The Linux Setup – Robert Orzanna, Student

I really appreciated Robert’s points about radicalism in the free and open source software community. Like Robert, I believe any move toward free and open source software is good. Obviously, if we all monitored our software and hardware choices like Richard Stallman the world would be a very different place, but small things help, too. Just moving to GIMP from something proprietary makes a difference—even if you’re using it on Windows or OS X. It’s all about supporting choice incrementally.

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

    My name is Robert Orzanna. I am currently enrolled as a master’s student of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University (the Netherlands). At the moment I am conducting research on the relationship between everyday household life and food waste. Aside from this main job, I am collaborating with Mindful Meerkats to develop a smartphone game that makes it fun to life more sustainable. In my free time I do a lot of bouldering (a form of climbing), I play the guitar and work for a foundation called Buitendoor that teaches children sustainability through outdoor sports and education.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux when I was in high school (around the age of 16). At that time I enjoyed experimenting with new technology and had too much free time. Linux somehow sounded cool because it was different and there was so much to explore. Nowadays, I still use Linux but for different reasons. I have moved on in my life and realized that for me, technology and software are only a means to fulfill a goal. That being said, I largely stopped the distro-hopping and stick to software that helps me to do my work. Yet the fundamental underlying principle for me is the freedom of choice with Linux and its unconditional availability to all. These principles are essentially normative and reflect my position on sustainable development as well.

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

    I use a Thinkpad X230 with the latest daily build of elementaryOS (eOS). If you use the same laptop, you can get my configuration files from here. I used Arch Linux for a long time but eventually switched to eOS for two main reasons:

    • although Arch is easy to administer, eOS and Ubuntu are even more so;
    • rather than supporting the tech niche of Linux, my aim is to promote Linux to the mainstream. eOS does a better advocacy job here.

    Ultimately I believe that in order to provide a successful free alternative to commercial software, we, as a community, should develop uniform standards and agree on de facto entry channels that new adopters can easily find access to. Therein, I see a very important role for Ubuntu and derivatives as the Linux ‘industry standard.’

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

    As outlined earlier, I don’t test so many environments anymore. I stick with Pantheon, the desktop environment that ships with eOS because it provides a simple-yet-elegant and intuitive interface that runs without issues on my hardware. Many users have criticized the missing configuration options for eOS/Pantheon. While I can understand the argument, I don’t perceive it as a problem. The developers have thought of a workflow concept. I broke with old habits (goodbye geeky Openbox or dwm) and adopted new ones. Yes, we usually don’t like to change our habits but sometimes it’s worth it to try out something new.

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

    Ironically it is Google’s Chromium. Most of my work that I do in front of a screen happens online in my web browser. I am a writer, connector, innovator but not very much a programmer (although I want to learn how to create simple Android apps). So, while my Linux distribution is fully open source, I still rely on some essential closed source applications, largely from the Google ecosystem (foremost Gmail, Calendar and Docs but also increasingly extensions and apps for Google Chrome). I am not a radical Linux evangelist. I am trying to use as much open source software as possible. However, if it radically slows down or hinders my ability to do my work, than I prefer to temporarily bite into the bitter cake and use closed source until I have found a transitional alternative.

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

    For the past few years I’ve stuck with second-hand Lenovo machines. For a long time I used a ThinkPad X200T with Wacom tablet support. Over time, I have made less and less use of the tablet function. Finally I donated the X200T to a friend (with pre-installed Ubuntu, joy) and bought a second-hand X230. It comes with great battery life (up to 12 hours), 12-inch screen and is thus perfect for me since I am a very mobile person enjoying slow traveling (abstaining from air travel and only relying on public transport or bicycle).

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure but don’t expect it to be anything special.

Robert Orzanna's desktop

Interview conducted June 1, 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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