The Linux Setup – Kev Quirk, Cyber Security

Kev uses the phrase “Linux pragmatist” as a shorthand for people who like Linux as a tool, but are perhaps less interested in the politics of free and open source software. I often wonder where I fit in on that scale. I love the openness of Linux, but I use it because it works so well for me. I love the philosophy of Linux but it’s also an amazing piece of technology. I suppose Kev’s point is that Linux works on a few levels.

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

    My name is Kev Quirk and I am a cyber security professional from the UK. I’m currently working as a Cyber Security Incident Response Lead for a global financial institution. Aside from this, I’m a lover of animals, motorbikes and of course, Linux/FOSS.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I’ve been using Linux for around 10 years now. The first distro I installed was Ubuntu 08.04 Hardy Heron. I originally started using Linux out of nothing more than interest. I was pretty good with Windows, and was working as a Windows server admin at the time, so I wanted to learn something new. It was only later that a lot of the advantages of open source became clear—when I first started, I didn’t even know what free and open source software was.

    I would class myself as a Linux pragmatist, rather than a Linux idealist. I use Linux because the workflow better suits my needs. I love the flexibility that the OS provides. The community, openness and lack of malware is a bonus. 🙂

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

    I’m currently running Ubuntu MATE 18.04.

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

    I’ve always loved the GNOME 2 workflow, so when GNOME went to version 3, I lost my way a little. From there I tried Unity, Cinnamon, Xfce, Elementary, Budgie, and many more. None really worked for me, so I actually went back to Windows for a while. I did try MATE, but I initially felt it wasn’t a mature product. I did always keep a Linux partition on my machines, but Windows tended to be my go-to OS for a period of time.

    Anyway, fast forward a couple of years and I replaced Windows 10 with Ubuntu MATE 16.04 and never looked back. It was perfect. So I’ve been blissfully using Ubuntu MATE ever since.

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

    I conciously try not to be dependant on one particular piece of software, but if I had to pick, I’d say Firefox. Most things can be accomplished in a good web browser these days. Webmail, no problem. For document editing you can use Zoho docs, or Google if you’re inclined that way (although LibreOffice is my preference if it’s available).

    Aside from Firefox, I would say the applications I use the most would be a text editor (in my case Pluma), the terminal, and Inkscape/GIMP (I enjoy graphic design as a hobby). My needs are pretty simple, which allows me to have a lot of freedom over which distro/OS I use. Although, I’m not much of a distro-hopper these days.

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

    I have two main machines. My laptop (which is my daily driver) is a ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It’s an awesome bit of kit that works superbly well with Linux. It’s a Core i7 with 8GB RAM, Intel 4400 GPU and a 256GB SSD.

    My desktop is a custom-built jobby that I tend to use more for graphical stuff, as it has my WACOM tablet plugged in to it. That machine has an AMD FX-6300, a Radeon RX 560, 16GB RAM, a 128GB SSD for my OS and a 1TB HDD for data. It’s no powerhouse by modern standards, but it’s great for my needs.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure. Attached is a screenshot from my ThinkPad (my desktop UI is exactly the same). It’s Ubuntu MATE 18.04 with the Apapta GTK theme, Papirus icon theme and a Plank dock. The background image is my own little homage to the man himself: Linus Torvalds.

Interview conducted July 31, 2018; desktop screenshot updated February 7, 2019, at request of subject


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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