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 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 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.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What’s New With Ubuntu 14.04 — A New York Linux Users Group Talk

The New York Linux Users Group had a talk, “What’s new with Ubuntu LTS 14.04 (Trusty Tahr)?” last week, given by Mark Russell of Canonical. I checked it out (the video of the talk should eventually be here) and walked away with a few interesting tidbits. I’m not sure how earth-shattering any of this is, as I don’t follow Ubuntu development super closely, but these are the things that caught my ear:

  • The Unity bar doesn’t move so the interface is consistent between desktop and mobile.

  • On a related note, Canonical doesn’t use the term desktops anymore. Everything is a client.

  • Bloomberg pledged $80,000 for the Ubuntu Edge — both hardware and support. It made me think the death of Blackberry left a huge opportunity for enterprise mobile devices. $80,000 is nothing to a company like Bloomberg, but the fact that they entertained the idea of the devices at all is interesting.

The path of Unity has also been interesting. Mark said Canonical really wanted Unity 8, which uses Mir instead of the X window system, for 14.04, but it wasn’t ready — especially for a long-term support release. Canonical pushed out Unity very early and while I think the feedback they got helped to improve Unity quickly, I suspect it also soured a lot of people who never returned to it. When people talk about Unity, one of the first things they say is ‘it’s much better than it used to be!’ It’s true, but it’s not an ideal message from a marketing perspective. No one wants to eat in the restaurant that ‘won’t make you sick anymore.’

Speaking of 14.04, I’m using Xubuntu 14.04 on a new (to me) netbook and it’s great, as it always is. There will be more on that in another post.


Thursday, May 22, 2014 Wednesday, May 21, 2014 Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Linux Setup - Benjamin Kerensa, Firefox Developer

I use the expression “I/we live in the world” fairly often to express the idea that although we might have an idealized way of thinking about a concept, often the realities of external forces make it difficult to execute in that idealized way. My use of the expression isn’t about surrendering to the whims of the world — it’s just a reminder that sometimes concessions need to be made. I mention this because Benjamin discusses using both a MacBook and OS X tools, and that often sets off alarms for some readers. Benjamin does a great job explaining why he uses and prefers Linux, but, like so many of us, he lives in the world, and so he must sometimes choose the most effective tool, rather than the tool that best represents his technological and political views. This isn’t an excuse or a rationalization — it’s just an acknowledgement that as with so many other things, sometimes choice is more than just a binary.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here and follow me on Twitter here.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My name is Benjamin Kerensa and I’m a freelance IT consultant. I’m also on the Firefox Release Management Team, where I work on the Nightly release channel.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Linux is just one operating system I use. I also have started using Mac OS X for many of my Mozilla projects since some software has better support on Mac OS X than it does on Linux. If I could choose one OS though, Ubuntu Linux would be it, and I think that will someday be a reality.

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

    Actually my main laptop is a MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013), but I also have a Dell Inspiron 14z which runs the latest Development Release of Ubuntu and I do all of my Ubuntu work there and also do some QA to ensure Firefox is working solidly for our Linux users.

    When I find myself with only my Macbook I have a cloud instance I can use for development on the go.

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

    I use the Unity desktop environment and although for a few cycles I did stay with GNOME (fallback), I have found Unity to increase my productivity and workflow. I have also been concerned that features like the Unity Scopes impact user privacy and that Ubuntu users would benefit from being able to opt-in versus this feature being a default.

    Much of the discussion by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was a result of discussions I had with both organizations in private and I am happy they agreed with the concerns I raised.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Ubuntu recently announced they are changing the Scopes default that was showing online results (including Amazon-recommended ones) along with local files to an opt-in

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

    Firefox. I spend an uncountable amount of hours in the web browser working with bugs and looking and commit logs. Firefox is built by a community of contributors on every continent with a goal of advocating for an open web and to me, that’s precious.

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

    A Dell Inspiron 14z with a “Powered by Ubuntu” Sticker.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Benjamin Kerensa's desktop

Interview conducted January 27, 2014


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

You can follow My Linux Rig on Google+ here, follow me on Twitter here, and subscribe to the feed here.


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.