Jesse volunteered for this and I’m so glad he did. He’s got a lot of great stuff about the freedom and customizability of Linux. But I really related to his section about the joys of troubleshooting a system. Like Jesse, I also find it very relaxing to try and solve problems with my computer. Obviously, depending upon the problem, it can quickly shift from relaxing to wildly frustrating, but aside from those more harrowing times, I enjoy keeping my system running and fixing the minor problems that creep up from time-to-time. As systems become more locked down, that gets harder and harder to do. When things go wrong with my phone, there’s usually not much I can do to fix them, so I’m grateful for any system that lends itself to getting under the hood.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Jesse Deaton. I graduated high school in 2011 and am currently an associate’s degree student at a local college on my way to most likely a master’s in computer science. This kind of thing wasn’t really something I planned on doing until a few semesters ago. At that time, I had been working as a dental technician: fabricating dentures and crowns as sort of an apprentice under my dad. It was great experience and opportunity – especially for a job I’ve had since I was 16; I expected to make a career out of it. Computers have always been an interest of mine, on and off. I built my first one when I was 9 or 10 with a Pentium 4 CPU and a whopping 512MB RAM. My first brush with Linux was when my dad bought a stack of disks containing various distros (this was during the time of dial-up). Although the idea of being able to so easily acquire whatever type of operating system you wanted was enticing, it wasn’t until late in high school that I gathered up the courage to try it myself. I enjoy drawing and recording music along with other “creative” hobbies, but I’ve also come to love the challenge and problem solving that goes into programming.
Why do you use Linux?
Initially, the move to Linux was driven by my want for personalization or maybe a kind of subconscious resistance to the overwhelming presence of Microsoft everywhere you look, as far as daily computing goes. I’ve gone through a few phases of understanding since then, however, and even though I’m a bigger GNU/Linux and free software user and advocate than ever before, I’ve still come to accept the pros and cons of both mainstream and alternative systems. Some tools are simply better for certain jobs. In my first semester of programming, Linux was a lifesaver. It just worked. I didn’t shudder at the thought of using a command-line to compile code or set up an environment to work out of in the first place, like my poor classmates, since that’s something you get used to pretty quick in Linux. Now I’m at the point where I rarely use the mousepad on my laptop. If all I need to do is write code, I might not even start up the graphics at all. It’s very…liberating. Having such a transparent system allows you to focus on nothing else but doing the best possible work that you can do.
I like using Linux because not only is it very capable for serious computer work, but for me, it’s also a mix of the pleasure someone gets from seeing how much horsepower they can get out of their car and the light challenge of leisurely working on a Sudoku puzzle. It may be a bit strange sounding, but sometimes after a bad or boring day, I like to come home and think up some new script or modification I can make to speed up the way I use my computer and just forget about everything else.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
After much hopping, Crunchbang is what I’ve used the most. That’s a distro and community I can really get behind. I love the stability of Debian and a rolling release is great. Also, you can get a .deb for just about anything these days and the system itself is one of the best to begin more advanced Linux usage on. Especially in Crunchbang form. That distro is what really showed me the power of simplicity. It’s the perfect mix of GUI and Bash and I’ve felt really at home with it. Last weekend I replaced it with Arch, though, which is something I’ve always wanted to get into but has always been just out of my comfort zone until now. It’s pretty great and the package manager is lightning fast. The only thing that bugs me is that the system, with all of the software I use and my entire music library, still take up only about 10% of my hard drive. So it feels like I’ve got all this unused disk space wasting away (ha!).
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I’m using a mix of Openbox and Xfce, similar to what you get with Crunchbang since by now, that’s what I’m used to. No session/login manager, though. Just a Bash prompt on startup. I figured it’s kind of pointless to automatically start X when sometimes I just need to use a terminal for a second.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
Vim! I didn’t bother keeping a lot of my configs from Crunchbang, but my .vimrc isn’t going anywhere. I’m not a Vim power user by any means, but I am always learning. A big part of a Unix class I took last semester was based around using it and it’s insane what you can do with that editor. My favorite graphical editor is definitely Geany, but while setting up this Arch system I just decided to go Vim all the way. Vim is one of the many tools you’ll find on a *nix system that kind of gives you a sense of awe and respect for its creators the more you use it.
I’m also partial to pianobar for my Pandora radio needs. Ncmpcpp is a really cool music player, if you feel like setting all that up, and I use Firefox for its web performance and all of the great add-ons. There are a
ton of wonderful free software programs that I’m a fan of, though. Clementine player, Audacity, GIMP, and VLC are all programs I use on both Linux and Windows because they are simply some of the best options.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
My laptop is a Lenovo Y570 with a 2nd generation i7, 8GB RAM and a Nvidia 555m that I unfortunately don’t really have a use for on that computer. Lenovo is a great Linux laptop as far as compatibility goes and I’d like to have a ThinkPad eventually.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
This setup ended up extremely blue, but I’ve tried to go for an aesthetic that’s easy on the eyes without so much sharp contrast and white space like that which plagues many GUIs today.
Interview conducted April 2, 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.