Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Linux Setup - Jack Wallen, Novelist/Journalist

Another interview, another subject who appreciates Linux because of its ability to stay out of the users’ way. It doesn’t seem like ‘letting people work’ should be that big a deal for a desktop operating system, but as Microsoft and Apple move to creating operating systems for devices, rather than for people, desktop usability has become a rarer situation for many. Jack is also a big Unity fan, which feels like the norm more and more. It’s especially interesting given that Unity is built for desktops and devices. But there seems to be more consensus that Unity happens to work well for serious desktop 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 Jack Wallen. I am an author of fiction (check me out on Amazon.com and getjackd.net) and a tech journalist for Techrepublic.com, Linux.com, and other sites. I’ve been covering open source for nearly 20 years.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    In 1996 I was using my first PC with Windows 95. After enough blue screens o’ death, I’d had enough and decided to find an alternative. That led me to Caldera Open Linux 1.0…which led me to Red Hat Linux. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I use Linux because it allows me to get my work done exactly how I want. With Linux I don’t suffer the constraints that either Apple or Windows places on their users. That freedom allows me to work more efficiently and more reliably.

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

    I currently use Ubuntu 14.04. There are a lot of reasons I find Ubuntu to be one of the best desktops available. One such reason is Canonical’s drive to get Ubuntu on as many devices as possible. With the power of Debian under the foundation, Ubuntu is simply one of the most reliable distributions available. I have, however, been looking at Linux Deepin a great deal. I really love what they’ve done with the desktop interface.

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

    Personally, I like the Unity interface. I find it one of the most efficient and powerful desktops available. Between the Dash search and the launcher, it’s an amazingly friendly way to interact with your system. Outside of its efficiency, it’s also one of the most modern looking desktops the Linux community has to offer.

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

    That’s a tough one. Outside of the standard-issue software (web browser, email client, office suite), I’d have to say Audacity. I do a weekly podcast and cannot imagine doing it without the help of Audacity. It’s one of the finest pieces of open source audio software available for recording podcasts.

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

    I have a System76 Leopard Extreme. It’s, without a doubt, the most powerful computer I have ever laid my hands on.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Jack Wallen's desktop

Interview conducted June 11, 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, July 15, 2014

The Linux Setup - Scott Nesbitt, Writer

I’m a big fan of Scott’s writing, which has a technological bent, but is usually more about working effectively, rather than how tools can make you effective, which is a key distinction. Scott’s setup reflects his focus on production rather than tweaking. He has his work tools and everything else is pretty much white noise. Which is why LXDE/Lubuntu probably makes a lot of sense for his workflow. It’s simple and it stays out of his way. Scott also gets bonus points for moving his family to Linux. That’s a tough move, but given that his wife stole his ZaReason laptop, the conversion seems to have taken.

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 Scott Nesbitt, and I’m writer, blogger (here and here, too), and technology coach based in Auckland, New Zealand.

    I’m not a developer or techie, even though I am a recovering technical communicator. My goal with using Linux isn’t to hack—although I do write the occasional shell, Perl, or Python script. Instead, my goal is to do my work, which mainly is writing and publishing.

    Which leads us to…

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    The short answer: It works for me.

    The longer answer: back in late 1999, I was a reluctant and disgruntled Windows user. The incident that finally drove me away from Windows came late one evening that year. I was working on a report for a freelance writing client and Windows crashed. I lost most of my work. Frustration and anger don’t reflect what I was feeling at the time.

    A couple of days later, I was whiling away some time between meetings at an office supply store when I noticed a boxed copy of Caldera OpenLinux Base on sale for $20. On a whim, I bought it and installed OpenLinux on the Pentium 300 system my wife had recently moved on from. Except for some initial weirdness with the size of the display (which I quickly corrected), installing and using OpenLinux was smoother than I expected.

    Over the years, I moved from that desktop to a series of laptops running Debian, Xandros, JoliOS, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Peppermint OS, Linux Mint, Linux Lite, and Lubuntu. I’ve also tested a number of other distros using a live CD or a live USB. With the distros that I wound up using, I was always pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to install and how each detected my hardware.

