Jack Wallen, who you might remember from this interview, provides a great introduction to Linux for Lifehacker.
To no one’s surprise, there’s a lot of Linux software on this list! I like when Lifehacker supports free and open source like this.
Nothing shocking here. I love Synapse, too. But I think everyone should have gedit and that’s not listed here. And I’ve actually really gotten into the Brackets editor, which kicks butt with Asciidoc. Atom gets a lot of love, but Brackets is worth a look, too. I think Brackets has a better Linux implementation.
Beth’s Linux journey is a lot like mine. I don’t like to get under the hood or tweak too much but I love that I can if I have to. And just as Beth likes Linux because it stays out of her way, I also like that it’s something I don’t have to think about. Unless something isn’t working for me. Then, I can change it, and never think about that thing again. That sort of responsiveness is becoming less and less of a core part of desktop operating systems. And it’s why it’s great Beth has the freedom to choose the right desktop operating system for her workflow.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Beth Skwarecki, a freelance science writer. I cover the science behind health for Lifehacker, and I’ve written for other places like Medscape and Scientific American.
Why do you use Linux?
At first (15 years ago), it was because I could run Apache and have my own web server to play on instead of trying to run my HTML and Perl through the likes of Tripod. I liked that it was free as in beer and free as in freedom. The command line was a great tool, and having multiple desktops was amazing.
As my hobby turned into a career (I majored in biology but did sysadmin, programming, and DBA stuff for my first few jobs out of college), I appreciated more and more that with open source software, you’re rarely stuck when a bug gets in your way. If anybody else has had your problem, they’re likely to have fixed it already; if not, you decide if it’s worth your time to diagnose and fix. The few times I was stumped by proprietary software, I’m just thinking, ‘how do people live like this?’
Today, I mostly keep my hands out of my machine’s innards. I spend my days researching and writing, so my software just has to get out of my way and let me get things done. I rest easy knowing that a larger community is transparently fixing my problems while I’m too busy to do the coding myself.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
I do all my work on a single, small laptop. It runs Ubuntu—whatever version is reasonably current. I like Ubuntu because it Just Works.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
Unity. Having my apps on the side of the screen is a good use of space, and helps me navigate between tasks. I typically have one app maximized (like a browser, an editor, or a PDF reader) on each of four workspaces. I don’t do desktop icons.
What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?
LibreOffice, because a lot of my job involves receiving and sending edits with Track Changes. I also make slides for classes I teach. I used to keep track of small notes in text files or with lightweight note-taking apps, but since I have LibreOffice open all the time, I finally just started doing everything there. Minimizing the number of tools I use is a more efficient life hack than trying to optimize the footprint of each tool.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
An Asus Vivobook X202E.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Here it is, minus the maximized whatever-I’m-working-on:
Interview conducted February 22, 2015
Wow! Another Linux user from Lifehacker’s How I Work series. One more and we officially have a trend.
An Ubuntu user! I’m a fan of the Lifehacker How We Work series. Even the non-Linuxy ones.
I’m always psyched to see Lifehacker cover Linux.
I know about TheFu from Lifehacker, where he’s a fairly active commenter and an occasional contributor. Not only is he knowledgeable about Linux, but he shares it in a very friendly manner that’s not seen in all corners of the Linux world.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
Online, I’m “TheFu” on a few websites, but not on Facebook or Twitter.
In real life, I’m a consulting enterprise architect, programmer, and sometime blogger (http://blog.jdpfu.com) living outside Atlanta, Ga, ya’ll. I’m a Managing Director for a company that builds apps and infrastructure for portable devices. The last 5 yrs or so, I’ve done lots of virtualization. Xen, VirtualBox, ESX, ESXi, KVM, and OpenVZ.
I’m also active in the local LUG, ALE, and the local Defcon IT Security Professionals group, DC404.
- What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Your readers have heard the term “The network IS the computer”, so they will understand that most of my daily use is on other machines, not the desktop I happen to be sitting behind.
