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My beautiful Linux development environment

deepu105 profile image Deepu K Sasidharan Updated on ・6 min read

Originally published at deepu.tech.

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One of the questions that I get quite often after a conference talk is weirdly not about what I presented but about my Linux desktop environment. People are more curious about that beautiful distro rather than the awesome presentation I just did 😂

Not that I'm complaining, I love my desktop setup. I love it so much that I was afraid of getting a new PC when I was due for one. I was afraid that I would mess things up(I have done that many times in the past, I think Linux users can relate to me)

So I decided to capture the most important aspects of my distro for anyone interested in using Linux as their primary OS for development.

This is not just my work laptop, it's my primary machine which I use for all of the below

  • Java, JS, TS, Go, Python & web development
  • JHipster development
  • Running multiple web applications locally
  • Running Docker containers
  • VirtualBox for Windows testing & other VM stuff
  • Kubernetes, Terraform, CloudFormation development and deployments
  • Azure, AWS & GCP deployments using required CLI tools
  • Heavy browser usage
  • Email, chat & video conferencing
  • Plex media server
  • Blogging
  • Youtube & Social media

Machine configuration

The configuration of the machine is also quite important for any development setup. So my laptop is a Dell Precision 5530 Mobile Workstation. I had the exact same setup with my old Dell 5510 as well, which is quite a similar configuration to 5530. I still have it as a backup Laptop, its 2 years old now but can still give most of the top-end laptops today a run for its money.

I used the custom configuration option from Dell to get the best possible setup at that time. it's not cheap but my company, XebiaLabs, provided a handsome budget and I think it is worth every penny. This, in my opinion, is one of the best Laptops for developers. So here is what I have.

Processor: Intel® Core™ i9-8950HK CPU @ 2.90GHz × 12

Memory: 32GB, DDR4-2666MHz SDRAM, 2 DIMMS, Non-ECC

HDD: M.2 1TB NVMe PCIe SED class 40 SSD

Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro P2000 with 4 GB GDDR5 memory & Intel® UHD Graphics 630 (Coffeelake 3x8 GT2)

Wireless: Intel Wifi Link 9260 2x2 802.11AC + BT 4.2 vPro wireless card

Keyboard: English QWERTY US, backlit

Display: 15.6" FHD 1920x1080 Anti-Glare LED-backlit Non-touch IPS UltraSharp™

Battery: 6-cell (97Wh) Lithium-Ion battery with ExpressCharge™

Operating system and desktop environment

The most important of course is the operating system, I'm running Fedora 30 at the moment with GNOME 3.32.2 as the Desktop and I'm very happy with it. I find Fedora more suitable for development machines than other distros as it has a short release cycle and is fairly stable so you get the latest & stable software all the time.

What good is a desktop without a nice theme right? GNOME is great when it comes to themes and I went with Arc-Flatabulous theme and never looked back. For icons, I use Paper as I like the material icon theme.

Of course, it won't be complete without some nice GNOME plugins. Below are the plugins that I use.

Development tools

Now, these are mostly objective choices and really doesn't matter as long as you are comfortable with the tools you choose. Below are my choices for some of the important categories for development. I'm not including obvious things like Vim, Git, NodeJS, Docker, Kubernetes, etc.

Shell: This is one of the most important for a developer. I use ZSH along with the awesome Oh My ZSH as my shell. Now, this won't be complete without some nice plugins and themes. I use powerlevel9k theme with some customizations. I also use zsh-autosuggestions, git, docker, docker-compose, autojump, zsh-syntax-highlighting, dnf, and npm plugins for Oh My ZSH. Here is my .zshrc with all the customizations. Update: A comment on this post suggested powerlevel10k as an alternative theme and I tried it and turns out it is really way faster than powerlevel9k. So I think I'm gonna use powerlevel10k as my shell theme.

Terminal: What good is a nice shell without a good terminal. Fortunately, we have Tilix one of the best terminal applications out there. It has workspaces, tabs, split windows, Quake mode and so on.

