Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Linux Setup - Eric Hameleers, Slackware Linux

When you’re interviewing a Slackware developer, you have certain expectations about what they’ll say in terms of controlling your own system and Eric delivers. In fact, he makes the case that Slackware, known as a more challenging system to setup and maintain, is valuable because it requires so much thought. Which is true—I’ve always seen Slackware as one part distro and one part teaching tool. The rest of Eric’s interview is great as he’s a very smart guy who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a distro work, not just in terms of specific software, but also in terms of what’s ultimately best for the user in the long-term.

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 Eric Hameleers, and I am mostly known for what I do in my spare time, which is work on Slackware Linux as one of the core developers. During the day I have a regular job at IBM where I currently manage a global Help Desk. My work on Slackware Linux gives me the opportunity to carve a niche in the Open Source ecosystem. With the current focus in Linux-land on the unification of computing platforms (using the same interface on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones) a lot of development effort concentrates on “giving people the best experience,” which often means taking shortcuts and breaking the golden rule of the UNIX philosophy: to create programs that “do one thing, and do it well.”

    I hate it when compatibility is sacrificed for ease-of-use. It seems like the bigger companies target the lowest common denominator as their ideal audience. This is not what we target with Slackware—it tries to stay close to the values of old. People call Slackware a thing of the past, a dinosaur, old-fashioned, and more things like that, but in truth Slackware is a stable, modern Linux distribution that uses proven technology and does not cave in to the fad of the day. We assume that you are a smart person! We take you seriously! A Slackware system gives you the keys to your computer instead of locking everything away from you. What is “the best user experience”? I get the best experience when I feel in total control. I need to understand why something is failing (and to be able to fix it) instead of having to wait for distro developers to fix the “black box” inside.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    In my early days of earning money, I started with UNIX. We had the Aegis OS on Motorola 68000-powered Apollo graphical workstations and Xenix on Intel desktops. In those days, only the secretaries and sales guys used DOS and the difference between DOS and my UNIX systems was day and night. I decided then and there that UNIX was going to be my future. Unfortunately, all regular UNIX-es were terribly expensive and Xenix was just not mature enough (or perhaps it was the limitation of the Intel 386 based hardware). I bought an Atari TT (also Motorola-powered but with a 68030 CPU) because Atari promised to release an affordable, full UNIX System V for it. Alas, it took them more than two years (the first release would be in November 1991). In the meantime, I had turned to developing software for Atari GEM, the much-underrated GUI for the platform and much, much easier to program for than the emerging MS Windows operating system.

    Fast forward to 1994 when the developers I worked with as a sysadmin decided they wanted a Linux OS as their development platform because the target platform they were developing for (Sun Solaris) was just too expensive for a small company to afford. They picked Slackware Linux, which was hot at the time, and when my team of system admins decided that we should create an Intranet for our offices, it was only logical to use Slackware Linux for the servers. Since then, Linux, and especially Slackware, have determined my career path. It is also an extremely rewarding OS for use at home (tinkering with software, getting to know how stuff works under the hood, playing games, surfing the web) because it is so much faster, more stable and not virus-ridden compared to the “other OS” many people use at home.

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

    By now, the answer should not come as a surprise. I use Slackware on all my computers: my work laptop, my living room desktop, the server at home, and all the servers that I manage for my public Slackware repositories, blog and the Slackware Documentation Project. It is an OS that makes for a very fast and feature-rich desktop but also a very capable server.

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

    It depends. On my desktop and laptop, I always use KDE because it is a very powerful desktop environment that happens to look gorgeous, too. On my server at home, where I run some 24/7 stuff, I use a Xfce session inside a VNC server so that I can easily connect to it from all over the world and still not put too large of a burden on the hardware. From time to time I test other desktop environments like LXDE, LXQT and lately, the new Plasma 2, which is being worked on by the KDE community.

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

    Typically, I use the software that I would like my community to use. When you consider Slackware to be a versatile “Swiss army knife” OS, what I typically add to it is the software that enhances your experience with Slackware. I provide packages for the good stuff that does not come with the core OS. We call that “third party repositories” because apart from what’s on a Slackware DVD, there is no other official Slackware repository with add-on software. Some of the programs which I package and which are very popular are: LibreOffice, VLC, ffmpeg, Chromium, OpenJDK, Wine and of course the latest KDE desktop in my ‘ktown' repository.

    Answering your question, I think that I spend most of my time using vi (yes!), vncviewer, Chromium and always have VLC tuned in to my audio server.

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

    The hardware I use is not state-of-the-art at all. My laptop is a scratched Lenovo T400 (with 8GB RAM) and my desktop machine is powered by an AMD Phenom X4 945 CPU with 2GB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT240 graphics card (fanless). My son’s hardware is four times better!

