The Linux Setup – Jon Renaut, Software Developer

Jon talks about wiping his hard drive every six months or so to keep his system fresh. Back in my distro-hopping days I would also have new installs every few months and things did seem to run well. I’ve been very happy on the Ubuntu long-term support releases but I do notice a certain snappiness whenever I put a fresh install on another machine. The fact that Linux is so easy to install makes this kind of thing almost trivial. Windows could also probably benefit from periodic wipes, but the process is so long and awful that most people stick with what they have, even as their systems rot beneath their fingertips. It might be a nice feature if Windows or OS X had a convenient repave feature.

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

    I’m a software engineer. I live in Washington DC, and have been here since 2007. During the day I’m a contractor at a big government agency, working in the CFO’s office with the accountants. Most afternoons I leave early so I can pick up my kids from school. Most evenings I work on side projects. I’ve kind of fallen into real estate, but I’m not really the right personality type to be a realtor (and don’t want to give up all my Sunday afternoons) so I’m looking for ways to apply my computer background to real estate.

    I ride my bikes a lot. The Xtracyle Edgerunner is our minivan—we put more miles on it than we do on our car most months.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I’m trying to remember how I started using Linux. I probably downloaded Ubuntu in 2004 or so because someone on BoingBoing said it was cool. I use it now because it doesn’t get in my way. Which kind of runs into the next question…

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

    I just switched distributions, and not really by choice. I had been using CrunchBang for years and loved it. Unfortunately, CrunchBang was maintained by just one person, and he couldn’t support it anymore. It’s a fantastic distribution. I describe it to people as an operating system for people who don’t like operating systems. It just got out of the way and let me do what I wanted.

    I like to wipe my hard drive and start fresh every six months or so—it not only keeps everything running well, but it also forces me to have reliable backups for anything I don’t want to lose. I was overdue for a wipe and had somehow installed a broken package that was keeping all sorts of things from running properly and I couldn’t figure out how to fix or remove it.

    So I switched to Debian Jessie, and it’s going well.

    I have to use Windows 7 at work, and it sucks, and I have an Acer Chromebook that’s pretty cool but I keep wishing it was running Android instead of Chrome OS or whatever they call it.

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

    When I switched to Debian I tried the standard GNOME 3 and hated it. It reminds me too much of Windows. I switched to Mate and it’s not bad. My plan, when I get a free minute, is to skip the desktop environment completely and mash something together with Openbox and Tint2, similar to CrunchBang.

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

    What sets Linux apart for me is the package management. I’ve always used Ubuntu/Debian-based systems, so I’m used to apt, but what makes it great for me goes beyond apt versus whatever else. When I need to do something, I Google it, and usually there’s something in apt that will do what I need. And unlike free Windows software, it doesn’t install adware or start nagging me for money.

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

    My laptop is a pretty boring Dell Latitude E6430. It was loaded when I got it, but that was three or four years ago.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

Jon Renaut's desktop

Interview conducted April 11, 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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