Integrated development environment(IDE): IntelliJ IDEA ultimate - I use this only for Java & other JVM language Development

Code Editors: Visual Studio Code - My go-to editor. I love it. I use VSCode for web development, Go, Python, JS development, DevOps and everything other than JVM languages. A VSCode setup is never complete without some good plugins. Here are the plugins that I'm using. You can run the script to install those.

Other notable development tools I use are GitKraken for Git repo management, Beyond Compare for code comparisons, VirtualBox, NVM for NodeJS version management and SDKMan for JDK version management.

Productivity tools

Productivity tools are also quite important and below are my choices.

Browser: Google Chrome is my primary browser. I also use Firefox & Opera sometimes. I do love Opera in terms of its UX, I would love to use it as my primary browser but I miss everything I have synchronized with my Google account in Chrome.

Email: I use Mailspring as my e-mail client. Its a fairly decent mail client with nice themes and a simple UI.

Office suite: I mostly use Google Docs & Microsoft office online but when I have to work on something on my Desktop I use LibreOffice which is a good office suite and even handles Microsoft Office & Keynote formats.

Communication: Of course I use Slack and for video conference I use BlueJeans.

Screen capture: I use this nifty tool called Peek for screen recording and Shutter for screenshots.


There are many other small and nifty utilities that I use, most are command-line utilities. There are some notable mentions like Timeshift which is nice for backing up your machine.

Of course, not everything is perfect in the Linux world, but it is the same with every OS. I was a long-time Windows user before switching to Linux. So like every Linux user I have from time to time messed things up(With great power comes great responsibility, Peter). There are many quirks in the Linux world but there is nothing that bothers me much. Some of the most annoying issues I had in the past are below and for now, I don't have any noticeable issues.

  • Scroll position jumping when switching apps - Fixed after upgrading to Fedora 30
  • Hibernation was broken - Fixed after upgrading to Fedora 30
  • Audio output selection was broken when plugging in headphones- Fixed after Fedora 28 for me

I hope you find this useful. If you have any questions or if you think I missed something please add a comment.

If you like this article, please leave a like or a comment.

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deepu105 profile

Deepu K Sasidharan


JHipster co-lead, Polyglot dev, Cloud Native Advocate, Developer Advocate @Adyen, Author, Speaker, Software craftsman. Loves simple & beautiful code. bit.ly/JHIPSTER-BOOKS


Editor guide

I'm currently interested in trying to automate my environments. In the past, especially on OS X, I have spent days getting my environment perfected. I probably couldn't do it again if I had to rebuild the precise environment, so I am working on scripting out my configuration, keeping configurations in source control, and fun stuff like that so that my environment is more disposable in the future and I can experiment freely knowing everything can easily be rebuilt.


A great first step, if you haven't done it yet, is to save your configuration files in your home directory in a dotfiles git repo (here's mine for example). While you may need to do a couple of steps to get ready to pull it down, it can shave a bunch of time getting things like common tool and editor configs set up quickly.


I did just start doing that, also handy for keeping my org mode files in sync. I am trying to learn Puppet as well, but that's going to take some time!


I do the same. Also, have a separate repo for my IDE (PHPStorm) settings.


Yes that's something I'm trying to do as well. A fully automated setup for Fedora is the dream. This article is kind of a first step for me


Hey great article! this maybe can serve as inpiration. I have for both Fedora and Ubuntu (it is also possible that it doesn't work, I remember there were a few bugs :). Cheers!

GitHub logo flrnprz / ansible

Workstation auto-conf

Workstation ansible playbooks

Need ansible installed in your local machine.

Command line

$ ansible-pull -U https://github.com/flrnprz/ansible.git
$ ansible-pull -U https://github.com/flrnprz/ansible.git --check


For Linux, check out the ansible playbooks I wrote github.com/fazlearefin/ubuntu-dev-...


You should check this out: github.com/geerlingguy/mac-dev-pla...

It uses Ansible and home brew to help automate Mac setup.


I do the same as well as make use of a utility called GNU Stow to manage said configs


That's a great idea for a write-up I would totally read the shit out of. Would love to hear about your progress and conclusions.


