Nishant has a great setup. He uses Unity by essentially turning off the left-hand navigation bar, which is a great way to preserve real estate (as an aside, I’m glad that bar will be moveable in 16.04). Nishant is also a power Emacs user. Emacs continues to fascinate me, but I can’t find the time to dip my toe in. Also, I’m not sure if you can get anything out of Emacs with just a toe.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Nishant Shukla, and I’m a grad student at UCLA studying Artificial Intelligence. Most of my time is divided between reading research papers or writing experimental code for robotics, computer vision, and machine learning. My weekends often consist of hacking away on personal projects ranging from webapps to hardware. I also really appreciate the Haskell programming language, so I wrote the Haskell Data Analysis Cookbook.
- Why do you use Linux?
I have the utmost respect for the open source philosophy, so GNU/Linux suits me the best. As a computer scientist, transparency and freedom to alter are essential properties for my personal machine. What’s more, the open style of Linux harbors a lively hacker culture.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Currently I run Ubuntu Desktop 15.10 due to the limitations of our robotics platform only being well-supported on Ubuntu. Otherwise, I would naturally choose Arch Linux for its minimalism. There were no driver issues replacing the factory-provided Windows partition with Ubuntu, but that’s partly due to ThinkPad’s loyalty to Linux support. Everything worked out of the box.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Ubuntu’s default Unity needs attention and beautification. I use the Numix icon theme, and remove all icons from the launcher except Chrome. the file manager, and some IDEs. From the Launcher menu, I turn on “Auto-hide”. And lastly, I remove the Amazon spyware shipped with Unity. I do not use a tiling window manager because of my 3K display resolution, which rarely needs window management due to the vast real estate.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
Emacs is my most used software on Linux. I use it for text editing, file browsing, shell replacement, and even sometimes for quickly browsing websites. Every programmer typically has his or her own unique Emacs configuration. The more one modifies it to match one’s needs, the stronger the bond. I’m at a point where I cannot function without my customized Emacs by my side.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
My Thinkpad W550s features a 5th-generation i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, 3K IPS display, and 13 hours of battery life. The most important aspect is actually the battery life, because I enjoy grabbing a table at a coffee shop and hacking away on a project, with or without a power outlet nearby.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Interview conducted November 8, 2015