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Particularly during my education at Tilburg University, I've had many discussions about software. Most notably because I am a big fan of Free Software (`Free as in freedom, not free beer' © Richard Stallman). Having told this story over and over and over again, I feel that it is time to write it down.
First of all, I must admit that I am not a great hacker. I just like to toy around with software, and want to feel I'm in control about which software packages I use, how they are configured etc. etc. Wanting these things is one thing, but actually getting them is a whole different story. I have always had trouble getting Microsoft Windows stable and do exactly what I wanted (however, Win2K seems to work just fine). Besides that, I generally don't trust Microsoft; always had a rather unpleasant feeling when using their software.
I've used a number of different Linux distributions including most of the major ones. For a long time I've used SourceMage Gnu Linux on all my systems. Because of several reasons, though, it cost me a lot of time to maintain my boxes. Some of them had to do with the project (stuff broke, occasionally, and it cost a lot of time to fix them) and some of them were more personal in nature. I've switched to Ubuntu on most of my boxes. Also, I am involved in the ABT-Linux project.
The choice of an Operating System alone, however, is not enough. It's the software that runs on it which is more interesting. Unfortunately this area is also dominated by a certain company from Redmond, USA. Again, I try to rely on Free Software whenever possible. The following is a list of the tools that I use on a day to day basis.
I wrote a short howto on how to set-up mutt with fetchmail/maildrop/gnupg as well as a mini-howto for svn. Last but not least, I recently figured out how to search in my collection of scientific papers (in BiBTeX and Pdf format) and wrote a short howto for it.