The Linux Setup – Amy Cavender, Professor/ProfHacker

I found Amy through her ProfHacker work. For those who don’t know, ProHacker is a technical productivity blog from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Amy’s setup in interesting, in that she’s using a souped-up Chromebook with Ubuntu instead of ChromeOS. That hits a real sweet spot for a lot of people. I know I’m interested in something light and cheap to carry around, but I want more than just a web browser at my disposal. Amy’s ChrUbuntu setup is an interesting option. (ASUS seems to be getting in on the concept but I think it’s about $100 too much for the hardware they’re offering).

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

    My name is Amy Cavender. I’m a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Saint Mary’s College. I’m also interim director of the college’s Center for Academic Innovation, and I blog regularly at ProfHacker.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    There are several reasons. First, I like to tinker. Then there are all the other reasons I listed in a post I wrote for ProfHacker a little over a year ago: it works on older hardware (at least, some distributions do, and there’s quite a variety), it’s highly customizable, and it’s free.

    Finally, it’s the one full-blown operating system that can be installed on a Chromebook. Installing it on a Chromebook results in a very lightweight, inexpensive portable system that works very well for what I need in a portable computer. Linux isn’t the OS I use most of the time, at least not yet (I’m primarily a Mac user), but I find it very useful in a lot of circumstances.

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

    I’m running Ubuntu 13.04. I like 13.10 well enough, but it wasn’t particularly stable on my primary Linux machine. I chose Ubuntu both because I’m familiar with it, and because to the best of my knowledge it’s the only distribution available through ChrUbuntu.

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

    I’m fond of GNOME Shell (I’m currently using 3.8). I use Alfred in the Mac world, so I’m used to launching applications with just a few keystrokes. I know that’s possible in Unity, too, but I prefer GNOME’s appearance and quick-switching between applications.

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

    If I have to pick just one, I’ll have to go with ReText, since I do a lot of my writing these days in plain text/Markdown. I also rely on SpiderOak and Dropbox to sync my files with my other computers and my iPad.

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

    I’m running it on an Acer Chromebook (C710-2833). I’ve upgraded the RAM from the standard 2GB to 6GB (well, usually — sometimes the machine sees the second memory module, sometimes it doesn’t). I’ve also upgraded to a 128GB SSD from the 16GB drive it shipped with.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Amy Cavender's desktop

Interview conducted December 5, 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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