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 (Gentoo, Slackware), 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 Devuan, a distro currently in beta release whose purpose is to be as close as possible to Debian, but without systemd. If Devuan is successful, it will help keep Linux relatively more self-managed and free, and it will help ward off the control of corporations. My desktops and laptop are currently running Devuan, and so far it seems exactly right: just like Debian, but without systemd. Speaking of which, you can find a collection of Linux distros without systemd here.
Here's my setup:
- Laptop: a 2011 ThinkPad X220, obtained for a mere $114. Holy crap, this is one amazing machine! So amazing that I bought another one, its bigger cousin, the Thinkpad T420, for $65.
- Operating System: Devuan ASCII 2.0.0. The thinkpads are both running MX Linux 18.3, which so far seems really great too!
- Tiling Window Manager: i3wm
- Floating/Stacking Window Manager (which, why would you use these?): Fluxbox
- Terminal: Xfce4-terminal (God, I love this terminal)
- Text Editor: Vim 8.0
- Office Suite: LibreOffice 5
- E-mail Client: Mutt or, on occasion, Thunderbird
- Browser: Slimjet (all browsers suck, this one just sucks less)
- File Manager: Thunar (which crashes too much)
- Image Manipulation: Gimp
- PDF Editor and Reader: Master PDF Editor, which good but not entirely free, and Okular, which is free but not entirely good.
- IRC Client: Irssi
- Newsfeed Reader: Liferea
- System Info: Conky
- Torrents: Deluge
- Synchronize Files: ownCloud. Ditch the Dropbox/Google corporate cloud, asap! Running your own is actually pretty easy, and virtually free. (I also have my eye on Nextcloud, and I may soon switch.)
- System Monitor: Htop
- Network Connection Manager: Wicd
- Virtual Private Network Provider: AirVPN (love it!)
- 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
My blog about these adventures is here.