Its a great choice


Yes it is, but my comment was not serious, just a reference to the meme: google.com/search?q=i+use+arch+btw ;)


I am surprised to find such a similar Linux config to my own!
I also use Arc theme albeit a slightly different variant called X-Arc-Darker with the paper icon theme.
I also run Fedora 30 (the main laptop is running Pop_OS! though due to Nvidia driver stability issue).
Also using Tilix, Mailspring, ohmyzsh with powerlevel9k, VS Code, GitKraken, DashToDock, Topicon Plus, etc. Doing web dev with Django and Angular most of the time.

So at least on the superficial side, the setup is pretty similar :D. Thanks for the article~


Try powerlevel10k you won't regret


yep, will try~
I also find the spaceship theme very attractive (just like those icons XD)

Powerlevel10k is 28 times faster than Spaceship in a representative benchmark: reddit.com/r/zsh/comments/c3osfa/p.... Spaceship is faster than Powerlevel9k.

WOW, that's some number. Will definitely try it out!


How is your experience with Pop_OS!. Is it as great and clean as advertised


Sorry for getting back to you this late. I don't check the notification very frequently. -.-

Getting to your question, yes, at least I think so.
The nicest thing about PopOS is hardware compatibility. Most distros don't respect the fact that most laptops have hybrid graphics. For me, providing an NVidia option OOB is highly appreciated.

Regarding performance, I think some YT channels compared it to Ubuntu and came to the conclusion that it was actually a bit snappier and performs a bit better in games. I have not used Ubuntu since 16.04, which gave me horrible memories at the time btw, so I cannot attest that. But I can attest that it runs as snappy as a vanilla Fedora of the same age, and ran much faster compared to Zorin OS 15 when it came out.

I don't know your definition of "clean" but I don't think it is bloated. It contains many PopOS-specific plugins that fit in really well, so the experience is cohesive. I am not a fan of their design aesthetics, especially the choices of fonts, colors and icon styles, but it is well-thought-out and well-put-together.

So yeah, my experience with PopOS is largely positive. There are some issues which you would be able to find in their Github issues but generally, they are not deal breaker.



I personally prefer XFCE desktop environment (Xubuntu LTS to be specific) as performance is more important to me than theming and UI enhancements. And besides, I like its minimal RAM consumption (yeah, 32GB is lots of RAM but even that gets scarce when you get into web development!).

For emails, I like thunderbird which is a wonderful email client. I don't like Mailspring for two reasons:

  1. Electron is a hog on resources.
  2. Its proprietary and closed-source in nature.

LibreOffice is great for office work, yeah. And I also use GIMP for image editing and meld for file/folder comparison (which is similar to BeyondCompare).

Apart from that, I use a whole lot of other linux tools like geany, synaptic, tmux, dict, etc..


If you don't care about UI/UX then, of course, there are distros and DEs that are better. But I'm a sucker for nice UI/UX and Gnome has one of the best in Linux world. Also, I have not encountered any performance issue with this setup so far. I believe you would notice it only in a less powerful laptop.

I tried Thunderbird and Evolution, but they were too cluttered for my taste. I like the minimal UX of Mailspring. I don't notice resource hog. It's not closed source see this github.com/Foundry376/Mailspring

And of course, GIMP is a given, though I miss Photoshop. I'll try Meld.


If you don't care about UI/UX then, of course, there are distros and DEs that are better

I think this is very misleading. UX is user experience and that experience depends on a lot of things. My experience on a slower laptop with a heavyweight DE is going to be worse than my experience with a lightweight DE on the same hardware. Simply correlating UX with things looking pretty is not helpful in the real world. My experience using a different desktop paradigm is also going to be very subjective.

Agree I should have been clearer. I was talking about a nice UI and yes UX is subjective


It's not closed source see this github.com/Foundry376/Mailspring

From the link you gave:

Mailspring's sync engine is spawned by the Electron application and runs locally on your computer. It will be open-sourced in the future but is currently closed source. (emphasis mine)

Ya, the sync engine is not oss. I was referring to the client itself. Anyway I don't consider that as a negative. Being a OSS developer myself IMO, being closed source doesn't make something bad.


