Tony’s take on Linux is great because it comes from a political perspective, but also a practical one. He makes a strong effort to use free and open source software, but at the same time, he uses these free tools to earn his living. So he’s taking a stand, but he’s not compromising anything in terms of his career. It’s all the more impressive given that translating seems to rely on a lot of proprietary software. Also, Tony and I connected through Tumblr, where we follow each other. If you’re running Linux on your desktop, I hope you’ll drop me an email, hit me up here, or get me on Twitter/G+, and allow me to interview you.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I am Tony Baldwin! I work as a professional, freelance translator, translating patents, contracts, technical specifications and documentation, localizing websites, and other materials, from French, Portuguese, and Spanish to US English.
In my industry, as so many others, proprietary software is ubiquitous, and it is pretty well assumed that translators work on Windows, using one of a few dominant CAT (Computer Aided Translation) programs, such as Trados (from SDL, the most popular and most used), Wordfast being the most common. Also, of course, the vast majority of documents are sent to me in MSOffice formats.
I have been working in this industry for near eight years now, but I’ve been using 100% Free/Open Source Software for 13 years, so, clearly, it IS possible to work in this job without proprietary software. I have a page listing many of the tools I use here: baldwinlinguas.com/freesoftware.
- What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I currently use Debian GNU/Linux, Stable, on my main workstation, as well as on my laptop, and all my servers (I also do web development and design on the side, and hosting, and have my own webserver in my office, on which www.baldwinlinguas.com, the site for my translation business, is hosted, as well as www.tonybaldwin.me, and others). I started out using GNU/Linux back in c. 2000 with RedHat 7.0, and stuck with it until it became Fedora, and then used Fedora until FC4, at which point I left Fedora, tried Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and a few others for while before moving to Debian, at which time Lenny was the Stable release.
I’ve grown to really LOVE Debian. I know I can depend on it. Nothing ever breaks, allowing me to spend my time working, earning from translating stuff, rather than fixing my computer, troubleshooting and resolving errors. In four years of using Debian’s Stable releases, I haven’t had any technological interruptions of my work, period. I’ve played with or tried many distros, and many of them are pretty cool, but I just stick with Debian now. It’s reliable; the Debian project is committed to the principles of the Free Software movement, and I the Debian Way of doing things makes sense to me. Plus, it’s a great community! I got to be part of translating Raphael and Roland’s Debian Administrator’s Handbook last year, even. It feels good to be part of the community.
Ed.note: Here is my interview with Raphael.
- What software do you depend upon with this distribution?
The most used applications on my work computer, for my translation work, are OmegaT, a Free/Open Source CAT program, my web browser, Iceweasel, and OpenOffice.
I must say, however, that I use the current “upstream” release of OmegaT, rather than sticking with the Debian packages, which are sometimes as much as two years behind the current OmegaT release. I do stick with Debian packages for most software, however.
There are other programs that I use regularly, and I also have a bunch of bash scripts that I’ve slapped together that help automate some of the menial tasks in managing documents or preparing them for translation, file conversion, and even stuff like tracking financial aspects of the projects I take on.
I also use Vim a lot, for writing my scripts, but also sometimes when cleaning up converted documents. For instance, I’ll get documents in PDF format, convert them to text with pdftotext, and then use Vim and its powerful regex fu to clean the document up (since conversions sometimes place line breaks where I don’t need them, split sentences between pages, etc.).
- What kind of hardware do you run it on?
My current work computer is a 4×2.8GHz AMD APU with 16GB RAM and a 2TB HDD. I put it together from parts purchased from tigerdirect.com.
- What is your ideal Linux setup?
Well, I’m pretty happy with the machine I have now! Of course, as things progress, I’ll eventually probably want more power, I suppose…the endless search for MORE POWER!!
But, honestly, I use Debian with Openbox, keep my system lean and free from bloat, and with my current system, I have plenty of room for advancements in software without anticipating a need for more hardware.
The other day I started playing with VirtualBox for the first time ever. I had Iceweasel open with like 12 tabs, several terminals (terminator) open, PCMan FM running, htop running in terminal, and I think the GIMP open, while at the same time running Fedora 18, CentOS and Trisquel all in VirtualBoxes, and I wasn’t using 1/3 of my RAM or half the CPU I have. This rig is pretty powerful.
- Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
My desktop is pretty simple and clean, really, but here’s a recent shot of me hacking on a script for tracking jobs and payments:
Interview conducted April 26, 2013