Libre Lenny’s Setup: Free From Big Tech & Tracking

As a huge fan of FOSS and privacy respecting tools, business and platforms, I am very particular about the hardware, software and services I use. I’m also a full time Linux user since 2017.

Web Hosting

This website is hosted by the 1984 Hosting Company (not sponsored), which was established in 2006 by a couple of Free Software and civil rights enthusiasts.

Laptop Computer

I have quite a few laptops around the house, because I am a Linux enthusiast. I have everything from an Toshiba NB 300 (circa 2010), which I test very light Linux distros on, to various 5-10 your old laptops that I also use for testing. I even have an IBM Thinkpad T43 (circa 2005) that still runs the original version of Windows XP. But my main laptop is a Dell 7480 (circa 2017), Touchscreen, with 32 GB of RAM. I have 4 of them in the house, because they’re great laptops. Side note: I have given my Spacehey profile a Windows XP theme. How cool is that? Windows XP is the last Windows OS that was any good, imo. I still open my Thinkpad T43 from time to time.

My Primary Laptops

I have several laptops which I use for various reasons. However, these are my primary two. One for work and one for personal stuff:

  • My Work Laptop: which I use for my employment.
    • It’s a Dell 7480 with 32GB Ram.
    • I use Zorin Pro with 7 workspace and 3 screens (laptop and 2 monitors).
  • My Private Laptop: Which I use to build my personal websites.
    • It’s also a Dell 7480 with 32GB Ram.
    • I have 2 screens (laptop and 1 monitor).
    • I use alternative platforms and services for absolutely everything.

Operating Systems & Distros

I’m a huge fan of Debian. More specifically, I love distros that are base on Debian – but even though I was introduced to Linux by Ubuntu around 2008, I have come to heavily dislike Ubuntu – and by extension, any distro that’s based on Ubuntu. But that situation is for another post.

Linux Distros

In spite of trying many dozens of distros on just as many laptops (some of the most promising: MX Linux, Pop OS and Linux Mint), Zorin has been the one that simply never let me down. So, I’ve been a huge fan of Zorin. I still use it exclusively on my work (day job) laptop. It runs flawlessly and never misses a beat. I still play with other distros though. Always watching distro reviews etc. Before Zorin, I used Linux Mint as my primary ‘work’ distro for a good couple of years. It’s awesome, but Zorin is better.

Due to the fact that as a web developer and digital marketer, I prolifically use multiple workspaces and I have three screens in front of me: My Laptop and 2 Dell monitors. The only distro I’ve found over the past several years, that works absolutely flawlessly and has not given me a moment of trouble for years is: Zorin PRO. Unfortunately it’s based on Ubuntu (which I’m not happy about), but it’s heavily modified and supremely polished. So I’ve stopped using Zorin on my personal laptop; which is the one I have set aside for my completely non-mainstream computer where I use alternative and independent products and services.

For the longest time, my favourite ‘personal’ Debian distro of choice has been Sparky Linux (stable) — but since Debian 12 came out, I’ve made it my primary ‘distro’ (if you can call straight Debian a distro). I am using the XFCE desktop environment. I know some readers will balk at that, but XFCE is amazing if you set it up the right way. And I am definitely gong to write an article about that real soon. So join my mailing list if you want to hear about that:

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Desktop Environment

I truly love the simplicity of XFCE. On laptops and other computer setups where I am not doing web development, I definitely beeline straight to XFCE. Sparky Linux and XFCE make a great combo. However, on my daily driver and work laptop, I use the Gnome desktop environment that comes with Zorin, with Gnome Tweaks for hot corners and various other functionalities to do with screens and workspaces. Zoron allows me to set up a very specific and functional environment with no hassles – ever.

Browser of Choice

As a web developer and digital marketer since the turn of the millennium, I’ve used pretty much every browser that is or ever was. I was intimately familiar with all browsers back in the day, as all websites I built were hand coded to be W3C compliant. I’ve always been a fan of Firefox, but over the that Mozilla has fallen further and further from grace, to the point that it’s just another woke company at this point. They’re accepting money from Google, which is beside the entire point of what Mozilla used to represent. It’s just sad.

Nevertheless, I plug along with Waterfox, which is based on Firefox, because quite frankly there’s nothing else. Waterfox is a great browser that’s hardened for privacy and removes all the tracking and telemetry that Mozilla puts in Firefox. And I won’t use Chromium or anything made with Chromium as my primary browser.


Here’s everything I use, in Alphabetical Order. It’s not an exhaustive list, just all the main stuff.