If you like Fedora (I do too) maybe you should give a try to Manjaro.


My coworker uses Manjaro. Looks like a compromise between Arch and Fedora. It is definitely the next distro I'll try.


I'll check it out


May be you are not using it for the right purpose. Anyway everyone has the right to choose and use what they like. Also I don't understand the Windows relationship here


I was delighted to see another power user with VScode. I think OP is just speaking out of his something and assuming it's just for .net


Windows doesn't have relationship with VSCode. maybe using VSCode on fedora or debian do not make any problem.

But, individually, I dislike text editors that you have to work with them by mouse.

That's personal preference, I would prefer these to VIM/Emacs for example.

Each view has its own value and respect.

Have you try Webstorm, so so nice...

I don't any difference between webstorm and IntelliJ with JS plugins. I still prefer VSCode for front end dev

I have tried it briefly once. I don't see any difference between webstorm and IntelliJ with JS plugins. I still prefer VSCode for front end dev


I switched from Unbuntu 18.04 to Fedora 30. Then I realised docker was still not supported so I reverted to Fedora 30. I couldn't live more happily without those PPAs.

How did you get around for fedora 30 and docker ?


I don't understand your question. Docker was always supported on Fedora. I use docker everyday. It works fine without any issues.


The third paragraph only Fedora 28 and 29 are supported. I tried with 30 but you had to go through the unstable channel to get anything and I wasn't willing to do it to develop.

I already had docker installed and I upgraded to Fedora 30. So docker still works fine. I do need to check the PPA situation. I think maybe it's just that they haven't updated the PPA for docker yet. I see this issue github.com/docker/for-linux/issues...

Anyway, for me, it's not a big deal to use repo for 29 or test repo but if you find it a problem may be better to stay on Fedora 29 until 30 is stable and all repo is available

Yes, that's what I do. It's only docker not being supported on 30 that "holds me back". 29 being an LTS is good until then.

Btw did you try sudo dnf install --releasever=29 docker-ce docker-ce-cli containerd.io

try out podman! Fedora 31 changed to cgroup v2.0 so docker is no longer compatible at the moment. check out podman, a rootless alternative to docker. you can easily install and add alias docker='podman' to your .bashrc or .zshrc file.

For now, I have changed startup to use cgroup v1.0, but ya I need to try Podman


I love my Linux dev environment but ran into a ton of problems witth permissions when setting up Docker. Did you run into roadblocks with Docker on Linux? Any tips on setting it up? I eventually gave up on it for the time being but really want to learn the workflow soon and begin using for dev and prod. Great write-up, definitely bookmarking this!


I had some permissions-related issues with Docker on Linux too.
This is what solved them for me: docs.docker.com/install/linux/linu... (first section)

Give it a try if you haven't yet


It's funny because they are flagged as optonial but they are totally necessary for it to be properly working (yeah I know it's because of the root privileges)


I setup docker with the user group suggested and everything was fine. I also changed the default docker directory to avoid eating space on root disk.


Thanks for sharing this setup! I'm currently using a very stable, ubuntu based distro built wih UI/UX in mind: Pop! OS. It's smooth, beautiful and works! You should take a look at it.

Off topic (If there is a space for this here): I'm a BIG fan of JHipster. Since the first try of this generator in 2017 I came across a very important doubt: How to handle generated code maintainability when upgrading the JDL model? I know you can create some /api/extended/... controllers, extend the service layer to create your own business logic, create your own repositories for custom querys.. and it's great, this way your custom code will not be overwritten. But, I don't want to have an /api/my-entity/delete endpoint published with no authorization restrictions over a business sensitive entity.

If been trying different options but I have found some points which I don´t feel "clean" with:

  • I don´t want to be deleting the JHipster generated controllers in each entity update.
  • Having your true business logic under the /api/ext(ended)/ base path is not "REST aesthetic".

Do you have any recommendation for this?


Unfortunately this something we are still trying to solve. I think a better place to discuss this would in the Jhipster gitter channel


I also have the Dell Precision 5530 but seem to have problems with the fans. They seem to be spinning constantly when the laptop is charging (they stop if I unplug the charger). Do you have similar issues?

