A Proper Linux Workstation

Today Joshua writes:

Can you give a walk-through of your current setup? The last I heard from LAS is that you were on Ubuntu MATE – is that still the case?




Boy, I don’t know how exciting this is (or isn’t). So in addition to my hardware and desktop environment, I’ll also touch on some of the software I run everyday as well.


Whenever possible, I prefer working in my office with the door closed, typing away on my desktop PC. Don’t get me wrong, notebooks are great…but I need two monitors to keep my brain focused on what I need to get done in a day.

Artist rendering of Matt’s desktop….sort of

While my secondary computers all run Ubuntu MATE (most 14.04), my main rig has been running Ubuntu GNOME 16.04. Overall, I’m fairly happy with it. Ignoring the fact that the extension system for GNOME is buggy, the extensions with GNOME Tweak provide most of the functionality I want.

As for hardware, my PC runs a reasonably modern i7-2600 CPU, GeForce GTX 750, 32GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport RAM (I do a lot of work with virtual machines), 1TB HDD and a 500GB SSD drive for my OS installation. Needless to say, it’s fast enough for my needs.


Despite me running Ubuntu GNOME right now, I haven’t actually switched away from Ubuntu MATE. Most of my computers actually run it…especially those machines I don’t feel like monkeying with. Running GNOME has been an experiment that I simply haven’t moved on from yet. My goal was to spend a few months using it and here soon, I’ll likely spend some time in KDE.

The idea behind this was to immerse myself deeply into the desktop. That way, I can report accurately what I like and what I didn’t. And since I’ve already done this extensively with MATE and XFCE, GNOME was the next on my list.

Now you might be wondering – do I like it as much as I did MATE? The short answer is yes. However the long answer is I think while attractive, GNOME’s extension system is a mess. To be more accurate, the way GNOME handles extensions when the desktop updates is a mess. See, the problem a new update for GNOME is released, folks had better cross their fingers that their extensions work correctly. Most do…sort of…with some crashing or other odd behavior. Others simply stop working altogether.

All of that negative put aside, the rest of GNOME’s user experience is very good. I’ve even grown to appreciate GNOME’s Activities menu. Not a fan of browsing software with it, however its search feature is very responsive.



One of the first things I wanted was to have rotating wallpaper. I opted to use the GNOME extension known as “Random walls.” What’s nice about this is that it incorporates pretty smoothly with the GNOME desktop. An icon that looks like a Camera appears next to my network/sound/power controls. This provides me with super-easy access to Random walls. The rest of my theme is Numix with the “Global Dark” option turned on, thanks to GNOME Tweak.

Remote access

My ability to work on multiple PCs in my office without getting up is made possible with Synergy and SSH for remote updates. To access PCs not located at my home office, I rely on X2Go with a Dynamic DNS setup at the router level. This gives me remote control over the Internet, without burdening myself  with third party services.


The software I rely on daily includes LibreOffice Writer, Thunderbird, Audacity, SimpleScreenRecorder and Kdenlive. Accessibility applications I rely on include redshift-gtk and Workrave.

Well Joshua, hopefully this gives you a better idea of what I have running under the hood and how I use it on a day to day basis.

Do you have Linux questions you’d like Matt to help with? Hit the link here and perhaps you too, can Just Ask Matt!

Matt Hartley
Freedom Penguin’s founder & talking head – Matt has over a decade working with Linux desktops, his operating system experience consists of both Windows and Linux operating platforms. In addition to writing articles on Linux and open source technology for and, Matt also once served as a co-host for a popular Linux-centric podcast.

Matt has written about various software titles, such as Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, openCRX, Alfresco, Liferay and more. He also has additional Linux experience working with Debian based distributions, openSUSE, CentOS, and Arch Linux.


  1. It looks like your productivity software is pretty similar to mine. A lot of people refuse to believe that you can get work (pro-level) done without Microsoft Office and/or Adobe Creative Suite. Great post as usual Matt!

  2. Have you ever done a post detailing the hardware/software you use for your podcasts? I’m probably just being lazy here, but I didn’t see one, and it would be interesting to know how you go about it.

  3. Do you have any suggestions of articles talking about X2Go? I’m trying to use to access machines with Unity (my DE of choice) and that’s seems witchcraft. I’m using RealVNC and NoMachine for now, but both are commercial solutions.

    1. Interesting idea. I’ve used X2Go successfully with MATE and XFCE desktops, but haven’t tried it yet with Ubuntu Unity. Doing a couple of desktop queries, support for Unity seems fuzzy at best. But I’ll know more once I have a chance to try it.

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