The Linux Setup – Graham Morrison, Linux Voice

It’s no secret I’ve been pretty excited about Linux Voice, a brand new Linux magazine. Issue 1 came out last week and as expected, it’s great, exhaustively (and humorously) covering desktop Linux like no other publication. This week, I got to interview Graham, the magazine’s editor. He’s a KDE guy with some interesting ideas about how to make that desktop less intimidating to new users. He’s also a big fan of Arch, which when factored in with the KDE usage, pretty much says everything about his Linux chops.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

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

    Hello! My name is Graham Morrison and I’m the editor of Linux Voice, the new crowdfunded Linux magazine and podcast. In truth, the magazine is an equal partnership between the four of us, so it’s more of an honorary title. I get the unenviable task of trying to coerce everyone into some sort of schedule, as well as sneaking in as many Blade Runner references as I can. But I get to spend every day playing with Linux, which is awesome.

    Outside of putting the magazine together, I’ve recently got into homebrewing beer, thanks to the BrewPi, and I spend far too much time playing Galaga on an old arcade machine. I bought it for £200 and replaced the PCB with an ancient PC running Manjaro Linux connected via J-PAC and JAMMA interfaces to the original controls. If I ever have the time, I also tinker with my own multi-layered, polyphonic, polyrhythmic MIDI step sequencer called ‘meeq.’

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I used to love an Amiga music sequencer called ‘Bars & Pipes’ (this is about 1991). It was unique because it allowed you to pipe music data through various modules that manipulated the sound in some way. You could send every third note through an octave transposition, for example, or send minor chords into a random arpeggiator. It was the MIDI equivalent of Bash. But Bars & Pipes was bought by Microsoft who subsequently ceased development and rolled the technology into Direct Music. To Microsoft’s credit, it eventually released the source code. But it was many years too late and it wasn’t open source.

    Later, around 1998, I was trying to learn C++ and using Visual Studio on Windows. I was shocked to discover I couldn’t freely share my code or build on what other people had done. It just seemed counterintuitive. I’m a pragmatist. I don’t want to invest my time and effort into technology that can be held ransom. All of which led to what I consider simply the best option: Linux and Free Software.

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

    I’ve run Arch for a couple of years. I like its minimalism and the way you end up knowing every installed component. I’m not massively keen on having to check the Arch website before upgrades (because things break), or the way you have to start from scratch with every fresh install. Getting hold of the latest releases is one of the most important parts of my job, and the Arch User Repository is the best way I’ve found of getting hold of software that more often than not installs. I love the way it bundles the source code, and the way you can rollback packages. It’s also relatively straightforward to modify packages yourself, which I’ve occasionally found useful. At the moment, I’ve also got Mageia 4, Fedora 20 and Mint 16 installed on the same machine.

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

    To continue my C++ programming adventures, I switched to Linux. My only real options for development were Qt and KDE, and that resulted in a photo management app called ‘Kalbum’, which I released in 2003, along with a lifelong love of KDE. KDE can be made to look awesome, and I like having all that configurability. Dolphin is a great file manager (although I still prefer Konqueror), and I don’t think any other desktop is so well integrated with a core suite of applications: Digikam, Konsole, Kate, K3b, Kopete, Amarok, KMail, Calligra and Gwenview all combine to create a great user experience. But that’s only after you’ve spent time making the desktop how you like it. I do think KDE’s default configuration puts off a lot of new users. The blue glow around windows, for example, should be replaced by a default drop-shadow and the whole locking/unlocking widgets idea seems convoluted.

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

    Is pacman a fair response? It’s a great package manager. Other than that, there’s the humble text editor: Kate is very useful, and its JavaScript snippets are very powerful for text processing, although a little bug-ridden. Also, there’s no on-screen word count. My favorite text editor, however, is FocusWriter. It’s a distraction free environment that’s brilliant for writing words. If I could only turn the Internet off, I’d be 1000% more productive.

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

    My desktop PC is a 3.3Ghz Core i5 with 16GB RAM, five hard drives of varying capacity, and an Nvidia Geforce GTX570 GPU w/1280MB of DDR5 RAM. It’s connected to a 27" 2560×1440 IPS LCD screen I bought directly from South Korea on eBay (it needs an injected EDID file though xorg.conf to work, which is a pain). My keyboard is a backlit Logitech K800, which is awesome, along with a Logitech MX Lazer mouse.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Graham Morrison's desktop

Interview conducted February 8, 2014

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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