Otherwise, great article, thanks! :)


Also I hope you have latest bios firmware and stuff. Else probably you need to visit the Dell service. I have 2 precision machines and don't have this issue. Few of my colleagues also have this machine.


Yep, latest bios / drivers. Seems like I will really need to pay them a visit :)

Thanks, have a nice day!


Man, that is great. i am going to apply a ton of that to my linux box. just a quick linux question, is there a way to sync/export your desktop settings? i am about to get an linux computer and i don't want all that setup work to go to the trash


When I migrated from my old laptop I used Timeshift to backup and sync using an external HDD. But it works only if you use the same distro. Another option is to put all your dotfiles in a git repo and sync.


I could not recommand Timeshift enough. I have it take an image everyday and keep a trail for 1 week. Does not take a lot of space and is a nice safety espacially when you switch distro or you break yours by trying stuff you shouldn't.


Loving your setup !
I wonder if this is doable for someone who has to heavily use Photoshop, Illustrator and XD on a daily basis. Do these apps run smoothly on a VM ?
I'd love to hear your experiences on that.

Thanks !


Yes those apps will run fine on a VM. The only issue I had on the VM is when there was Audio involved. I couldn't get Audio working inside the VM. But I didn't try hard enough.


Glad to know ! I'm definitely trying this.

Thanks again !

Actually, programs that rely on direct graphics card access, like Photoshop and Illustrator, will take a huge performance hit in VMs. They are usable, but for having many files open at the same time or large files, it will be noticeably slower.


Love this kind of posts.

I think I am using almost all the tools you mentioned ;)

Tilix is really awesome and I think not that well known compared with Terminator for example.

I am currently using Ubuntu 18.04 as my OS but I am planning to buy a new Laptop and I am thinking if I should keep it or try something new.

I like the stability of it but would prefer a somewhat faster release cycle. (without compromising too much the stability).

How is your experience with Fedora and how you compare it with other distros like Ubuntu? I see someone mention Manjaro in the comments, which is a distro I am also considering.


When I switched from Windows I started with Ubuntu but after six months I switched to Fedora and never looked back. Personally I had many quirks with Ubuntu and also the slow release cycles were annoying. Fedora has been super stable for me so far. Every version update has been problem free(except you have to update the gnome extensions sometimes) and fully automatic


Try Fedora. It's like Ubuntu but some details are making it, imo, better. Like getting rid of those PPAs.


An amazing device you got. I must say, great setup. I have always thought of using Fedora or Arch, but after trying out several disros (Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Zorin, Mint, Elementry) I finally settled with Ubuntu Budgie. It has great UI/UX experience and very sleek with less resource consumption. Its the best Ubuntu based I have tried so far. Thanks to you I've got to try some good tools


What has your experience been like using docking stations?


I don't use the docking station. I just connect 2 screens using USB-C and then power. I'm thinking of getting the station though. A colleague of mine has the same machine running Linux and has the Docking station and seems to work well except for flicker on screen rarely when switching display


Awesome. Love your post and your setup. It might be time for me to make the jump from Ubuntu to a more legit distro like Fedora.

just out of pure interest: what makes fedora more legit ?

Reddit comments mostly...

In all seriousness I think the advantage is two-fold.

1) Frequent updates to upstream packages.

2) Redhat is based off of Fedora, which gives your workstation the same feel as servers you might be managing if you're a sysadmin.

Really just the first thing though.


Thank you very much for this interesting post!

I would like to recommend another very useful, docker-based component that will save you hours of installing and configuring http servers, database systems, certificates to simulate https, catch-all mail servers...



Thanks will check it out


Good read. Have you looked at those System76 machines before? Seems like they have a custom Linux distro just for devs.


Yes, I even considered them a few years ago when I was deciding a Laptop. They are great in terms of power and quality but they are bit bulky IMO. I travel a lot and I wanted something lightweight and powerful which was only met by Dell XPS and Precision series. So far really happy with the choice and that's why bought Dell again when I was due for an upgrade.


