Ivana has a great take on Linux, from the technological doors it opened for her to the beautiful elegance of KDE. I’m also intrigued by Ivana’s appreciation for MyNotex, note-taking software that doesn’t have a cloud aspect. On the one hand, I love having access to all of my notes across devices. On the other hand, life would be simpler if I didn’t have constant access to them!
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Ivana Isadora Devcic and I’m a writer and translator from Croatia. Currently I have the privilege of contributing to one of my all-time favorite websites—Make Use Of—as a Linux writer. I’m also a core member of “Linux za sve” (Linux For Everyone), a Croatian online community where we provide support to Linux users free of charge. I’ve majored in English and Swedish and should soon complete my MA thesis in translation, but I’ve always enjoyed writing more than anything else. That’s why I decided to combine my love for free & open source software with my writing skills and build a career as a tech writer.
I’m still very much a beginner, but my long-term plans are focused on increasing the use of free & open source software in schools, government institutions, and academia. There are fantastic open source tools that could replace expensive proprietary solutions if people cared enough to make a change. Many fellow humanities majors seem to lack interest in software alternatives, or think it’s “too difficult” to adapt to new apps. The idea is to create content that will educate and engage them, and show them you don’t have to be a computer scientist to use Linux.
Why do you use Linux?
Partly out of habit, partly because I love it. Sounds a bit like marriage, doesn’t it?
Joking aside, I use Linux because it’s incredibly customizable and because it gives me complete freedom to change anything that doesn’t suit me. I can build an operating system perfectly tailored to my needs, with an interface that I can tweak to the tiniest detail and a selection of apps I can install with just a few mouse clicks. When I said habit, I meant that I got so accustomed to the DIY nature of Linux that I can’t imagine myself using anything else. I think I’d feel like a prisoner with an OS that doesn’t let me edit configuration files, keeps system logs hidden away from me, or doesn’t let me customize my desktop beyond changing the accent color.
Another important reason is affordability. True, Linux is free as in freedom, but the majority of Linux distributions are also free as in “you don’t have to purchase a license to use them.” The cost of Windows and OS X has always been high by Croatian standards, so using Linux is the logical—and perfectly legal—choice.
Of course, I wasn’t always a Linux user. My family bought its first computer in 2001, when I was twelve years old, which is comparatively late. The first OS I ever used was Windows Millennium Edition (the news of its horrible reputation reached me many years later). All my friends already had a computer, so I didn’t want to waste any time. I quickly taught myself everything I could about computers. I subscribed to Croatian tech magazines, downloaded tutorials on the painfully slow dial-up connection, printed them, and just kept reading. A year later I wanted to build my own operating system because I wasn’t happy with Windows. It sounds so silly, and it really was ridiculous—I didn’t even know how to program, and I had hand-drawn sketches and mockups of what the OS should look like. Basically, my Linux story is rooted in frustration with Windows.
I found out about Linux in my senior year of high school and tried out some Live CDs. Learning that there actually was an alternative to Windows was truly life-changing. Imagine my relief when I realized that I won’t have to make an entire OS after all! When I got my own computer in the first year of college, I finally installed Linux on it, and never looked back.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Linux Mint 17.2. I’ve been a faithful Mint user pretty much since day one. I tend to stick with LTS releases and just use backports repositories for stuff I want to keep fresh.
In 2009 I briefly switched to Fedora, and I’ve also tried a bunch of other distributions (Chakra, Puppy, Sabayon, PCLOS, Knoppix, Foresight…) including some relatively unknown ones like antiX, Vector Linux, and Igelle. My VirtualBox setup always contains the latest Ubuntu release and whichever other distribution I’m testing or writing about at that moment.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
KDE 4.14.2. Although I’ve tested Plasma 5 and I’m very excited about its progress, I can’t bring myself to abandon the “old” KDE; after all, it serves me so well. The reason I use it is the same reason I use Linux—it’s insanely customizable, and it somehow feels both classic and modern at the same time. I started out as a GNOME user, but switched to KDE after the death of GNOME 2.x.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so
It’s nothing fancy, but I use it every day, so I have to say MyNotex. All my research notes, to-do lists, pitches, article ideas, recipes, and everything else, are in it. You can think of it as an Evernote alternative sans the online service component. There are no mobile apps to sync with or a website clipping tool, but I don’t need all that anyway, so it’s perfect for me. It lets me tag notes, attach files to them, organize them into notebooks, export them and send them via email, plus it has a neat search feature. In short, it’s important to me because it does everything I need without breaking my workflow.
Honorable mention: VirtualBox, without which I would have a hard time testing new distributions and apps.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
Lenovo IdeaPad Z710. It’s a decent desktop replacement, and after some initial hiccups with wireless (thanks, Broadcom) we’re getting along really well. I love the big screen and can’t wait to see it shine in games (as soon as I find the time to play them). I bought this laptop last year because my very first one, a Dell Inspiron 6400, croaked after eight years of use. It still works, though. It just needs a bit of cleaning. I might try to revive it with an SSD and use it as a typewriter, or when I’m traveling.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Sure. I don’t really like having icons on the desktop, but I placed a few up there as a sort of a reminder. The wallpaper is just a random one from my collection; a slideshow rotates images every ten minutes. If anyone cares, the desktop theme is Dynamo Plasma, and the icons are Antu.
Interview conducted February 28, 2016