  • Software Repository: Flatpaks, of course (and .deb; but this only works if I log into the Gnome desktop environment — so while I’m logged in with XFCE, I jsut use Flatpaks). I only install software from Debian or Flathub. I don’t do snaps.
  • Password Manager: Secrets – The best password manager I’ve found, bar none. I used Bitwarden for several years, but deleted it when they tried to make that guy use “pronouns”. I have several hundred passwords, so it’s been a real effort to slowly but surely remove them all and keep them in a locally hosted solution. I feel a lot better for it anyway. It’s actually not a good idea to keep all your passwords in the cloud.
  • 2FA Authentication: Authenticator. I also use Aegis on my Google free phone, running Calyx OS. And I have a Solokey which is an ‘Open Source FIFO2 Security key’, which I highly recommend; you simply have to touch it — it doesn’t read your actual thumb print.
  • HTML Editor: Geany – All my hand coded HTML is done in Geany. It’s a nice simple editor that’s not overly complex or bloated and doesn’t get in my way.
  • Image Editing: GIMP. Funny thing is, I use to use Paintshop Pro back in the day and couldn’t stand GIMP. Since I became a full time Linux user slowly but surely over the years, I’ve come to love it. I’m reasonably proficient with using it these days too; for website graphics and thumbnails, at least.
  • Clipboard Manager: Gpaste (installed via .deb file). I’m a prolific cut and paster. This tool is awesome.
  • Bookkeeping: Most of my budgeting is recording expenses for now, and I’m not very good at it, but Homebank is software with a long history and a great reputation, so I’m currently trying to figure out how to use it. Mainly because every tax year is stressful, so I need to do better. I’m trying!
  • Document and Spreadsheets: Libre Office. I used to use Zoho as an alternative to Google docs, but they changed their licensing so you have to buy three licenses to use it. It’s still free, but some of the features I want, such as sharing with my wife require a license. So I decided just to save Libre Office documents to the cloud. Still works fine. I may very well get a Zoho subscription before long for other reasons. I still like the company, I just don’t want to pay for a subscription just so I can share files with one person.
  • VPN: Mullvad (needs to be downloaded from their website) all the way. I also have Mullvad browser installed, which is how I watch YouTube videos if I really have a need to watch something. I am subscribed to independent video platforms, but if I ever see a video link to YouTube or there’s someone directing me to watch something, I throw the URL into Mullvad.
  • Video and Screen Recording: You can’t go past OBS Studio for recording on Linux. Is there anyone that doesn’t use it?
  • Video Editing: Kdenlive – This is actually an awesome editor. I have no problem using it. And it gets better all the time.
  • Cloud (someone else’s computer): The main reason I use pCloud is that it works extremely well on Linux via AppImage. I save my Secrets passwords onto the cloud (with 2fa set up), in case anything ever happens to my computer — or I need access via another computer. I have a paid pCloud subscription. I also use for various online profiles, where I might want to save something via browser. I currently don’t have a need for a paid account.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): Screaming Frog is a fantastic tool which I primarily use to crawl websites, so that I can download the meta titles and descriptions and put them into a spreadsheet so that I can easily revise them. It does a whole lot more than that, but that’s al I need it for, so I just use the free version. I have other SEO tools and subscriptions for other functionalities.
  • Messengers: Session Desktop and Telegram Desktop. As someone who hardly ever picks up my phone — and I only have a few core apps on it, I use the desktop versions.
  • Notes: Simplenote. I don’t use this for anything special. Just a shopping list, because Simplenote also works on my Google free phone, and some HTML snippets and other non-sensitive stuff. I live in the middle of nowhere, so when I go into town once a month, I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.
  • Screenshots: Spectacle is a great screenshots app by KDE. I’m a huge fan of KDE.
  • System Monitor: This comes with Debian 12 Gnome and is still accessible after installing XFCE. Gnome System Monitor is awesome. I have it running in a second monitor at all times so I can see if I need to stop whipping my CPU so hard. I almost always am. Gee those Dell 7480’s can take a beating. I like Dell becasue they work with the Linux computer and I never have any problems with Dell computers. Al my monitors are Dell too.
  • Downloading Videos: Video Downloader is a simple tool that I use If I ever need to download a video to get a clip.
  • Primary Web Browser: Waterfox – mainly because I have about 12 profiles and I use them all for different reasons. Again, it’s based on Firefox, but it’s hardened and has al the telemetry removed. I quite like Waterfox. I’m pretty dirty on Mozilla, so there’s also the added benefit that I don’t have to see the Firefox or Mozilla icons.
  • Other Browsers:
    • I have an installation of Chromium, because some of the websites and services I use ONLY work on Chrome/Chromium. I have the Browsec VPN browser extension (paid) installed.
    • I’m a fan of Falkon browser, but unfortunately it just runs a little slow for my liking. I don have an installation, and I use it to visit ‘old web’ sites like Neocities, Melon Land, the Wiby search engine, Spacehey and other websites that I visit when I’m feeling reminiscent about the old internet, the way it used to be. I think Falkon is a great example of what a browser could be. I love the layout and the setup, but it’s a bit slow and a tad bit glitchy at times. I still love it though!
  • And then there’s all the stuff that comes with Debian 12. If it’s not listed above, I’m just using what ever came with the Debian installation.

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