One of the more common things I hear about this project is that it skews toward technical users. I appreciate Jesús’ interview because he makes a point of mentioning how Linux works for all sorts of technical skill sets, from the advanced, to the more basic. I also appreciate the chance to interview another academic Linux user, as Linux has some fantastic tools, many of which Jesús mentions, that make academic work much easier. And if you’re a non-technical user who wants to share your setup, please drop me a line or email me at steven via this domain.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Jesús García-García. I’m a lecturer in Accountancy at University of Oviedo (Spain). My main research interests are focused on open data and transparency, open government and free/libre open source software; their value and the role they play on business, governments and society. With free software, I have put the focus on its value in financial reporting and how it’s related to social responsibility disclosure, which I believe would be helpful for raising funds in socially responsible investment markets.
Why do you use Linux?
There are several reasons. First, the sense of freedom: computing should not be dominated by any big contender in a market who is powerful enough to impose standards or technologies (do you remember ‘Wintel’ dominance or the browser wars in the late 1990s and 2000s?). There is also the sense that by using free software you are part of a great community that makes the world a better place; you are taking part in a global commitment to help eliminate the digital divide, create economic opportunity, and foster equal access to technology even though you are just a non-technical user without programming skills leading by example among your inner circle (family, friends, workmates…). Last, but not least, it just works! So, why shouldn’t I use it?
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Ubuntu, 12.04 LTS and 13.10. I proudly survive in a Windows-centric computing universe at University 🙂 But I began using Linux a long time ago.
It was 1997 and I tried Slackware on a 486 running MS-DOS and Windows 95. I wasn’t able to start a graphic environment (the old fvwm), but the experience actually opened my mind to alternative operating systems. I carried on and a few months later I get a copy of RedHat 5.0. “A complete computing environment in one box,” was the slogan on the box, which I still have. It was really true; all of your software could be installed at the same time without hassle (no looking for extra software, CDs, FTPs, etc). It was also not that complicated to install and manage, at least not as complicated as Slackware was! In the following years I used SuSE and Mandrake/Mandriva. I have always chosen user-friendly distros because I firmly believe free software should be for everybody and not just for technically oriented users.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Unity when running Ubuntu, GNOME 2 previously. I don’t really care about my desktop environment, but I do prefer simple environments. GNOME 2 was my choice for many years, but nowadays I find Unity quite interesting. It’s easy and it just works. Computing should be a simple matter. I find KDE 4 and GNOME 3 quite complex, maybe even overbloated. Xfce and other lightweight desktops lack some basic management features.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
I have no special dependency with Ubuntu or any other distribution (maybe the desktop environment, Unity). My workflow is quite simple and can be replicated on any other distribution, even on Windows or Mac, at least while there is Firefox. Firefox is my preferred browser. I love the work Mozilla Foundation has done for the last decade in the defense of the open web and I consider it my most important piece of software.
I rely on LibreOffice and Zotero for writing academic papers, creating slides and managing bibliographies, but also LaTeX and Beamer if required by mathematical content. I use Calc and SQLite to deal with databases. R and Rcommander to create statistical graphs and calculations. I use Pinboard to read content later or archive bookmarks and notes, NewsBlur to follow RSS sources (if a website doesn’t offer a RSS source, it isn’t worth my time), Dropbox to save, share and sync my files (does anyone remember those old-fashioned USB drives?), and Google Docs for collaborative writing. I’d prefer to use Etherpad but it’s not widely known. I use CrossOver in order to be able to open .docx or .pptx MS Office files if layout is important.
As you can see, all of my computing could be done on any platform (Linux, Mac, Windows). I am truly committed to using free software, even with web apps, but if I cannot and have to use privative software or web apps I demand an open data feature: I should be able to get my data out in an open, interoperable and portable format.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I don’t need cutting-edge hardware. I use a Macbook i5 with 4GB RAM and 16:10 screen (13"), which also runs Snow Leopard and a Pentium IV 3Ghz with 1GB RAM desktop and 4:3 screen (17"). I’m dreaming of Ubuntu Touch or even Firefox OS tablets to run my workflow in the future 🙂
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
For sure, but it’s nothing exciting: a boring stock Ubuntu desktop.
Interview conducted December 8, 2013