The Linux Setup – Sean LeRoy, Urban Planner

I found Sean through Twitter. He gives a wonderful explanation of why he uses Linux, breaking the reasons down into four categories. It’s a very cool framework that really captures the strength of Linux, and other open source software. Sean is also yet another user who likes Linux because it stays out of his way. It’s a common explanation for why people use Linux (and is one of the reasons I use it) and I’m always curious if it makes sense to everyone. Whenever I see someone struggling to work with an interface, I always want to ask “Is this interface getting in the way of your work?” But I’m not sure how someone already frustrated might take the question.

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

    My name is Sean LeRoy. By day, I’m an urban planner for the City of Kirkland and in my spare time, my brother Kevin and I run a small design firm called CrashLabs, where I do mostly design and he does mostly development. We focus on simple, often minimal, design solutions for the desktop, mobile and web spaces. About once a year, too, we choose a non-profit to work with in helping them either re-design or develop a project. Oh, and we’re currently available for projects!

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I use Linux for a variety of reasons. Stability, openness, modularity and community, to name but a few. Overall Linux is known for its stability, which allows users to focus on just “getting work done;” which at the end of the day is probably what’s most important. I know that, by and large, I don’t have to worry about problems that come with instability. Especially while I’m doing design work for a client, I need the confidence that comes with a stable work environment, so I can attend to the things that truly need attending too.

    Openness is huge for me. I resonate with the ethos of openness for sure and try to implement its core values in my life and work. Modularity, my word for the ability to tinker, is another key ingredient for me. I’m not a born hacker or anything, but I enjoy taking on new challenges which help me learn the Linux and open source space more thoroughly. I’ve got a long way to go for sure, but the idea of being able to make something my own through simple modifications is important.

    Finally, what ties this all together is community. I’ve really enjoyed the interactions with the wider Linux community, across distros. I appreciate the spirit of sharing, willingness to help and general good spirit in which the Linux community affords and provides.

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

    I run Arch Linux on my main work machine. Right now its fairly vanilla, so I plan on theming it out a bit in the near future. It took me a long time to get to Arch, as I was very intimidated and lacked some of the basic understanding required to install, use and maintain it. But, with the help of a few seasoned Arch users, I migrated over this year and feel like I will stay. I feel, too, that Arch can play a key role in the progress and growth of the Linux desktop in the near future.

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

    GNOME. It’s not without its faults, especially in some of the design-oriented choices, but all in all, I need a desktop that stays out of my way, doesn’t assume to know what I need and want, and is responsive. GNOME gives me that. Openbox would be another favorite, though that is more a window manager.

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

    For my design work unquestionably Inkscape and GIMP. I’ve been able to do anything I need with those two programs, and what I may not know how to do, I’ve learned from the forums and literature, which are vast. I always have music playing while I work, so VLC or Xnoise are my go-to – right now it’s Coltrane Plays the Blues. I don’t bother much with music managers; I just store my huge library on various external drives. For my document needs, LibreOffice and AbiWord are great.

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

    Nothing fancy by any means: 15" Dell Inspiron Laptop with 4GB RAM, Core i5, but it does the trick, for now anyway. Regardless, when I’m working in my home office, I connect it to a 23" Viewsonic Monitor with a really nice full HD, IPS display. I couldn’t do my design work without it! I’m looking into the 4K displays too, as I believe the latest GNOME release supports those.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure. Pretty minimal, but functional.

Sean LeRoy's desktop

Interview conducted March 31, 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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