Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Linux Setup - Robert Nunnally, Musician/Attorney

Robert has a great story. He was a Linux enthusiast in theory who became one in practice when he could no longer run the Windows programs he wanted to run. It’s the perfect story for this moment, because as this is being written, Windows finally ended support for XP after 13 years (making Debian look downright bleeding-edge). I suspect a lot of XP users will experiment with Linux, because if you stayed with XP for this long, there’s something very specific about it that you like and odds are Windows 7 and Windows 8 aren’t going to address that need. Linux provides a flexibility that will allow at least some XP refugees to create a familiar experience on their computers. That’s what brought Robert to Linux and it’s what kept him 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 Robert Nunnally. I grew up in Arkansas, USA. I now live in Allen, Texas. By day, I am an attorney who handles cases involving commercial litigation, insurance company rehabilitation and liquidation, and intellectual property. My wife and I live with a little black shelter-adopted dog 25 miles north of Dallas, on the edge of the prairie.

    My passion/avocation is to share Creative Commons music under my performing name, Gurdonark. I am active at the music site ccMixter.org, and have released a number of releases on netlabels. My music appears in documentaries, museum exhibits, Android games, podcasts and in thousands of online videos. I also like to share Creative Commons photos, and I am an avid-if-non-expert birder and chess player.

    I run a little cloudcast on Mixcloud, sharing culture commentary and interviews, called the Graham Wafercast.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I run Linux for two reasons. I believe strongly in sharing culture—open source, liberal licensing and Creative Commons culture. I believe that our culture deserves an alternative to the royalty-based culture. I do not oppose intellectual property laws, but rather support liberal licensing to create a vast public commons of freely-available work. I am all about Creative Commons BY, donate-what-you-will and a a culture of attribution.

    I also use Linux for a very pragmatic reason. I have owned a Linux machine for years. My first Linux netbook was the (in)famous Cherrypal Africa, the sub-$100 machine from an pre-Android era, when sub-$100 sounded like an impressive price. This very simple netbook offered the advantage of nearly-instantaneous boot and a vaguely KDE set up, but lacked a proper command line, a proper package manager with access to repositories, and even proper stereo. It was fun for play and basic browsing (an xBurst chip pushing Konqueror a mighty 800 MHz), but it failed to suffice for daily use.

    Years later, @lopta on Twitter turned me on to running Linux in virtual machines. I loved being able to load up Debian, Peppermint, Damn Small Linux, Puppy and more distros than I can count, onto a VMWare player. I began to see how easy Linux for the desktop had become.

    I mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sister program. I found that my little brother lacked a laptop computer, which I considered a significant omission. The digital divide concerns me. I went on eBay, got him a used computer for $50, and loaded it with Linux (at first Pear, which proved too heavyweight, but then we loaded on Xubuntu, which was just right). Within weeks, he was using it regularly, changing out distros, and enjoying it thoroughly.

    Our experiment with his system worked so well that I got myself an eBay computer for $53, plus a $3 case, from Goodwill. I loaded Linux on it and although it only had a U1400 1.2 GHz single-core chip, the computer became my daily driver.

    I loved the free software and the ability to customize and change things. I moved from Linux supporter to Linux convert. I eventually converted my desktop to Linux and then ordered a new pre-configured Linux rig.

    This preface leads me into the second reason for the change. I changed to Linux in part because only Linux could easily help me use my XP music-making software. I make offbeat electronic music with a strong ambient influence (so-called “weirdbient” music). I use a lot of software developed as freeware or shareware in an XP environment. I found when I got my first Windows 7 computer that much of my essential software would not run in it. I read that almost all of my favorite music software would not run in Windows 8. Although Microsoft had developed virtual machine technology to help alleviate this issue, I learned that the VM solution would require the additional purchase of an enterprise license.

    On the other hand, I now have all of my favorite software installed to run via WINE in my Linux rig. I can also easily set up a VM via VirtualBox (or GNOME Boxes) if I need an XP virtual machine at some point in the future.

    Thus, I switched to Linux because I believe in sharing culture, and because switching to Linux set me free of the treadmill of software being rendered obsolete due to operating system changes.

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

    I use Fedora 20. I got some good advice to go that route from a Fedora user who works for Red Hat, and I’ve been happy with it. I am not at all an operating system zealot, though. I like lots of them, and run them on VMs for fun. Lately, I am taken with the CorePlus spin of Tiny Core Linux. I like my systems lightweight.

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

    I use LXDE. I originally loaded LXDE because I had a less powerful laptop. I found myself very attracted to its simplicity and ease of use. I like that it is so lightweight that it never burdens my system. I like, too, leaving my screen landscape free for a bird photo. My other favorite DE is Razor-Qt, which is what I use when I run Porteus via USB on my old “Windows” laptop.

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

    I depend on Audacity. This helps me record my music and export it for re-use.

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

    This year I got a ZaReason Limbo-6220A, with AMD’s FX-4130 as the CPU. I’ve been very happy with my ZaReason, which was pre-loaded at my request for Fedora 20 LXDE.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Robert Nunnally's desktop

Interview conducted February 9, 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, 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.


Friday, March 28, 2014