Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Linux Setup - Jonathan Roberts, TuxRadar Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts, Linux or otherwise, is TuxRadar, which is produced by the editorial team of Linux Format magazine, an English publication. Jonathan Roberts is a TuxRadar host presenter/Linux Format editor, so I was especially excited to see what kind of system he uses.

Also, if you’re not already listening to TuxRadar, it’s something you definitely want to do. It’s funny, informative, and thought-provoking. And the European perspective can be especially enlightening.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

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

    My name is Jonathan Roberts and I recently became the staff writer for Linux Format magazine. The magazine’s permanent staff also put together a fortnightly podcast called TuxRadar, so since joining I’ve also been a contributor to the podcast. It’s mostly about Linux, but always lots of fun.

    Before joining the team at Linux Format, I studied Theology at Exeter University. I also contributed to the Fedora Project in various guises, where I was known as JonRob, ran the Questions Please podcast ( and attempted (but failed) to launch a campaign promoting free culture called Free Me (

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

    I run Arch Linux, and I love it. It’s fast, always up to date and is actually the most stable Linux distribution I’ve ever used. It takes a little while to get set up, but thanks to the amazing Beginners Guide anyone can do it and it’s well worth the investment.

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

    I’m not that fussy about software and often experiment with different options to see what works best for me. At the moment, I write my articles in Vim, and I use Chromium a lot for research etc. I used to use gedit, but when preparing an article on the 50 best Linux applications, Vim got such glowing reviews that I had to give it a go!

    I also use VirtualBox for testing distributions or setting up servers/development environments when researching an article. It saves me breaking my system and having to re-install it all the time.

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

    I use a Toshiba Satellite laptop - an R630 to be exact. It’s a great machine, and it was a real bargain too. It has 2GB RAM - I’d love another 2GB sometime soon - a Core i3 processor, integrated Intel graphics and a Broadcom wireless chip that uses the open source drivers. Everything works out of the box with 2.6.38+, so it’s an ideal machine in my mind.

    As well as all those components, it’s got a 13-inch screen, is incredibly thin and light with a 3-4 hour battery life. Since I carry it to and from work everyday, these are really important features to me.

  5. What is your ideal Linux setup?

    Just give me another 2GB RAM and I’ll be thrilled.

  6. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure, though there’s not a lot to see since Gnome Shell hides everything! When I’m at work I have an external monitor and keyboard connected as well, hence the strange look of the screenshot.

Jonathan Robert's desktop

Interview conducted 9/12/11

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.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

GNOME 3.2: Who Invited Nautilus to this Environment?

So to no one’s surprise, I made the switch to OpenSUSE 12.1 on my main laptop, a Lenovo T420i.

The main reason? I fell in love with GNOME shell. Sabayon LXDE was nice, but tiny things kept creeping up, like clamz not working to unpack Amazon music. It was nothing that impacted the usability of the machine, but it was just enough to make me open to switching distros.


I still like all of the OpenSUSE things I liked when I reviewed it a few weeks ago.

I’ve been reading up on GNOME 3 and one thing I didn’t pick up in my review was that OpenSUSE has a curated GNOME shell implementation. They pre-installed some GNOME extensions that have made GNOME much better. For instance, OpenSUSE uses the extension that gives shell an option to power off. They also install the GNOME tweak tool by default.

Of course, that’s a little less necessary thanks to the GNOME extensions site that recently went live as an alpha. It allows one-click extension installation (and removal) from a web interface (as long as that interface is Firefox). There are some cool extensions, but I was most interested in the one that brings back traditional alt-tab behavior (GNOME 3 lets you tab between applications, not windows. To tab through application windows, you need to use alt-`, which just wasn’t ideal for me).

One thing that’s not so great about GNOME shell? The Nautilus file manager. For instance, to delete a file, you actually need to click ctrl-delete. Delete by itself doesn’t actually delete. Also, you can’t drag files into bookmarked folders via the file tree navigation. And apparently, it’s deliberate functionality. I didn’t want to uninstall it, since GNOME seems to have Nautilus do a lot of different things, so I just installed my beloved PCManFM file manager. GNOME treats it as the default, so I don’t even really see Nautilus anymore.

I wish the desktop calendar, which lives along the top panel, could read your Google Calendar directly. There’s a script to make that happen, but it seems easier to just have Evolution import the calendars for me (although it would also be nice if you could choose the calendar GNOME uses — I’m not a huge Evolution fan).

In general, I’m getting used to OpenSUSE. YaST, the software manager, is logical. OpenSUSE uses a lot of repositories, so I’m getting used to finding and adding those sorts of things. For example, KeePassX, my password manager, isn’t in one of the default repositories. I had to add a password management repository. And the restricted codecs are all in another repository. It’s a bit of a shift from Ubuntu and Sabayon, where just about everything is in one giant repository.

In general, though, I’m loving GNOME and OpenSUSE. It’s a very fast desktop environment, but also a very nice looking one. I mentioned the word cohesive in my previous review and I keep coming back to that concept. LXDE felt like a lot of nice parts that worked independently of each other. GNOME feels like all of the parts are in sync. It’s not a knock against LXDE, which is a great desktop environment in its own right, so much as its a tribute to OpenSUSE’s GNOME implementation.

Now, if they could just somehow extract Nautilus from the equation.

Monday, December 5, 2011
I’m loving how customizable GNOME Shell is. I just added DuckDuckGo as a search option from the activities dashboard. It was easy.

I’m loving how customizable GNOME Shell is. I just added DuckDuckGo as a search option from the activities dashboard. It was easy.