The Linux Setup – Göktuğ Kayaalp, Student

Göktuğ seems to privilege portability. They’re interested in moving to GuixSD, which uses a single configuration file, making it easier to replicate system set-ups. I recently upgraded from Ubuntu 16.04 (the GNOME spin from before Ubuntu used it by default), to 20.04 and while it didn’t take a long time to reinstall my software, it took a bit of time and made me wish there was some kind of manifest that would let me tell the new install what software to grab. Göktuğ also shares out configurations, including for Emacs, in a public repository, which is very generous. I found Göktuğvia via the contact form. I’m always happy to hear from people about their set-up!

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

    I’m a master’s student in linguistics and a long time programming hobbyist. I’ve been fiddling with computers since I was in elementary school, taught myself programming (or more correctly, learned it off of the internet, mostly), and had a fun time ever since. I was to become a professional programmer, but thanks to some events in my life I’ve decided to pursue an academic career in social sciences. That the way I wound up in a new cohort of folks in social sciences and humanities that have an interest in computing, software freedom, and open science.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    Linux is my main operating system these days. My workstation computer has been running GNU/Linux almost uninterruptedly since 2012, save for a year I—quite happily—used FreeBSD as my main operating system. I originally started playing with Linux as a kid, mostly out of curiosity, but what captivated me and made me a permanent user was how free and open source systems were way more stable and configurable compared to other operating systems, and readily receptive of my (or anyone else’s, for that matter) peculiar use cases and workflows.

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

    Since March 2020 I’ve been running Linux Mint on my laptop as it is very good at plug-and-play, and running apps like Zoom. Before that I used a custom i3wm based desktop on Debian (sometimes on testing), and even before I used the same setup, but with Arch supporting it.

    I’ve recently built a desktop computer, and currently it runs Linux Mint, but in the coming months I wish to move to GuixSD on that system, as I don’t really need to run troublesome software on it or hotplug devices often. GuixSD has many nifty features, like essentially version-controlling your whole OS, with a single configuration file for the whole system, or generating a VM image or install disk for it, with all your packages and configs, all thanks to reproducible builds. It’s awesome, and I believe it’s the best thing to happen to computing since the FOSS releases of 1990s and the introduction of package managers.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
    Currently I run Cinnamon, because I love how it saves its configuration to clear text JSON files under ~/.cinnamon, which I can check-in to my dotfiles repository, besides regularly dumping the dconf database, so that my setup is easily repeatable. I make a lot of use of the gTile extension (Cinnamon extensions are called ‘Spices’ ) for manually tiling windows. It’s not as good as XMonad, but good enough considering all the goodies Cinnamon has to offer, especially for a mobile laptop setup.

  5. What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
    It’s not exactly Linux-specific, but the one piece of software I depend upon is GNU Emacs. It’s my text editor, my collection of notebooks, my custom-made toolbox, and my malleable, cozy workspace.

    As for something that’s actually Linux-specific, I can say distro package managers have been crazy helpful, and I don’t know how I’d live without them, chasing installers around the web, fearing malware, and running seldom-updated software. Package managers like apt/dpkg, pacman, and recently guix, are essential tools for me, as they make for a repeatable, reliable, trustworthy, safe working environment, which I value highly as a user, and which is hard to replicate on systems that lack them.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
    My laptop is an ancient Asus laptop from early 2010s, but it works and I’m mostly home these days so I’m in no rush to replace it.

    As for the desktop, it’s a custom built desktop based on the newly released AMD Ryzen CPUs. I have 16GB RAM on it, which sadly feels like the lowest amount that allows for a comfortable desktop experience these days. I have a combined large-enough-for-the-OS SSD and a larger HDD for user files setup.

    As for peripherals, I use a vertical mouse which has been a huge improvement (mine is a Trust branded one), and what I think is called an 80% mechanical keyboard (basically it lacks a number pad), from a brand called Redragon, which would look beautiful if I was not lazy about repainting it, although it’s comfy to type on nevertheless. I currently have one Acer 24" display, which I sometime soon wish to couple with an additional vertical 18" display. Lastly, I have a blue Ikea Tertial desk lamp that is almost useless, but it’s so cute I can’t not mention it

    I also run a local backup server with the FOSS Borg backup software on a Raspberry Pi 3B+, which also serves as a print/scan server for a cheap HP printer which I almost exclusively use for scanning. The RPi runs on what I installed as Raspbian, but apparently the name has changed since. Sometime soon I’ll replace that with Debian or maybe even a BSD.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Of course! Here’s a screenshot of my desktop workstation. It’s mostly a vanilla Cinnamon setup, although I’ve temporarily disabled desktop icons for privacy.

Göktuğ Kayaalp's desktop

Interview conducted March 25, 2021


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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