Writer on Linux philosophy opens up

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Penguin, stylized, contributor spotlight

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Meet David Both. He's a regular contributor to Opensource.com, most notable for his Linux philosophy series. There's so much goodness in this Q&A, including a long list of favorite open source tools, that I'm going to quickly pass the mic over to him. But first...

These "contributor spotlights" are a way for us to shine a light on the people who make up our great community. David once was just a reader, now he's sharing his experiences as a Linux user, and more. If you'd like to share your open source story with us, we'd love to hear from you. See what we're looking for and submit your story to us.

Now, let's hear from David...

David Both headshotQuick facts

Opensource.com username: dboth

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Occupation: Consultant and trainer; Millennium Technology Consulting LLC, President, Senior Consultant and Janitor

Favorite open source tool or application: vi/vim

Favorite Opensource.com channel: Business



Open up to us.

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a nice neighborhood with easy access to lots of good restaurants and shopping. We also have a section of the wonderful Raleigh Greenway System that is close to our house, and we walk there almost every day.

I took up yoga about 18 months ago, and I have found it to be very helpful as a means of staying active and healthy.

I am semi-retired, but I love working with open source software and people, so I continue to do training and consulting on a part-time basis. My favorite aspects of this are training people who are new to Linux and open source software. I especially enjoy working with small businesses to help them understand how open source can work for their business, and how they can use it to provide a competitive advantage.

What are your favorite open source tools?

I use many different tools on a daily basis, both on the desktop and the command line interface (CLI).

My favorite distributions are Fedora for my main workstation, laptop, and netbook. I generally use Centos for servers and firewalls. I have tried other distributions, but I prefer the Red Hat related ones because I started out with Red Hat 17 years ago, and I worked as a trainer for Red Hat for a while. It is what I know best.

I also use Centos and, to a lesser extent, Fedora for teaching the classes I have written myself for the training portion of my business.

I use LibreOffice Writer for writing documents like this article and the class lab projects, and I also keep records of the work I do for my customers; sort of a log of my activities. I use LibreOffice Calc for creating invoices, LibreOffice Impress for presentations, and GnuCash for my personal and business accounting needs.

Thunderbird and Firefox provide for email and Internet browsing, respectively. I have added a few plugins to each to expand their capabilities to better meet my personal and business needs. For example, I use the Lightning calendar extension for Thunderbird and a Google extension to keep my calendar synchronized on multiple devices.

Behind the scenes: I use top, htop, iotop, sar, logwatch and other CLI tools to diagnose problems. I like vi/vim as my text editor because it is always there on most any Linux or Unix environment and can be run easily when I need to work in rescue or recovery mode. I know that a lot of people really like other editors, and I have tried some of them, especially emacs, but vim works best for my style.

Although the VirtualBox extensions are closed, I use Oracle's VirtualBox which itself is open. I have several virtual machines that I use for testing various things including new releases of Fedora, Centos, and other distributions.

What do you wish were more open?

The most important thing I would like to be more open is hardware vendors.

Some hardware vendors provide poorly written closed source, proprietary drivers and assume that us folks in the open source “niche” will be happy with that. And some vendors provide no support at all. We are most definitely not happy about either situation. I strongly recommend against specific video cards based on my experiences with some of those that are not well supported. I also recommend against certain printer vendors because of their abysmal driver support for Linux.

I would also like private industry and especially government at all levels to be much more open. Some government entities, such as the Raleigh City government, are already working on that. All government data about its citizens, the military, business, and other regulated and taxed entities, and especially the government itself and all of its agencies and employees, should be open to all.

What are the biggest challenges to openness that you encounter, either at work or in your life?

The other side of that openness coin is privacy, so that sets up a very important and strong tension between the need to gather some data and the right to privacy for individuals, business, and even government itself. That is a very fine line that will probably always be moving based on various new technologies and social needs.

Now I am assuming that some personal data about individuals should be withheld for privacy and security reasons, but I think that business and government should reveal the fact that they collect that information. This would enable us to determine whether the those collectors should really have access to that information and work to improve our personal privacy and security by restricting the collection and/or use of certain information.

My basic assumption is that if someone is collecting information about me, then it will eventually be hacked by bad guys and that my information will be available to all. So the only way to prevent that is to prevent the collection of that information in the first place.

Why choose the open source way?

To me the open source way is about freedom. Whether about use and sharing of open source software, or open government, or open data—freedom is the key word.

I like the freedom I have with open source software to copy it and provide it to my customers. I usually make the installation media for them and leave it with them in case I need to talk them through a rescue mode scenario.

I like that open source software has a much faster upgrade cycle for both functional and security issues. Once they are found, bugs of all types are resolved and distributed very quickly.

Openness and freedom bring the power to the people!

User profile image.
Jen leads a team of community managers for the Digital Communities team at Red Hat. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and daughters, June and Jewel.


I love the article and the insights.

Nothing unusual here.
Having worked as a troubleshooter on government IT for years I see them as more incompetent than evil.

On invoicing:
I used to invoice from a spreadsheet but I installed GnuCash with a Postgres backend, set up a chart of accounts that supports all of my billable activities.
Using the Latex invoice template from http://www.latextemplates.com/template/invoice and a very simple php script that embeds the Latex and the data I now have beautiful invoices.
The greatest benefit is that it is single handling and I always have to enter it which means that my accounts are always up to date.

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