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure, why not? You will find that I have an almost boring, uncustomized desktop. A typical Slackware look and feel you might say :-) Everything I need is provided through the power that KDE provides to me under the hood, with its fast integrated search.

Eric Hameleers' desktop

Interview conducted August 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, October 7, 2014

The Linux Setup - Sudhir Khanger, Android Developer

Sudhir is a KDE-loving Android developer. Like most KDE users, he really loves KDE. Sudhir also makes a great point about the economics of free and open source software, pointing out that in many parts of the world, people don’t have the money to pay for software. And if they do have the money, they don’t have a mechanism, other than cash, to pay for software, putting much of the world of fee-based software out of their reach. Linux helps not just people who don’t want to pay for software, but also people who have no way (either financially or technically) to pay for 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 am biologist by training. After a few years of changing battery icons and themes, and of installing custom ROMs and kernels, my ability to hack Android came to a halt. I had to learn programming in order to continue having the fun. I took Mehran Sahami’s online course, Introduction to Computer Programming - Programming Methodology to learn Java. I was already spending way too much time thinking about Android so I decided to take the plunge and become an Android developer. That makes me an aspiring Android developer.

    I am also know to, frenetically, make 100 words random posts on my blog sudhirkhanger.com.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux in summer of 2007. I am not sure what instigated my desire to try Linux other than I had too much time on my hand during my freshman year. I didn’t know what open source was back then. I find that Linux is really easy to use because it tells you what it is doing. At its core everything is a text file.

    Over the years Linux has allowed me to do so many things that I otherwise would not have had access to. You want to become a graphic artist? Install Krita. You want to be a writer? Install LibreOffice. Where do you get freedom like that?

    Not everybody in my home country is going to be able to pay Adobe’s premium yearly subscription. Half of them don’t even have bank accounts—how are they going to get credit cards to make online purchases? Linux completely changes everything in such an environment.

    I am also slowly moving away from all third-party, hosted technologies to locally-controlled GNU software. It is important to take control of your own data.

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

    Fedora is my preferred GNU/Linux distribution.

    I began with Ubuntu but as you know six months down the line it gets really old. If the kernel that was shipped with Ubuntu has a bug you have to live with that for at least six months. That made me switch to Arch Linux. Arch is probably the best Linux distribution. It has a solid base, high quality documentation and the Arch User Repository, which solves the age-old problem of how to distribute software in an easy way.

    After I started working on Android I needed a distribution that changed enough that I had latest of most things but also provided a stable and consistent user experience. Fedora is an obvious choice in this space. Packages are fairly up-to-date. I really enjoy using it.

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

    I am a KDE user. KDE provides me a consistent environment that isn’t available with any other Linux desktop environments. It is designed for power users and can be tweaked to fit any workflow. All applications follow the same design guidelines and use KDE desktop elements like notifications. Other desktop environments don’t really have anything like Kontact, which is a personal information management suite of applications. Overall KDE is a great desktop experience.

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

    Chrome, Eclipse, and Android Studio are pretty must-have software for my work.

    KMail, Dolphin, Banshee, Emacs, Konsole, Konversation, and ownCloud are also essential to my workflow.

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

    My primary work laptop is a Thinkpad T420i.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Sudhir Khanger's desktop

Interview conducted August 7, 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, September 16, 2014

The Linux Setup - Saleem Khan, Physician

Saleem’s interview is great because he’s a medical doctor, so he provides a slightly different perspective than we usually see here. I’m constantly shocked by how many doctors’ offices use Windows. I’ve even seen some running XP virtually. That always makes me feel very confident in the privacy of my medical records. Saleem is a KDE fan, but he’s also a fan of inexpensive hardware, and the combination of the two seems to work for him.

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 medical doctor, trained in adult psychiatry and currently working at Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad, Pakistan. I have previously worked as a sitting supervisor at the computer lab and e-library at Ayub Medical College.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    That’s a bit of a complicated question. I started using Linux back in 2003 as a hobby and as an escape. I was looking for something different from Windows. The hobby turned into a habit and the habit later turned into a necessity. Now I use Linux on every computer I can get my hands on for all kinds of computing, both at home and work. I still use Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1, as mutiboot options, but mainly I use Linux.

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

    I was, and still am, an obsessional distro-hopper (that’s why I always keep one “test” partition handy for satisfying my distro-hopping), but since 2009 I have used Arch Linux as my main OS, both on my laptops and desktops, for all of my work . For my test drives, I only install and check distros that attract me for a while. Along with Arch Linux, I am multibooting PCLinuxOS (I am a faithful user of it since version 92; I like it because it can be remastered, which I like to do for my friends and for installations on different computers). I am also a big fan of Debian stable (I also remaster it). I can’t forget to mention Kubuntu LTS (also remastered). But basically I am an Archian ever since I installed it for the first time. Pacman and AUR are my best best friends after Google.

