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.

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 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.


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.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Linux Setup - Phil Baker, Lead Forecaster, National Weather Service

Weathermen are like rock stars. I remember when local New York City forecaster Nick Gregory came to my junior high school. Everyone was genuinely excited, and at that age, we were rarely excited about anything (except Faces of Death — man did we love that movie). It’s only gotten more glamorous for the weather industry. Gawker has a weather site. Nate Silver’s given weathermen his blessing. So it’s great to talk to Phil, who’s a Linux-using forecaster with the (U.S.) National Weather Service. He’s a GNOME fan who runs a simple setup that lets him try out different distros. And it’s yet another example of just how many different fields can successfully work with Linux desktops.

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 Phil Baker. I’m a Lead Forecaster with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Memphis, TN. I’ve been with the NWS for 21 years (time flies!), after graduating from the University of Nebraska. While not officially on the IT side of the house, I help out the IT staff where I can, particularly when it comes to Linux or networking.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I was introduced to Unix in the late 90s. At that time, each NWS office had an HP-UX RISC workstation that was a precursor to our present day AWIPS infrastructure, which originally ran HP-UX. I bought my first PC in 1998 and Windows felt like a toy compared to Unix. About this time, a sysadmin at the office was testing a new operating system called “Linux” on a spare PC. I was intrigued. It definitely was not a toy and the shell commands I’d learned on HP-UX were transferable to this Linux box. I went home and installed Caldera Linux on my one-year-old PC, then quickly moved to Mandrake — “Red Hat with KDE,” as it was known back then. I’ve been running Linux ever since.

    Soon after Red Hat introduced Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the NWS migrated AWIPS from HP-UX to RHEL, which ran on faster Intel hardware. The WSR-88D radar was also upgraded to open hardware running RHEL, which significantly expanded the radar’s post processing capabilities.

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

    I distro hop quite a bit. Currently, I’m running Linux Mint 15 on my desktop and Crunchbang Linux on my server. With Mint’s underlying Ubuntu 13.04 soon running out of support, and the harder-than-it-needs-to-be nature of upgrading Mint, my desktop will soon be upgraded to Fedora 20. My laptop is an old MacBook Pro that runs Fedora 20 through VMware Fusion. I’ve been impressed with Fedora 20 and it’s a good platform with which to stay current on the future technologies in RHEL.

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

    I personally prefer GNOME 3. I’ve tried KDE and really like it, but there’s just so many knobs to turn to get it like I want it. GNOME 3 is simple and it gets out of my way. There are still a few areas where I think it needs to mature, and I’m sure it will. I see myself as a GNOME user for many years.

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

    I develop web pages for our internal situational awareness server at work. We have thin clients (LTSP) with 42-inch monitors that contain supplementary weather information from sources internal and external to the NWS. I also like work on the family intranet at home. Besides the Chrome browser and GNOME Terminal, the app that I spend most of my time in is Geany. It’s my go-to app for web development.

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

    My home desktop is an Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge, with SSD and 16GB RAM. I hope to soon pass on my old MacBook Pro to my wife, so that I can buy a System76 Kudu Professional. It’ll be nice to run Linux natively on a powerful laptop, with all the hardware visualization support and a higher resolution screen. I’m just waiting on available funds. :)

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    This screenshot is from my Fedora 20 VM.

Phil Baker's desktop

Interview conducted January 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, March 18, 2014

The Linux Setup - Dheera Venkatraman, Graduate Student, MIT

As I write this, there’s a fair amount of back-and-forth about actor Wil Wheaton’s off-hand comments on Unity, Ubuntu, and Xfce. The timing is great because Dheera’s interview is all about Linux freeing the user to work in whatever way makes sense to him/her. The point of Linux isn’t to create the perfect distro or desktop environment, because the perfect distro and desktop environment depends very much upon the needs and behaviors of the individual user. So when Wheaton says he doesn’t like Ubuntu and Unity, I don’t think it’s an indictment of those projects, so much as an indication they’re not a great match for him at this time (and just to be clear, I don’t think Wheaton was condemning anything — I think he was casually speaking his mind and not expecting innocuous comments to take hold so quickly across an occasionally news-starved Linux-verse).

Also, not to bury the lede, but Dheera has a great setup, mixing Xfce and Compiz. My previous experiences with Compiz were as something I need to turn off, but this interview made me consider trying it out again.

