The Linux Setup – Zac Anger, Musician

Zac has an amazing Frankenstein setup, pulling in all sorts of distributions and repositories. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but you can’t argue with his taking the best of everything. And speaking of the best of everything, it’s no surprise he’s using Xfce, which is light and powerful and very easy to customize. Not that I have a bias or anything…

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

    My name is Zac Anger, and I’m a musician and aspiring web designer/front-end developer. Music has been my life for as long as I can remember: singing, playing various instruments (primarily guitar and ‘programming’ electronica), running recording rigs and a venue, etc. I was raised in a moderately tech-savvy household, playing around with Photoshop and Illustrator on my mom’s work computers as a kid, but it wasn’t until a friend (at the time, really a stranger) turned me on to FL Studio and making music in the box that I started really taking an interest in computers. Shameless plug: my music is free at http:://zacanger.bandcamp.com, and I can be found on Github and Soundcloud under the same name.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    There are so many reasons! I was a Mac user up through Mac OS 9, but when OS X came out it was just so god-awful slow. I used Windows for years, mostly held there because of some software that hasn’t been ported or open-sourced yet (primarily audio software), but I’ve usually had a thumb-drive distro around (frequently Puppy Linux), or something on a spare partition.

    I finally got fed up with the lack of control I had over my own computer, and backed everything up and wiped Microsoft right off my hard drives. The Unix philosophy appeals to me, and the idea that if I wanted to break my OS, no all-seeing company was going to step in and stop me was just so awesome.

    The incredible communal sort of feeling one gets talking to other Linux users is also really neat. It’s a big departure from the Windows world, where seemingly half of the forums are just filled with posts on circumventing licensing. Having been an Android user (and themer, and modder) for several years, I’d already had an introduction to the world of Open Source and those sort of groups, and I guess I kind of got hooked on it. And I love the idea that I can help. If I have something useful to contribute, I can do that, and that’s not just acceptable but actually encouraged. Proprietary operating systems don’t allow for that kind of participation!

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

    Some oddball mix of Debians. I guess you could say it’s Sid (Debian Unstable), but I also pull things from Debian Experimental, Sparky Linux, AntiX, KXStudio, some PPAs, and my all-time favorite family of distros, LinuxBBQ (not to be confused with BBQLinux)…among others. My sources.list.d is a little wild. Usually when installing (which I do a lot—I’m a recovering distro-hopper) I’ll start out with the latest 64-bit LinuxBBQ and then build on that. I have used other distros, but I can’t see myself switching any time soon. I just like to dabble, sometimes in QEMU and sometimes with actual installations.

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

    I’ve been using Xfce lately, with icons from the Numix PPA and some extras from the SolydXK repos to dress it up a bit. I’ve tried to stay as free as possible of GNOME and KDE stuff—not because I’m against them, but because I’d end up needing to kill those processes anyway once I get 50 or so tabs open in Firefox.

    I’ve tried a lot of options, but Xfce seems like a really good balance for me. It’s highly configurable, and it makes it very easy to switch things like compositing on and off and set keybinds and whatnot. And their Whisker Menu is a nice feature.

    My older PC is a bit more basic: CWM (openbsd-cwm) and pdmenu with just a few keybinds. I did end up installing PCManFM as a file manager there, but more often than not I’ll just use Ranger, since I’m already in a terminal.

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

    I live in the browser, so I’d have to say Mozilla Firefox/Iceweasel. SeaMonkey has also been useful, especially since I run about 40 plugins in Firefox and sometimes it gets too bogged down. I also have Chromium, but only for testing, and to use a couple of extensions that aren’t available for Firefox. Given the insane advances in web technology in the past few years, including things like Create.JS and Web Audio and the crazy things that Echo Nest has been doing, I can really see even moving things like the digital audio workstation into the browser within the next couple of years.

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

    Mainly a Toshiba Portege R700. Inxi says it’s a dual core i5, max 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM, and a 320GB HDD. I also have an older Satellite, with a single-core (wow) AMD 64-bit processor and 4GB RAM. As for peripherals, I basically just have USB mice and some decent speakers; no external monitors or anything. And some backup drives.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Absolutely! This is on the Portege, both workspaces. There are many more screenshots from various devices up at http://zacanger.deviantart.com.

Zac Anger's desktop

Interview conducted June 15, 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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