Harry R. Schwartz

Code writer, sometime Internet enthusiast, attractive nuisance.

The author at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, November 2022. hacker news gitlab sourcehut pinboard librarything 1B41 8F2C 23DE DD9C 807E A74F 841B 3DAE 25AE 721B


British Columbia



Back to Debian


Published .
Tags: beards, email, personal, security, unix.

Once upon a time, back in high school and college, I used Debian, Gentoo, and Red Hat pretty much exclusively. It was great—I learned a ton—but it was kind of exhausting, too. At some point I got ahold of an Apple laptop, decided it was Unix with a pretty face, and I’ve mostly stuck with that for the last decade or so.

For the last couple of years, though, I’ve been feeling kinda homesick. brew is fine, but it’s an awfully poor substitute for apt. Tiling window managers have gotten really great. XQuartz is a mess. I don’t use an iPhone any more, so I don’t need a Mac for syncing with that.

Ultimately, though, it’s an ethical thing. I really respect the free software world, and they’re doing the right thing, so I kinda feel like I should put my money where my mouth is. So, a few weeks ago, I picked up a 3rd-gen Thinkpad X1 Carbon and installed Debian testing on it.

And it’s lovely! After a few hiccups (booting from USB requires disabling secure boot in the BIOS, the Intel wireless card demands a nonfree-but-available driver, and the QHD display makes handling the resolution of external displays a bit trickier), everything was all set up.

The new setup:

  • i3 as my window manager. Tiling window managers are just terrific. I’ve used xmonad in the past, too, but it requires a bit more fiddling to get it the way I like. i3 lets me be lazier.
  • mutt for email, with notmuch and notmuch-mutt to handle searching, offlineimap and msmtp for receiving and sending email, gpg for encryption and signing, and integration with org-mode enabled. As I mentioned elsewhere, I use fastmail to handle my mail.
  • abook for managing contacts. It stores its data in plaintext and integrates with mutt without any fuss.
  • emacs for all kinds of stuff, with org-mode for handling my todos.
  • owncloud for syncing files between computers through my server.
  • newsbeuter for reading RSS feeds, and its associated podbeuter for downloading podcasts.
  • pidgin and pidgin-otr for XMPP. Fun fact: DuckDuckGo runs a free XMPP server!
  • pass for managing passwords. Pass is lovely: it’s a little shell script that delegates all the hard work to external tools like GPG, pwgen, and tree.
  • cmus for playin’ music.
  • california for my calendars. It’s still pretty new and occasionally a bit janky, but it seems to handle CalDAV well enough.
  • etckeeper for automatically managing my /etc through git. Slick!
  • I also use LVM for whole disk encryption, because I’m like that.

I’ve been gradually working toward this transition for months. It hasn’t been too hard, though, since most of these programs will also run on a Mac, so I had some time to acclimate myself.

Anyway, woo! Free software, yo!

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