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A picture of Luis Mercado

Luis Mercado

Professor, artist

in artist, linux, professor, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Luis Mercado and I'm a professor at La Salle University in northwest Mexico. I also create new media art using photography, sound, video and programming to meditate on silence, calmness, pause and sometimes landscape. I also research and write independent articles on art, technology, autism and legal tools for gathering digital evidence for people abused online.

Sometimes, I do slow and boring ambient music that helps me and others sleep.

What hardware do you use?

I am very hardware agnostic and something from almost every ecosystem can be found in our home.

My main work machine is a maxed out HP Omen 15-dc0003la. I've never been a huge fan of HP and I'm certainly not enamored by this one, but I found it at a great price for a mobile machine with a desktop-class processor and in 2020 it's a small miracle I can replace some components, at least until it's illegal to do so (but more on that later).

I also have a pile of small old laptops, mainly ThinkPads and Intel Classmates for demoing media art installations. The older and slower the better, because if something runs on them, it will run on anything.

Next to me lies a box with a bunch of Raspberry Pis that I use to cross compile and run the final version of my projects. They're perfect for museums because they can be hid easily and consume next to no power.

Scattered around the house there are many iPads and Amazon's Kindles. Tablets changed completely how I consume most media, to the point that browsing content on any computer - a thing I've done most of my life - now feels unnatural.

For audio projects, in both music and art I prefer to work with field recordings and sculpt them into something interesting. I have an assortment of cheap cassette players -those unbranded ones that convert to MP3 if needed, tapes and a Tascam DR-05X audio recorder. Photography is, perhaps, what I've done the most in my creative years. However, instead of investing in even more complex, bigger cameras and lenses I'm going backwards. Now I prefer practicality and portability over optic precision because I'm more and more interested in photography as an abstract medium. Because of that I traded all my bulky gear for a humble, small yet impressive Fujifilm XF10. It has a lot of quirks, the focus is sometimes imprecise and it feels cheap. I love it to death.

I use an iPhone 7. I wish it had a bigger screen, but still works.

And what software?

This is what I use in my main laptop:

  • I dual boot Windows 10 and the latest LTS release of Ubuntu and sometimes an installation of elementary OS. I tremendously dislike the way Apple handle their business: they are dishonest and predatory and they cripple a lot of their stuff intentionally. I also think they make the best consumer operating system, bar none. However, since I refuse to buy an Apple computer just to run macOS, Windows will do.
  • The full Adobe CC Suite courtesy of my university.
  • The latest version of the Processing IDE for tinkering and producing media works. I complement it with Sublime Text, a true Swiss army knife of a text editor.
  • I use Mozilla Firefox. I refuse to use Chrome as it's becoming the default choice for most, sometimes not for the right reasons, and Google is indeed guilty of some dubious stuff. Seems we forgot the lesson we supposedly learned back in the 90's and early 2000's: never let a single rendering engine rule the internet.
  • For audio work I use SuperCollider, basically a platform for programming music. I'm never 100% sure of how to use it and that's interesting to me because it means there's always a level of randomness at play. I complement it with Audacity.

In my Ubuntu installation I try to always have an assortment of new tools at hand, mainly for testing and particularly for photography work. Too bad Fuji sensors never play well with Linux RAW processors.

For the gen 1 and 2 Pis I use Raspberry OS with some custom command line utils. For the 3rd and 4th gen ones I use Ubuntu 64-bit to take advantage of their processors.

Finally, the software I use the most outside my laptop is the fantastic suit of iOS sound processors by apeSoft, specially iPulsaret and iDensity because they allow me to feell like I can play with sound, instead of just work with it.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream would be for Apple to either release a version of macOS for non-Apple computers or a Macbook that is easy to maintain and has socketed components and a ThinkPad-level keyboard. Both things are impossible, so it will remain a dream. But soon that dream of user serviceability will extend to everything else because my country, Mexico, just passed the most stupid law in the history of technology: it will be forbidden for citizens to service, repair or modify their own devices.

I would love a bigger work surface, made of mahogany or any other warm-colored wood.

If someone could invent a device that automatically eliminates all non-attached cat fur from our home I will award them the Nobel prize myself. The cats my wife and I rescue are lovely and fun, but I cannot stand loose fur.

I'd also like either a notchless iPhone or an Android with five years of guaranteed system updates.