The Linux Setup – Kevin Purdy, Wirecutter

I know Kevin from his Lifehacker work, where he was always very pro-Linux. He continues to work with Linux, which is what he writes about here. It’s always cool to see an Elementary user out in the wild (although Kevin does give Xfce some love). But as Kevin points out, a strength of Linux is that you can always ignore the desktop environment and get a ton done in the terminal.

You can find more of The Linux Setup here.

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

    My name is Kevin Purdy, and I’m a writer. I work for Wirecutter, a New York Times site that recommends the best products for most people.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    The most honest answer is that I love to tinker with things. Beyond that, I want to support and help improve open-source software, and I keep learning more about Unix-type systems and how they work by installing and fixing desktops. And, lately, I’ve come to appreciate that a good Linux desktop doesn’t offer as many distractions (read: games and notifications) as a Windows or Mac system.

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

    I used to dual-boot Ubuntu with Windows 10 on my desktop, but then something went terribly wrong and getting a working system back was painful. So I bought myself more RAM and now run Elementary OS in VirtualBox on my Windows desktop. My work laptop is a Mac, and I dare not mess with it too much, so I sometimes use a Chromebook (the 2015 Toshiba model with the upgraded Intel processor), and run an Ubuntu-based Xfce4 desktop through Crouton on that.

    Now that I see the next question, I realize the answer is actually: Ubuntu, always.

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

    I used to dislike Elementary OS for all the, shall we say, “nerfing” it did to users. But now I kind of appreciate that the desktop always looks pretty slick, and it’s hard to munge it into the ugly beast I probably want. Same thing with Xfce4; sometimes it’s a good thing to keep it simple.

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

    This is a cop-out, but really: terminal. Terminal (maybe more accurately SSH) lets me work on my personal site at Github Pages, gives me my secret favorite email interface (Mutt), allows me to focus my writing in Vim, and offers me the power to update my system without having to click a bunch of things and wait for progress bars to fill up.

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

    As mentioned, I’ve got a Crouton (a chroot) running on a 2015 Toshiba Chromebook. Elementary OS is running inside VirtualBox (for now) on a three-year-old desktop that has gotten incremental upgrades.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Attached! The Crouton desktop (Xfce4) is intentionally untouched. The Elementary OS is obviously arranged for your benefit, but that’s a typical workday setup. The wallpaper is a screenshot from the game Firewatch.

Interview conducted December 20, 2017


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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