Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Wednesday, April 9, 2014 Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Linux Setup - Benjamin Kerensa, Firefox Developer

I use the expression “I/we live in the world” fairly often to express the idea that although we might have an idealized way of thinking about a concept, often the realities of external forces make it difficult to execute in that idealized way. My use of the expression isn’t about surrendering to the whims of the world — it’s just a reminder that sometimes concessions need to be made. I mention this because Benjamin discusses using both a MacBook and OS X tools, and that often sets off alarms for some readers. Benjamin does a great job explaining why he uses and prefers Linux, but, like so many of us, he lives in the world, and so he must sometimes choose the most effective tool, rather than the tool that best represents his technological and political views. This isn’t an excuse or a rationalization — it’s just an acknowledgement that as with so many other things, sometimes choice is more than just a binary.

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 Benjamin Kerensa and I’m a freelance IT consultant. I’m also on the Firefox Release Management Team, where I work on the Nightly release channel.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Linux is just one operating system I use. I also have started using Mac OS X for many of my Mozilla projects since some software has better support on Mac OS X than it does on Linux. If I could choose one OS though, Ubuntu Linux would be it, and I think that will someday be a reality.

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

    Actually my main laptop is a MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013), but I also have a Dell Inspiron 14z which runs the latest Development Release of Ubuntu and I do all of my Ubuntu work there and also do some QA to ensure Firefox is working solidly for our Linux users.

    When I find myself with only my Macbook I have a cloud instance I can use for development on the go.

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

    I use the Unity desktop environment and although for a few cycles I did stay with GNOME (fallback), I have found Unity to increase my productivity and workflow. I have also been concerned that features like the Unity Scopes impact user privacy and that Ubuntu users would benefit from being able to opt-in versus this feature being a default.

    Much of the discussion by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was a result of discussions I had with both organizations in private and I am happy they agreed with the concerns I raised.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Ubuntu recently announced they are changing the Scopes default that was showing online results (including Amazon-recommended ones) along with local files to an opt-in

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

    Firefox. I spend an uncountable amount of hours in the web browser working with bugs and looking and commit logs. Firefox is built by a community of contributors on every continent with a goal of advocating for an open web and to me, that’s precious.

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

    A Dell Inspiron 14z with a “Powered by Ubuntu” Sticker.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Benjamin Kerensa's desktop

Interview conducted January 27, 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, April 3, 2014 Wednesday, April 2, 2014 Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Linux Setup - Michael C. Pagnotti, Student

Michael, like so many of us, wants an operating system that isn’t Windows or OS X, that he can tweak and control, and that doesn’t require a lot of effort to keep running. For him, that’s Ubuntu. He’s not a developer or a package manager. He’s just a regular person doing regular work. There are lots of us like that. This is a big shift in computing that the mainstream world doesn’t seem to have caught on to yet. It might be because our numbers are small, but as mainstream user interfaces get worse (I honestly feel like Windows 8 is deliberately working against me sometimes), I have to believe more users will be interested in a desktop experience they control. Desktop Linux has been seen as the domain of the technically-inclined, but I think it will gradually shift to the domain of people who want to use their computers for serious work.

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 Michael C. Pagnotti (universal handle: @screenhugger). I am a graduate student at University of Central Florida’s College of Education researching independent online learning, how open source models and crowd-sourced data affect education online, and some other fun things. I am also an advocate/activist/optimist for free culture, FLOSS, user rights, open access, and futurism. At the moment, I’m attempting to outline a book about DIY Learning Online. My personal site is over at http://www.screenhugger.org.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Linux is so customizable and powerful. I’ve been using various distros for close to 10 years now. I generally stick with Debian-based distros these days. I use GNU/Linux, and really, all free and open source software, because I believe in the open ecosystem. I never want to be trapped in a stack (as Bruce Sterling calls them), such as Google or Apple. I don’t mind using a Google product here and there, but I never want my data to be stuck. I never want anyone’s data to be stuck!

    I won’t get too political, but there’s also the issue of security, the NSA, encryption, backdoors, and surveillance.

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

    I know it isn’t the Linux geek thing to do, but I run Ubuntu 13.10 these days. The reason is that I am so productivity intensive right now that I really need a distro that just takes care of itself and continues to maintain indefinitely. I also sometimes have to run Linux-unfriendly software and Ubuntu seems to handle that better than most distros. Ideally, I’d be running Debian Sid, but I just can’t put in the time and awareness that I would need to keep it running well.

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

    Here again, not the popular answer, but I use Unity right now. I have a good reason… sort of… I guess. I use a 13-inch screen and every other environment that isn’t a tiling window manager has too much wasted space. Unity is out of the way and perfect for my screen size. I just disable the Amazon search lens and make sure all my stuff isn’t being logged. GNOME is in a close second, but it’s not installed right now. If they keep up their security and privacy rhetoric, I’ll be giving it a try sooner than later.

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

    I really depend heavily on Mozilla Firefox for most productivity stuff. So, if I had to pick one, that would be it. Being in eLearning really means being online all the time. I use Firefox, and not Chrome, because of the wealth of add ons and the stability under pressure. As of right this moment, I have 24 tabs in one tab group, 46 tabs in another tab group, and 8 tabs in a second session window.

    Some other important programs: gedit, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Rhythmbox, and Brackets.

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

    A 13” ThinkPad X230 with 8GB RAM, Intel i5 processor, with a 500GB hard drive.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes! I love my background!

Michael Pagnotti's desktop

Interview conducted January 25, 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, March 27, 2014 Wednesday, March 26, 2014