Jared’s perspective as someone whose job is to get Linux running on different hardware is interesting. I never thought about the planning it takes to coordinate future hardware and software releases. Reading through this, I kept thinking about how much Jared had to live in the future. I also appreciated how Jared found his way to Linux through his father. It’s sweet to think about a little kid seeing all of these terminals and tapes and wanting to know how it all works. It’s part of the reason I try to announce ‘Linux’ every time my daughter wanders up to my computer.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Jared Domínguez, and I am currently in transition from being the commercial Chromebook software lead at Dell to taking on an engineering manager position within the Red Hat Enterprise Linux engineering organization. During my time at Dell, I’ve also been involved in developing software technologies on Linux for Dell EMC PowerEdge, porting Dell EMC server systems management code, serving as the technical lead for Dell Project Sputnik, moonlighting as an evangelist and Dell guru to the technology press and the community on behalf of Sputnik, and have been one of two software architects in charge of making sure Linux works on hundreds of Dell laptop, desktop and workstation models. Most people tend to be surprised by how much needs to go on behind the scenes to make an OS work on bleeding edge new hardware, and I’ve had the pleasure of working behind the scenes for the past decade.
Why do you use Linux?
Freedom, convenience and passion for technology. Honestly, I’ve been using Linux since 1998, when I was still in middle school, and at this point it’s stranger to me not to use Linux. Though I should add that I have also spent some time years ago using OS X (on a TiBook), Solaris 9/10 (mostly through the MIT Athena distribution), FreeBSD and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, and some time running a few NetBSD UltraSPARCs for the sake of running an IPv6 network for AS3 and some Tor nodes. One of my favorite IPv6/Tor routers was a box named “catbus” that one of the Tor guys gave me (he was my neighbor). I fondly remember using Linux-VServer on it. I also had an abortive attempt at getting VMS running on an Alpha.
Anyway, back to why I use Linux. 🙂 I started using Linux because I was curious about it back when my dad was a Unix/NT/mainframe admin. I still fondly remember seeing an IBM X terminal in his cubical and wandering through the rows of tape backups while he worked on weekends. He’d log in to an AIX CDE desktop, and that was my first exposure to Motif. I remember how clean it looked (my first exposure to a computer was a PC running Windows NT
3.513.X or thereabouts [EDITOR’S NOTE: Jared clarified he mis-remembered]). At some point, I ended up with an old AT&T Safari 386SX-based laptop that my dad found in his workplace’s retired excess pile. I ran DOS/Win 3.11 and started connecting to the local dialup freenet, which ran on SunOS. While the freenet sessions were limited to one-hour increments, I spent a lot of time using Lynx, Archie and Gopher to find information on Linux and BSD. It wasn’t until a year later in 1998 that I had a computer able to run Linux (Cyrix MII-based), and I kindly left the Windows install for my brother to keep using. I haven’t looked back since. By that point we had cable internet at home, which enabled my distro addiction. Of stuff that comes to mind, I mainly used Debian (before Ubuntu came into existence and long before I had a car with DEBIAN license plates) but also Corel Linux, Slackware, SuSE, Mandrake, Gentoo and others I’ve long forgotten. It’s all been a lot of fun.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Currently, because of the nature of my job, I tend to dogfood my own work. That means lots of Dell XPS/Precision laptops running Ubuntu and Latitude Chromebooks (Dell Latitude designs but modified to use Coreboot and Google’s H1). My setup these days is pretty boring since I tend to switch laptops a lot. The interesting part is that, as a result, I tend to use pre-production hardware. That has meant that I tend to find issues that I’m likely one of the only people to ever see, especially since at that stage of product development, most testing is automated or short-term usage tests. So unfortunately, I don’t customize my desktop much these days. But I do try to make sure that those issues are short-lived so that customers don’t see them.
This may come as a surprise, but I also have had to use Windows a lot at work to work with the corporate office suite, VPN and soft phone setup. I’ve tried really hard to make sure that’s the only Windows system in my household. Soon that won’t be an issue for me (fingers crossed).
