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The People Who Support Linux: SysAdmin Tony Atkinson Admits to a Luddite Streak

Tony Atkinson’s technical expertise runs deep as a Linux systems administrator for a telecommunications company in Essex, England. He works with the Asterisk PBX (private branch exchange) and communications server and Nagios notification system, writing and maintaining bespoke PHP and shell scripts to control and coordinate phone and SMS services and other general operations in the U.K., U.S.A. and Australia.

Tony Atkinson“I recently started a long-term project to consolidate our existing servers (some 30 physical machines), replacing them with highly-available virtual machines running on six physical hosts via the KVM hypervisor,” Atkinson said via email.

But he confesses to be a bit of a luddite when it comes to smartphones and tablets. It’s a contradiction that sometimes confuses his friends and family who often rely on him for technical support, he says.

“I am quite content with using my 6-year-old Samsung D900 mobile phone,” he said. “I have no doubt I'll be drawn in sooner or later, at which point I'll probably opt for Android, or Tizen if it becomes viable.”

He prefers to spend his free time creating media projects with free and open source software. He’s dabbled with audio production under Linux using Ardour, the Hydrogen drum machine and Audacity. More recently he’s experimented with CGI animation, inspired by Sintel and Tears of Steel from the Blender Foundation, he said.

“I tend to use Linux for everything,” Atkinson said. “All my personal machines run some distribution of Linux, with Gentoo on my main machine and Debian on my personal fileserver the most used. But there's also Ubuntu and Fedora in the mix (used on my DVR and netbook respectively).”

His devotion to free software is a habit he picked up in senior school (age 11+) from one of his friends who had a relative involved in the GNU project, though he didn’t learn about Linux until 1998.

“I got my hands on DemoLinux (one of the first LiveCD distributions), but my first Linux install was in 1999 with Corel Linux,” he said. “I used Corel Linux for some time before moving up to Debian in the early 2000's.”

These days he finds the most interesting Linux innovations happening with ad-hoc mesh networks, such as the B.A.T.M.A.N. (Better Approach to Mobile Ad-Hoc Networking) routing protocol.

“The next globally disruptive shift in communications will be made possible by the use of such mesh networking infrastructures,” Atkinson said. “And I’m looking forward to how the technology progresses over the next few years.”

As a new individual member of The Linux Foundation, Atkinson is also looking forward to taking advantage of discounts on O'Reilly books and the Linux Journal. Welcome to The Linux Foundation, Tony!

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  • Tony Atkinson Said:

    > Welcome to The Linux Foundation, Tony! Thanks, and apologies for the slight "double-chin" photo. A freak lighting occurance, me thinks.

  • Luke Said:

    Hey Tony, could you recommend any good howtos for audio production under Linux? L.

  • Fred Richards Said:

    What an awesome article. Hi Tony! I, too am a sysadmin, and I might question the use of the word luddite. A good sys admin will use the right tool for the job, and is usually fully aware and mindful of his own habits. I am the same way, my hardware will last a long time because I take care of it, and I know how I use it on a daily basis. I think the opposite is true too, that sysadmins are resourceful. If you limit them to certain tools, they can mold and change their habits to suit the tools and task at hand.

  • ubuntourist Said:

    He's not alone. 20+ years using Linux, and I have a Raspberry Pi and a Cotton Candy.But when it comes to phones, I'm quite happy to be only reachable via landlines. If I'm biking, or dining out or at work,or engaged in any number of other activities, guess what. I'm busy. And paying for a "service" that doesn't work in several places, while my landlines have never failed just doesn't seem wise.

  • Phil Said:

    Like Tony I am a big Linux fan (though I don't do nearly as much with it as he does) -- and I use a very simple phone and can't see the point of iPads and smartphones. So I was waiting for the article to quote his reasons, but it never does!

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