The Linux Setup – Paul Tagliamonte, Software Engineer/Debian Developer

Paul’s got a great Debian setup across a lot of interesting hardware. I appreciated this interview, though, because Paul makes the argument that although software should be free (as in freedom), there are often technical limitations/complications with that free software that create a barrier-to-entry for less sophisticated users. Unfortunately, with Linux, the price of freedom is often technical ease. It’s nice to hear a Debian developer contemplating the issue. It’s not an easy fix, but it is a fixable problem. Especially with developers like Paul on the case.

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

    I’m Paul Tagliamonte, by day, a Software Engineer with the Sunlight Foundation, and by night, a Debian Developer, an Ubuntu contributor (although, I don’t do as much there these days). I can sometimes be found hacking with the Fluxboxers.

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

    I use Debian GNU/Linux Unstable/Experimental, on amd64, for my personal laptop. I run Ubuntu on my work laptop (for now), and Debian on everything else (such as my netbook, desktop, etc).

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

    I can’t function without vim, mutt, and irssi. I use all those tools on a daily basis, and I love them. I use irssi on one of my remote servers, in an always-on GNU screen session. I have a devoted user, which auto-attaches to a single screen session. It’s handy to ssh in as my IRC user and just close the window when I’m done.

    I’m always open to trying to find a new MUA, text editor or IRC client, but so far, there’s nothing I’d rather use.

    I’m also blindly in love with dpkg and apt-get.

    As for window manager, I have two setups. These days, I’ve been using awesome window manager, because it’s handling of more then one head is amazing. Tiling window managers are pretty cool. My other setup is Fluxbox + Xfce, which is also super rad. I’ve been using Fluxbox since I first got involved with GNU/Linux, so it’s pretty close to my heart.

    I also keep a small amount of software in my personal archive that’s not quite fit for Debian’s. I use some of that, but it’s mostly small stuff (metapackages to auto-install stuff I like, some slightly non-free stuff like node-jslint and security issues, like flake8)

  4. What kind of hardware do you run it on?
    • Thinkpad T520i, i3 (leliel; see photo below). I added in some more RAM and an SSD. It’s a great machine. It lasts forever on battery.
    • Thinkpad T420s, i5 (chayot). Pretty stock, but an amazing machine; light, portable, and great for hacking.
    • HP Mini 110, Atom, low RAM (uriel). It has a double-size battery but that machine practically fits in my back pocket.
    • Desktop machine, Core 2 Duo (loki). It has moderate RAM and lots of disk space. It runs a bit hot, but it’s been my stand-by machine since 2008.

    In case anyone’s wondering, I name all my machines after things from mythology, and ‘loki’ is always my primary development machine.

    My two Linode VPSs are named “metatron” and “lucifer.”

    Paul Tagliamonte's T520i
    Thinkpad T520i (leliel), in its dock, with its secondary screen, Das Keyboard II (amazing keyboard), and a Wacom Bamboo pad. I also have a few Razer input devices (mamba and nostromo), which seem to do their job fairly well.

  5. What is your ideal Linux setup?

    My work setup (physically) is about as good as it gets. I have a secondary screen, rotated the long-way (so I can view more of a file at one time), and a solid laptop I can pick up and hack elsewhere.

    I love—absolutely love—Debian GNU/Linux Unstable/Experimental (for some newer upstreams during freeze). It’s been my go-to since early 2004 or so.

    I would also love a Linux setup that is both free (as in freedom), but also one that I can have my non-technical friends use without problem. Debian is close, but the fact some platforms need non-free software upsets me.

    These days I just try to maintain a proper balance of free and non-free software on my system, but as soon as I find proper replacements, I’ll be a happy, happy man.

  6. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Paul Tagliamonte's desktop
awesome window manager

Paul Tagliamonte's desktop
Awesome desktop background

Interview conducted November 24, 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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