The Linux Setup – James Permenter, Systems Engineer

James reached out to me through the contact form and I’m so grateful! When I looked at James’ screenshot, I thought ‘That looks like CrunchBang! So it’s nice to see the design aesthetic of that distribution living on. I’m also glad that James, who works in cyber security, says Linux is relatively secure. Like James says, you can never take security for granted, but all things being equal, it’s nice to use something that’s relatively tough to compromise.

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

    My name is James Permenter, all-around Unix geek, tinkerer, and programmer. By day I work for a cyber security company called PhishLabs as a Linux systems/infrastructure engineer and by night I can be found hacking away on embedded systems, firmware, playing with kernels and learning anything and everything I can for fun and profit.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I started using Linux as a teenager after meeting a group of people online who, like me, were interested in writing bots for the popular point-and-click game Runescape. I was walked through how to install Mandriva and the painful Java setup, and began working on automating my leveling efforts via a package called xautomation. After that, I branched out and started learning all I could about this OS, and I became hooked.

    Linux for me was, and still is, this giant box of Legos that allows me to build essentially anything I want; it’s total freedom. I’ve been fortunate enough to have built my career around the knowledge and skills gained by having fun all these years and have used a Linux operating system for work and play ever since.

    As a security professional I should also point out that while no system is 100% secure, the fine people that work on Linux make it a huge priority to patch vulnerabilities before just about anyone, and the community puts a lot of care into the overall security of its systems, definitely a contributing factor to my using it.

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

    I’ve been a distro hopper for years but for some time now I’ve been using a Debian derivative called BunsenLabs, which is a fork of the now-defunct CrunchBang distribution that I started with originally.

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

    I use Xfce with Openbox and tint2 on top which is the default configuration for BunsenLabs. Despite having relatively beefy specs on my machines, I’m very stingy with my computing resources and love simplistic, lightweight distrubutions. I get queasy around systems that use around 1GB RAM or more to run at idle.

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

    Just one is tough but I’d have to hands down say Vi(m) with various development plugins:

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

    I spend most of my time on my ThinkPad T450s with Intel i7-5600U (4) @ 3.2GHz and 12GB RAM.

  2. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?


Interview conducted November 16, 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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