However, my main laptop runs Windows7 because some clients don’t know how to deal with Linux. I run a 32-bit Ubuntu Server 10.04 LTS with LXDE loaded inside a VirtualBox VM for 95% of what I do daily. I try every new Ubuntu release, but always find those are too bloated for my needs since 8.04. Even Lubuntu has so many programs that I don’t use, it is easier to just load the server image and add a DE. I’ve been temped to drop back to FVWM more than once.
My main desktop has 64-bit Ubuntu Server 10.04 LTS with LXDE loaded. Sometimes I need dual huge monitors.
I tried Ubuntu 11.04 for a few weeks in a VM, but it wasn’t stable with or without Unity, so it was deleted. Until Unity works well inside a VM, I simply cannot consider it. I’m an LTS sorta guy anyway.
- What software do you depend upon with this distribution?
Most of my daily use software runs on other machines, not the laptop. We use lots of virtualization – Xen, KVM and ESX(i) on the servers.
On the laptop, I don’t really use much software that you’d consider “desktop”. I use cron, rdiff-backup, ssh, X/Windows, xterm (yes, the real xterm), KeePassX, ClusterSSH, Task Spooler, Firefox (w/ NoScript), Thunderbird+Lightning, OpenVPN, mencoder.
I code Perl with Geany as the editor unless I forget and use vim, which happens most of the time. Git and BZR are used for DVCS. Of course, there are hundreds of other tools like wget, TkDiff, k3b, ddrescue, nginx, thin, mongrel2, ufw, fail2ban, and par2 that are used too. PerlBrew is a critical tool.
When I install a new machine, my first command on the first console or terminal I see is ‘sudo apt-get purge nano’.
- What kind of hardware do you run it on?
The laptop is a Dell 1558, Core i5 with 6GB RAM, 500G 7200rpm disk, 1080p display, GigE NIC, but the virtual machine for Lubuntu gets 1.5GB of RAM and 10GB of disk in a fully, pre-allocated VDI, with a GigE virtual NIC. I need to add a little more disk storage.
Leaving lots of extra resources on the host OS means it is easy to start other distros as needed for specialized tasks. It also means that a complete backup of the VM is smaller. If this laptop dies, my daily use VM can be loaded from a backup on pretty much any other laptop and I can be productive in less than an hour.
There are a few other physical machines here running Linux for different purposes – file/print server, VPN, Zimbra, and about 15 other needs inside virtual machines. Many of the tools listed above are actually running on other machines on the network to take advantage of faster hardware and disk array storage.
- What is your ideal Linux setup?
Looking into the future a little for a few of these things:
- System stability is paramount. A system should never crash, period, even after a year of hard use. Patching, including kernel patches shouldn’t require rebooting.
- No bloat or unused pre-installed apps.
- Fast enough that I don’t notice any slowdowns.
- Voice control of programs and the ability to dictate into documents.
- No nano. Vim should be the default editor.
- My personalized keyboard setup to launch about five programs from keystrokes alone. This is even quicker than voice control.
- No need for a menu or much of a GUI. Just a little status bar that becomes visible when it makes sense, by right clicking anywhere.
- ZFS included in the kernel and all distros. Boot-able.
- Dual 1920×1600 displays. I’m not a fan of wide screen monitors. What happened to all those missing vertical pixels anyway?
- WINE runs every MS-Windows program with ease, especially MS-Visio. I can dream, right?
- Plenty of RAM. That can be 128MB or 16GB. “Enough for the specific task” is key.
- Plenty of CPU for the tasks. That could be a 64-way server or a single, low power, CPU on ARM. The key is a version of Linux that isn’t crippled.
- Multiple GigE or faster Wireless NICs connected to multiple networks (internal, backup and admin). No bandwidth caps.
- 20TB usable of RAIDz2 storage plus enough storage on the network to support a year of daily backups.
- Wristwatch-sized for the CPU, RAM and disks combined. The CPU connects to external keyboard, mouse, video and audio based on proximity with complete security. Basically, my desktop is with me everywhere and peripherals are added as needed through voice commands.
Interview conducted August 7, 2011