The Linux Setup – Bob Keefer, Writer

People tend to either run to Linux or run from another operating system. Bob ran from Windows and never looked back. He lost some photos in a Windows crash and that brought him to Linux. I often get frustrated when people talk about how particular and unstable Linux can be, when that’s my experience with most operating systems. To a certain extent, they’re all particular and wonky. What’s great about Linux is that it gives us the tools to correct the wonkiness. And it’s a great landing spot if you’re coming from Windows or OS X.

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  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My name is Bob Keefer. I am a photographer and arts writer in Creswell, Oregon, near Eugene. I make and exhibit hand-colored black and white landscape photographs, which you can see at, and I write about the arts world in and around Eugene at

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Because it’s so much better than anything from Microsoft or Apple: simpler, cleaner, more reliable, and more secure.

    After I’d been working for years on Windows at home and on OS X in the newsroom, a friend mentioned Linux. I had an outdated laptop sitting around that Windows had pretty well gummed up, so I installed Ubuntu. And, as some other corporation used to say, it just worked.

    It took me a few years to take the full plunge. I used Adobe Lightroom for my photography for a long time—it’s a pretty good single program for everything from indexing and tagging photos to cleaning them up and printing them—and my quick research convinced me that the Linux world offered no acceptable substitute. So I stayed with Windows and Lightroom.

    In mid-2015, Lightroom began to crash my Windows 8 installation, and I ended up losing a bunch of photos, as in gone forever. This turned my head around a bit, and I went back to looking more carefully at what was available in the Linux world for serious photographers. It turns out that, once you learn how to use it, an open-source Lightroom work-alike called Darktable is better than Lightroom in a lot of ways.

    In August I nuked the hard drives on my Windows desktop and laptop and started over. I’ve been very happy ever since.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    Ubuntu 14.04.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    Whatever comes with Ubuntu. Unity? It works, and I’m not interested in a lot of tinkering.

  5. What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?

    I ended up replacing Lightroom, which is not available for Linux, with four separate pieces of free and open-source software: Rapid Photo Downloader, for getting files off my cameras and onnto the computer; DigiKam, for tagging and indexing and rating those photos; Darktable, for developing the RAW files into beautiful images; and the GIMP, with Gutenprint drivers, for printing those files onto my Epson wide format 7600 printer, a fine old piece of machinery for which neither Epson nor Microsoft no longer publishes printing drivers (talk about designed obsolescence).

    This software chain is important because it produces the work I sell in art galleries.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    Someday I may own a hot rod computer. Meanwhile my desktop is a plain vanilla HP Pavilion, running a slow AMD chip, and my laptop is a ThinkPad x130e. I replaced the internal hard drives in each machine with solid state drives, and that pepped things up quite a bit.

    If I shot a lot of events—which I don’t—and had to edit hundreds of images a day, I’d buy faster hardware in a heartbeat. For now, Linux works faster on my old computers than Windows ever did.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Gladly. The photo on my desktop is from a series I’m working on about the cultural role of the forest in the Northwest; it was taken at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, east of Eugene, where work by scientists in the 1960s and 1970s first demonstrated the biological value of old growth forests—a realization that ultimately changed the entire timber industry.

Bob Keefer's desktop

Interview conducted June 12, 2016

The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

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