- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Raphaël Hertzog. I am Debian Developer who tries to contribute as much as possible to Debian. To feed my family—I’m married and have a son of 18 months—I’m doing development/consulting around Debian
(http://www.freexian.com). I’m also an author of a Debian book for the French market (http://raphaelhertzog.fr/livre/cahier-admin-debian/).
- What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Debian unstable obviously but also Debian experimental for GNOME 3.
- What software do you depend upon with this distribution?
Lots of software obviously. I’ll give you the most important for me. Many of them run in the GNOME Terminal: mutt, vim, git, the Debian development tools (devscripts, dpkg-dev, etc.).
Among the graphical applications I can cite Iceweasel and Chromium, Gwibber, VirtualBox, Smuxi, Hamster, Zim. Smuxi is an intelligent IRC application that can offload the IRC client to a remote machine so that you can be always connected to IRC and get back the history and the notifications whenever you restart the Smuxi client. Think of it as a graphical version of the usual irssi+screen combination.
Zim is also an important application in my workflow. I use its calendar plugin to plan all the tasks that I want to complete over the week, and I take all my notes with it. I have some custom scripts to easily integrate references to mails I received… that way I can keep my INBOX clean and have a list of mails where I have to respond directly in my normal task list.
- What kind of hardware do you run it on?
My laptop is my main workstation, it’s a Dell E4300 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of SSD. It’s usually connected to a 24" Dell screen and a Typematrix keyboard (http://www.typematrix.com). I love the typing comfort of this unusual keyboard. Any IT professional should consider it.
- What is your ideal Linux setup?
I would love to see a tighther integration between the desktop shell, the task list, the calendar, the time tracking application and some sort of “life overview”.
I have goals and my computer should help me to reach my goals. It should be able to respond to the question “What should I do next?” in a contextual way: during the day, it means working towards my professional goals, in the evening it means working towards personal goals, etc. It should help me to stay focused on stuff that matters for me.
- Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
It’s not really interesting… I have taken a desktop with zim as it’s an application not widely known. It’s GNOME 3 for the rest.
I’ve been a little nervous because some people around me have had their Gmail accounts hacked.
I’m not sure if the hackings were preventable, but it was making me slightly nervous.
And then, James Fallows had a series of posts about the hacking of his wife’s Gmail account, complete with tales of other Gmail users losing all of their data after getting their accounts hacked.
And that made me really nervous.
I had been thinking I should backup my Gmail for a while, but the Fallows posts pushed me to finally sit down and do it.
NOTE: I know about the Google two-step verification process, but that just feels like a lot of work, just to check email. Plus, I hate the idea of being locked out of my email if I don’t have my phone with me and I’m not near a landline I registered with Google. Situations like that are probably when I’d want my email most. So for now, it’s off of the table for me.
There are a few ways to approach the backup, but I decided to use POP to download all of my messages. It took a couple of hours to download everything, but other than that, it was a painless process. There are lots of articles and tutorials online about backing up your Gmail, but there weren’t any that gave me a workflow for the entire process, which is why I’m documenting it here:
- Download and install Thunderbird, but don’t configure it
- Enable POP on your Gmail account
- Configure Thunderbird. Thunderbird is great with Gmail. Once you put in your address and password, it’ll set everything up for you. Make sure you tell Thunderbird to use the Gmail POP account, though
- Download all of your email. This will take a while because you can only download it in batches. You can leave Thunderbird to handle this on its own, or you can keep it running in the background while you do something else, and manually get your mail every time it announces it has finished a batch. I chose the latter
- Now that you have all of your mail held locally, you can leave it in Thunderbird. That seemed like a pain to me, though, so I downloaded a Thunderbird plugin (ImportExportTools) that let me export the messages as .eml files. ImportExportTools gives you a number of export format options, but .eml keeps attachments with the files. Plus, it can be read with a text editor.
- Save your email someplace safe and you’re all set! At this point, you can turn off POP in your email and remove Thunderbird, if you’re so inclined.
I’m not sure how easy it would be to work with email in this format, but at least I could search through the files for specific messages I needed. Hopefully, I’ll never need to use this archive, but I feel better knowing that it’s there.
Now I just need to remember to do this at regular intervals. I wish Gmail would let you POP email as of a certain date, so I could just regularly top off my local archive, rather than re-downloading everything.
But the backup process is really pretty simple. Especially now that I know all of the steps to take (and the order in which to take them).
Minimalist GNU/Linux recently had an interesting post on the freedom found in not constantly moving files from one computer to another.
Apparently, Aberinkulas moved back to Ubuntu and didn’t bring over many files. Lo and behold, he’s doing fine.
