In late 2012 I decided to make the jump to free software and began using Linux as my primary operating system. I did it mostly for political reasons, wanting to tend a little patch beyond the reach of Microsoft's cold corporate shadow. At the time, I was sure the user experience would be so unsatisfying that my resolve would shrivel, and I would run back to Windows with my tail between my legs.
It has been a truly delightful voyage. I have learned an incredible amount about how software, hardware, programming, networking, servers, email, filesystems (and more) work, and I have quicky come to realize how totally wrong I was about Linux. It is stable, easy to use, and really good-looking. These days, when I find myself in a Windows environment for some reason, I am bemused: at how unpolished and clunky it looks (to be fair, Windows 10 is better), at how leaden its user experience is. And I laugh at myself for thinking I couldn't live without it.
However, not everything is bread and roses. Linux is currently being gravely threatened by the introduction of systemd, a software complex that aims at integrating and standardizing the Linux ecosystem so that it can be more tightly controlled and valorized by corporations (Red Hat is the prime mover). Some Linux distros have held out (AntiX, Gentoo, Slackware), and some new ones have been created, like Devuan, but most have succumbed to systemd, at least for the time being. While this struggle plays out, I have chosen to cast my lot, for now, with MX Linux, a distro that is based on Debian but that runs sysvinit by default, and encourages its users to do so. You can find a list of some of the many Linux distros without systemd here.
Here's my setup:
- Desktops: a Lenovo tower and an HP server-type race-horse the IT guys at school made me get. They are both flawed but workable.
- a 2013 LENOVO ThinkCentre M93p with an Intel Core i5-4570 (this one is doing most of the work, and is currently serving you this page.)
- a 2010 Samsung laptop with an Intel i3
- a 2012 Toshiba Satellite P755 laptop with an Intel i5
- Operating Systems:
- Tiling Window Manager: i3wm
- Terminal: xfce4 terminal
- Text Editor: Vim 8.0
- Office Suite: LibreOffice 5
- E-mail Client: Mutt
- Browser: Firefox (all browsers suck, this one sucks just slightly less than the chrome-family ones (but it really does suck))
- File Manager: Thunar (which crashes less than it used to)
- Image Manipulation: Gimp
- PDF Editor: Master PDF Editor, which good but not entirely free, and
- PDF Reader: Okular, which is free but not entirely good.
- Torrents: Deluge
- Synchronize Files: Syncthing. We really can't go on offering ourselves and our data up to the corporate cloud (Dropbox, Google, and so on). Running your own is actually pretty easy, but it is also insecure, since if your server is hacked, your data can be compromised. So I use an encrypted peer-to-peer approach. Syncthing is awesome..
- Containerizer: Docker. It seems great. Is LXC any better?
- Web Server: depends on my mood...Nginx mostly since I had an Apache hacked.
- Database: depends on the Docker image's desire. Some run mysql/mariadb, some prefer postgres.
- System Monitor: Htop. All day.
- Network Connection Manager: NetworkManager
- Virtual Private Network Provider: AirVPN (love it!). Just started self-hosting wireguard, and it seems really great too.
- Tools for hackin--uh, ethical penetration testing: Kali Linux, which uses systemd, which is bad, but Kali's the acknowledged leader for this activity
- Theme Manager: Lxappearance