The Linux Setup – Terry Hancock, Journalist/Producer

I came across Terry through a feature that mentioned him as a Linux hero. I was also familiar with his work for Free Software Magazine, so he seemed like a great subject.

Terry is another power KDE user who makes great use of the virtual desktops. You’ll also probably be very impressed by the amount of video production Terry does using Debian Testing (although Terry points out that it sometimes requires a bit of work on his part).

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

    I’m Terry Hancock. I’ve done a lot of different things over the years, but for the last several years I’ve been writing a column for Free Software Magazine about free software and free culture topics.

    Since 2009, I’ve been actively working on producing and directing a free-culture science-fiction web video series which will be called “Lunatics.” We’re currently involved in recording voices for the pilot episode, and I hope to be working on animation again before the year is out.

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

    On my desktop workstation, I run Debian’s main distribution—currently the “testing” version, “Wheezy.” I’ve tried some specialized derivative distributions, but none of them really worked out for me. I wind up customizing things and I want to control which apps are installed, try out new ones, and so on. So it’s easier to just use the main upstream distribution.

    This is not without headaches though. I probably have more problems with hardware compatibility because of this choice—especially with multimedia software. I have to work out my own dependency problems to a greater degree (though it’s not nearly as bad as installing from source).

    My wife is currently using Ubuntu Studio on her system, and we have a couple of other Debian systems for our kids.

    We also maintain a virtual private server for web hosting. That system runs Debian as well—though we stick with the “stable” distribution.

  3. What software do you depend upon with this distribution?

    Well, first of all, I’m a KDE4 user, and I’m pretty happy with that, although the sound system is not as easy to manage as I would like.

    For my work, I use a lot of different applications, but some of the most important are: Inkscape, Gimp, Blender, Kate (the editor—which I’m using more and more instead of Gvim, which I used to use all the time), Libre Office, Konqueror (for file management), VLC, and Audacity (which I’m doing a lot with this week).

    I use both Iceweasel and Chromium browsers. I primarily use Iceweasel for general-purpose browsing, while I use Chromium specifically with social-media websites (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Identica, and Diaspora). I primarily interact with Identica and Twitter using the Choqok client, though.

    Debian’s multimedia packages are not as up-to-date as some, and I wind up using a few pacakges from other sources. I’m currently running a build of Blender with Freestyle integration from

    When I program, I use Python pretty much exclusively. A long time ago I wrote software in C, C++, and even Fortran, but these days I stick to high-level stuff, and Python serves well for that.

  4. What kind of hardware do you run it on?

    This is a self-built desktop with 64-bit quad-core AMD system with 8GB of RAM. The motherboard and drives are from ASUS. I’m using the on-board graphics and sound systems.

    I have an LG Blu-Ray/M-Disc/DVD-RW/CD-RW drive as well, which lets me write just about any optical media I need to. The printer (and scanner) is a low-end HP multifunction machine, and the monitor is a widescreen 21" with 1920×1080 pixels (so it can display full HD video at full-scale — which is important since I’ve got two major projects in that format, both “Lunatics” and “Lib-Ray”).

    A lot of the components have been through a few other computers before winding up in this one — there’s always a few parts lying around our place.

    We have a LAN and my wife and kids have their own systems. The computers are a bit behind the technology curve, but we’re able to keep them working. Obviously this is something we put a lot of value on.

  5. What is your ideal Linux setup?

    I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. There will always be pressure to increase performance for things like rendering scenes in Blender or editing video with Kdenlive, but it’s not really proving to be a problem yet.

    When it does, we’re probably talking about creating a render farm server of some kind (not a new desktop).

  6. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Which one? 🙂

    I actually use the “virtual desktops” feature extensively. I have 20 desktops organized by task, and I spread out the applications I’m using accordingly. So, for example, I have four named desktops for “Lunatics” project work, one for “Lib-Ray,” two for Morevna Project, one for Free Software Magazine, and so on. This way I can leave windows open and just switch desktops when going from one task to another.

    I’ve attached a capture of my “Lunatics 1” desktop with Blender and Audacity both open on project files in progress—these are the “heavy-hitting” applications I’ve been using on production for “Lunatics.”

    One thing you might notice here is that I use the pin-up notes to keep track of to-do lists and the like on each project. Maintaining this place-like metaphor on my desktops helps me deal with the mental clutter from several projects that I’m working on simultaneously.

Terry Hancock's desktop

Interview conducted September 23, 2012

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

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