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  • A Few Questions For Gunnar Wolf
    on 27.10.2009, 09:23
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For David Nusinow
    on 24.05.2009, 13:11
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas
    on 07.05.2009, 05:28
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For Bartosz Fenski
    on 16.04.2009, 07:10
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For Eric Sharkey
    on 24.03.2009, 19:18
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For Gustavo Noronha
    on 02.02.2009, 20:42
    in interviews
    A Few Questions For Jeremy Malcolm
    on 12.01.2009, 18:21
    in interviews
    Random Developer Interviews: Lars Steinke
    on 29.12.2008, 09:01
    in interviews

    A Few Questions For Gunnar Wolf

    published on Tue Oct 27 09:23:35 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For Gunnar Wolf

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    I have been a Free Software user for a very long time — In the beginning, without even noticing.

    Around 1983, when I was six or seven years old, I started going with my father (a physicist) to the University on friday nights. He taught me the basics of TeX and Emacs; we used it at a Foonly F2 machine. This computer had the first TeX installation outside Stanford. So, yes, I am the proud user of a piece of history.

    Being well mentored, by age ten I started picking up programming. Soon afterwards, I got some shareware - And the whole sense of sharing software, allowing people to try before buying just... made sense to me. I wrote some very amateurish shareware (BASIC, DOS), entered the BBS scene in the early 1990s, and started getting involved in some larger projects' development.

    By 1995, I was a very happy Amiga user. Amiga faced a dead-end as a platform, though, and I got in contact with the free Unix-like systems, trying to find something usable that could be run on my system. Sadly, my computer lacked a MMU, so only Minix could be run (and it lacked hard disk support). I got stuck for about a year, but got to know some of the systems available by then.

    A year later, I got my first formal job, as a systems administrator at a local ISP. I got a PC I could sink my teeth in, so the first thing I did was to try this Linux thingy. I got a Slackware disk, based on kernel 1.0.9, and -trying to get things running- learnt quite a bit. Didn't manage to get the system to a useful state, though, until I finally reached the Mexican Linux User Group.

    In 1996, our group rolled a large (1000 copies) edition of RedHat 4.2. I was a RedHat fan until version 6.0, and was briefly involved with a Mexican RedHat derivative (LinuxPPP).

    RedHat 7 (around 2000) was a flop quality-wise. They started shaping their distribution towards the corporate desktop, and that was quite different from what I wanted. Also, at that time I was trying to get more involved into Free Software as a developer.

    Looking for some quality, I flirted with OpenBSD, but found their system too limited compared to what I have already got used to with Linux, and their community too aggressive. Then, after playing for a couple of months with Debian, I felt right at home there.

    I applied for NM in late 2001, being accepted as the first DD in Mexico in April 2003.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    My main affiliation is with the pkg-perl and pkg-ruby-extras groups, although my activity has declined in both due to real-life constraints - But I'm always trying to step back in and get back to speed with both. Package-wise, besides this, I am maintaining the Cherokee webserver and few other minor packages.

    Besides this, since 2005 (and except for 2008), I have been part of the DebConf organization team. Organizing such a big, complex conference is a real challenge - and a very, very rewarding experience.

    And lastly, I have just started working with Jonathan McDowell as a Debian keyring maintainer. I am still picking up some details of this task, but am quite honored by the appointment.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    Debian is the only operating system I use in the computers controlled by me. My main job is as a systems and network administrator at the Economic Research Institute Mexico's National Autonomous University (IIEc-UNAM); all of our services are run by using Debian.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    Umm... Tough one :-}

    I very much enjoy biking. It is not like I go out that much often in long rides, but I try to spend at least a couple of hours biking every weekend - Plus, in average, I bike to work three to four days a week.

    A Few Questions For David Nusinow

    published on Sun May 24 13:11:45 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For David Nusinow

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    I was raised as a hardcore Mac person starting with System 7. There was a very long dark period of time when the Mac looked very much doomed and I was tired of waiting for what would eventually be called OSX. I switched over to Windows for a little while and found that it was workable but not nearly as interesting or fun as the Mac. So I tried out Linux and found that it was a lot of fun, if totally different from anything I'd ever imagined. After about a month on Mandrake I got sick of feeling contrained by it and installed Slink and quickly updated to the brand new Potato a few days later. Debian was the hot distro at the time, and it was said to be a great one to learn on so I basically followed the crowd in my ignorance.

