Christine makes a great point that the question I ask about essential Linux software is increasingly less significant as so much of the same free and open software is available across operating systems. Christine is also an Xfce user who likes it because it stays out of the way. I don’t think there’s a greater compliment to pay a desktop environment.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Christine Hall. These days I publish the website FOSS Force, where I’m also the editor and a writer. Other than that, not much of anything, which means I really need to get a life. I live in an old rented farmhouse in rural North Carolina, where I’ve had the same roommate, whose name is also Christine, for the past eighteen years. Needless to say, we get along well.
Why do you use Linux?
It all started in 2002. I’d been wanting to try operating systems other than MS-DOS and Windows, which was all I’d ever used. I had been reading up on Linux and open source for about two years or so. As an old dyed-in-the-wool counter-cultural hippie (actually, we called ourselves “freaks” back in the day; only the press and tourists called us “hippies”) the philosophy behind free and open source software appealed to me—the notion of sharing and giving back to the community and all that.
Then one day I found myself roaming the aisles of Best Buy, looking for something or another—this was back in ancient times when stores still sold shrink wrapped software—when I ran across a boxed copy of Mandrake 9.0, the Power Pack edition containing tons of software, for 70 bucks or so. I shelled out the bucks, installed it on the white box I was running at the time, and never looked back. By the time 9.1 was released, I’d discovered Cheap Bytes, which ended my paying retail, and not long after that, broadband became available, which brought an end to needing to find install disks at all.
The simple answer I use Linux: because it’s who I am. Obviously, as a journalist covering free and open source software, it’s still all about the FOSS philosophy and not handing over bucks, which is handing over power, to corporations that already exercise too much power over our lives. Beyond that, it’s also because Linux is bulletproof stable and secure, and a much better platform for running the software I use than the two big, proprietary platforms. Also, because it’s mine, not just because I have the source code—for which I have no personal need—but because there’s nothing hidden from me and I can configure my system any way I want. Granted, with FOSS Force taking up more of my time these days, I no longer have the time to customize my system that I once did, but I still make tweaks to improve my work flow.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
On my main desktop, I use Linux Mint 17.1, Rebecca. My main laptop, a 64-bit machine, is running Mint 17.2 Rafaela. The laptop got updated from Rebecca so I could write a review, but the desktop never got upgraded because it’s a 32-bit machine and would require another download, which I haven’t had the time to do. I have another laptop running Bodhi, which might be my favorite distro, but I can be more productive with Mint.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Xfce. I first looked at Xfce because of its reputation for being relatively lightweight and I’d rather my computer put its processing power to use working for me rather than drawing pretty stuff and keeping a lot of bells and whistles at my beck and call. Beyond that, however, I really like Xfce. It has a simple straight forward design that has more features that I need and doesn’t get in the way of me performing my work—which is my whole purpose for sitting at a keyboard all day in the first place.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
First of all, what is Linux software? The day has long passed when most of the software we consider “Linux software” runs only on the *Nixes. Up until around 2013, I maintained a Windows system for a retail store, and for the last five years or so I had GnuCash on it so they could do their books, as well as GIMP. I also installed Bluefish on it for my own use. These days I still use GnuCash to do my books, and Bluefish as my text editor of choice. Other than utilities and command line tools, there’s little difference between my computer and what you’ll find on your garden variety Windows setup. I do most of my work in a browser (Chrome), use Thunderbird for email, LibreOffice for work, etc… I guess the “Linux software” I use most is GIMP, when working with images that will end up on FOSS Force.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
Right now I’m using an old 32-bit HP that was gifted to me, running AMD Athlon quad four at 2.3 GHz with 4GB RAM.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Interview conducted December 20, 2015