The Linux Setup – Bobby Allen, Software Developer

A MATE user! Choice is important in Linux because there are so many desktop work styles. Some might call MATE old-fashioned but it’s popular because that’s how lots of people like to work. Bobby is using a pretty powerful machine, so I’m sure he could run a more resource-intensive desktop, but MATE makes sense for him. I continue to be shocked that Linux is the only desktop operating system that lets users pick their own desktop. It’s such an amazingly liberating piece of functionality.

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

    I’m Bobby Allen, an open-source software developer from England, UK. During the day I work for local government managing a web support and development team. We mainly support and develop C# web applications as well as a handful of internal PHP sites too!

    My open-source development stuff really comes alive in the evening and at weekends where I work on and head-up the development of a number of open-source projects including a Linux web hosting control panel named Sentora (previously know as ZPanel). I spend a lot of time in the evenings coding and pushing various bits and pieces to GitHub!

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Errrrm…because it’s awesome! Seriously though, I find that you can tweak it to your heart’s desire, you can make it suit your personal needs much better that you can with other operating systems and being an open-source developer myself, I like the idea of being able to look at all of the code, improve the code and share back changes with the community.

    I don’t exclusively use Linux—I have no choice but to use Microsoft Windows at work (Visual Studio purposes and the fact we are a Microsoft house, mainly) and have a Windows gaming rig (occasionally I get to play some games). I have a MacBook Pro, too, that I use for various things but not really development.

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

    Like most people I’ve tried CentOS, Fedora, SuSE, Debian, etc but I find that for my needs, Ubuntu satisfies me on both the desktop and server. It has commercial backing and I find that for most bits of software I require I can simply grab the .deb and never really have any issues with it. There are certainly distros out there that require tweaking right from the start and appear much harder to get running on some hardware. Ideally I like to get it installed and start using it ASAP.

    So at present I’m running UbuntuMATE 14.04 on my main development machine at home—I prefer to use the LTS releases!

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

    I’m currently using the MATE desktop environment (it comes with UbuntuMATE out of the box). I’ve not been a great lover of Unity and also found GNOME 3 to be rather slow and I don’t care so much for the fancy animations. I want my development box to be super fast and without distractions so I like running the bare minimum whilst remaining functional for most uses. I know I could use Xfce and others but I’m used to a GNOME 2.0-style desktop environment and actually really like it!

    As I said above, I also own a MacBook Pro which is running OS X. At the end of the day if I want to look at eye candy, I could just turn that on 😉

    I’ve not really looked at the Cinnamon desktop but I think I may give that a try soon as I’ve heard good things about it.

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

    Much like some of the other people you have interviewed, this is actually a really hard question to answer as I use a handful of tools of which I find equally important, so they are as follows:

    • NetBeans – My goto IDE for most languages (PHP, Java etc.)!
    • VirtualBox – To host virtual environments for testing my code/sandboxing things. I mainly use this in conjunction with Vagrant!
    • The terminal (and the GNU toolset) – For obvious reasons really…
    • Google Chrome – It’s faster than Firefox, I sync all my bookmarks using it and I use a lot of Chrome tools like Postman for API testing etc. Where would a web developer be without at least one browser?!
  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    My Linux development rig at home is running on an Intel i7 2600k with 16GB RAM and a Corsair 256GB SSD. This makes starting, stopping and cloning VMs literally take 2 seconds! I’m really happy with how fast she runs. I know I could upgrade the processor to the latest generation but I really see no need. This machine isn’t something I pump money into these days.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure! I’m sure it doesn’t scream ‘awesome’ but it works great for what I need and I really like it.

Bobby Allen's desktop

Interview conducted January 27, 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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