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 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, 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.


Thursday, February 20, 2014 Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Linux Setup - Amy Cavender, Professor/ProfHacker

I found Amy through her ProfHacker work. For those who don’t know, ProHacker is a technical productivity blog from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Amy’s setup in interesting, in that she’s using a souped-up Chromebook with Ubuntu instead of ChromeOS. That hits a real sweet spot for a lot of people. I know I’m interested in something light and cheap to carry around, but I want more than just a web browser at my disposal. Amy’s ChrUbuntu setup is an interesting option. (ASUS seems to be getting in on the concept but I think it’s about $100 too much for the hardware they’re offering).

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 Amy Cavender. I’m a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Saint Mary’s College. I’m also interim director of the college’s Center for Academic Innovation, and I blog regularly at ProfHacker.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    There are several reasons. First, I like to tinker. Then there are all the other reasons I listed in a post I wrote for ProfHacker a little over a year ago: it works on older hardware (at least, some distributions do, and there’s quite a variety), it’s highly customizable, and it’s free.

    Finally, it’s the one full-blown operating system that can be installed on a Chromebook. Installing it on a Chromebook results in a very lightweight, inexpensive portable system that works very well for what I need in a portable computer. Linux isn’t the OS I use most of the time, at least not yet (I’m primarily a Mac user), but I find it very useful in a lot of circumstances.

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

    I’m running Ubuntu 13.04. I like 13.10 well enough, but it wasn’t particularly stable on my primary Linux machine. I chose Ubuntu both because I’m familiar with it, and because to the best of my knowledge it’s the only distribution available through ChrUbuntu.

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

    I’m fond of GNOME Shell (I’m currently using 3.8). I use Alfred in the Mac world, so I’m used to launching applications with just a few keystrokes. I know that’s possible in Unity, too, but I prefer GNOME’s appearance and quick-switching between applications.

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

    If I have to pick just one, I’ll have to go with ReText, since I do a lot of my writing these days in plain text/Markdown. I also rely on SpiderOak and Dropbox to sync my files with my other computers and my iPad.

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

    I’m running it on an Acer Chromebook (C710-2833). I’ve upgraded the RAM from the standard 2GB to 6GB (well, usually — sometimes the machine sees the second memory module, sometimes it doesn’t). I’ve also upgraded to a 128GB SSD from the 16GB drive it shipped with.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Amy Cavender's desktop

Interview conducted December 5, 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.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014 Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Linux Setup - Wolf Vollprecht, UberWriter Developer

Wolf is correct — I did find him via UberWriter, a beautiful Markdown editor. There are lots of Linux tools that work well and there are lots of Linux tools that look great, but there’s not always a lot of overlap between the two. UberWriter looks great and works great. Wolf uses Synapse, an application launcher, within GNOME, which has some built-in launcher functionality, but that lacks the depth and finesse Synapse offers. Wolf’s other ideas for how to enhance GNOME are very interesting, too.

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 Wolf, currently studying mechanical engineering in Zurich. Besides studying, I program desktop applications and websites. I also organize one of the biggest Hackathons in Zurich (together with the people from the Entrepreneur Club). I guess I was chosen for this interview because I am the developer of UberWriter, a quite popular distraction free text editor for Ubuntu/Linux!

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Because I love free and open source software (FOSS). I think all of us would be better off if the world was a more open place and the best software was readily accessible for everyone.

    I’ve used Macs and Windows in the past, too, but Linux actually outperforms both of them for the tasks I am using it for. Besides that, most of the engineers here use some sort of Linux for work.

    Using proprietary services, like Skype or Facebook, also begins to make me feel really uneasy. I was quite inspired to pursue a FOSS lifestyle by some of the talks from Richard Stallman, too.

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

    I am still stuck with Ubuntu, because it’s the easiest to install and works really well. However, I am in the process of moving at least one machine to Arch Linux to get cutting edge features.

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

    I love GNOME (especially 3.10). They seem to be doing things right. If I want to get super-nerdy, I use i3-wm from time to time. There are two things I would want to have in GNOME Shell (or an additional program) though:

    • Unity’s HUD feature, which is really great for searching through large menus. One of my plans was to use the HUD dbus-service and integrate it into Synapse (another DE-addition that I love and use all the time)

    • a global autocorrect (like OS X has, I think) because I mistype things so often. I believe software should help me out, already! I envision a T9 for computers, but better.

    I also use tiheums icons: http://tiheum.deviantart.com/art/Faenza-Icons-173323228.

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

    Synapse is one of the tools I depend upon. It’s a super fast and convenient way to open applications and find files. Otherwise, I depend on a mix: Inkscape, GIMP, LibreOffice, Vim, Sublime Text, and Chromium — I depend on all of them equally, I’d say.

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

    I have a Intel i7-4770k on a Gigabyte Mainboard and two Samsung 256GB SSDs. The graphics card is a Geforce 680-Ti which powers a nice 27” Dell monitor and another smaller display. I also use an i7 Thinkpad X1 Carbon for traveling.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure!

Wolf Vollprecht's desktop

Interview conducted November 11, 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.