The Linux Setup – Riley Brandt, Photographer

I found Riley through this Lifehacker post about GIMP. Riley’s interview is hilariously funny, but his path to Linux is also very interesting, in that he was drawn in by Compiz and desktop eye candy, which many people consider to be a weakness of Linux. I’ve always thought it wasn’t that Linux desktops looked bad, so much as they looked different. Riley is also an elementary OS user, and as he mentions, it’s a really nice looking distro. I would go so far as to say it gives OS X a run for it’s money, in terms of aesthetics.

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Riley Brandt
photo by Sara McGinnis

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

    Hello, my name is Riley Brandt and I am a photographer at the University of Calgary.

    As a university photographer, I spend my days meeting a wide variety of amazing people, from quantum scientists, paleontologists and Olympic athletes to drunk students on their last day of class, custodians and astronauts. Then, they let me take their picture. It’s pretty sweet.

    I am also a Linux addict enthusiast and supporter of open-source software.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    In 2007 I did a search for Linux (which at the time, I thought was something like DOS) and a video came up showing off the Compiz desktop. I was blown away. It had virtual desktops, wobbly windows, transparent windows, roll-up windows, rain effects, expose and a 3D rotating cube desktop — I had to have that cube.

    Shortly after, I was learning what it means to “partition a hard drive” and managed to install Ubuntu 7.04. By the time Ubuntu 7.10 came out, I was hooked.

    I never had an ideological motive to switch to Linux. I didn’t have a hatred of Microsoft or Apple. I switched because it was the best operating system for me. It let me customize the user interface to my liking. It had advanced features that other operating systems didn’t. Each new release got smaller and faster, not bloated and slower.

    I use Linux simply because it is my preferred desktop operating system…

    …and also for the whole known backdoors to the NSA in closed-source operating systems that allow for illegal mass surveillance and persecution of dissidents thing… but mostly it’s for the terminal and tabbed browsing in my file manager.

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

    Both my main desktop and super slim laptop run elementary OS. It’s the only Linux distro that I don’t have to spend hours customizing after installation.

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

    Like thousands of other users, after the great desktop battles of the new millennium, I was left a displaced citizen of the nation formally known as GNOME 2.

    I was able to obtain refugee status in neighbouring LXDE Land for a while. I even returned to my former homeland, now called GNOME 3, for a release cycle or two. But she had changed so much after the war, I hardly even recognized her.

    Luckily, I found my way to my new home, Pantheon.

    I use Pantheon because it is fast like Xfce, but still has modern functionality like hot corners, expose, virtual desktops and elegant animations. It has a lightning fast built-in application launcher a la GNOME Do, but still has a more traditional menu with categories, so you can discover the applications first. It also an awesome Alt-Tab implementation.

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

    If it is something specific to elementary OS, I would say the application menu/launcher Slingshot, because I use it constantly. Other programs I rely on that aren’t specific to elementary OS are:

    • BitTorrent Sync: It’s like a self-hosted Dropbox replacement that allows me to share files across multiple computers without uploading them to a server in America.
    • GIMP: I recently redesigned my photography website entirely in Linux. I couldn’t have done it with out using the GIMP.
    • Terminal: It’s faster than a GUI and let’s me get all ‘sudo’ on something if I need to.
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My desktop is an old Dell XPS Studio with a first-generation i7 and 8GB RAM. It is “Ubuntu Certified Hardware” which means I knew it would run Linux: http://www.ubuntu.com/partners/ubuntu-certified

    My ultrabook is a 13" Samsung Series 9 with Intel Core i5 @ 1.70GHz × 4 and 4GB RAM. It is (was?) the world’s thinnest laptop and it’s just gorgeous. People ask me about it all the time. They can’t believe that the beautiful operating system is Linux.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure, it is pretty much just the default elementary OS desktop.

Riley Brandt's's desktop

Interview conducted March 15, 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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