The Linux Setup – Spencer Hunley, Accessibility Advocate

I met Spencer at LinuxCon, where he gave a talk on how Linux can help out the disabled community. The talk itself was great, but the reaction in the room was what most impressed me. Spencer introduced the issue of accessibility for the disabled to quite a few attendees and a lot of the people in the room seemed very interested in lending their time and skills to the cause. It reminded me how much Linux is a community, as much as it’s a project or a business or a technology. So many developers care about users as much as they care about code.

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

    My name is Spencer Hunley; I am an autistic professional (diagnosed at the age of 17) and I am working to lower the cost of assistive technology by using FOSS and Linux-based software. There’s a lot of great assistive technology applications in the Linux ecosystem, and I believe that Linux can be a gateway for people with disabilities to become programmers, developers, system engineers, and much more.

    In my day job, I work in research for a private company.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I didn’t even know Linux existed until about 2007, I believe. A professor by the name of Dempsey Yearry showed the class a glimpse of Red Hat one day, and I was immediately curious. Dealing with the pitfalls of the average Windows installation (weekly defragging, cleaning, anti-virus/malware/spyware scans, etc) encouraged my decision to try something new. My first distribution was Ubuntu, and I was hooked.

    I use Linux for many reasons. Personally, I enjoy and am more comfortable with the level of control I have over my own system. I also like the fact that it’s not owned by one private company or individual, and that there’s a massive, global community that works with each other from the simplest of issues to the most complex. I also like trying new distros, learning new things, and making the system my own — it’s fun and interesting.

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

    Currently I’m running Linux Mint 15. It’s stable, reliable, fast and works for my everyday use. But on my netbook I’m running Peppermint Four, of which is keeping my old Asus EeePC 900 alive.

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

    Right now I’m using Cinnamon on the main laptop. I was transitioning from Xubuntu on my old laptop, and wanted something with a bit of eye candy but functionality and speed as well. I really like the themes that you can download through Mint’s site — there are some really creative and pleasing designs there. I haven’t had any issues so far, and I think it’s a fantastic environment.

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

    That’s a tough question. Most of what I use on a daily basis is distro-agnostic (LibreOffice suite, Firefox, Chrome, Unetbootin, Thunderbird, Transmission, etc). Aside from that I guess I depend on Mint’s update manager, but I’ve always enjoyed using Synaptic.

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

    Right now, I’m running it on a 3-month old 17.3" Asus N76VJ-DH71 with an i7 core (max speed 3.4GHz), 16GB RAM, two 1TB 7200 RPM hard drives, 2GB nVIDIA GT 635M graphics card (with Optimus, unfortunately), and Blu-ray ROM with SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW Dual Layer optical drive, with four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, VGA and a card reader.

    It’s a beast of a laptop, and battery life is limited, but it’s meant as a desktop replacement (which is no problem since it won’t be leaving the house much). Aside from having to go through the hassle to remove Windows 8, the Linux experience on it has been relatively painless. The audio is amazing, the fit and finish is superb, and I am a big fan of the backlit keyboard. I plan to stick with this computer for 5 to 10 years.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?


Spencer Hunley's desktop

Interview conducted September 25, 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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