Robert McAtee

Information Technology Manager and Software Engineer in San Antonio

How I Do My Computing

June 16, 2020

How I Do My Computing

My Laptop

I use a white HP Stream 14 laptop computer with no hardware modifications and a Logitech M570 trackball as my pointing device instead of the built-in touchpad. I run the Arch Linux operating system with i3-gaps as my window manager.

2022 Update: I no longer use any trackball. I have gotten used to gestures with the built-in touchpad and am happy. I stopped using i3 and opt for Gnome with Forge tiling window extension now.

I bought the HP Stream originally for my wife, but it never really worked out for her, mainly due to poor performance with Windows 10. After a lot of frustrations, I finally replaced it with something better suited for her needs.

The hardware on this device is minimal and the primary problem was the demands of Windows 10 coupled with the small on-board SSD. The laptop always had trouble running Windows 10 and, in addition to the poor performance, it also didn't have enough space to perform regular Windows Updates.

To get the most out of this laptop, I quickly changed the operating system. This computer now performs very well and has enough computing power for my needs. This is my primary device for "serious" computing.

Laptop Specs

[[email protected] ~]$ neofetch -` [email protected] .o+` ----------------–— `ooo/ OS: Arch Linux x8664 `+oooo: Host: HP Stream Laptop 14-ax0XX `+oooooo: Kernel: 5.7.10-arch1-1 `/+oooooo+: Uptime: 5 mins `/:-:++oooo+: Packages: 640 `/++++/+++++++: Shell: bash 5.0.17 `/++++++++++++++: Resolution: 1366x768, 1920x1080 `/+++ooooooooooooo/` WM: i3 ./ooosssso++osssssso+` Theme: Adwaita-dark [GTK2/3] .oossssso-````/ossssss+` Icons: Adwaita [GTK2/3] -osssssso. :ssssssso. Terminal: xfce4-terminal :osssssss/ osssso+++. Terminal Font: Liberation Mono 9 `ossssssss/ ossssooo/- CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 (2) @ 2.480GHz `/ossssso+/:- -:/+osssso+- GPU: Intel Atom/Celeron/Pentium Processor x5-E8000/J3xxx/N3xxx `+sso+:-` `.-o+oso: Memory: 772MiB / 3840MiB (20%) `++:. `-+ .` `/

[[email protected] ~]$ lsblk -o "NAME,MAJ:MIN,RM,SIZE,RO,FSTYPE,MOUNTPOINT,UUID" NAME MAJ:MIN RM SIZE RO FSTYPE MOUNTPOINT UUID mmcblk0 179:0 0 29.1G 0 ├─mmcblk0p1 179:1 0 260M 0 vfat /boot/efi 7BE6-AB88 ├─mmcblk0p2 179:2 0 23G 0 ext4 / 6e1f3c32-e68a-4c21-9e66-5a14d8bf67ab ├─mmcblk0p3 179:3 0 4G 0 swap [SWAP] 0eee5e8e-4c39-4eca-92c5-055ae7f58c75 └─mmcblk0p4 179:4 0 1.9G 0 ext4 /home b9c4991a-91c8-450e-96bf-5f76ca648958 mmcblk0boot0 179:8 0 4M 1 mmcblk0boot1 179:16 0 4M 1

My Phone

I use an iPhone 7. Since December 2017, it has been a stable, reliable platform that "just works". I use it as my phone of course and for paying bills, surfing the web, checking my email and social media, etc…

2022 Update: I use a Google Pixel 5a on the Google Fi Subscription. Main reason to switch: cost. Both for the plan and the phone.

Linux Distro

Arch Linux is my preferred Linux distro.

2022 Update: Arch Linux with Guix Home is my preferred Linux distro.

I have run a myriad of operating systems on my computers. My personal favorites have been OS/2 Warp, Debian Linux and now Arch Linux. Arch Linux with i3-gaps best meets my current operating systems needs very well for the following reasons.

Understanding

Arch empowers you to know the fundamentals of your system and the Linux terminal from day one.

From the moment you begin the installation process, you are immersed into the real and hand-on work of setting up, configuring and customizing your system. You obtain detailed, firsthand knowledge and skills that you will need post install to get the most out of your system.

Also, in terms of documentation, Arch is truly one of the most well documented distros I have used. The Arch Wiki is a powerful resource that is at your disposal. No matter the problem you get yourself into, you can feel confident that there is probably an article on the issue. This helps you to spend more time learning and understanding and less time fumbling around looking for answers.

Control

Arch enables you to personalize and curate your install.

The Arch installation offers a minimal base that is transparently exposed during system install and configuration. You are then called upon to "shape the system" to your own unique needs. It allows for a hands-on experience while still providing certain "conveniences". For example, you must select all the additional packages you want to have a fully working system, but with the offering of automatic dependency resolution and a rolling release model. This allows for a very nice balance of customizability but without the dependency and upgrade headaches of other distros.

Independence

Arch promotes independence – one of my core values.

The more you can control and understand your operating system, the packages on it and its associated dependencies, the more confidence you will gain using and maintaining your system. This greater confidence ultimately lends itself to more independence. Independence to know how to operate and maintain your system. Independence to do with your machine what you want.

Conclusion

So, there you have it, if you want to understand and control your system and value your independence, then Arch Linux is the way to go. It will make your computing experience more refined and make you a better computer user.