Mark and I connected because of the live distribution he’s working on. Most writers are perfect candidates for Linux. Every distribution has a web browser and word processor of some kind. Plus, it seems more and more publishers are getting away from Word-dependent formats. Or, at the very least, they’re open to the idea that people use other tools. Writing is a craft and craftspeople should get to choose their own tools. A curated distribution for writers could be helpful in transitioning new users to Linux.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Mark Binner and I live near Manchester, England. I used to be an ICT Technician for a local council serving the ICT needs of about 90 primary schools. I left at the end 2012 because I had become so jaded with doing the same thing every day. Computers had stopped being fun. I started learning about the ins and outs of ebooks. I now format books for a small publishing company based in London. I contributed a 6,000-word chapter to a book on self-publishing. Besides that, I am working on a live Linux setup aimed at writers of all kinds.
Why do you use Linux?
I started using Linux mainly out of curiosity. A friend bought me a Linux magazine with a cover disc of SuSE Linux version 6, I think. I tried it and liked it, although it was quite clunky by today’s standards. I enjoyed the sheer novelty of it and it really appealed to the maverick in me. I’ve never liked being a sheep. The dictatorial attitudes of Microsoft and Apple stink, to be frank. I agree with Linus Torvalds when he said Apple has now become ‘the evil empire.’ I am really impressed by the whole open-source spirit of cooperation; it amazes me how well it works. I wish the rest of the world worked like that—we’d all be better off.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
After a lot of distro-hopping—SuSE, Ubuntu, MEPIS, Debian, Fedora, and more—I found and loved Linux Mint, which I’ve been using for a few years now. I like a proper menu. The Unity desktop wouldn’t work for me.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I settled on MATE as the best combination of looks and performance. None of my computers are high-spec and that’s fine for most of my needs.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
The one thing I would struggle without now is Thunderbird; I use it daily. It’s a great email client and with the Lightning calendar add-on it is even more useful. Saying that, almost all the software I use and like runs on both Linux and Windows. I think this was a big factor in the ease-of-transition from XP to Linux Mint. RipperX might come a close second though.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I have a very old Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop with 1GB RAM dual-booting Mint 17.3 MATE 32-bit edition and Windows XP Pro from a single 500GB HDD. It’s so slow I think it’s powered by a hamster on a wheel.
There is a desktop PC with 2GB RAM, 320GB HDD and a Pentium Dual-Core 2GHz CPU running the same version of Mint. This is my workhorse, if you like.
My highest spec PC has 4GB RAM, two 1TB HDDs and a Pentium Dual-Core 2.8GHz CPU. One drive runs Windows XP Pro and the other is Xubuntu 14.04 LTS, which I use as a part-time server. I test Linux distros in Virtualbox on the XP system, which is no longer connected to the Internet.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
The background is a photo I took of an eclipse a few months ago. I added a texture using GIMP.
Interview conducted February 4, 2016