    My household now uses Linux exclusively. In fact, I run most of my life on free and open source software. I converted my daughter to Linux about four years ago, and my wife jumped on the Linux Mint bandwagon in 2012.

    For what I need to do—writing and publishing, and a bit more—Linux just works. I keep repeating that, but it’s true. Linux works for me. I really don’t care what Linux does or doesn’t do for other people. I only care about what it does for me and what it lets me do. And that’s pretty much everything.

    While I’d been using free software since the mid 1990s, switching to Linux got me deeper into free/libre/open source world. I went from using it to writing and speaking about it. On top of that, I’ve met a number of wonderful and interesting people who work on various FLOSS projects.

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

    Right now, I use Lubuntu 14.04. I moved to Lubuntu after testing it for a blog post I was writing. It grew on me quite quickly. I also like that Lubuntu is fast, fairly lean, functional, and easy to use. It also looks pretty good (not that I’m overly hung up on looks!).

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

    LXDE. That’s the stock desktop environment in Lubuntu. It works fine, and I see no reason to change it. To be honest, I’m not really a desktop environment partisan. I’ve used several and they all have their good and not-so-good points. It’s just a matter of adapting.

    In case you’re wondering, I do like Unity.

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

    There’s no one piece of software that I depend upon above all others. Instead, there are specific applications that I depend on for certain tasks. Here are a few examples:

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t overload my system with software. But I prefer my apps to be very focused—they should do one or two things well, and I don’t worry about so-called “missing” functionality (whatever that term means).

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

    My laptop is an Acer Aspire 5742Z with a 15.6” LED LCD screen, 6GB DDR3 memory, and a 500GB hard drive. I know there are some who would consider those specs to be underwhelming, but they’re more than good enough for what I need to do.

    This laptop is a hand-me-down from my wife. Over the last couple of years, she somehow managed to serial kill three hard drives on that computer. I don’t know how, either… Earlier this year, I had to decide whether to sell the laptop for parts or take one more shot at bringing it back to life. I took the latter route, and it worked. The laptop has been humming along nicely ever since.

    In case you’re wondering, while the Acer machine was out of action, my wife hijacked my ZaReason Alto laptop running Linux Mint. The Alto isn’t my laptop anymore, and I suspect that I’ll be prying it from her cold, dead hands.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure. Prepared to be bored! I aim for a very clean desktop—no icons. Although I do change the wallpaper every so often. I usually launch applications by clicking one of the (few) icons on the task bar or using Kupfer (a nifty app launcher).

Scott Nesbitt's desktop

Interview conducted May 26, 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, July 8, 2014

The Linux Setup - Julien Palard, meltygroup CTO

Julien’s interview is a love letter to tiling window managers. And he makes the fascinating argument that smartphones and tablets all use full-screen tiling. Julien is the CTO of meltygroup, a Gawker-esque collection of news sites, so it’s especially cool to see that Debian is not only powering his servers, but also his work computer.

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?

    https://www.google.fr/search?q=julien+palard

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Hint

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    You mean versus Windows? I think I started using Linux because I needed to understand what was wrong when something went wrong. But now I find it far faster to work with bash than a graphical interface (you know, the kind of interface where one searches for an icon on a whole screen of icons).

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

    Debian — Stable for my servers, Testing for my laptop (to work), and Testing on my desktop (shared with family at home, with a media player, etc…)

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

    I started around 10 years ago with Window Maker. A few years later I switched to Openbox. I loved the scriptable menus big time, but now I use i3. Why i3? Why a tiling window manager? Because it saves time. I used to only work with windows in full screen (a full-screen terminal, a full-screen Firefox, etc…) so not having to resize them saves time. You think I’m an extremist and that normal people HAVE to get resizable and movable windows? You’re wrong. Take a look at your smartphone and your tablet—tiling window managers are now the norm.

