I found Matthew on reddit, telling a story about how Linux got him out of a tough jam. I reached out and here we are! It should be unsurprising that a user experience designer is very interested in the aesthetics of the desktop experience. What’s nice about so many Linux distributions is that tweaking the appearance is really just a matter of choosing from a few menus. Changing the look of your Linux desktop is very doable. Unless you use GNOME, which is committed to the stock look. Which I happen to like. Matthew hints at getting interested in KDE, and if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on his eventually finding his way there.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Matthew Scheuerman. I’m a user experience designer. For the past year I’ve been focused on creating a SASS/CSS/HTML/Tokens/Native web components toolkit for an enterprise level design system. I’ve had a hand in creating user interface (UI)/web designs in Adobe Photoshop/XD, Sketch, and Balsamiq, but right now I’m more focused on code, atomic-level design, user experience strategy, and implementing a design system.
- Why do you use Linux?
Freedom of choice and user interfaces. In recent years, GUIs of Linux distros, desktop environments, and window managers have grown and have started to resemble the kinds of fantasy UIs we see in movies/games. I saw a lot of fantasy user interfaces like these inside /r/unixporn. With few exceptions, trying to to get Windows/Mac to resemble these kind of slick interfaces is extremely difficult. Trying to get Mac/Windows to utilize a consistently dark UI across multiple applications or trying to control things as simple of the placement of the application close button is nearly impossible. With many Linux distros, you can control of how your environment looks and behaves right out of the box. Window snapping/tiling and window management is horrible in Windows/Mac’s current operating systems. With Cinnamon on Linux Mint, I was snapping windows and moving around workspaces within a day. Just a bit ago I started ricing my own theme as well.
I also wanted to learn Linux. I started to use Mac’s terminal at work, and started to experiment with Raspberry Pis. Switching to Linux for my main distro became a natural progression. I had first seen Linux when one of my two best friends (we’re the Three Amigos), showed me Red Hat Linux 3. I blame some of my interest in Linux on him. Right after college I tried Obi-Wan College Linux, but I couldn’t run it as my main desktop distro. Now I have three Raspberry Pis, and two PCs running Linux Mint, another that runs Linux Mint Mate, and a server that runs Ubuntu. Most of these have been set-up in the last six months.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I run Linux Mint and probably will for a while. I really like Ubuntu but I really liked some of the “out of the box” UI options that Linux Mint gave me. Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, it gave a beginning user like me a great software manager to get started. Now apt-get has become second nature to me, and there’s a lot of great software written for Ubuntu.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I really like Cinnamon on Linux Mint. I tried a bunch of a WMs for it but eventually settled on the default: Muffin. i3/i3-gaps and awesomewm called my name for a bit but it was much easier to get up and running with something a little more GUI based when I was just starting. I am seeing some really cool UIs with KDE Plasma though…
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
It’s such a hard question to answer, because there are so many tools that are available on Linux, Mac, and Windows, so it’s hard to find something that is only available on Linux. For that, I choose Terminator Terminal. There might be other tools available on all operating systems that work like it, but I find that it is the best multi-terminal tool I’ve tried to date. Whenever I try to show off the kind of cool interfaces Linux can provide, I will run Terminator on top of an animated Komorebi desktop background. This definitely turns heads.
If I was to choose any tool though? Zim Desktop Wiki. I only discovered this because it runs on Linux and showed up in the Software Manager. If I need to remember how to do something or run something in the command line/terminal, I make a note of it there.
I’m really looking forward to trying Akira as a Linux-based SketchApp alternative, when the need arises.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
Lenovo ThinkPad T430 with 8GB RAM. I fell in love with ThinkPads after doing just a basic amount of research. I looked to see which reddit-based laptop community had the most fervent subreddit. It was /r/ThinkPad. I also watched a video from AA Computers and Technology on his YouTube channel about the ThinkPad T430. I was thoroughly impressed with how scalable and upgradable it is. In my opinion it is one of the best ThinkPads made by Lenovo. I fully intend to swap out the screen with a 1920×1080 one and add two more SSD drives, 16GB RAM, an i7, and change out the keyboard. It has a dogfish brand 120GB MSATA drive in the bottom that I added on Christmas morning and it took less than five minutes. I use a docking station when I’m at home that connects to one of my monitors. When I travel, I always carry an HDMI cable with me with a display port adapter. I can connect to the hotel room TV and use it as a giant monitor. Running gotop, atop, and htop on a huge screen looks really cool. It also makes staying in a hotel much more enjoyable. Instead of watching Netflix on my phone, I can just watch Netflix via my Linux machine and do some work on that, or my work laptop. When I’m home, I connect my machine to an EXP GDC Beast eGPU dock through the PCI-E slot on the T430. I’m using an old Sapphire R9 380 card. Despite hearing some crazy things about how difficult it is to run an eGPU on Linux Mint and an AMD-based card, I had it set up in a day. It’s not the best setup but it does allow me to run some games I couldn’t previously play.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Interview conducted March 7, 2019