the question.

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 Sean LeRoy. By day, I’m an urban planner for the City of Kirkland and in my spare time, my brother Kevin and I run a small design firm called CrashLabs, where I do mostly design and he does mostly development. We focus on simple, often minimal, design solutions for the desktop, mobile and web spaces. About once a year, too, we choose a non-profit to work with in helping them either re-design or develop a project. Oh, and we’re currently available for projects!

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Linux for a variety of reasons. Stability, openness, modularity and community, to name but a few. Overall Linux is known for its stability, which allows users to focus on just “getting work done;” which at the end of the day is probably what’s most important. I know that, by and large, I don’t have to worry about problems that come with instability. Especially while I’m doing design work for a client, I need the confidence that comes with a stable work environment, so I can attend to the things that truly need attending too.

    Openness is huge for me. I resonate with the ethos of openness for sure and try to implement its core values in my life and work. Modularity, my word for the ability to tinker, is another key ingredient for me. I’m not a born hacker or anything, but I enjoy taking on new challenges which help me learn the Linux and open source space more thoroughly. I’ve got a long way to go for sure, but the idea of being able to make something my own through simple modifications is important.

    Finally, what ties this all together is community. I’ve really enjoyed the interactions with the wider Linux community, across distros. I appreciate the spirit of sharing, willingness to help and general good spirit in which the Linux community affords and provides.

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

    I run Arch Linux on my main work machine. Right now its fairly vanilla, so I plan on theming it out a bit in the near future. It took me a long time to get to Arch, as I was very intimidated and lacked some of the basic understanding required to install, use and maintain it. But, with the help of a few seasoned Arch users, I migrated over this year and feel like I will stay. I feel, too, that Arch can play a key role in the progress and growth of the Linux desktop in the near future.

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

    GNOME. It’s not without its faults, especially in some of the design-oriented choices, but all in all, I need a desktop that stays out of my way, doesn’t assume to know what I need and want, and is responsive. GNOME gives me that. Openbox would be another favorite, though that is more a window manager.

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

    For my design work unquestionably Inkscape and GIMP. I’ve been able to do anything I need with those two programs, and what I may not know how to do, I’ve learned from the forums and literature, which are vast. I always have music playing while I work, so VLC or Xnoise are my go-to – right now it’s Coltrane Plays the Blues. I don’t bother much with music managers; I just store my huge library on various external drives. For my document needs, LibreOffice and AbiWord are great.

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

    Nothing fancy by any means: 15” Dell Inspiron Laptop with 4GB RAM, Core i5, but it does the trick, for now anyway. Regardless, when I’m working in my home office, I connect it to a 23” Viewsonic Monitor with a really nice full HD, IPS display. I couldn’t do my design work without it! I’m looking into the 4K displays too, as I believe the latest GNOME release supports those.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure. Pretty minimal, but functional.

Sean LeRoy's desktop

Interview conducted March 31, 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, April 30, 2014 Wednesday, March 19, 2014 Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Linux Setup - Jonathan Nadeau, Accessible Computing Foundation

Previous interview subject Spencer Hunley suggested I interview Jonathan and I’m glad I did. Accessibility is an important issue that unfortunately doesn’t get the attention it deserves (especially in web design). Part of Jonathan’s work is sponsoring Sonar GNU/Linux, which seems to be based on Ubuntu (judging by the version numbers), but seems to be getting ready to base itself off of Manjaro. Jonathan is also running an IndiegoGo campaign to further develop Orca, the Linux screenreader. Projects and campaigns like this are important because accessibility software can be prohibitively expensive. Free and open source software, like Sonar and Orca, make it possible for more people to have access to the technology they need, without having to jump through a lot of hoops to get it — or worse yet, not having anything at all.

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 Jonathan Nadeau and I’m a blind GNU/Linux user and a free software advocate. I’m the executive director of the Accessible Computing Foundation where we develop free and accessible software for people with all types of disabilities.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use GNU/Linux because I’m a free software advocate and promote using free software for assistive technology and accessible computing. I believe in the ideals of free software and think all software should be free as in software freedom.

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

    The distro I use is Sonar GNU/Linux. It is an operating system that the Accessible Computing Foundation sponsors.

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

    I use either the GNOME Shell or the GNOME Fallback Mode. I use either of these because they are both very accessible with the Orca screen reader which I need as a blind GNU/Linux user.

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

    I would have to say the Orca screen reader because without it I wouldn’t be able to use a computer.

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

    I have a Lenovo notebook that is a Core i5 with 4GB RAM and an 80GB SSD. I also have an 8-core AMD 4.0GHZ with 16GB RAM and an SSD.

Interview conducted November 19, 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.


Thursday, January 23, 2014