Monday, June 19, 2017

Current OS and Software--Hint It's Linux

We all use technology every day–this isn’t news to anyone, at least it shouldn’t be. With the majority of the world running either Windows or Mac OSX on their laptops, it’s sometimes surprising to find out there are people running things like Linux. So, I thought it would be an interesting post to discuss both why I use Linux and take a peek into the tools that I use to get work done.

Antergos Linux

Linux as a daily OS may seem strange to people who are indebted to either the Windows or Mac microcosm, but there is logic behind the madness.

I got my first taste of Unix in graduate school where the math department had a Sun lab complete with Macaulay, Matlab, and LaTeX. Anything I needed to do on the computer I did in the Sun lab. So, using Unix or Unix-like operating systems is second nature. It’s also much easier, for me, to have access to the Linux command line. There’s also the issue of free versus non-free.

Right now, I’m running Antergos Linux. It’s basically an installer for Arch Linux along with a few other niceties. Sure, you could get the same set up from Arch itself, but the time commitment is several orders of magnitude greater. The trade off for the easier (and faster) install is less customization. I can live with that.

A feature of Arch (and its derivatives like Antergos) is the rolling release cycle. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Arch updates can and do break things. For those unfamiliar with the idea of a rolling release verses a versioned release it simply means Arch (and its derivatives) don’t have version numbers. Whereas you have Ubuntu 16.10 and 17.04 and so forth, with Arch you simply have Arch–the OS updates regularly.

I’ve used Arch in the past, going through the manual install several times on various hardware configurations, but recently played around with Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and CentOS. While it’s true that Linux is Linux, there are differences in the different distributions. The reason I returned to an Arch based distro is that I simply like Arch better. That’s not to say I don’t like any of the others. I really liked Fedora, particularly the Scientific Spin, but there’s some weird issue with some of my hardware that would cause Fedora to refuse to boot. So after trying out some other distributions I landed back in Arch land via Antergos.

There are several things I like about Antergos Linux, not least of which is that I get an Arch install without the manual install process–which can be time consuming. I also like the custom Numix desktop and icon theme that comes standard with Antergos. Combined with Gnome and Dash-to-Dock installed by default, Antergos looks and works like a desktop, not a server.

Gnome doesn’t always get a lot of love, and in many ways it’s justified. In the case of Antergos though, Gnome is actually pretty good. Unlike Gnome on Ubuntu, it’s not sluggish–thought it does retain a bit of that OS X/mobile look and feel. But the more I use it, the more I like it.

This leads us into the next unique feature that I really like about Antergos. There’s only one ISO image and it includes several desktop environments to choose from. Other distributions require a different ISO for different DE’s. This makes trying out other desktop environments easier with Antergos as you only have one installer. Overall, I’m quite happy with my decision to install Antergos.


I’ll close off with a quick look at some of the software I use on a, more or less, daily basis.

TeX Live, TeXstudio, and LaTeXML

For most writing, I use LaTeX and TeXstudio. Part of this is simply due to the amount of math I have to typeset. If you’ve ever tried to use a word processor to typeset math you’ll understand. However, I also use LaTeX for normal writing as well.

I do this partly out of habit, and partly because LaTeX produces documents that look much better than anything done on a word processor or WYSIWYG desktop publishing system. I use LaTeXML when I need to kick out XHTML with embedded math–such as for a blog post or epub book.


For general blogging, and short form writing, I use Ghostwriter. It’s free. It’s open source. It looks and works great. In fact, I’m using it to write this post right now. I particularly like the distraction free nature of the program.

With Ghostwriter I write my post in a combination of markdown and HTML, then export to full HTML before uploading to my blog.

Math and Science

There are a ton of them, so I’ll start with the basics and this list will grow over time.

What technology do you use? Let me know in the comment section.