The Linux Setup – Carla Schroder, OwnCloud/Writer

So Carla is awesome and I want to be her friend. She’s got a wide variety of interests and they’re all fascinating. But her non-Linux interests aside, her Linux philosophy mirrors mine: create a workflow that works for you and your team and use tools that work for you, but also for your team. These are the strengths of Linux that are mostly ignored in enterprise IT, where it’s all about everybody using the same setup, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish. But I don’t put this all on IT departments. Users need to learn their tools better and become better advocates for themselves. It’s not about IT vs. End Users. We’re all on the same team—both sides just sometimes don’t act like we are.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

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

    Who am I? The shortest answer I have is “restless seeker.” You know how some people work in the same job their whole lives and then retire? I can’t even do something I enjoy for that long. I’ve had multiple businesses: auto mechanic/handyma’am, landscaping and housecleaning, massage therapist, freelance system and network administrator, and freelance author and editor. I wrote three books (Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook, and Book of Audacity) and hundreds of how-to articles for various online publications. I’ve had an assortment of jobs: janitor, pill packer (working on an assembly line re-packaging over-the-counter vitamins and drugs), editor/tech journalist, and now I work full-time for ownCloud as a technical writer. I figure I’ll work until I die because I don’t have much in the way of financial security, but I’d rather do work I enjoy than work only for a paycheck.

    I’ll never be bored because I have more interests than I will ever have time to explore: musician, audio producer, photographer, woodworker…I live on a little farm with my splendid significant other, two horses, three cats, two dogs, and assorted wildlife and neighbor’s animals that come to visit. I have some ideas on indoor farming that I’m trying to find time to test. I’ve read about big operations that grow food on stacks of racks lit with LED lights, and usually the heat from the lights is all they need. They’re also water-efficient, which is huge as good, clean water becomes scarcer. My current new skill I am learning is sharpening knives on a belt grinder (Kalamazoo 1SM). That will make a nice little sideline that gets me up from the computer.

    I also have a backlog of story ideas I want to write. Someday!

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I adore Linux because I can do what I want on it. My first PC way back in 1994ish was an Apple something. It was fun, and then I got an IBM PC running Windows 3,1 and DOS 5. Windows was useless, so I spent a lot of time in DOS. Then I learned about Linux and never looked back. And Windows is still useless, and Apple is too confining. They both have their little walled gardens, and their primary purpose is lock-in and to keep selling you junk whether you want it or not, and whether or not it’s any good. They think they retain ownership of your stuff that you have purchased, which is a concept that needs to die.

    Linux fits my temperament. I’ve always been a tinkerer. I tear things apart, I fix things, I make things, and I make them to suit me. It’s way more fun to tinker than to just buy things and push buttons. It’s a little scary to me how the younger generations are so lacking in manual skills, so I try to encourage and lead by example. Which reminds me, I’m way behind on my blog, carlaschroder.com. I switched from Drupal to WordPress and haven’t migrated all the articles yet. Every time I post something maker- and do-it-yourself- related, like baking bread from home-milled flour, learning to work out with weights, photography, or whatever, it gets a lot of traffic, which is encouraging—people want to know about this stuff.

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

    I used Debian on servers and Ubuntu was my fave desktop for several years, but now I’m running Linux Mint on my desktops and laptops. There is a lot of nice engineering in Ubuntu, and I think people forget what
    a giant step forward it was. But to me, Mint feels like that last 5% of polish and I like it a lot. For example, I had some chronic USB problems on Ubuntu that disappeared with Mint, and Mint also handles attaching Android devices more nicely.

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

    I used to be a huge KDE fan, and I still like it. But Cinnamon on Mint is beautiful—it’s like it has all stuff I like in KDE without the overhead and clutter. It has desklets, and wallpaper slideshow, and a configurable panel so I am never more than a click or two away from the apps I use the most.

    I also like Fluxbox and Xfce, and I’m comfortable in the console. The neat thing about Linux is I get both the console and the GUI together seamlessly, so I can build extremely efficient workflows.

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

    The Kate text editor and Konsole are my main work tools at ownCloud. We use Git and Github, so I spend most of my workday working in plain text. Kate and Konsole are both very configurable and customizable, so again, I can construct an efficient workflow and get things done with a minimum of bumbling around.

    I can’t pick just one. My other main apps are Digikam for managing photographs, Raw Therapee for editing photos, and Audacity and Kdenlive for audio-video production.

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

    I always build my own PCs. My current machine is a couple years old, and handles all the crazy experiments I throw on it just fine:

    • Intel Core i7-4770K Haswell 3.5GHz LGA 1150 84W Quad-Core CPU
    • CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
    • Cooler Master mechanical tenkey-less keyboard with Cherry brown keys
    • Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
    • Another 2TB hard drive (I forget what)
    • Onboard audio, plus a MobilePre USB audio interface connected to a glorious old Pioneer stereo amp and studio monitor speakers
    • Saffire Pro 26 I/O firewire audio interface
    • 24" Viewsonic monitor
    • Quiet Antec LifeStyle Solo case. I adore Antec cases. They are quiet and easy to work in.
    • Some kind of big ol’ quiet power supply

    Plus various headsets, USB optical drives, card readers, and all kinds of crazy stuff.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Carla Schroder's desktop

Interview conducted January 18, 2015


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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