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

    I don’t think I’m Debian-dependent, but I depend on a huge amount of software for everything. I use bash, emacs, echo, grep, sed, awk, find, ls, cut, ping, dig, git, cal, date, cat, and so many, many others…

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

    Actually I’m on my desktop. It’s a fanless 8GB, Core i3, 128GB SSD because I don’t want to hear a fan while listening music. My work laptop is a Samsung Series 9. I had hard time finding a QWERTY one in France. I finally found an American shop that would ship one to France. I can’t work on an AZERTY keyboard because symbols are not paired, which is odd. I used to have an Eee PC, with an AZERTY keyboard, but QWERTY mapping. As long as I didn’t look at my keyboard, it worked.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    It’s an almost unconfigured i3wm with a black background, so there’s nothing to see here—only the i3status on the bottom.

Julien Palard's desktop

Interview conducted May 4, 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, July 1, 2014

The Linux Setup - David Wickes, Software Developer

I was psyched to get David for this because at the time of the interview he was a brand new Linux user. It’s very cool to see someone at the beginning of their Linux journey. Now keep in mind, David is transitioning into software development, so he’s kind of a technical guy and his move into Linux is probably smoother than most. But it’s great that someone who wants a professional operating system and is priced out of the Mac market has a way to get easy access to the command line and a UNIX-like environment. I went to a GitHub workshop a few weeks ago and the facilitator was using OS X, which seems to be the norm at these kinds of things. I opened up the terminal on my Linux machine and I was able to use all of her commands. The Windows people had some issues, though. So in terms of quickly getting up-and-running in a development environment, David definitely made the right call.

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’m David Wickes. I currently work as a digital marketer, but at the beginning of the year I decided I was going to retrain as a software developer. So that’s what I’m up to at the moment, learning a lot about Ruby (on Rails or otherwise), writing bad code and making it better.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I’ve been using Linux for about three days now. The decision was based on the cumulative effect of reading many, many books and online courses on learning to program. Each of them had a section on how to get started, installing Ruby on your system — Windows, OS X, and Linux — and how to start setting up your ‘developer environment,’ which I guess is just a fancy way of describing the use of the command line in combination with the text editor of your choice to write code.

    My laptop came with Windows 7, so those are the instructions I went with. I kept bumping into little problems — a lot of the Windows-based software couldn’t be run from the command line without some modification, the command line was hard to bring up, it was all just a little bit awkward. The final straw came when the Ruby on Rails tutorial I was following essentially went “Windows is funny. Here. Run this package installer. Now, everyone else do this…” and went on to describe how each individual part of the Rails setup was installed. I didn’t want to miss out.

    Friends had said Macs were great for development, but I don’t have that kind of free money. So Linux it was!

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

    I’d used Ubuntu once before (I bought an Asus EEE way back when and tried a few different distros), so I thought that would make a good starting point. I was amazed at how much easier it was to install than my first tries about eight years ago. I had it up and going within an evening. It’s Ubuntu 14.04.

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

    Um…you see, it’s questions like this that both excite and scare me a little. I had to read through earlier responses to My Linux Rig just to begin to understand it. So I can use Ubuntu but change the way the front (the desktop environment) acts and behaves? Sweet — all that power! But knowing me, I’d be in danger of spending a few weeks trying them all.

    For now I’m sticking with Unity (for now — that’s three days in mind you), and I’m finding it great. I already reckon I’m faster with it than with the Windows 7 desktop, so I’m really not complaining. And I think it’s good looking too.

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

    I’m going to pick two, only one of which I’m sure about. Sublime Text 3 is a great text editor, and I sometimes think it’s reading my mind. I find myself writing everything on it: code, blog posts, letters, shopping lists, this. It’s a pleasure to use and since I’ve synced its settings folder using Dropbox, it’s exactly the same setup as I have in the office (on a Windows Vista machine…let’s not talk about that).

    The second is Guake Terminal. Hit F12 and bang! The terminal drops down from the top (just like in Doom! Or Quake! Am I showing my age?). This is great when working with a limited screen space and reading a tutorial and writing a file while I’m also running it from the terminal.