I’m obsessive about backing my computers up, but I rarely move files over after an upgrade and/or reinstallation. The fact of the matter is, I rarely need the vast majority of my files. So I have many of them backed up, both on a local external drive and in the cloud via Jungle Disk. But if I access a file from Jungle Disk more than twice a year, it’s a lot.
And, to be fair, I have a small core of files that I do port over from distro to distro. But I’ve long stopped trying to preserve every file and photo I’ve ever had on a computer.
Part of this is a luxury, since I know I have a copy of most important things somewhere, but a bigger part of it is just letting go and recognizing I’m going to lose things over time. Just like I often lose physical things in the real world.
In fact, when I dumped my iPod Touch for a Nokia N810, I dumped most of my music and started over. My music collection had become bloated and unmanageable from years of adding music without taking anything away. There was stuff I hadn’t listened to in years. Starting with a blank slate was completely liberating. I got to think about what music I missed and then opt into it, rather than figuring out what I wanted to get rid of. Sure, it required the re-burning of quite a few CDs, and some music did need to be re-purchased, but it was a small price to pay for a music collection that reflects my current tastes rather than my taste five years ago.
Back in 2004, weeks before my wedding, the roof of my apartment caved in. It wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds, but the damage wound up destroying my desk, along with the years worth of junk I had accumulated (both inside and on the desk). Obviously, I was upset at first, but in the end, I was relieved. I was relieved I no longer had to deal with all of the stuff I had moved from apartment to apartment (and was about to move to another apartment). The cave in freed me from the increasingly growing pile of papers I was constantly moving, like some kind of modern, white collar Sisyphus.
There’s definitely a time and a place for backing stuff up, but in certain cases, we really overthink the process. Sometimes it’s OK to leave files behind. With all of the cloud-based storage options, if you didn’t care enough to back it up when you originally created it, there’s a good chance you won’t ever need it again.
So with the new year about to start, why not make a resolution to not back up the junk that accumulates on our hard drives. Free yourself from your electronic detritus and make a commitment to leave it behind the next time you have the opportunity to wipe your computer (which for most Linux people, is like every six months or so).
And if while thinking about all of this, you realize there are some files you simply can’t live without, do yourself a favor and make sure they’re backed up somewhere.
Jungle Disk and Dropbox both have great Linux clients.
Just use them mindfully.
I ran into a few posts this week that got me thinking about my Xubuntu laptop.
One of the things I like about Xubuntu is that it’s minimalist by nature. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles. It’s not about its look. It’s really simply about doing work. Plus, it’s highly configurable. For the most part, it does what I want in the way that I want it.
Xubuntu is good, because it responds to my workflow, but it’s really good because it forces me to think about my workflow. It’s the type of synergy I just don’t have with Windows machines (or, to be more precise, the type of synergy that takes hours upon hours of tweaking and workarounds to create).
Plus, I love that most default Xfce programs tend to be minimalist by nature anyway.
The past few weeks, I feel like all I’ve read about is Ubuntu’s move to Unity and Wayland. I’m kind of relieved to not have to deal with it with Xubuntu. And if Xubuntu decides to move in that direction, I like knowing there are other distros that can give me the Xfce-driven experience I want.
The freedom of Linux allows me to maintain my minimalist lifestyle.
Aberinkulas recently had a post about so-called minimalist programs and how so many Linux command line utilities allow people to practice a minimalist lifestyle. It’s an interesting point, but I would take it a step further. People should look for good software that does what they need it to. If it’s minimalist software, that’s great, but if it isn’t, that probably means the person needed something beyond minimalist.
I could work in vi, in theory, but I need a spellchecker, so gedit makes more sense for me. It’s my minimal basement, while some people probably see it as excessive. It’s a relative concept, but one that every computer user should work to define for themselves.
The idea I keep coming back to with Xubuntu (and Xfce) is that it’s not about how well the OS works. It’s about how well it works for me and what I want to do with my computer. Xubuntu is great because it meets my personal expectations. And if it ever doesn’t meet my expectations, I can probably either find another distro that does or tweak Xubuntu into what I want.
The beauty of Xubuntu, and Linux as a whole, is that it allows every user the opportunity to create their own minimalist experience. Even if their minimalism is excessive.
Ubuntu held an Ubuntu Open Week for 10.10 on IRC. One of the sessions was “Xubuntu-Alive and Well,” a panel led by Charlie Kravetz, Xubuntu’s project lead. A lot of very interesting ideas and insights into Xubuntu came out of the session, including Kravetz’s views on how Xubuntu users might differ from Ubuntu users; good lightweight applications that aren’t Xubuntu defaults; and, of course, what’s new in 10.10.
