I found Paul on Twitter. When I asked if he wanted to be interviewed, he was concerned that he wasn’t notable enough. He’s got a cool setup, though, so it’s safe to declare that notoriety doesn’t necessarily correlate with setup interestingness. Paul’s a proud Arch/Xfce user. While I don’t have the stomach for a rolling release, I’m a fellow Xfce fan.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Paul. I’m a software developer from the UK and a recent convert to Linux.
Why do you use Linux?
Initially it was just to get off Windows. I used XP for years and ended up hating it, so when Vista launched to poor reviews, I switched to Mac OS X. Three years later I bought a cheap netbook while traveling and it came with XP. After a depressing few months back on Windows, I tentatively installed Ubuntu 10.04.
Ubuntu was a revelation: all the benefits of a Unix-like OS but without Apple’s hardware lock-in. And it was free! I gradually became more interested in open source and the ideas behind free software. I also found Linux to be an ideal development environment. These are the things that have kept me on Linux.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I’ve been running Arch Linux for the past two years. My netbook ground to a halt after I upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 so I needed a new distro — something with fewer bells and whistles that could run on low-spec hardware.
I’d read about Arch and its focus on minimalism, so I decided to give it a go. Installation was a slow and painful process, but once up and running Arch is surprisingly easy to maintain. It’s super lightweight, extremely stable, and really well-documented. Plus, I’m completely sold on rolling releases now.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Since moving to Arch I’ve been using Xfce 4.10. I initially tried Openbox (inspired by CrunchBang), but the novelty of building an entire desktop from scratch quickly wore off. Xfce strikes a nice balance between simplicity and functionality. It stays out of your way and doesn’t drain your system resources. I can’t imagine going back to a GNOME-based desktop.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
Probably the only thing specific to Arch is pacman, the package manager. It typifies Arch’s simple approach (I never understood why Ubuntu came with apt-get, Software Center and Synaptic) and makes updating the system quick and easy rather than a chore. I should also mention the ArchWiki, which is an invaluable resource.
Day to day, I spend most of my time switching between a text editor (Sublime Text or Vim), a browser (usually Chromium), and the terminal. I use gPodder and DeaDBeeF for downloading and playing podcasts and occasionally fire up Inkscape or GIMP for graphics stuff.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
A 13" Acer Aspire laptop with dual 1.7GHz Core i5 processors, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It came with Windows 8 which I took great pleasure in relegating to a tiny partition.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Sure, although there’s not much to see. It’s Xfce with the Greybird GTK theme and Elementary icons. The wallpaper is a photo of my friend’s dog (now deceased).
Interview conducted March 10, 2014