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

    It’s a Packard Bell laptop, 4GB RAM and an Intel i5.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes — although it’s a bit boring…

David Wickes' desktop

Interview conducted April 30, 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, June 24, 2014

The Linux Setup - Morgan Phillips, Software Engineer/Poet

I found Morgan through Linux Poetry, which is an amazing site (this poem is one of my favorites). Reading her thoughts on Linux, you can hear her poetry skills: “working in Linux is like swimming in water that’s crystal clear.” Her setup is fairly standard for an engineer — pretty much anything that gives her access to a terminal.

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’m Morgan, aka mrrrgn. I studied physics at Western Kentucky University, worked for the Army Research Laboratory and a small defense contractor writing network security software, then spent time at Facebook in an ops role where I was sort of a… data janitor, helping to maintain their Hadoop/Hive-based analytics infrastructure. These days I’m a software engineer at a startup in Nashville, Tennessee called Artist Growth where I get to do a bit of everything (which I love). I also write poetry about the Linux kernel at linux-poetry.com and maintain a small galaxy of other side projects. :)

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Well, I’m going to gush a bit. On a philosophical level Linux has always appealed to me because I feel that it represents a sort of freedom: to share knowledge and understand how the tools I depend on work. Working in Linux is like swimming in water that’s crystal clear; proprietary operating systems, where I can’t see the source, feel murky and make me feel a bit uneasy.

    In a practical sense, I feel that Linux’s sensible implementation and infinite flexibility make it the best tool for nearly any job. It’s easy for me to write scripts that automate tedious tasks and customize my environment to the hilt. I also believe using Linux has made me a better programmer since it makes the layers underneath my own code so transparent.

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

    I generally run Mint these days, although I’ve used openSUSE and Ubuntu in the past.

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

    Cinnamon. I started using this after I switched to Mint. I spend most of my time in the terminal so I’m not too picky.

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

    Honestly, I don’t depend on anything that’s specific to Mint. That said, I think Mint (like Ubuntu) is awesome for its stability and ease-of-use for arch nerds and computer novices alike. I installed it for my not-at-all-computer-savvy father a few years ago and noticed a significant drop in the number of “support” calls I got from him as compared to when he used Windows.

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

    A Clevo W230ST. It’s a beast of a laptop!

    • i7-4700MQ Processor (2.40GHz), 6MB L3 Cache
    • GTX 765M
    • 16GB DDR3
    • 256GB SSD
  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    I don’t keep anything interesting on the desktop; but you might notice that I <3 tmux, vim, and orange text!

Morgan Phillips' desktop

Interview conducted April 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, June 17, 2014

The Linux Setup - Tom Callaway, Red Hat

As near as I can tell, the overlap between hockey fans and Linux fans is pretty small. By my informal, unscientific count, there’s me, there’s Jorge Castro, and now we can add Tom Callaway to the list. I actually found him through a shared disdain for NBC’s NHL coverage but his Linux credentials are very impressive. Tom is a GNOME user who takes advantage of its extensive extension collection. I know GNOME has taken some customization options out of the base install, but with extensions, I sometimes wonder if there isn’t more flexibility in the project now.

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 Inigo Mont… err… Tom Callaway. I’ve been interested in Linux and FOSS in general since 1997, and employed by Red Hat since 2001. My current job is in the Open Source & Standards team in the Red Hat CTO Office. I am leading up the effort within Red Hat to promote Free and Open Source Software in education. I also do work to promote open hardware and support 3D printers on Fedora. Last, but not least, I handle Fedora’s legal issues (but am not a lawyer). I maintain around 300 packages in Fedora.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux because I was frustrated at how inflexible Windows was. I still use it because I believe in the power of FOSS to innovate, and I love digging into things, discovering how they work, and making changes.

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

    Fedora 20.

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

    I’ve upgraded to GNOME 3.12, with a number of extensions to make it more usable for me. Currently, I use these:

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

    Hmm. I’m not sure I depend on one particular piece of software. I tend to use Thunderbird an awful lot for email, calendar and RSS reading.

