The Linux Setup – Jonathan Riddell, Kubuntu Developer

Jonathan has a lot of nice things to say about KDE, Ubuntu, and open source software. I challenge you to not be charmed by his optimism. He’s also the least fiddle-y KDE user I’ve ever interviewed.

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

    I’m Jonathan, a canoeist, Quaker and computer person from Edinburgh in the not-quite-independent Scotland. I currently live in Barcelona, ready to vote in an independence referendum. Playing with geopolitics is an occasional hobby of mine but I spend much of my time making Kubuntu, the KDE flavor from Ubuntu.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    A number of reasons.

    I’m all for free-as-in-freedom. Because of the number of interfaces that software has with the world (both human and programmer), it’s very easy to lock people into proprietary software and create monopolies. Not having free competition is a bad way for any economy to run. I’m surprised at how infrequently this economic argument is made.

    I’m also all for community-made software. It allows us to have control and fix problems that we find, to share knowledge, and to create professional and personal relationships. I love that I can go to almost any city in the world and meet up with someone who wants to chat about the code we work with.

    I love that you can learn how to program with open source. At university I was taught about some features of a programming language, but to understand how programs work in the real world, you need to study existing examples of them. The only way to do that is to get into open source. So I got into KDE software because that was what was on the desktop in front of me.

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

    It won’t be surprising to hear I run Kubuntu, the original and best community-made Ubuntu flavor running software from the original and best free software desktop community, KDE. I was one of the original team to get KDE included in Ubuntu. It was obvious even before Ubuntu was announced that this would be something big and as a KDE fanboy I felt that we had to be part of it. And while this has often had critics asking why we’re part of a project where KDE is at best second-tier, I do think KDE would be weaker without Kubuntu and I think Ubuntu would be too.

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

    I use Plasma by KDE, currently switching between Plasma 4 and Plasma 5. KDE software used to be all that was available on the Linux desktop and back at the start of the millenium we genuinely believed it would take over the world (not just me—I went to talks by IBM where they said this would happen). For some reason, though, that hasn’t happened. New desktop environment projects turned up for one thing, which split the effort. But we do have enough users out there to keep the momentum up and create some beautiful software. The energy in the KDE community, when you go to a meeting, is incredible. The effort that has gone into making Plasma 5 is massive and we are seeing the results with comments all over the web about how great it is.

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

    I spend much of my time in Konsole on a terminal. Making packages requires a lot of shell commands. I also confess to using Irssi and Mutt for IRC and e-mail on a console running inside a Screen session on my server. It’s so useful to be able to SSH into the server from anywhere and have access to my communications.

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

    You can’t beat a ThinkPad. Every few years I buy the cheapest ThinkPad and find it more than meets my needs with the hardware all working nicely with free drivers. And it has a matte screen; I never understood the desire for the reflective, glossy screens.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Today I’m running Plasma 5.1 which I just made the tars for and sent to packagers.

    I gave in to the consumer world and installed some proprietary software for Spotify earlier this year and I really like having all the music I can think of at the touch of a button. Today I’m educating Rohan about the joys of Kylie Monogue.

    We switched to Firefox in Kubuntu recently after holding out for a long time with KDE web browsers. But alas they don’t cut it at the moment. I have hopes that the new QtWebEngine will be the future and we can go back to Rekonq or another KDE web browser with it.

    And of course I use Konsole much of the time.

    I’m working from the KDE office in Barcelona seen here with Alex and Rohan. Anyone is welcome to come here and hack away at KDE stuff.

Jonathan Riddell's desktop

Interview conducted October 9, 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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