The Linux Setup – Robert Nunnally, Musician/Attorney

Robert has a great story. He was a Linux enthusiast in theory who became one in practice when he could no longer run the Windows programs he wanted to run. It’s the perfect story for this moment, because as this is being written, Windows finally ended support for XP after 13 years (making Debian look downright bleeding-edge). I suspect a lot of XP users will experiment with Linux, because if you stayed with XP for this long, there’s something very specific about it that you like and odds are Windows 7 and Windows 8 aren’t going to address that need. Linux provides a flexibility that will allow at least some XP refugees to create a familiar experience on their computers. That’s what brought Robert to Linux and it’s what kept him there.

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

    My name is Robert Nunnally. I grew up in Arkansas, USA. I now live in Allen, Texas. By day, I am an attorney who handles cases involving commercial litigation, insurance company rehabilitation and liquidation, and intellectual property. My wife and I live with a little black shelter-adopted dog 25 miles north of Dallas, on the edge of the prairie.

    My passion/avocation is to share Creative Commons music under my performing name, Gurdonark. I am active at the music site ccMixter.org, and have released a number of releases on netlabels. My music appears in documentaries, museum exhibits, Android games, podcasts and in thousands of online videos. I also like to share Creative Commons photos, and I am an avid-if-non-expert birder and chess player.

    I run a little cloudcast on Mixcloud, sharing culture commentary and interviews, called the Graham Wafercast.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I run Linux for two reasons. I believe strongly in sharing culture—open source, liberal licensing and Creative Commons culture. I believe that our culture deserves an alternative to the royalty-based culture. I do not oppose intellectual property laws, but rather support liberal licensing to create a vast public commons of freely-available work. I am all about Creative Commons BY, donate-what-you-will and a a culture of attribution.

    I also use Linux for a very pragmatic reason. I have owned a Linux machine for years. My first Linux netbook was the (in)famous Cherrypal Africa, the sub-$100 machine from an pre-Android era, when sub-$100 sounded like an impressive price. This very simple netbook offered the advantage of nearly-instantaneous boot and a vaguely KDE set up, but lacked a proper command line, a proper package manager with access to repositories, and even proper stereo. It was fun for play and basic browsing (an xBurst chip pushing Konqueror a mighty 800 MHz), but it failed to suffice for daily use.

    Years later, @lopta on Twitter turned me on to running Linux in virtual machines. I loved being able to load up Debian, Peppermint, Damn Small Linux, Puppy and more distros than I can count, onto a VMWare player. I began to see how easy Linux for the desktop had become.

    I mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sister program. I found that my little brother lacked a laptop computer, which I considered a significant omission. The digital divide concerns me. I went on eBay, got him a used computer for $50, and loaded it with Linux (at first Pear, which proved too heavyweight, but then we loaded on Xubuntu, which was just right). Within weeks, he was using it regularly, changing out distros, and enjoying it thoroughly.

    Our experiment with his system worked so well that I got myself an eBay computer for $53, plus a $3 case, from Goodwill. I loaded Linux on it and although it only had a U1400 1.2 GHz single-core chip, the computer became my daily driver.

    I loved the free software and the ability to customize and change things. I moved from Linux supporter to Linux convert. I eventually converted my desktop to Linux and then ordered a new pre-configured Linux rig.

    This preface leads me into the second reason for the change. I changed to Linux in part because only Linux could easily help me use my XP music-making software. I make offbeat electronic music with a strong ambient influence (so-called “weirdbient” music). I use a lot of software developed as freeware or shareware in an XP environment. I found when I got my first Windows 7 computer that much of my essential software would not run in it. I read that almost all of my favorite music software would not run in Windows 8. Although Microsoft had developed virtual machine technology to help alleviate this issue, I learned that the VM solution would require the additional purchase of an enterprise license.

    On the other hand, I now have all of my favorite software installed to run via WINE in my Linux rig. I can also easily set up a VM via VirtualBox (or GNOME Boxes) if I need an XP virtual machine at some point in the future.

    Thus, I switched to Linux because I believe in sharing culture, and because switching to Linux set me free of the treadmill of
    software being rendered obsolete due to operating system changes.

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

    I use Fedora 20. I got some good advice to go that route from a Fedora user who works for Red Hat, and I’ve been happy with it.
    I am not at all an operating system zealot, though. I like lots of them, and run them on VMs for fun. Lately, I am taken with the CorePlus spin of Tiny Core Linux. I like my systems lightweight.

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

    I use LXDE. I originally loaded LXDE because I had a less powerful laptop. I found myself very attracted to its simplicity
    and ease of use. I like that it is so lightweight that it never burdens my system. I like, too, leaving my screen landscape free
    for a bird photo. My other favorite DE is Razor-Qt, which is what I use when I run Porteus via USB on my old “Windows” laptop.

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

    I depend on Audacity. This helps me record my music and export it for re-use.

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

    This year I got a ZaReason Limbo-6220A, with AMD’s FX-4130 as the CPU. I’ve been very happy with my ZaReason, which was pre-loaded at my request for Fedora 20 LXDE.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Robert Nunnally's desktop

Interview conducted February 9, 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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