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 a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology currently researching single-photon imaging in the Optical and Quantum Communications Group. My side interests include hacking whatever gadgets I can get my hands on, photography, cycling, hiking, piano, and sustainability. As a student I’ve also been involved extensively with the MIT-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum and the MIT Sustainability Summit.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    For me it comes down to customizability, flexibility, security, and being able to take control of everything. In general, Linux never tries to tell me how I’m supposed to use my computer, Linux never tells me that I’m not allowed to do something despite my hardware being capable of it, and Linux never tries to force a user interface upon me. Instead, it gives me the freedom to implement my own visions of how I want my computer to behave, which is exactly what I want technology to do. Also, Linux never tries to “dumb down” technology or hide gory details; when something goes wrong, it tells me precisely what’s wrong, which helps me debug things.

    I’m also a heavy command line user for getting all sorts of batch work done quickly, whether it’s watermarking a thousand photos with custom-generated watermarks, systematically renaming a bunch of files, makeshift e-mail alert systems, or automating desktop publishing tasks; these are all a piece of cake when you have decent command line interfaces to everything and good scripting languages, whereas with most non-free platforms and applications you’re often at the mercy of their GUI interface.

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

    Mostly Mint and Xubuntu. Android on my phone if that counts :-)

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

    Xfce + Compiz. This might seem an unusual combination, but Compiz isn’t really all about effects — it really has some useful productivity features like being able to sketch on your screen (great for presentations!), better customizability of virtual desktops and shortcuts, being able to invert screen colors with a keyboard shortcut, zooming the entire screen, and so on. It’s sad that Compiz seems to have stagnated in development of late. As for Xfce, I used to use GNOME 2 a long time ago, but with the changes in GNOME 3 and especially Unity, I find it extremely inefficient to get any real work done. I dislike desktop icons (I have nothing on my desktop), and I also dislike “smart” menus that dynamically change ordering since it interferes with my muscle memory. I wanted something customizable but simple. Xfce was the answer.

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

    Anything and everything that can be interfaced with a command line. I can fill in variables inside an SVG document from a database before generating a PDF with Inkscape, embed the result inside a LaTeX document, compile it, and upload to a server all in one go, for example. You get the idea.

    My preferred music player is the command-line mplayer. I don’t bother with playlists, rather I have my own looping player “shell” that lets me input regular expressions like

    beethoven.*(symphony [5679]|piano concerto [^1]) 
    

    which searches my music files and calls mplayer on the files that match those regular expressions (in this case, Symphonies 5, 6, 7, and 9, and all Piano Concertos except the first).

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

    My main desktop is running an Intel Core i7-920 with 8GB RAM, a 64GB SSD for the OS, 1TB conventional disk for scratch space, and a 2TB RAID array in a Linux-based NAS box as a file server.

    Various websites I maintain, including my personal website at http://dheera.net/, are all running on Linux servers as well. I have a couple of laptops that run Linux and I’ve also played with running desktop distributions of Linux on a Nexus 10 tablet (with the LinuxOnAndroid project).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Dheera Venkatraman's desktop

Interview conducted December 30, 2013


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 11, 2014

The Linux Setup - Jesús García-García, Lecturer, University of Oviedo

One of the more common things I hear about this project is that it skews toward technical users. I appreciate Jesús’ interview because he makes a point of mentioning how Linux works for all sorts of technical skill sets, from the advanced, to the more basic. I also appreciate the chance to interview another academic Linux user, as Linux has some fantastic tools, many of which Jesús mentions, that make academic work much easier. And if you’re a non-technical user who wants to share your setup, please drop me a line or email me at steven via this domain.

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 Jesús García-García. I’m a lecturer in Accountancy at University of Oviedo (Spain). My main research interests are focused on open data and transparency, open government and free/libre open source software; their value and the role they play on business, governments and society. With free software, I have put the focus on its value in financial reporting and how it’s related to social responsibility disclosure, which I believe would be helpful for raising funds in socially responsible investment markets.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    There are several reasons. First, the sense of freedom: computing should not be dominated by any big contender in a market who is powerful enough to impose standards or technologies (do you remember ‘Wintel’ dominance or the browser wars in the late 1990s and 2000s?). There is also the sense that by using free software you are part of a great community that makes the world a better place; you are taking part in a global commitment to help eliminate the digital divide, create economic opportunity, and foster equal access to technology even though you are just a non-technical user without programming skills leading by example among your inner circle (family, friends, workmates…). Last, but not least, it just works! So, why shouldn’t I use it?

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

    Ubuntu, 12.04 LTS and 13.10. I proudly survive in a Windows-centric computing universe at University :-) But I began using Linux a long time ago.

    It was 1997 and I tried Slackware on a 486 running MS-DOS and Windows 95. I wasn’t able to start a graphic environment (the old fvwm), but the experience actually opened my mind to alternative operating systems. I carried on and a few months later I get a copy of RedHat 5.0. “A complete computing environment in one box,” was the slogan on the box, which I still have. It was really true; all of your software could be installed at the same time without hassle (no looking for extra software, CDs, FTPs, etc). It was also not that complicated to install and manage, at least not as complicated as Slackware was! In the following years I used SuSE and Mandrake/Mandriva. I have always chosen user-friendly distros because I firmly believe free software should be for everybody and not just for technically oriented users.