    Debian was also rather intimidating, being full of smart people and difficult documentation. But one thing that set my own course was an interview of Wichert Akkerman, who was DPL at the time, in which he described how it was a natural progression going from user to developer in Debian because one naturally would get involved and start scratching some itch. The itch that I found was that X was painful to configure, and I wanted it to “Just Work” the way that my old Macs always had. So after several years as a user I decided that I'd become a DD to help out with this task, and I'm still working on it today half a decade later.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    I'm currently a member of the X Strike Force (XSF), which helps to maintain the software from X.org and other closely related packages for Debian. I recently took close to a year off from Debian in order to finish my PhD and find a job, and now that both of those tasks are done I've tried to return to the XSF and pick up the work that I'd left off. My most recent project was to document the new Input Hotplug system for Debian users. It's clear that we have much more to document given all the massive changes going on in the X world these days, so this will likely consume a lot of my time. I also am attempting to improve the autoconfiguration of the X server, as well as participate in steering the XSF in general, and maintain a few small packages when I can find the time. I don't spend nearly as much time on Debian as I used to, and while the number is growing again it currently amounts to around 20 hours a month. Needless to say, I have to lean very heavily on my fellow XSF team members with a number that small, and we're always looking for people with the fortitude to work on something as important and challenging as X.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    I use it on all of my personal machines, doing nothing particularly fancy except working on Debian itself. I've used unstable continuously on my main desktop for nearly a decade, and I've been trying out testing for the past several months on my laptop. I also use Ubuntu at work, although I'll very likely switch that machine to testing as well because I'm more vastly more comfortable and knowledgeable about Debian than Ubuntu.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I'm currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Brigham And Women's Hospital in Boston. I'm a Biologist by training, and I'm focused on generating and analyzing proteomic datasets as part of the SysCODE project which is dedicated to engineering whole organs to replace diseased ones in patients. Mostly this amounts to writing a lot of perl and R as part of a project that's currently science fiction that we want to make reality, which I think is very cool. I also love spending time with the other DD's and associated Free Software folk around Boston, and spending time with my girlfriend Nicole.

    A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

    published on Thu May 7 05:28:13 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

    Who is Jaldhar H. Vyas?

    I'm a 38 year old Gujarati-American male who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey (A suburb of New York) with my wife Jyoti and my children Shailaja (7) and Nilagriva (4).

    My Debian blog is at http://www.braincells.com/debian/ but I should warn you in advance it is mostly devoid of meaningful content :-)

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    Because I don't actually like computers. Growing up in the '70s we were told computers were great. if you had any problem you could just say “let's ask the computer!” and Sentinel One or whoever would appear as a hologram and instantly tell you the answer. Or maybe they were lovable wisecracking robots. But we were lied to. Real computers turned out to be neither lovable nor cute and they maddeningly refused to do what they were told for incomprehensible reasons. From the very beginning I had the urge to take the lid off and try to understand what was going on in these mysterious boxes in the hopes of somehow beating them into submission.

    Way back in college in the early '90s I managed to stumble across the Internet (just in time for the dot-com boom.) Naturally I wanted to learn more about it and how it worked and that meant learning Unix. Even if you used Windows, you used ports of Unix software so there was no way around it. The trouble is Unix was expensive and ran on exotic hardware far beyond the purchasing power of a destitute student. Thus when I heard that there was a free clone of Unix that could run on a 386 pc, I was very interested. When I learned it came with full source code that you could tinker with as much as you wished it was like a dream come true. So I cleared up some space on my massive 40MB hard drive for a version of Slackware which was the only decent distribution at the time.

    I played around with that for a while until the time came when Linux swtiched from the a.out to the ELF binary format. This process had to be done manually and I somehow managed to botch it completely. Since I had to reinstall my system anyway, I decided to take a look at some of the new distributions which were out there. I must confess my reasons for choosing Debian were utterly superficial. Red Hat is boring; Suse is a girls name; Debian on the other hand sounded science-fictionish to me.

    After using Debian for a while I was whining about some trivial thing or another on the Debian users mailing list and Bruce Perens who was the project leader challenged me to stop complaining and fix the problem myself. I decided to do so and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, there was no complicated process to become a Debian Developer in those days. You just told Bruce you wanted to work on the project and what you wanted as your login name and a little while later you would get an account on master.debian.org and you could upload packages.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    At the moment I am not spending as much time on Debian as I would like to but it still atleast a few minutes every day. In the past I have been employed to work on Debian full time.

    Apart from packaging, I have written documentation, represented Debian at trade shows, conferences, and user groups and mentored prospective new maintainers. One initiative I started which I am particularly proud of is Debian-IN. This is a group of people interested in promoting Debian and Free Software in India. Activities include maintaining packages of cultural interest to Indians, advocaing the use of Debian and increasing the number of Indian Debian developers. An operating system that is free, flexible and doesn't drain money in crippling license fees is a good fit for an emerging nation like India. Plus we have lots of IT talent so we can give something back to the rest of the world too.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    I work as a consultant webmaster/sysadmin/Perl developer and I try to use Debian or atleast Ubuntu whenever possible. I maintain several websites and mailing lists related to aspects of the Hindu religion and they all run on Debian. My personal laptop runs Ubuntu and Debian (naq bapr va n oyhr zbba Jvaqbjf Ivfgn ohg qba'g gryy nalbar!)

