Akkana has a great Openbox-driven setup that relies on keybindings but what’s great about her setup is that she chooses Linux not so much for the philosophy, but for the control it gives her (which I would argue is also philosophical). I always appreciate when people recognize Linux for its technical flexibility and sophistication and not just as something that isn’t Windows or OS X. The politics of Linux is important and fascinating, but it also happens to be a wonderful product.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m a developer and tech writer. Right now I’m between jobs, working on various Python, Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects of my own, and on volunteer projects like the website for the local nature center. In the past I’ve worked as a developer at various Silicon Valley startups, at Netscape in the early days of Mozilla, and at various other companies like SGI, HP and Sun, and I wrote the book
Why do you use Linux?
I like having control over my environment. I’m picky about the look and feel of my desktop and apps, particularly things like key bindings, and I find that open-source software gives me a lot more control. Of course, sometimes getting that control requires recompiling something or writing some code of my own.
I also depend on the power of the command line, and Linux has the best set of shells and command-line tools.
Of course, I love the philosophy of free software too. But I don’t use Linux purely for philosophic reasons; it’s better for the way I work.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I use Debian these days: Stable on my laptop, Testing or Unstable on my desktop. I used Ubuntu for a long time, but lately I feel like they’re moving away from Linux geeks and concentrating more on interfaces designed for phones and tablets, and the distro was getting less reliable and less efficient, so I switched.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I use the Openbox window manager without any desktop environment on top of it. Openbox is super fast so I don’t clog my machine with services I don’t use. I don’t even run a panel—I use key bindings and context menus.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
I can’t narrow it down to one. I spent most of my day in just a few apps: xterm, mutt, vim and Emacs (yes, I’m bi), Firefox, XChat. And GIMP, of course.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
My “desktop” machine is a Lenovo X201 with Core i5 CPU and 6GB RAM. Not that much horsepower, but it’s fine for what I do, and it’s quiet and efficient. It’s in a docking station so I can use a 20" monitor.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Sure. The background is a random selection from a collection of photos—it changes every time I boot or wake up from suspend.
Interview conducted August 14, 2014