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

    I am a KDE fan and use KDE as my main desktop. I was, and am, a big fan of GNOME 2, and now MATE. I also like Openbox and Fluxbox because I like to manually tweak my working environment.

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

    Not one but three. Firefox and LibreOffice, because all my work is either through the Internet or using office software. The third one is Terminal, which I need since I am always doing something with pacman. So I can’t live without a terminal.

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

    Frankly, I am not a hardware fan. I don’t think software should run at the cost of hardware. My computers are mostly old and are the type most people would have discarded. They range from Intel Centrino Duo to Core2 DUO to Dual core. My desktop PC is an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5000+. I am using a maximum of 4GB RAM on all my computers. If I had any extra money, I would buy a new AMD computer, but that looks impossible at the present. It is worth mentioning my smart phone and tablet, which are from MTK processors. I manage to install all kinds of custom ROMs which do things like get me extra virtual memory. This is better than spending money on new a smart phone with so-called “extra smart” hardware or new features.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    I will but it won’t be of much interest since I am not an eye-candy lover. It’s yet another plain KDE desktop.

Saleem Khan's desktop

Interview conducted July 29, 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, September 9, 2014

The Linux Setup - Eric Mesa, Programmer/Blogger

Eric’s a KDE user who makes use of Activities to create virtual desktops for different kinds of work. Like a lot of KDE users, Eric likes that desktop environment because of the granular control it gives him over his system. KDE isn’t for everyone, but people who know how to use it seem to really stick with it. I’ve never been able to really solve KDE for myself, but I remain ever hopeful that one day I might figure it out.

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 Eric Mesa. My day job is to program and manage programmers, but I’m also a blogger and I cover the comics industry. I’ll be attending Baltimore Comic-Con as press again this year.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I first came to Linux in 2003 when I was trying to figure out how to run my own server. I did some research and saw that you could do that with Linux. So I went to the local bookstore (I think it was a Borders) and found a book on Fedora Core 1 (as it was known back then). I installed it on an old computer I bought for like $25 and was off.

    Nowadays I use Linux because I believe in the principles of free software. To me, Linux is the DRM-free OS. I don’t buy DRM-encumbered movies, music, or books. Why should I buy DRM-encumbered operating systems? I want to make my computer do whatever I want it to do, not what some corporation wants it to do. Also, I love that a Linux desktop is fully functional without spending money. I have spent or donated money for software, but I’m glad you don’t have to. As the world becomes more dependent upon computing, I think it’s important for those with less access to money to still have access to up-to-date and world-class operating systems.

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

    I use Fedora—been there since the beginning—on my desktop and laptop. My wife’s computer and laptop run Kubuntu because Ubuntu’s traditionally been a lot easier for in-place upgrades.

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

    I use KDE 4.x on all the computers in my house (Fedora or Kubuntu). I use it because it is infinitely configurable. GNOME 3 is when I stopped using GNOME and went back to KDE. I also make HUGE use of the Activities to have sets of virtual desktops. I just love how KDE respects the user’s vision—it is the most Linux of desktop environments.

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

    A while ago I would have said Blender, when I was really active in 3D animation. Now it’s Amarok. I LOVE the Amarok music player. I’ve written over and over about everything I love about the way it allows me to create dynamic playlists and the way it presents the music.

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

    My desktop is a 6 Core AMD computer with 8GB RAM and an nVidia graphics card.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Because I use so many Activities, I’m not sure how many screenshots you’d like. You can start at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericsbinaryworld/13961741879/in/photostream/ and then go (left arrow) until the desktop screenshots end.

Eric Mesa'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 20, 2014 Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Linux Setup - Liam Dawe, GamingOnLinux.com

Another interview, another person from Linux Voice. Liam is their gaming columnist and also runs his own Linux gaming site. One of the more common reasons people have given for not using Linux full-time is gaming, so it’s always nice to see projects that help people see how that’s changing. I’m also curious to check out SimpleScreenRecorder, since I know screencasting on Linux isn’t always straight-forward.

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 Liam Dawe and I own and run GamingOnLinux.com. I have run it for a few years now and it’s getting quite big. I also write the gaming section for Linux Voice magazine.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Linux because it’s free and I never have to worry about paying for the next version. I also love the customization; the fact that I can switch to a completely different user interface when one annoys me is fantastic.

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

    Currently I use Manjaro Linux 64-bit. I switched from Ubuntu as I can’t stand the direction they are going with it. They seem to have lost the plot a bit. Sure they are popular, but I don’t think it will last forever.

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

    I currently use KDE, as it offers the best feature set while also being a more traditional type of desktop.

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

    Well there is no one program I depend on. SimpleScreenRecorder is probably one of the most important, though. It is the only program I have found that manages to actually keep the audio in sync with the video when recording videos of games. No other application has done that for me.