I’ve pulled out some of Kravetz’s comments that I found most interesting:
On Xubuntu users
Xubuntu does not specifically focus on new users or users migrating from Windows; alternative distributions such as Ubuntu may be more appropriate for first time Linux users. Ubuntu with its Gnome desktop is very simple to use. You have limited ability to change options, and that is a good thing for some users. Xubuntu gives you choices. We do not aim at the new Windows to Linux user, (especially first time Linux users who may be particularly at risk of experiencing difficulties due to lack of general experience). They need that simplicity that Ubuntu offers them. We do think we offer the more experienced greater choices and ability to customize.
Xubuntu does not exclusively target users with low, modest, or high powered machines but instead targets the entire spectrum with a strong focus on enabling lower end machines. Xubuntu’s extra responsiveness and speed, among other positive traits, can be appreciated by all users regardless of their hardware. Are there other applications that could provide the same functionality? Most definitely. We are using applications that are light in resources, and relatively easy to configure for most users. You are welcome to use other applications if you desire. As a matter of fact, we do routinely check our applictions as well as others to see if they still belong in Xubuntu.
On Xubuntu’s footprint:
We will not downsize Xubuntu just to say we are smaller, or we can run older equipment than someone else. The target audience for Xubuntu is users who are interested in having a modestly light weight, slim, fast desktop experience. Those users should be able to retain the usability and functionality that is required to provide an easy to use desktop environment.
It would be really nice to clear up that idea that Xubuntu is “only” for old hardware. It works equally well on new hardware.
On Xubuntu and GNOME
New users are often surprised to find that Xubuntu includes a number of gnome applications. These are included simply because if an application works well, and is considered lightweight, it fits. Any application can be included, and it does not matter if it starts with gnome, xfce, or anything other letters.
Yes, [Ubuntu and Xubuntu] look similar, with two panels and a desktop. So does Kubuntu, with just one panel, and every other Ubuntu-based distribution I have seen. A desktop is a background with icons. That stays the same. The background does change, as does the functionality.
On Xubuntu’s relationship to Ubuntu and Xfce
We owe a great deal of Xubuntu’s success to the Ubuntu teamwork. Without Ubuntu leading the way, Xubuntu would not be where it is today. We are an official unsupported derivative of Ubuntu. This means we can use the repositories and Ubuntu sources, but we receive no funding whatsoever.
We work very closely with upstream Xfce. We upstream most of the bugs that concern Xfce, and work with the developers to insure that they get fixed as soon as possible.
On Future Xubuntus Featuring Xfce 4.8
Only time will tell. Xfce developers have not completed their work at this time, and there is not a good release date yet. If it is released in time, it will definitely be included in the next version of Xubuntu.
On what’s new in 10.10
- Xubuntu 10.10 includes the Exaile 0.3.2 music player to make enjoying podcasts, streaming radio, audio books, and music library easier than ever before.
- New to Xubuntu 10.10 is the movie player, Parole, which replaces the Totem Movie Player on the Xubuntu desktop to provide a more improved movie viewing experience.
- We have also changed from the gnome-system-monitor to xfce4-taskmanager. We believe this provides similar, excellent functionality while being lighter on resources.
- To allow for a more resource concious CD/DVD burning experience, Xfburn has replaced Brasero in Xubuntu 10.10.
- Xubuntu also includes as default gimp, an application used for advanced picture editing and retouching photos.
- Thunderbird is a lightweight mail/news/RSS client. It fits well with the fewer resources desired for Xubuntu, yet remains an easy to configure application for the new user.
- We do include the new Ubuntu Fonts, but, they are not the default Xubuntu font.
- Also, there is now a plugin for Exaile for UbuntuOne music.
On lightweight applications NOT included by deafult
A disclaimer is needed here – Xubuntu as a team does not officially endorse any of these in particular. They are being given as examples only:
- chromium – an open source browser
- claws-mail – a very nice mail client with many options
- gmusicbrowser – An open-source jukebox for large collections of mp3/ogg/flac/mpc/ape files, written in perl
- gpicviewer – A Simple and Fast Image Viewer for X
- geeqie – a lightweight Gtk+ based image viewer for Unix like operating systems.
- midori – a lightweight browser in development by Xfce.
- Pino – a simple and fast X11 client for Twitter and Identi.ca
Any or all of these can be installed by the user. Please check the repositories before downloading or compiling applications.
Please note that the above applications are not presented as approved or recommended by myself or Xubuntu. There are given here as examples.
On why those applications aren’t installed by default
Since we have limited developer resources available, we use applications maintained by Ubuntu that fit our needs. The application must also have a good user GUI, if possible. The more complicated it is to configure the application for use, the less likely it will fit the requirement. Some of the above are still in development, and are not yet released as a stable version. That, too, must be considered before including the application in a stable operating system.