The Linux Setup – Emmanuele Bassi, GNOME Developer

Emmanuele’s interview is wonderful because he embodies the true spirit of open source software — he sees broken things and he fixes them. It sounds simple, but it’s people like Emmanuele that make Linux possible. His setup is GNOME-intensive, as you might expect from someone on the board of the GNOME Foundation. You’ll also want to be sure to check out Emmanuele’s thoughts on the future of distros, which is very interesting, and could really be a post in itself.

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

    I’m Emmanuele Bassi, and I’ve been working on GNOME and GNOME-related technologies for the past 10 years, both as a hobbyist and as a paid software engineer. I am part of the team working on the core GNOME platform (GLib, GTK+, and Clutter, plus other libraries); I have been elected to the GNOME Foundation board of directors for three years and I’m currently working as its secretary. I am also lead architect for Endless Mobile, a start up using GNOME technology.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux in 1997 because it was already better than Windows at the time: I could run Doom 2 in a window, instead of rebooting Windows 95 into DOS mode. Sure, I had to install random packages, and I had to recompile my kernel, and configure X11 and fvwm2 so that I could actually run Doom 2, but it was definitely worth it. I use Linux because it allows me to improve it whenever I find something that does not work the way I want it to. Thanks to that, I found a great community inside GNOME, as well as a day job that lets me work on what I like.

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

    I’m currently running Fedora 19 on my 2011 MacBook Pro. I started off with Slackware, moved to SUSE, then Red Hat (back when Fedora did not exist), then Debian, then Ubuntu, then back to Debian, until I switched to Fedora. As I’m working on the development of GNOME, I’m always a bit on the bleeding edge of everything, and Fedora suits me well in that regard. That doesn’t stop me from ranting when something breaks horribly, though. Also, Fedora works really nicely on Apple hardware, which replaced my long-lasting love for ThinkPads a couple of years ago.

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

    I use GNOME, given what I do every day. I started using GNOME 1.4 years ago, and I was there for the first major transition between 1.x and 2.x. Now I am using GNOME 3.8, and cannot wait to update to 3.10. I started getting excited about GNOME with the 2.0 release, when instead of wasting a week to set up the system to my liking, I got a system that worked out of the box. After getting involved in the GNOME community and developing on and for GNOME, I realized that everyone there shares the same belief that the shell and operating system should just work for everyone using a computer to create things or consume things, not just for the geeky people like me, that can spend a week customizing the machine to my own liking because I know what to do and where to look. To be fair, the older I got, the more fed up I was about having to customize my system; I just wanted something that let me hack away.

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

    I don’t strictly “depend” on anything on Fedora, except GNOME. I’m not overly attached to distributions at all. I’ve switched between most of them already, and all of them have something broken. I also don’t think the distribution model works any more, and that going forward we’ll have to drop the illusion. I am waiting for the day when I can get a GNOME system straight from gnome.org, dump it on my machine, and then just install applications from the application’s website.

    My only requirements are development tools: Vim, make, autotools, and compilers. Obviously, I need a stable version of GNOME, so that I can use my computer while I build everything.

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

    I am using a 13" MacBook Pro from 2011, Core i5 with Sandy Bridge, 4GB of RAM, and 128 GB on a SSD. I just bought a 13" MacBook Air with Core i7 and 8GB of RAM and 256 GB on a SSD. Before 2012 I used ThinkPads (series T and series X), until Lenovo screwed both the build quality and the one thing they shouldn’t have touched, i.e. the keyboard.

    The Apple hardware is pretty good, and runs well enough on Linux, if you exclude the Broadcom chipsets for Wifi (which I replaced with a small USB wifi dongle).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! This is my current overview. I have a bunch of terminals lying around for IRC and development, plus Firefox. I generally keep everything on a separate workspace and switch between them when needed. I usually have a media player in the background as well, but haven’t started it today.

Emmanuele Bassi's desktop

Interview conducted July 17, 2013


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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