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

    I currently have a [home-built machine with] AMD A10 5800K APU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia 560ti graphics.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Attached is my rather nice and plain dual screen desktop!

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This screenshot is Linux Mint Cinnamon. I had some photo/email drama and had to ask Liam to re-send while he was using a new distro. I’m the worst. My apologizes to everyone.

Liam Dawe's desktop

Interview conducted February 23, 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 4, 2014

The Linux Setup - Graham Morrison, Linux Voice

It’s no secret I’ve been pretty excited about Linux Voice, a brand new Linux magazine. Issue 1 came out last week and as expected, it’s great, exhaustively (and humorously) covering desktop Linux like no other publication. This week, I got to interview Graham, the magazine’s editor. He’s a KDE guy with some interesting ideas about how to make that desktop less intimidating to new users. He’s also a big fan of Arch, which when factored in with the KDE usage, pretty much says everything about his Linux chops.

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?

    Hello! My name is Graham Morrison and I’m the editor of Linux Voice, the new crowdfunded Linux magazine and podcast. In truth, the magazine is an equal partnership between the four of us, so it’s more of an honorary title. I get the unenviable task of trying to coerce everyone into some sort of schedule, as well as sneaking in as many Blade Runner references as I can. But I get to spend every day playing with Linux, which is awesome.

    Outside of putting the magazine together, I’ve recently got into homebrewing beer, thanks to the BrewPi, and I spend far too much time playing Galaga on an old arcade machine. I bought it for £200 and replaced the PCB with an ancient PC running Manjaro Linux connected via J-PAC and JAMMA interfaces to the original controls. If I ever have the time, I also tinker with my own multi-layered, polyphonic, polyrhythmic MIDI step sequencer called ‘meeq.’

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I used to love an Amiga music sequencer called ‘Bars & Pipes’ (this is about 1991). It was unique because it allowed you to pipe music data through various modules that manipulated the sound in some way. You could send every third note through an octave transposition, for example, or send minor chords into a random arpeggiator. It was the MIDI equivalent of Bash. But Bars & Pipes was bought by Microsoft who subsequently ceased development and rolled the technology into Direct Music. To Microsoft’s credit, it eventually released the source code. But it was many years too late and it wasn’t open source.

    Later, around 1998, I was trying to learn C++ and using Visual Studio on Windows. I was shocked to discover I couldn’t freely share my code or build on what other people had done. It just seemed counterintuitive. I’m a pragmatist. I don’t want to invest my time and effort into technology that can be held ransom. All of which led to what I consider simply the best option: Linux and Free Software.

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

    I’ve run Arch for a couple of years. I like its minimalism and the way you end up knowing every installed component. I’m not massively keen on having to check the Arch website before upgrades (because things break), or the way you have to start from scratch with every fresh install. Getting hold of the latest releases is one of the most important parts of my job, and the Arch User Repository is the best way I’ve found of getting hold of software that more often than not installs. I love the way it bundles the source code, and the way you can rollback packages. It’s also relatively straightforward to modify packages yourself, which I’ve occasionally found useful. At the moment, I’ve also got Mageia 4, Fedora 20 and Mint 16 installed on the same machine.

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

    To continue my C++ programming adventures, I switched to Linux. My only real options for development were Qt and KDE, and that resulted in a photo management app called ‘Kalbum’, which I released in 2003, along with a lifelong love of KDE. KDE can be made to look awesome, and I like having all that configurability. Dolphin is a great file manager (although I still prefer Konqueror), and I don’t think any other desktop is so well integrated with a core suite of applications: Digikam, Konsole, Kate, K3b, Kopete, Amarok, KMail, Calligra and Gwenview all combine to create a great user experience. But that’s only after you’ve spent time making the desktop how you like it. I do think KDE’s default configuration puts off a lot of new users. The blue glow around windows, for example, should be replaced by a default drop-shadow and the whole locking/unlocking widgets idea seems convoluted.

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

    Is pacman a fair response? It’s a great package manager. Other than that, there’s the humble text editor: Kate is very useful, and its JavaScript snippets are very powerful for text processing, although a little bug-ridden. Also, there’s no on-screen word count. My favorite text editor, however, is FocusWriter. It’s a distraction free environment that’s brilliant for writing words. If I could only turn the Internet off, I’d be 1000% more productive.

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

    My desktop PC is a 3.3Ghz Core i5 with 16GB RAM, five hard drives of varying capacity, and an Nvidia Geforce GTX570 GPU w/1280MB of DDR5 RAM. It’s connected to a 27” 2560x1440 IPS LCD screen I bought directly from South Korea on eBay (it needs an injected EDID file though xorg.conf to work, which is a pain). My keyboard is a backlit Logitech K800, which is awesome, along with a Logitech MX Lazer mouse.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Graham Morrison's desktop

Interview conducted February 8, 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, February 13, 2014