    The apps I open on startup are:

    • XChat
    • Pidgin
    • Pithos (Pandora GUI client)
    • gnome-terminal
    • Firefox
    • Thunderbird
    • Corebird (Twitter GUI client)
    • Tomboy (sticky notes)
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    A Lenovo T440s laptop. It’s Quad Core i7-4600U @ 2.10GHz, 12GB memory, 256GB SSD. When I’m in the office, it runs in a dock with a second screen attached to it. At home, I usually connect a second monitor and my office TV to it (love that screen real estate).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! I’ll even leave some of my windows unminimized.

Tom Callaway's desktop

Interview conducted April 21, 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, June 10, 2014

The Linux Setup - Sean Cross, Novena Developer

I’m not a big hardware guy. At all. Specs mean very little to me. However, Sean’s hardware is interesting, as it’s a Novena, something he developed himself. And of course, because he’s working with Linux, he’s able to get things to run pretty well. I have no idea what the future of the Novena is, but I love that people can make new devices that will be able to access familiar software and interfaces. Microsoft is making Windows cost-free for certain devices. It’s a smarter strategy than charging manufacturers, but until they let people get under the hood of the code, they’re going to have a hard time reaching new, experimental devices. Which is actually OK with me, since I’m happy to have Linux in as many places as possible.

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 Sean “xobs” Cross and I am an American living in Singapore. In the past I’ve worked on release firmware for Chumby, including the Chumby One and Chumby 8 devices. Now I’m building the firmware for Novena, along with the Senoko battery controller board.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Most of my work is done with embedded ARM devices, and while there are a number of full-featured operating systems for ARM, none has more support than Linux. Major alternatives include Windows and Android, but Windows CE 7 wasn’t very good for compatibility, I can’t even try Windows 8 without a source license, and while Android is great for tablets and phones it isn’t very good with multitasking and multiple windows.

    Linux allows me to run the same major open-source applications that are developed on x86 with little more than a recompile. My ARM laptop runs Thunderbird, Firefox, Pidgin, VLC, and XChat, and has a good PDF reader, terminal program, and file manager. Most importantly it is capable of rebuilding everything from source, which helps in tracking down weird and exotic bugs that crop up when developing a system from scratch.

    Linux allows me to get a full desktop environment, even on oddball hardware, which is a feature no other operating system can provide.

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

    Debian Wheezy is my current distro of choice. A big selling point is that they have an armhf build, which allows me to take advantage of the NEON VFP floating point unit in the Cortex A9 CPU. Also important is that it doesn’t assume the platform it’s running on has 3D acceleration, which has caused other distros to fail miserably. An added bonus is that the kernel will run without additional distro-specific patches, which made the port easy.

    From a user experience angle, Wheezy supports modesetting, which allows me to hotplug my HDMI monitor as I move from home to the office. Many distros make assumptions about Xorg drivers that aren’t true on Novena, or don’t support modesetting at all. Modesetting and LibreOffice allows me to give multi monitor presentations, which is a nice touch.

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

    Xfce4 is my current desktop of choice. It supports multiple monitors and works without hardware acceleration (which is still a work in progress on Novena). I like its support for panel widgets, which allow me to monitor CPU frequency as the governor changes the speed of the processor, and I like the detailed at-a-glance battery reporting, which let me know how the Senoko battery controller is doing.

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

    With this distro, the package manager is most important because any library or software package I find myself needing is only an “apt-get install” away. Sometimes a package can be difficult to locate by name, in which case “apt-file” can be used to search for the actual package name.

    For actual Linux work, the compiler is the tool I rely on most. In addition to translating C and C++ code to machine language, it has an added benefit of exercising the disk channel, DDR memory, and all four processor cores. Recompiling the kernel is a reasonable first order test of system stability. Having a fully functional compiler on the system itself also means I don’t have to worry about a cross compiler on a separate system, which makes it easier to compile and link against unusual libraries, a process that can be awkward when cross compiling.