Good choice i'm personaly use ArcoLinux for development, also i recommend you another version control manager (similar to SDKman, but wider choice for programming languages) asdf manager (Erlang, Elixir, Rust, Nodejs): github.com/asdf-vm/asdf


Sure I'll check it out


Nice write up! Thank you!

I noticed we go opposite paths. I use Windows as host and Linux in Virtual Box VM's. And as I have to install these VM's quite frequently, I decided to make a script. It's still a wip, so take that with a grain of salt. Here:


Everyone please feel free to fork, comment and suggest if you like it.

I'm preparing a series of posts where I will list all things shell script I've been learning while putting this down.


Looks cool. I might steal(fork :P) it to automate my setup in future :)


I am curious: how do you make use of the Quadro P2000?


I don't at the moment. I have an Xbox so there is no much use of a dedicated graphics card. So l have turned it off. If the configuration had an option without that card I would have opted for that. But if you need to use it you can install the Official NVidia drivers and it works well. I have used to play steam games in the past. It gave better frame rate then a MacBook Pro


You can still temporarily unplug that card.

Its turned of with prime so doesn't bother me anyway.


I’ve been using MacOS for the last four years and i built a custom computer, so I’m trying to setup my development environment and I don’t know which should I install, I’m between Ubuntu, elementary or fedora. Any suggestions?


I haven't tried elementary but I heard it looks very much like Mac. I have tried both Ubuntu and Fedora and would recommend Fedora.


More people need to code in Linux distros. I see so many people always grunting and complaining about their macbooks and macOSes but never bothering to take the chance to try a custom Linux based environment. This is specially true in the frontend world.


Cool stuff, Deepu. I'm going to try out Tilix :-)

Thanks for sharing.


Alfred is the only thing keeping me on macOS versus using a distro. Well, that and Sketch, but I could probably swallow switching to Figma.


There are gnome plugins providing most of those features(Like clipboard history, the default search is great as well), but ya Alfred looks much more integrated and polished.


I just stumbled upon Albert albertlauncher.github.io/docs/ check it out. It looks a lot like Alfred


Meh, not bad, but nowhere close to Alfred. The "open in VS code" workflow, my lorem ipsum generator, and my password generator are just too good to lose.

Appreciate the heads up though!


Great suggestions. As a long-time Windows user and developer, I have recently started to experiment more with developing in Linux. I've tried a few distros (Ubuntu, Debian) but I think I'm going to give Fedora a try. Thanks!


Try it. You wouldn't regret


And a dual boot windows, because one has to play some games once in a while LOL


If you are interested in playing some games every now and then, you can actually do it quite hassle free on linux, just install your graphics drivers.

Then you have two choices, steam with proton activated like this a lot of games work perfectly just by installing as you would on windows or wine with lutris installed, have a look at this for some more context:



You can install Steam and play games quite well. I used to play Call of Duty on my earlier Dell with similar setup without any issues. Also you can turn off the NVidia card when not needed using the Prime setup


Come on guys. I was joking. Don't you have a sense of humor?


in terms of beauty it's as ugly as every other "beautiful" *nix desktop, and usability of dock is as bad as always
in terms of everything else I have some questions:
does Tilix hide properly out of task switcher when quake-hidden or it still pops-up there?
why VSC? it's heavy for a code editor and poor for IDE, especially when you have Idea Ultimate already, why not just load it with tools for other languages and call it a day having much better toolbox?
Shy you started using chrome in the first place? It never was any good. I assume by Opera you mean the damned imposter based on Chromium and having literally no functionality, if so: why?
As of messaging I assume you were forced to use Slack by the company since it's as poor of a choice as every other "modern messenger"


You think you are very smart, don't you? I thought of responding to your questions but forget it.


Can I ask you what IDE you use for java projects ?
I'm using NetBeans but I'm not satisfied


As mentioned in the post I use IntelliJ IDEA. Its great for Java. You can use the free community edition as long you don't need some advanced features


Sorry I missed the section about IDE, thanks


I thought I was the only one that uses Linux as my primary development OS...


wonderful write up thank you for sharing your setup 😄