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Usually the default Ubuntu GNOME desktop environment or Chrome OS. Back when I regularly used a desktop workstation, I had a wonky setup with four 90-degree-rotated 24″ FHD Dell UltraSharp monitors so that they would all fit on my desktop without a visit to a chiropractor. I went through multiple iterations of video cards, but many times when I got a kernel or graphics driver update, something broke. It probably didn’t help that I had a heavily customized GNOME+xmonad configuration.
Before that, I’ve had other setups, with the ones accounting for most of my Linux being Xfce+xmonad, ion3, a heavily customized twm setup without any window decorations (also used that on Solaris a lot), Enlightenment (e16/e17), and OpenSTEP. I also used KDE a fair bit back in the early 2000s, and spent a while customizing GNOME back when it used Sawfish. If my memory serves me right, my introduction to GNOME was the Helix Code distribution of it. But what I miss most about those days are KDE, early Konqueror and Enlightenment.
In the most recent years, my setup has been way more tame for reasons previously stated. Plus, I’ve found that the default setup on most major desktop environments has gotten way better as the years have passed.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
I’d probably say the simple tools: mosh, screen, vim, barnowl and irssi. Together, I am able to keep up with my community. I would also say mutt, but it’s been about four years since I really gave into Gmail (and had to deal with the reality of a broken Exchange setup at work).
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
Bleeding edge Dell hardware. Frankly, and I know I say this with bias, but their hardware is the best in the industry at running Linux smoothly. I have to credit not just the OS team at Dell but also the commitment of Dell’s electrical and firmware engineers, product planners and management for being so committed to making hardware component selection based on Linux support and the willingness of their hardware partners to support Linux (Dell’s purchasing power doesn’t hurt there 🙂 . These folks are looking at the supportability of Linux two-to-three years out from hardware launch dates. Speaking of hardware, I would also be remiss if I didn’t credit Intel’s Linux folks for their commitment to running continuous power testing on select Dell hardware (generously provided by the team I’m leaving at Dell), which has really made a difference in terms of making power consumption, suspend and performance more reliable on laptop and desktop hardware (and not just for Dells).
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
My setup these days is pretty boring, but I’ll share this from my lovely desktop setup a few years ago.
There’s also a headless system in that picture running a corporate Windows image that I would remote desktop into. And that phone is actually a USB “headset.”
Interview conducted April 9, 2020
I first heard about Thelio last year. Leonora Tindall has a nice review.
It’s actually a little big for me. I use a Dell OptiPlex 3040 which is the size of a book. Thelio is tiny, too. Just not quite as small.
I need a lot of desk space…
Also, stay tuned for an interview with Leonora!
System76 Thelio: A Review | Patterns in Cyberspace
I’m glad Dell is making these laptops work and I’d love to own one someday. But they’re kind of expensive. Which is what makes them high quality. So basically I’m stuck in a logic loop with this.
I’m actually using a desktop now, but I’m always happy to read about solid Linux laptops. And Dell seems fairly committed to using Linux on the XPS 13 developer series.
I was curious how these two compared. The XPS 13 looks pretty great. And the price isn’t awful. This is a very useful post.
Wow! An inexpensive Dell with Ubuntu pre-installed. It’s not as cheap as every Chromebook, but it’s cheaper than some. It’s nice to see Dell supporting Linux. I hope people decide to check them out.
I’ve been curious about this. It’s a confusing bummer the setup isn’t easier.
I’m curious to check out the low-priced XPS 13 which will ship with Ubuntu. Of course, the specific distribution doesn’t matter. We just know Dell has created a Linux-friendly laptop. The rest is up to the user, isn’t it?
Update: I guess this is US-only!
Carin replaced her Mac Air with a Dell Sputnik 3, which comes with Ubuntu already installed. It’s early, but I’m curious how the switch works for her. So far, it seems to be going very well. And the Sputnik 3 is beautiful!