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

    I run on Novena, a quad core 1.2 GHz ARM board with 4GB RAM. It has a 1920x1080 internal LCD, and I frequently run with a second 1920x1200 HDMI monitor connected externally.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes!

Sean Cross's desktop

Interview conducted April 19, 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, June 3, 2014

The Linux Setup - Raymond Aldred, Academic

I found Raymond through Twitter, (where I seem to find more and more subjects…). His reasons for using Linux are pretty spectacular. A lot of subjects have touched on them but his answer is very comprehensive. Also, I apprecate his love of Mendeley. I’m a big fan of reference management.

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 Raymond Aldred. I am and do a lot of things, but I am primarily a PhD student in Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. What do I do? I get a small amount of money to think about big questions, and help others (primarily undergraduates at McGill) do the same. The questions I am researching for my PhD thesis are questions about the nature of love and the mind, but I’m also interested in social justice issues, ethics, and human rights.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    This is a big question for me. I was teaching a small group of students in moral philosophy, and a few computer science students asked me why thinking about ethics was important to their chosen field. From there, I began to think about ethical questions that we rarely think about when we use our technology and practice computing. It seems to me we make ethical and political decisions all the time about technology, particularly about what operating systems we use. Should I use Windows, or Mac? Do I sacrifice certain freedoms and privacy simply because one system is easier for me to use? What if one company does not “play well” with others; should I still opt to support that company by paying for their technology? What if it’s revealed that one system makes less of an impact on environment and makes more positive contributions to humanity? Moreover, we use technology every single day, and these devices run certain software on them. When we use or pay for our technology, we are essentially supporting a company and becoming part of a community. The question for me became what sort of community do I want to be apart of? In making this choice, we can look at a variety of factors. Of course, Linux is easy to use these days, and I can get things done on it that I need to get done, but for me, Linux additionally became the best ethical option and a friendlier community to be a part of: it is less concerned with maximizing profit as proprietary software companies are (it’s more about freedom); using Linux reduces obsolescence and e-waste by fifty percent (this is not surprising because it places less demand on hardware); using Linux provides users with more freedom and control over their computing environment; and using Linux is more secure.

    Aside from that, there are also Linux-based projects that have the potential to help empower marginalized individuals and communities, by allowing them to be more technologically savvy. The Kano project, for example, is a cheap computer kit that allows children to build a computer and learn to code. One Laptop per Child is an organization that gives sturdy, open-source laptops to children in developing countries so they can learn about computing and technology. There are also organizations that recycle old computers by installing lightweight versions of Linux on them and giving them to individuals or families who may not be able to afford one. All of these projects are made possible because of free and open-source software and the communities that support them. It is this community that I choose to become a part of and support. To me, using Linux is the ethical choice, and I try to encourage others to use Linux too.

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

    I use two distributions. On my main laptop, I used to use Ubuntu, but I am not a fan of the way Canonical is moving these days. With this in mind, I’m slowly moving away from that distro and I’m currently using Mint for my research. I’ll probably switch to an Arch distro eventually, though (I hear it’s what all the cool kids are using).

    My other laptop has Kali Linux on it for hacking and learning about computer security.

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

    I’m using Cinnamon right now. It’s pretty and highly customizable.

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

    Most of the software that I use on my main laptop I can get on any distro, but I really enjoy Mendeley for keeping my academic bibliographies organized for papers. It is also really easy to use with LibreOffice for citing (this is something academics need to do all the time). Moreover, I can drag copies of the papers I’m citing into the program, and it will automatically create a citation for me. I can then look at certain sections of the paper, highlight, and make notes all within the program itself. It’s just a great academic tool, and it’s totally free.

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

    For my main machine, I use a Lenovo Thinkpad T440. It’s rugged and really holds together nicely for putting in my briefcase and taking to the office.

    For my hacking machine, I’m using a Sony VAIO T13 Ultrabook. It’s silver, light, shiny, sleek, and sexy.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure!

Raymond Aldred's desktop

Interview conducted April 3, 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.

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