It’s nice to see an attorney speaking up for Linux because the legal field is one that seems to say that Linux isn’t secure enough for its purposes. But obviously, given everything we know about privacy and surveillance and technology, Linux is at least as secure as Windows. Christian uses quite a few machines that aren’t hooked up to the Internet which is very interesting from a productivity perspective. Without Internet, it’s tough to goof off online.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Christian Einfeldt, and I am engaged in two primary occupations. First, I am an attorney engaged in personal injury practice in San Francisco. My second activity is my work volunteering as the Executive Director of Partimus.org, a non-profit that places GNU-Linux computers in educational institutions such as public schools. I am also producing a documentary movie called the Digital Tipping Point about how free software is changing the world.
Why do you use Linux?
I first began using Linux in the year 2000. At that time, viruses were becoming increasingly prevalent on Microsoft Windows, which was a great concern for me. Attorneys are held responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of their clients’ data, and I was concerned that a virus might result in confidential information being released. I bumped into an acquaintance in the elevator, and asked him, “What is the best anti-virus software for Microsoft Windows?” He replied, “Well, actually, the best anti-virus software is Linux.”
He then went on to explain to me that he would volunteer to build a computer for me out of parts that I would purchase on the Internet, if I wanted to try Linux. He built me a machine, and I began slowly migrating my practice to Linux.
I liked the fact that Linux and the free software movement is basically the story of Stone Soup come to life. Here were people helping each other in significant ways out of the goodness of their hearts, and because helping others helps themselves. This is the nature of an anti-rivalrous good. By helping others, I make GNU/Linux more popular, which means the software and the support are better for me.
And as I came to migrate my practice, I could see that Linux was also superior to Microsoft Windows; it was faster, cheaper, didn’t get viruses, and now Linux is much easier to use than Microsoft Windows.
I am a relatively simple end-user. I know a little bit about hardware, a little bit about Bash, and a little bit about networking. I need a computer that gets out of the way, and GNU/Linux does that for me.
Also, as you will see, I use Linux for a lot of different things, and it is nice that the software is free as in beer, because I would not be able to have done all of the things I discuss below without the generosity of the free software community in providing software that is both free as in speech and free as in beer.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I have five main machines, all running Ubuntu. I have an “air space” machine that my girlfriend of 16 years uses to do her personal work. I say air space because it is not connected to the Internet. It is running a very old distro, 9.04. This machine is unremarkable, having 2GB RAM and about an 80GB hard drive.
I have two other machines that are also air space machines, one with my client files, running Ubuntu 10.04 with 4GB RAM and 1.5TB of storage. I have another machine that has 16TB of storage and 4GB RAM, also running 10.04. This machine is used to store edited video that is being processed for the Digital Tipping Point movie, a documentary about the cultural implications of the global shift to free software. You can see some of the video at the Internet Archive’s Digital Tipping Point collection here.
For the Digital Tipping Point project, I use Kino to do storyboard editing, and OpenShot or Cinelerra for more advanced editing.
My Internet machine runs Ubuntu 14.04 with Unity.
As I mentioned, Partimus.org is a non-profit that puts GNU/Linux computers in educational institutions. In those schools, we tend to use Lubuntu 14.04. The students use those machines for writing essays, Internet research, watching educational videos, and photo editing. We want to have a lightweight distro that gets out of the way of those main uses.
Partimus would not be possible without the generosity of the free and open source software community in providing this awesome software. Using even donated proprietary software would mean that our students were behind the curve, using older legacy software; or we would have to spend most of our time doing fundraising to pay for the proprietary software. With GNU/Linux, there is a huge ecosystem upon which we can draw to provide our students with really awesome tools, and we spend most of our time working on the machines, not fundraising to pay for yet another proprietary upgrade. Readers from outside the US might not realize how seriously crippled the public educational system is in the US. Public schools have been horribly underfunded, and simply cannot afford the kind of IT infrastructure enjoyed by rich private schools. Free and open source software helps to equalize this situation a bit.
I also have a Zareason UltraLap notebook computer with 8GB RAM. I use it for all of my mobile computing needs. I also use it for those rare occasions when I need some non-free software such as Skype to communicate with the Microsoft Windows users in my life. Also, there are occasionally a few sites that require Microsoft Internet Explorer, which bothers me because it means Bug One is still sometimes a problem. So I was forced to buy a copy of Microsoft Windows, and now I spend maybe one hour every three months running Microsoft Windows 7 inside of VirtualBox on Ubuntu 14.04 (Unity) on my Zareason Ultralap, just for the stinking Internet Explorer. I look forward to the day when Bug One really is fixed.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I use the default desktop environment on all of my machines, simply because I want to go with the mainstream. I am not adventurous when it comes to my desktop environment, and I want to make sure that I have good support. I want to make sure that there is lots of good documentation for the desktops that I am using, in light of the fact that I am a relatively simple end-user, not a sysadmin. I find that using a mainstream desktop environment is just easier. So on my air space machines I use GNOME. I use Unity on my Internet machine because it came with the system, and I see no reason to change it. I also like the fact that the Ubuntu community has a vision of convergence, and by using Unity, I am helping to move toward more widespread use of GNU/Linux.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
There is no single piece of software that is more important to me than others. It is a seamless whole for me, because I use my machines to do lots of different stuff. I rely heavily on Linux for everything in my life. I could not live without LibreOffice. Or Firefox. Or the GIMP. Or Kino. Or OpenShot. Or all the little tools that make the whole system work.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
See above. I use generic stuff. You can install Linux on a dead badger. Whenever I have to purchase a machine, such as my notebook, I go with Zareason.com, because I know that they will make it work and I trust them. Zareason sells only free software-powered machines—no Microsoft or Apple stuff at all. Zareason has become expert at making free software just work out of the box. I wanted this machine to be powerful enough to be able to run a second guest operating system, and I knew that Microsoft Windows needs at least 4GB RAM to really work, so I wanted to make sure that I had at least the same for the host operating system and VirtualBox.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
This is my Internet machine’s desktop. The wallpaper is a shot that was taken on February 20, 2015, when I was walking over the Golden Gate Bridge with my cousin and his wife. The shot is of a commercial sail boat that takes tourists under the bridge. The boat had just emerged from under the bridge, and was heading toward the shadow of the south tower at the time that the shot was taken. I thought that the shot was so beautiful that I wanted to see it every day, so I made it my wallpaper.
Interview conducted May 30, 2015