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.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twitter Respected Our Choices Until It Didn’t

screenshot of Twitter

Twitter was the best. Twitter did no content curation (except, I recently learned, for the anti-spam bots). Instead, it was up to the user to filter, as much or as little as she wanted. Twitter’s filtering tools aren’t great. There are third-party tools to help, but it’s yet another barrier for new or non-technical users. Some people say that’s the reason Twitter’s growth is slowing. But it’s also what made Twitter great. Twitter was pure. Twitter was honest. You saw everything you asked to see. Twitter didn’t hide content from you (even when we sometimes wished it would…). Twitter didn’t guess what you want to see. It dumped everything on you and it was up to you to figure out what you want to read. It looks likes that’s going to change.

Earlier this summer, I read Mat Honan’s Wired piece about liking everything on Facebook for a week. I’m not a Facebook person (I have a hidden account that I use a handful of times a year for things like looking at something that isn’t public-facing or linking the account to games for extra points) so I view Facebook as an outsider who does not see much value in the network. But still, I continue to be struck by how much curation Facebook does on behalf of its users. Tim Herrera tried to figure out just how much Facebook isn’t showing him and could only conclude that it’s a lot.

Although the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm is heavily guarded, conceptually we know the goal is to show people stuff they’ll like. As Eli Pariser has shown us, that can be a potentially dangerous behavior, reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions, rather than broadening worlds for people. Of course, Facebook’s mission isn’t to make us better people. It’s a business with responsibilities to stock-holders. Now Twitter, another public company with stock-holders, is going in the same direction.

Twitter was the Linux of social networks (I know. I know. Identi.ca. I just don’t know anyone who uses it…). Not that all Linux users should use Twitter or like Twitter or tolerate Twitter. But it was worthy of our appreciation. Because as a service, it tried to give users choice. People have been concerned about Twitter becoming more like Facebook for a while now, but for me the question was if Twitter let me see everything posted by the accounts I chose to follow. As long as Twitter let me see everything I asked to see, then it wasn’t too much like Facebook.

Choice is becoming tougher to maintain in technology. My phone is full of apps I can’t tweak. I could choose not use the apps or the phone, but it’s not a realistic option for me. So I make the most of the situation, hoping that as Android matures and as other mobile operating systems emerge, that maybe one day I’ll have the customizability on my phone that I have on my computers. Twitter was another area where I felt my choices were being respected. Right now, Twitter is respecting my choices, but it seems like that’s going to change very soon.

Emily Bell nails it: algorithms are values. Twitter is about to force us to adopt its values whether we want to or not. What’s good for a business isn’t necessarily good for its users. It’s a lesson we seem to keep learning (and forgetting).


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.


Thursday, September 4, 2014 Wednesday, September 3, 2014 Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Linux Setup - Stefano Zacchiroli, Former Debian Project Leader

Stefano is my great white whale. I’ve been trying to interview him for years, so I was very excited when he was able to make some time for this. He’s a Debian user, as you might expect from a former Debian Project Leader. Stefano also has a lot of nice things to say about GNOME Shell. And mutt users will want to check out his software list, as there’s a lot of nice Emacs integrations in 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 Stefano Zacchiroli, but I usually go by the nickname “Zack.” I’m a computer science researcher and teacher, as well as a Free Software activist. I’m a Debian Developer, former three-time Debian Project Leader, and a Director at the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

    These days my Debian involvement is mostly in Quality Assurance and in the development of infrastructure pieces like Debian Sources. In the past I’ve maintained many packages, e.g., the OCaml stack, Vim, and various Python modules.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Free Software in general—Linux, GNU, GNOME, end-user applications, etc.—to be in control of my own computations. I love the feeling of knowing that I can peek at any point in the software stack, make the changes that I see fit, and share any bit I please with my peers. I refuse to believe that software is a black box, remotely controlled by someone else, and that users should need permission to exercise elementary digital rights on software.

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

    Debian testing. It’s just the best (not to mention the first) “rolling release” out there: it offers a great trade-off between software freshness and not being too bleeding edge for use on your productivity machine.

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

    GNOME 3 with GNOME Shell. Philosophically, I like the GNOME project, their vision, and the courage they have had to reinvent the desktop after many years in which nobody was innovating. But I’m also technically quite happy about GNOME Shell. I love full-text searching for applications, the big switch to mute notifications, the no-frills approach, and the well-rounded app integration.

    The only feature I miss in off-the-shelf GNOME Shell is tiling window management (there is some tiling support in GNOME Shell, like splitting the screen in half with two main windows, but I do use more complex window arrangements than that). To fill that gap I’m using the Shellshape extension; the result is good enough for my needs.

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

    To give an idea of my work flow, here is a list of tools that I use on a daily basis (in no particular order):

    • mutt
    • notmuch (with mutt integration)
    • Emacs (in client/server mode)
    • git
    • git-annex
    • org-mode (again, with mutt integration)
    • Chromium (although I’m considering switching back to Firefox)
    • screen
    • irssi
    • ssh (and more and more often mosh)
    • ikiwiki
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My main hardware is my laptop, which I always carry with me. I’m now at my third iteration of (Lenovo) ThinkPads over a period of more than six years and, overall, I’m a satisfied user. As a geek I mostly interact with my OS by typing, and ThinkPad’s keyboards are just unparalleled, in my estimation.

    My current ThinkPad is a T440s, i7 CPU, 12GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a Full HD display (not touchscreen, as I don’t see the point of it). My main regret with ThinkPads is the need to use non-free firmware to get the Intel Wi-Fi working.

    Dear Intel, would you please give up on that, liberate your firmware, and finally set your users free?

    When at the office I connect my laptop to an external LCD monitor and the best mechanical keyboard I’ve ever used: a Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate. To ease the connection, I use a basic Lenovo docking station, and I also have many (five or more, I think) Lenovo-ish AC adapters: one for the office, one near the couch at home, one for each backpack, etc.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure!

    Here is my GNOME Shell workspace three, the one I use for the main ongoing “work” activity during a typical coding session. In the screenshot you can see three windows, tailed automatically by Shellshape: Emacs for coding, Evince for doc reading, and a GNOME terminal running tests (in case you’re wondering, no, I refuse to use Emacs as an entire OS, and I dislike running “terminals” in it).

Stefano Zacchiroli'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 27, 2014 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.