I think Jon’s ability to keep his system frozen in time, yet up-to-date is the biggest argument for using Linux. Desktop environments have moved in a direction that doesn’t work for him, so Jon uses his own spin does. It’s also very cool that Jon makes music using Linux. It’s something that once interested me a lot. Now I’m less interested in recording music and more interested in writing about it, but these things change over time. Also, Jon reached out to me via the form. It’s always great to hear from people about their set-ups!
Who are you, and what do you do?
Hello. My name is Jon Kukuk. I am a contract Linux System Administrator and musician. My wife and I live in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. For the last 20 years I have been a contract Linux System Administrator at many large companies around the country. In 2008 I released a music CD entitled Uncharted Currents, made in part on a Linux box. I am a multi-instrumentalist and play guitar, bass, drums and other instruments, and do everything myself, with no other musicians
Why do you use Linux?
I can sum it up in one one word: freedom. I am for the underdog, the oppressed, the one no one cares about. I don’t like Wall Street, big business and corporate greed. I do not, and will not, use anything connected to Micro$oft, and while I do have several Macs, I use them because at least OS X is Unix-based. I’m still running Mojave and will probably leave them at that level. I can do things with Linux that I can’t with the other choices out there. I heard about Linux around 1997 and picked up a copy of Red Hat 6 when it came out in 1999.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
For the last seven years I have used my own modified version of RHEL 6 that I call Mountain Linux. I have been working on my own RPM-based Linux From Scratch version. It used to be called LogikxSolutions Enterprise Linux, which was the name of my personal corporate contracting LLC. But I wanted to get away from the Red Hat theme. It is still RHEL 6 deep down, but I patched and compiled custom kernels for it, and I’m currently at 4.14.215mlrt-rt105. It is a real-time kernel for my music production. I removed as much of the Red Hat corporate bologna as I could—names, icons, etc.—from the original release. I don’t like or use systemd, so that leaves out all the new versions after RHEL 6. Prior to that, it was still all the previous iterations of Red Hat from 1999 to 2014. I stick with what I know, and Red Hat is how I made a living for the last 21 years. It is sometimes difficult to keep an obsolete OS going, but that’s where I’m at. I do have one 12.04 Ubuntu Server VM that I use for a web server.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
GNOME 2.x exclusively. I never liked KDE or the other window managers, and GNOME 3 and 4 are horrible. Flat design is horrible. It is aptly named because it falls flat on its face. I like round, full designs that have presence and stand out. This new breed of UX developers are out of touch with reality as far as what they think is cool and what actually works. But then I am very old fashioned and stick with what works for me. If it worked 10 years ago, that’s what I still use. I use the KISS principle because keeping up with the Joneses just isn’t for me. I have tried Mate, but I still prefer the old version of GNOME.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
I like and use a broad range of applications and tools, I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Although I am partial to Audacity, which was used in the recording of Uncharted Currents.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I just finished rebuilding my main box, which I built myself back in 2005. The case and sound card are from the same year, 2005. I reuse everything I can; I don’t spend money unless I have to. I put in a new 500 watt power supply, and then went on from there. The video card is a 2012ish Nvidia GeForce GT-610 1GB card. Other than playing Tux Racer or GNOME Mines, I’m not a gamer. The sound card is a 2003 M-Audio 2496, although I mainly use either a Yamaha AG-06 2 channel or a Mackie 12 channel USB mixer, bypassing the sound card. I have no complaints with either under my OS. The motherboard is an X58, socket 1366, with a used 6 core Xeon processor hyper-threaded to 12 cores, and uses 16GB of DDR3 memory. I run an almost identical VM test box with the same software load on my 2012 Macbook Pro, which also has 16GB of memory.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
While it is not a pretty background image, it is typical of the applications that I use. I normally just have a plain color background so I don’t stare at a pretty picture and get distracted. These are just some of the various music applications that I use. Typically, I don’t run all of these at the same time. Maybe two or three.
Interview conducted February 27, 2021