The Linux Setup – Allan Day, GNOME Designer

Part of the reason GNOME is such a successful project is the focus and dedication of its members. I’ve interviewed a few of them and common strands always emerge — ideas like GNOME as an operating system, GNOME staying out of the user’s way, and GNOME as a way to enhance Linux. Allan, a designer for the project, touches on a lot of these points. His design workflow is also wonderfully straightforward and helps to address the concern that good design work can’t be done on Linux.

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

    My name is Allan Day. I live in London and work on the GNOME project as a designer. I contributed for a number of years as a volunteer before being hired by Red Hat to work on the project full-time.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I was dissatisfied with Windows and wanted to try something different. When I tried my first distro I found that I really liked GNOME.

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

    I’m currently running the Fedora 20 pre-release, so I can get the latest GNOME version.

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

    Obviously I use GNOME, but I don’t really think of it as a desktop environment. The GNOME project has learned that you have to take a holistic view of the whole product if you want to create good user experiences. It is for this reason that, over the years, our contributors have created low-level technologies when they have been needed. It is also why we regularly collaborate with developers from every level of the stack, going right down to the kernel.

    Nowadays my engagement with GNOME is driven by a belief in the necessity of a competitive Free Software operating system for personal computing devices. I think that GNOME is unique in its focus on user experience, working in the open, and working with others to create a complete product. GNOME 3 is something that I love to use, but it is also important for the future of software.

    The main things I like as a user of GNOME are the lack of distraction, clarity of organization, and the feeling I get that the software is working for me (rather than the other way around). Anything else I try feels distracting and confused in comparison. Often it feels downright unfriendly. GNOME 3 lets me do what I want without getting in the way.

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

    My main tools are Inkscape, Git and IRC — Inkscape for creating mockups, Git for sharing those mockups with others (we have public repositories for all our designs), and IRC for communication. Each of those tools reflects an aspect of the design work that I do; it’s all about developing and sharing ideas in collaboration with others.

    It is important to me that these tools are free, both in terms of cost and liberty. This makes it easy for collaborators to get involved, and is consistent with the goals of the GNOME project as a whole.

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

    My hardware isn’t particularly special. I have a Thinkpad T420s, which is generally docked and used in conjunction with a 24" Dell Ultrasharp Monitor, as well as a separate keyboard and mouse. The monitor makes drawing mockups a lot easier.

    I also listen to a lot of music and have the laptop connected to a fairly decent stereo (Sherwood amplifier, Eltax speakers).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! This is what my setup tends to look like while I’m working – a browser, Inkscape, Notes, IRC, and a Terminal for Git and building development code.

    I tend to use all of the latest GNOME apps. In this screenshot you can see Web, Notes, and our new IRC client, which is called Polari.

Allan Day's desktop

Interview conducted October 24, 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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