The Linux Setup – Niels Kobschaetzki, System Administrator/Podcaster

I feel very invested in Niels’ Linux conversion. We chatted a little before he switched, during the switch, and then after. He also updated this interview after he moved from Mint to Manjaro, which just goes to show you that working with desktop Linux is dynamic for many people. Your distro might change, or your desktop, or your preferred applications. It’s nice that so many of us get so many opportunities to reconsider our workflow.

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

    I am a system administrator in a Windows environment, with some Linux servers in the mix. Besides that, I am a student of Japanese Science and Economics and therefore I need my own computer for doing research in that area (so I can write my master’s thesis at some point). Besides all that, I podcast about old video games from the 8- and 16-bit era, and I like to play those games—on the original consoles and emulated, too.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux at the end of the 90s and switched to it from Windows in the beginning of the 2000s. When a laptop of mine got stolen, I wanted a replacement that had an OS that was Unix-like, was small, and had a long battery life. The result was an iBook G4 and that’s how I moved over to OS X in 2004. Ten years, several laptops and desktop computers, and two kids later, our household needed a new laptop. Since the serviceability of Apple laptops is pretty bad, I wouldn’t buy a used one, and a new one was just too expensive. So I decided to move back to Linux. I can buy good, serviceable, used hardware for cheap and still have a good operating system. My workflow had gotten less and less dependent on software that is only available on OS X, so the switch wasn’t that hard.

    In conclusion, it is because I can save money in contrast to OS X and because using open source software in light of the events of the last year gives me a better feeling.

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

    After a couple of weeks using Mint 17, I switched to Manjaro, which is Arch-based. The reason is that a rolling distro is probably a better fit for my needs. When I read that Mint recommends a clean install instead of an upgrade every six months, I was not really comfortable with it. Thus I decided to switch to Manjaro after hearing about it on Going Linux. It seems to be a bit more problem-free than Arch, but has similar advantages. I can use new packages and get a slightly better user-experience.

    It is still quite fiddly, but I like fiddling around!

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

    I am using GNOME Shell. It has a couple of new paradigms in how a desktop works, which I like. For example, getting a second layer desktop by pressing Super, which reveals a dock, shows me all open applications, has an application search, etc. When I saw this a year ago, I was excited that a desktop finally did something new, and that it was really good. Someone is finally experimenting with what a desktop environment can do instead of treading in old water.

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

    Well, it is not only available on Linux, but Vim is probably the most important tool on my computer. It is a text editor that is available on any Linux machine and I can use it for maintaining and configuring our servers at work, the software on my webspace, and my private laptop. In addition, I use it to write posts for my blog, I use it with XeTeX for writing my thesis, I use it with mutt, and I take my notes with it, so there is usually some instance of Vim running in some terminal.

    Besides that, I use Higan and Kega Fusion as emulators for Nintendo and Sega consoles, and ScummVM, which I need when I am playing games for the podcast I am part of. QuickSave helps a lot with the harder games.

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

    My laptop is a Thinkpad X201 with a Core i5 2.53GHZ, 4GB RAM and a 250GB SSD. I also have the docking station, which is great because of the accumulated external hard disks I have at home, the optical drive, and the game pads I use for playing games. I just can leave all the stuff connected and take the laptop out of the docking station when I am ready to go. That’s really awesome after life with only two USB ports and having to disconnect the cables each time I take my laptop with me.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Niels Kobschaetzki's desktop

Interview conducted July 24, 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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