The Linux Setup – Larry Cafiero, Freelance Writer

Larry has a great coming-to-Linux story. In general, I love when people come to Linux out of a need. In Larry’s case, it was a need for non-proprietary software to replace the expensive Adobe stuff. Larry is also an Xfce user. He makes the point that Xfce is good for new Linux users and he’s totally right. I just put Xubuntu on an old laptop for my dad and he was good to go right after I got his wireless working. He understood Xfce immediately and didn’t need any coaching. Xfce is old-school, but so are lots of computer users (myself included…).

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

    I’m Larry Cafiero. I’m a freelance writer by profession at the moment, after walking away from 37 years of working in the news media. In the Free/Open Source Software realm, I’m first and foremost the publicity chairperson for the Southern California Linux Expo, as well as a columnist writing commentary for FOSS Force. In my capacity as a freelancer, I’ve written for the Open Compute Project and Penguin Computing, among others. I live among the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains just northeast of Santa Cruz, California, in a small town called
    Felton.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    The short answer is I use Linux for the freedom that Free/Open Source Software provides. I use Linux and FOSS on principle—the principle that software should belong to those who contribute to its development and, ultimately, it should belong to all who wish to use it and make it better. Looking back, we’ve come a long way in the nine years I’ve been using Linux, to a point where now anyone can use it.

    My introduction to Linux and FOSS may be different than that of many others. I was a Mac guy from the early days, and in 2006 I was nominated to run for Insurance Commissioner in California by the Green Party. I just missed being elected by a margin of about 46 percent of the vote, but that’s another story. Because the Greens don’t take corporate donations, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough money to buy software—like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and the like—to make campaign materials. The Green Party’s IT/web guy told me about Free/Open Source Software and explained the equivalents to proprietary software. I was hooked. After the campaign, I switched to advocating for Free/Open Source Software, and my first distro was Debian on PowerPC (a flavored iMac), followed by Xubuntu for PowerPC before ultimately switching to Intel-based hardware.

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

    I do a great majority of my computing on a laptop, and my distro of choice on my main workhorse is Korora. Korora is a Fedora remix, meaning it ships packages from the default Fedora repositories, but it also includes a number of other packages—often ones that Fedora cannot ship directly (and the ones that make much of the Internet work right out of the box, like some media codecs and some proprietary software). Korora is an Australian distro developed primarily by Ian Firns, Chris Smart, Jim Dean, and Maik Adamietz. Under their leadership, the Korora team puts out a great distro that releases a month or two after Fedora (Korora 22, based on Fedora 22, should be out sometime soon).

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

    I use Xfce. I’ve used KDE in the past from time to time, but I always come back to Xfce. It has always been reliable, with its consistently simple menu-driven interface on a traditional desktop. For users new to Linux, it’s familiar ground because the icons live on the desktop.

    Other desktops—like GNOME and Unity—have imprisoned their icons on one side of the screen. Also, Xfce has maintained its reputation as a lightweight desktop, though not as lightweight as it once was, but that really can’t be helped as time marches on.

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

    As a freelance writer, my work world pretty much revolves around LibreOffice, which in my opinion is far and away the best office suite, bar none. It’s important to me for the simple reason that it helps me get the work done, period. As a writer, the best feature is that LibreOffice 4.4 works very well in converting my documents into those which have to be handled by Word on Macs and Windows-based machines. On the flip side of that proverbial equation, I’ve had little trouble handling Windows- and Mac-based Word documents sent to me, which is often. Another example is this: Conversions from Impress to PowerPoint have been fairly painless as well. The fact that the LibreOffice team has brought this suite up to speed so quickly is phenomenal, and when people ask me to point out an example of which FOSS project is a success story, it’s easy to point to LibreOffice.

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

    I’m a ThinkPad guy, and I have several, but my main workhorse is a ThinkPad T500, maxed out with 8GB of RAM and a Western Digital 500GB hard drive. The cover, of course, is covered in stickers like a NASCAR race car, but then that’s to be expected.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    This is the desktop on my “road warrior” ThinkPad T500. It’s not very exciting, but it’s one of my favorite places. It’s a photo of Mount Shasta taken by photographer Will Elliott, who I met through CrunchBang channels several years ago. You can find a lot of Will’s work on the CrunchBang forums here. I normally stop at Mount Shasta when I’m driving to Portland for OSCON or to Bellingham for LinuxFest Northwest. The desktop itself is Xfce 4.12 using the Greybird style and the icons are Elementary Xfce Dark. I made the bottom panel transparent so the icons in the panel stand out and look like they’re part of the desktop itself.

Larry Cafiero's desktop

Interview conducted June 16, 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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