Michal Papis, Open Source Developer

Michal has a very tweaked KDE setup. He discusses his use of Alt+Tab to switch between applications, rather than using virtual desktops, and I’m very glad he does. I too use Alt+Tab compulsively. I’ve experimented with virtual desktops, but Alt+Tab always does the job for me. I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t do more with virtual desktops but Michal has given me the courage to officially give up on them. And for that, I’ll forever be grateful.

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

    Hi! My name is Michal Papis and I am an open source developer. This is my job. My main focus is Ruby Version Manager (RVM) and I’m currently working on RVM 2.0. You can find me at github and Twitter. I love to help, so feel free to ask me questions or open tickets for projects I help with.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    For a long time I was an DOS/Windows user. I got quite good at it, but it was never enough—there was always something that could not be done, and the scripting language was awful. In the meantime, I was experimenting with this Linux thing, starting with Monkey Linux, which booted from DOS. It was more and more clear I needed to switch to Linux. To begin, I ran Windows with a virtual Linux machine. Finally, I was spending all my time in Linux using Windows only to boot the computer and sporadically for friends to do some simple tasks. This was around 12 years ago. I played with many distributions but settled on two.

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

    On my laptop I use OpenSUSE. I have it installed on almost all computers in my family (over nine machines). For most computers I have installed stable version 13.1, but on a few machines I have OpenSUSE Factory—the development version. It is really stable now and gives me the latest kernel on newer hardware. I guess the only drawback is a lot of updates every day. For servers I use Ubuntu LTS…because it’s convenient. Install once and forget about it for few years.

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

    Right now I use KDE 4.14. I was long-time KDE fan but I had a short experimentation with Xfce after support for KDE 3 was dropped and before KDE 4.x got stable enough. I also had my chance to use GNOME a long time ago, but the idea of splitting taskbars between the top and bottom of my screen did not appeal to me and the tools didn’t exactly fit my needs (like the file browser missing “copy to” with an expanding list of locations). But I eventually returned to KDE 4.x. It has some minor drawbacks, like too many Windows-like bells and whistles, but in the end it finally started to get the usability KDE 3 had years ago.

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

    I guess my most important tool is Geany, my code editor. Without it I could not do my job, but the same could be said about grep, git, curl, Konsole (terminal emulator), radiotray, mplayer2, yast, zypper and many other tools I use in my daily activities.

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

    My current setup is Toshiba Portégé Z30-A:

    • 13" laptop
    • Intel Core i7-4600U CPU @ 2.10GHz (a quite fast CPU that uses close to no power)
    • 16GB RAM so I can run many virtual machines at once
    • 512GB SSD so everything is fast and I have enough space for my open source projects and the virtual machines I use for testing and building packages.

    It is very light—1.2 kg—so I can take it to conferences. It has a docking station port so I do not have to connect/disconnect all the cables on my desk. It just plugs and plays. It also supports 4G LTE, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.

    This is connected on my desk using a Toshiba docking station:

    • 22" 1920X1080 monitor
    • Razer DeathStalker keyboard with chiclet keys and green LED backlight
    • Logitech Anywhere MX mouse, with super fast scrolling.

    That said my previous setup for long time was a dual core, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, MSI laptop with 16" screen that was very heavy. It was quite good for most applications, except traveling. Dragging a 3.5 kg machine was too much for my back… Also, it was too noisy.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    So I do not use a “desktop” anymore. All I need is on the bottom of my screen (from left):

    • application launcher, Yast and sleep buttons
    • task manager with the most-used apps pinned
    • system load viewer (so I have basic idea what’s happening when the computer slows down)
    • system tray with a lot of apps minimized, including radiotray – the only radio player without a GUI that slows it down
    • my clock, with time, date and of course, the day of the week
    • CPU temperature to know when the loud fans are justified
    • my own creation tool to switch between different sound outputs https://github.com/mpapis/MasterChannel.

    Then, on the rest of the screen, I usually display the one application that I am focused upon. I use tabs in all the applications that allow them (Geany, Firefox, Konsole). I usually switch between them using Alt+Tab. I do not use multiple screens or workspaces/virtual desktops. I have all I need in reach with Alt+Tab. For a while I was mad at Firefox performance and was experimenting with Chrome, but I’m growing tired of the low-quality plugins and I’m thinking of going back to Firefox.

Michael Papis' desktop

Interview conducted September 21, 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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