John came to Arch through Antergos, realizing Arch isn’t that bad to install. One of the tougher things about Linux is the lack of a middle. There are lots of beginner-friendly distributions and lots of tough ones, but it’s hard to find the right path from easy to hard. The more user-friendly rolling distributions, like Antergos and Sabayon are probably good next-steps, but it would be nice if there was something that required some manual configuration, but also somehow bailed the user out if they got stuck. Although I think I’m describing more of a game show than a distribution.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is John Smithies and I’m Managing Editor of The Epoch Times UK. The Epoch Times is an independent international newspaper with editions in 21 languages in 35 countries across five continents. The cornerstones of the paper are integrity and truthfulness in reporting. We uphold universal human values, rights, and freedoms. Epoch Times staff have a commitment to objective reporting and socially responsible business practices, as well as respect for human rights and freedom.
Why do you use Linux?
I briefly tried Linux many years ago and hated it. I was using OS X at the time and couldn’t understand why you had to use the command line to achieve anything of substance. I also couldn’t get with the concept of repositories as a way to install software because I was used to being able to simply download a package and double-click it.
I re-evaluated it a few years ago after I became interested in Bitcoin. Open source is fundamental to Bitcoin because you need to know what is happening with software when you’re dealing with money. Seeing Richard Stallman speak also really crystallized my opinions about the importance of free and open software and I began the process of replacing all my OS X apps with libre alternatives. From there it was an easy realization that I could dispense with Apple altogether and switch to Linux.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I run Arch. I heard good things about it when I was looking to switch to Linux but I was intimidated by its stripped back approach. I installed Antergos and loved it—mainly, I now realize, because of GNOME3 and Numix. The problem with Antergos is that you still don’t really know what’s going on with your install, which is kind of in opposition to the “Arch Way.”
At one point my computer wouldn’t boot after an update, so I felt it was time to try installing Arch myself. Turns out it’s not as hard as I thought. It forced me to genuinely understand what was going on under the hood.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I’ve tried KDE and Xfce but always come back to GNOME. It’s just the most fully-realized of the lot. That’s not to say it’s perfect—you need to tweak it using extensions and icon packs. But it’s definitely the most “together.”
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
I guess Yaourt because it gives me easy access to the Arch User Repository, which is really one of the best things about Arch.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
An Intel NUC in an Akasa passively-cooled case, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD. I used to have a higher spec machine but I realized I simply don’t run anything too processor-intensive to demand it. For years I wanted a completely silent computer and finally I’ve got it.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
I keep tweaking my desktop, so I imagine in a few months it’ll change again. I’m also aware of the ubiquity of Numix and Arc but, well, they are widespread for a reason.
Interview conducted September 15, 2015