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

    Unity when running Ubuntu, GNOME 2 previously. I don’t really care about my desktop environment, but I do prefer simple environments. GNOME 2 was my choice for many years, but nowadays I find Unity quite interesting. It’s easy and it just works. Computing should be a simple matter. I find KDE 4 and GNOME 3 quite complex, maybe even overbloated. Xfce and other lightweight desktops lack some basic management features.

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

    I have no special dependency with Ubuntu or any other distribution (maybe the desktop environment, Unity). My workflow is quite simple and can be replicated on any other distribution, even on Windows or Mac, at least while there is Firefox. Firefox is my preferred browser. I love the work Mozilla Foundation has done for the last decade in the defense of the open web and I consider it my most important piece of software.

    I rely on LibreOffice and Zotero for writing academic papers, creating slides and managing bibliographies, but also LaTeX and Beamer if required by mathematical content. I use Calc and SQLite to deal with databases. R and Rcommander to create statistical graphs and calculations. I use Pinboard to read content later or archive bookmarks and notes, NewsBlur to follow RSS sources (if a website doesn’t offer a RSS source, it isn’t worth my time), Dropbox to save, share and sync my files (does anyone remember those old-fashioned USB drives?), and Google Docs for collaborative writing. I’d prefer to use Etherpad but it’s not widely known. I use CrossOver in order to be able to open .docx or .pptx MS Office files if layout is important.

    As you can see, all of my computing could be done on any platform (Linux, Mac, Windows). I am truly committed to using free software, even with web apps, but if I cannot and have to use privative software or web apps I demand an open data feature: I should be able to get my data out in an open, interoperable and portable format.

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

    I don’t need cutting-edge hardware. I use a Macbook i5 with 4GB RAM and 16:10 screen (13”), which also runs Snow Leopard and a Pentium IV 3Ghz with 1GB RAM desktop and 4:3 screen (17”). I’m dreaming of Ubuntu Touch or even Firefox OS tablets to run my workflow in the future :-)

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    For sure, but it’s nothing exciting: a boring stock Ubuntu desktop.

Jesús García-García's desktop

Interview conducted December 8, 2013


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.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Linux Setup - Charlie Reisinger, Penn Manor IT Director

As Charlie mentions, he’s part of the team giving laptops to an entire high school. That’s an awesome project, but Charlie’s enthusiasm for Linux is also pretty great. When I interviewed Niki Kovacs, I was taken by his joy for Linux. I get a very similar vibe from Charlie. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a fellow Clementine fan. I also continue to be impressed by the number of people who say they like Unity. I’m almost at the point where I think it’s time to give it another look.

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 Charlie Reisinger (@charlie3 on Twitter), the IT Director for Penn Manor School District, a public K-12 school system in beautiful Lancaster County Pennsylvania. As a member of the district leadership team, I manage IT operations as well as educational technology programs and initiatives. I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a team who embraces an open source philosophy. For the past decade, our school infrastructure has been powered by open source software. Over the past three years, we have been increasing the number of student laptops running Linux. This winter, we are initiating a 1:1 high school student laptop program running Linux and open source software exclusively.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    For me, it is a joyful, playful platform. Linux offers a stellar learning laboratory for students of all ages. For schools, Linux and open source software provides tremendous cost savings. I also deeply value the freedoms inherent in open source. Linux is a flagship example of the power of collaboration and a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. As corporations and governments accelerate efforts to erode privacy and ownership, Linux and open source software offers our best hope for techological freedom, innovation and egality.

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

    My main distribution is Ubuntu. I’ve played with other distributions in the past, but I always find myself back with Ubuntu. I’m currently running 13.10 and love it.

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

    Unity is where I spend my time. Earlier versions were certainly a first draft, but with each release cycle, Canonical continues to iterate and polish the interface. I really enjoy the clean user experience and unique design.

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

    Tough question. Like most people, I spend a great deal of time living in web browsers. However, I do a great deal of writing, spreadsheet work and presenting, so my main application is LibreOffice. LibreOffice is a wonderful productivity tool. Recently, I’ve been leading trainings on screencasting, so Kazam and Shutter are near the top of the list as well. At home, I simply can not live without Clementine and Stellarium!

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

    My work laptop is a Toshiba Portege Z835. It is super light and portable with a nice keyboard. My home laptop is a trusty ThinkPad T61p.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Here is my current desktop.

Charlie Reisinger's desktop

Interview conducted January 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.