It’s no secret that a lot of people love OS X. My theory is that they love it because it makes sense to them and jives with their workflow, not that it’s inherently better than anything else. I say that not as an OS X hater but as someone who believes usability is subjective to a certain degree. I bet an even greater number of people love Windows the same way, but we probably don’t hear as much from them, possibly because they don’t realize there are other operating systems…
As Alberto points out, the strength of Linux is that it can be changed into whatever we need. So for those of us who don’t feel served by Windows and OS X, desktop Linux is the opportunity to create our own personal operating system. It’s harder than using stock setups, but the results are much more rewarding.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Alberto Garcia. I’m a free software developer and one of the founding members of Igalia, an open source consultancy. Since the creation of the company I have worked in many different areas, but I was particularly involved in the Maemo/MeeGo platforms. Then I worked for a while in virtualization and device drivers, and at the moment I’m working on the WebKit GTK+ port. I’m also a Debian developer.
Why do you use Linux?
I started using it at university. First, because coming from the DOS/Windows world, it was something new and exciting. It was also very convenient: most servers and workstations we had at university were running some version of Unix, so with Linux, I could have a similar working environment at home.
Back then it was not trivial to set up and tune the operating system, so I spent quite some time making things work. However, with that I learned an important thing: having complete and unrestricted access to the source code was something really powerful, and it made me realize this was how I wanted all of my software to be.
Software should be a tool to make people’s lives easier. Putting restrictions on a program to prevent people from doing what they want to with it does the opposite.
I liked the idea so much that I decided I wanted to work as close to that ideal as possible. Luckily, I found the right people and we founded Igalia with free software as one of our core values.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I’ve been using Debian since the beginning, and that’s my distribution of choice in all my computers. In 1997 there were not so many other choices, and I think Debian was already quite solid. If I recall
correctly, it also included a larger selection of software than most of the alternatives.
I also like the idea that it’s entirely developed by a community of volunteers that anyone can join, which is why I decided to become a Debian developer myself.
Of course I had the chance to try other distributions during all these years, but to be honest, I never saw a strong reason to consider switching.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I’ve been using GNOME for a long time. We started working with it at Igalia in the early years because we saw in it a promising desktop environment and development platform.
As much as I like to be able to tweak and modify my software, I also like it to get out of the way when I want to work, and I think GNOME succeeds pretty well in that. I’m also satisfied with all of the recent developments and I’m a happy GNOME 3 user.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
Leaving my Debian developer tasks aside, I don’t think I depend on anything specific to Debian in my daily work.
I spend most of my time inside a source code repository, so my essential tools are git and Emacs. I also use mutt and notmuch to read my e-mail. Then of course there’s also the standard programs that everyone uses: a music player, a web browser — but I don’t have strong preferences with those. But I use the Epiphany webapp mode a lot.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I’m using a ThinkPad X230 with an i7 processor, 12GB of RAM and an SSD hard drive. I’ve been using ThinkPads for years and I’m quite happy with them. They work pretty well with Linux and most hardware
features work out of the box. I’m also so used to the trackpoint that I cannot see myself without it now.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
There it goes. It’s GNOME 3 with a few extensions, a couple of Emacs instances, a few shells, IRC client, web browser and media player.
Interview conducted October 2, 2013