This is an interview with Boone Gorges for my podcast. Boone is a developer who understands the importance of free and open source software, and in this episode he articulates why it’s so important. He also talks about how the term ‘coding’ makes computers seem more magical than they actually are. I think readers here will enjoy Boone.
I read Linux Journal for many years but actually bailed when they went digital-only. Still, it’s sad to see a once-beloved publication go.
I don’t understand the particulars of this situation but it’s weird. My only comment is that I donate to Software Freedom Conservancy every year and if you want to support lots of great free and open source software projects, you should consider it, too: https://sfconservancy.org/supporter/#annual (the t-shirt is great, also!)
I know Kyle through my book. Kyle was kind enough to reach out about his own love of Linux and agreed to be interviewed here. Kyle is using OpenSUSE Tumbleweed which I’ve been using on an old laptop for a few months now, and I agree with him that it’s pretty great. It’s always up-to-date but it’s not that hard to manage.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Kyle, and I do lots of stuff. Much of the time I work in production support for a major tech publisher helping authors and staff get books published. Publishing has long been dominated by Microsoft Word, but authors are driving a shift to other formats, like Asciidoc, and writing in Linux environments. It’s a change I’m personally happy to see. Before that, I helped design and build industrial ultrasonic scanning systems. In my spare time I do some voice over work, mess about with code, and play bass guitar (poorly). For all of these things, Linux has been my workstation of choice.
Why do you use Linux?
Choice! I can do what I want with Linux. I can choose a distribution that suits my style, skill, and workflow, or I can build one from scratch if I want (I don’t want. I’m lazy). I can customize the look and feel, disable this, enable that, all the way down to the kernel if I need to. Vendor-lock and walled-gardens are easy to avoid for the desktop Linux user.
Another reason is transparency. As an open source project, the community-at-large can get under the hood and see what’s going on. I can be reasonably confident that my operating system is secure and is just an OS, not another corporate data mine. I’d add stability to the list, and that’s probably true for most users, but I like to tinker and I think I’m always on the verge of breaking something. Luckily, though, if I can break it, there’s a good chance I can fix it too.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Like many Linux users, I tend to bounce around a bit. I’ve tried most every major distro, and a number of smaller, more obscure options. Right now, I’m pretty stuck on OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. It’s rolling release, so it’s always up-to-date, and YaST is a great administration tool for lazy users like me who can’t remember where such and such is configured. And it’s incredibly easy to add/remove community repos and packages, and switch package vendors.
Slackware has a special place in my heart as the only distro I tried to install (and failed, damned drivers) from 3.5-inch diskettes, and I go back to it from time to time.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I’ve used most of them, from the most minimal window managers to the most bloated desktop environments. I run KDE/Plasma, mostly, because it’s easy on the eyes and easy to configure and customize. KDE has a fantastic suite of applications too. I also love the stark simplicity of WMs like Openbox and Fluxbox.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
Really? Just one? For my audio work I’d have to say Ardour, and by extension, JACK. Ardour is a multitrack digital audio workstation whose workflow just fits me. I’ve tried using expensive DAWs from major commercial vendors only to find myself frustrated every step of the way. JACK lets me route audio from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. I can even route my effects chain through various VOIP programs to annoy my coworkers. Other software (c’mon, you didn’t really mean just one, did you?) I can’t live without includes Vim, Emacs (Org-Mode!), Kdenlive, pandoc, asciidoc, Inkscape…
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I have an older Dell laptop with a second-gen i5 and 8GB RAM, but most of my work is done on my home-built desktop. It has an AMD FX-6300 CPU, 16GB RAM, and a dual-24″ 1080p setup. Nothing too exciting, really. Linux runs so efficiently, generally speaking, that older or mid-range hardware gets the job done with plenty of headroom. I ran my last setup for eight years.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Sure, but I warn you, it’s boring.
Interview conducted January 25, 2017
When I look at Mac laptop users today, they seem cornered by Apple’s design decisions. I hope that the next generation of MacBook and MacBook Pro models show a little more diversity—designs with their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses. The more diversity in design, the more opportunity Apple has to make bold product-design decisions without cornering its most loyal users.
A great sentiment, but there’s no financial incentive for Apple to do this. Which is why so many of us choose Linux—so we’re not dependent upon the magnanimity of businesses.
Christopher Shaw writes about moving back to Windows from Linux. It’s interesting how Windows Subsystem For Linux is lightening the line between Windows and Linux. If WSL continues to improve and evolve, Windows will almost be just another desktop environment.
The difference between the latest version and the Unity one isn’t apparent at first, but once you start logging in, you will see that Ubuntu has switched to GNOME’s display manager.
The problem with Unity in a nutshell—it just wasn’t that different from GNOME.
This project makes me proud to be a librarian. A library doesn’t like a vendor, so they’re building an open-source product for everyone.
“Still, that Kodi has swallowed piracy may not surprise some of you; a full six percent of North American households have a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content, according to a recent Sandvine study. But the story of how a popular, open-source media player called XBMC became a pirate’s paradise might.”
I’m not a huge fan of articles that conflate open source and hacking. I dare say proprietary, closed-source software is also occasionally involved in illegal activities. The license has nothing to do with it.
Jack Wallen, who you might remember from this interview, provides a great introduction to Linux for Lifehacker.