Tai brings up an interesting point about supporting newer Linux users. You need to use what they’re using in the way that they use it. For him, that means Unity. One thing I’ve been wrapping my head around as I work on my book is how you teach something like Linux—which is so flexible and customizable—without being overly prescriptive. The thing that makes Linux so amazing to use can also make it challenging to teach and introduce to people. But it’s great that its open nature makes it something you can teach to people. Tai points out that you can’t learn proprietary software until you have it, so how and when do you learn it?
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Tai Kedzierski. I am an employed programmer by day and a freelance IT consultant and tech support specialist in my spare time, focusing on bringing Linux desktop tech support and VPS/server administration to small businesses here in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am looking at reviving the Gitso project as I notice it hasn’t seen much love of late, but it would be an essential tool for any open source-based tech support workflow.
My dearest wish for desktop Linux is to see it become a default option with high-street vendors, and for a distro maker to have real clout with PC OEMs. Until then, I focus on providing what I think is hard to come by for small businesses: a desktop and IT support service with Linux and open source technologies in mind, and self-reliant cloud (VPS) solutions.
Why do you use Linux?
On the desktop I use Linux because I care about controlling what applications are installed on my personal computing device. My parents have been long-time Mac users since 1987, and I followed suit by default until a few years ago. But with the rise of the “servicification” of all bundled software, and “appliancification” of nearly every piece of hardware on the consumer market, I have found my ability to actually decide my own workflow to be severely hindered on Mac and Windows. Using Linux allows me to keep control of my computing experience, from the UI to the apps, and whether to be heavily online-based or not.
On the server side, I use Linux because it’s the most complete and explorable system for servers freely available. Not only that, but nearly every business use-case has an open source package in the default repository which forms my base web of trust: it is enough to contend with bugs in software in general, I don’t want to also have to wear a tinfoil hat when prospecting for a new solution. If it’s not in a curated repo, I need to do added research before adding a new provider—it takes time background checking solutions and sometimes even reading code, but I stay safe this way.
It’s also great for learning about business computing without paying for courses or slaving away at dubious internships. I use real business software, without having to have a Harvard budget, or prior experience. Seriously—how do people learn proprietary solutions before getting hired to work with them?
Finally, I find Linux much easier to manage both from a home user and a server administration side, most acutely felt at work when we’re continually bumping each other inadvertently off RDP sessions—Linux being able to be fully multi-user and headless is fantastic in this regard; and many scheduling and automation tools are included out of the box. GNU!
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I don’t tend to waver too far from the staple distros these days. On my laptop I run Ubuntu 14.04 at the moment. I’m looking askance at Fedora and wondering whether to run a spell with it.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Right now I run Ubuntu Unity, because Canonical is doing a good job of getting their flagship distro in with OEMs, and since one of my activities is tech support for non-technical business users, I feel it is only right to use what the average user will most likely see. When my dad calls me up about a problem on his Mac, I can give him support without even having OS X in front of me, owing to the number of years I have been exposed to Mac at home. I could be walking in the countryside and still provide support for a Mac office workflow!
With this in mind, I want to ensure I have the same familiarity with the most widespread OEM-supported distro. It so happens this is Ubuntu with Unity, but if another distro becomes the king in laptop and desktop OEM deployments, I will most likely switch to that. Fedora is a strong contender in this respect, and would lead me to eventually investigating a full GNOME 3 workflow as well.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
As for everyone, it’s hard to put a single piece of software on the pedestal, but for me having Bash and the full set of GNU tools is a must—as such the first thing I install on a new machine is a hypervisor.
So Bash and GNU I guess. And VirtualBox.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
My main laptop now is a Lenovo Flex 15. I use Lenovo machines because I know they’re generally a safe bet for running Linux with full driver support. I also have an Acer netbook that runs test builds of ISOs as well as being the kitchen media player.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Sure. Though it’s nothing exciting. As mentioned before, I usually coast pretty close to vanilla as possible, to stay close to what average users will end up with.
Interview conducted June 15, 2015