The Linux Setup – John Been, Engineer

John’s enthusiasm comes through clearly here. John is an Apple refugee who really appreciates the Linux life. I love all of the photography stuff John handles with Linux. I’m not much of a photo person, but my sense of things is that Linux is handling serious photo work better and better. It’s great to hear that confirmed. And just as a reminder, John contacted me through the web form. If you’d like to be interviewed, please drop me a line. I love hearing from people!

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

    Hi there! My name is John Been. I live, together with my wife and our cat, in a small city in the north of the Netherlands. In 1997 my wife and I both completed our masters Business Economics at the VU University of Amsterdam, where I specialized in Administrative Information Science, the IT side of business administration. At the moment I work as a senior development engineer for a large financial institution where I am involved in translating requirements into working IT solutions. But in this interview for “The Linux Setup” I will not focus on my professional life, because we hardly use open source software there, although it is getting a bit better. I’d rather focus on using Linux and open source software for my personal projects, my Linux-oriented website www.reallinuxuser.com and the book that I am writing with the working title Linux for Humans. In addition to my interest in everything related to information technology, I am also passionate about landscape photography, writing, drawing, learning, web development, video editing, and integrating this with my interest in Linux and open source software.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I have not always been a Linux user. I switched to using Linux as my daily driver only a few years ago. Before that I had been a very satisfied user of the OS X (now macOS) operating system for more than 10 years. But due to increasing hardware issues with my iMac, and the fact that my loyal-but-old MacBook was no longer supported by Apple, I looked for something different. I did not want to invest again in a new, inflexible integrated iMac and the Apple ecosystem with correspondingly high prices. And because I felt a bit adventurous at that moment, I decided to build my own Linux workstation. I also replaced OS X on my old-but-technically-still-working MacBook with Linux. Both systems were running Linux Mint and from that moment on I couldn’t have been happier. That migration to Linux on my MacBook and my new workstation opened my eyes for what is possible with Linux and open source software. I experienced the speed, flexibility and stability of Linux. I experienced the fantastic diversity of powerful open source software solutions. I experienced the willingness of the Linux community to help others. And I experienced the new journey of discovery that revived my old passion for computers and software.

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

    I like to have separate systems for different goals. For my serious personal projects, such as my landscape photography, my Linux website, my web design, my study and my book-in-progress for people who just want to be productive with Linux, I prefer stable machines. On these production machines, a custom-build Intel i7 desktop and a Dell Latitude E7450 laptop, I run Linux Mint 19 with the Cinnamon desktop environment. Lots of people in the Linux community say that Linux Mint is good for beginners, but in my opinion it is also great for power users that are less interested in the technology but more in the stability and out-of-the-box experience and that runs their software flawlessly. On the other hand, for creating my articles for my website, I try out lots of open source software solutions and different Linux distributions. Because of this changing of distributions, software and settings can sometimes lead to an unstable or crashing system. For this reason, I prefer to experiment on separate machines. For these experiments I use an old Core 2 Duo Dell Precision T3400 and my previously-described old MacBook, on which I do a lot of distro hopping and installation and removal of software. Currently this Dell precision runs Elementary OS and the MacBook runs Deepin and despite their age they run surprisingly well.

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

    It is not possible to choose one single Linux distribution and one single desktop environment that is best for every user. That is why I like it that there are so many different options for different kinds of users and situations. We are all different, so having the freedom to choose is great, but can also make things difficult for beginners. On my website and in my upcoming book I try to distinguish between a number of personas, and see which desktop environment fits them best, like the eye candy lover, the macOS switcher, the Windows switcher, the minimalist, the tweaker and the practical user. For my production machines I consider myself the practical user and I think the Cinnamon desktop is the best fit for that. On these machines I don’t do a lot of tinkering. These machines must help me to be productive and that’s what Linux Mint Cinnamon is doing for me. But on my other machines, I like to try new things and I must say that I like the beauty of the Deepin desktop environment.

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

    Landscape photography is my passion. In my Apple days I relied on Adobe Lightroom for my photography workflow. Now as a Linux and open source lover, I don’t have Lightroom at my disposal, but when it comes to image editing under Linux, I am not disappointed. A surprisingly large number of high quality RAW editors are available for Linux, such as RAWTherapee, GTKRAWgallery and Lightzone. But anyone who appreciates a clear and professional workflow for importing, rating, editing, synchronizing, presenting, printing and exporting, can hardly ignore the application Darktable, being color managed, offering a smart and professional setup, and providing an enormous range of high-quality development modules. In my opinion Darktable is a must-have in your serious or professional photography workflow. But for my website and book I use a lot of other tools as well. LibreOffice and GIMP are very important, but the simple-but-feature-rich screenshot application Shutter is indispensable. And my love for the Vivaldi browser is growing.

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

    As said before, I have not always been a Linux user. I only started using Linux a few years ago after I had been a very satisfied user of the Apple ecosystem for more than a decade. But due to increasing hardware issues I looked for something different. So I decided to custom build a relatively powerful Core i7 16GB Linux workstation with a simple GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB dedicated graphics card. The system has a 250GB Samsung EVO SSD internal drive for the operating system and internal data drives of 1, 2 and 4TB. Further there is a 3TB external drive for my photos, a RAIDON 2-bay 3TB RAID 1 system for my backups and a Synology DS216J Network Attached Storage Device. I also use a Dell Latitude E7450 Core i5 laptop with 16GB RAM, a Dell Precision T3400 Core 2 Duo workstation with 6GB RAM, and a MacBook Core 2 Duo Late 2008 laptop with 4GB RAM.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Yes of course! Here is my Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop with my favorite application, Darktable, showing one of my landscape photographs created in my favorite country, Iceland.

Interview conducted November 15, 2018


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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