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I come from a Hindu priestly family and I am a scholar of Sanskrit, preacher and very occasionally priest for weddings etc. This and being a father take up nearly all my spare time but when I can squeeze in a few minutes I am an avid reader of fantasy/sci-fi. I prefer authors like Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, or Neal Stephenson. I.e. the kind that create whole civilizations and tackle philosophical issues rather than those that focus on technology or laser fights with aliens.

    A Few Questions For Bartosz Fenski

    published on Thu Apr 16 07:10:29 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For Bartosz Fenski

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    As far as I remember I tried using Linux around the year 1998. I tested many distributions and each of them had some glitches that were very annoying for me. In fact even my first attempt at using Debian was a fail.

    Around 1998 internet access in Poland wasn't easily available and using Linux without information from the net was very difficult for a newbie. I suppose it's still pretty hard if you can't get help from the community online.

    So I used unices mainly at school. Then I finally got permanent network access at home and I got back on testing Linux.

    Why Debian? Well, apt-get worked like a charm and no other distrubution had such a mature package manager then. In fact I didn't care about freedom, the cost of the system was more important for me.

    But I couldn't use a system developed by thousands of people and not even think why the hell are they doing it for free. So I read, read, read and started thinking that it's really a great community and something I would like to contribute to. I decided to use at least some of my spare time to help Debian and that's how I joined the project.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    I do maintain some packages. Let's enumerate some of them: fuse, htop, ipcalc, calcurse, makeself, potrace, netw-ib-ox-ag, msort, redet... I regret that the day has only 24 hours.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    All servers I'm responsible for are running Debian. My personal computer (greetings to my girlfriend ;)) and laptop is running Debian too.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I work for a company called NetArt, also known as nazwa.pl. It's one of the biggest hosting company in Poland. After work I spend time on pretty usual things like watching films, visiting friends/family, playing some sports or simply spending time with my girlfriend.

    A Few Questions For Eric Sharkey

    published on Tue Mar 24 19:18:43 2009 in interviews

    (No, I ain't dead. I was just a bit busy. Sorry. -- cmot)

    A Few Questions For Eric Sharkey

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    Well, first I became a Debian user, of course. When I was a graduate student studying physics at SUNY Stony Brook I became involved with the administration of Unix-like systems. Initially I used Nextstep and Solaris, but Linux was just coming in to being as a truly viable (and cheap) alternative. We had a couple of Slackware boxes we got from Fintronic Linux Systems (which later became VA Research/VA Linux/VA Software/Sourceforge) but we switched over to Debian in late 1995 as we were attracted to the truly free nature of the distribution and became hooked by relatively easier package administration and availability. I still remember my first installation using a gold CD-R (only one was needed) of Debian 0.93R6 that one of the other graduate students had purchased. It was individually signed with Bruce Perens' signature. (Not a digital signature, mind you, actual ink on plastic.)

    Fast forward five years and that same graduate student that had lent me the CD started complaining about font availability. It seemed at the time like there were a thousand web sites all offering a vast array of free creative fonts, but none with easily installable standard fonts. (As one wise man once said to me, "Nothing says silly bastard like circus font on a resume.") Microsoft had recently started their Core Fonts program, which made certain true-type fonts available as a free (gratis) download in the interest of cross platform compatibility, supposedly to ensure that users of Microsoft products could be certain that their documents could be easily read by users of other platforms. Microsoft made these cross platform compatibility fonts available either as self installing Microsoft Windows executables, or as MacOS font packages, thereby covering both of the operating systems in the known universe.

    I felt like there had to be a way to get these fonts to be installed on Debian systems, and that's how I ended up writing the msttcorefonts installer script. Initial versions used the Macintosh font packages and unpacked them with macutils, but later versions switched to using the Windows versions with cabextract. I contacted several Debian Developers looking for one to pick up maintenance of this package, but I got no responses. It became clear to me that if I wanted to see this in Debian I'd have to do it myself and become an official developer, so that's what I did. Since the macutils package had become unmaintained following the death of Joel Klecker, I picked up that package, too and later added cabextract, which wasn't included in Debian at all. Since I had been a contributor to the gimp-print ink jet printer driver suite, I ended up as maintainer of that as well.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    I don't do as much development work with Debian as I used to, or would like to. I've handed off msttcorefonts and gimp-print to other developers. I still maintain cabextract and macutils, but since upstream on these is very stable, there hasn't been a whole lot to do there, mostly just the occasional bug report or user question. Since becoming a father (twice now) its been difficult to find the time to commit to, well, pretty much anything.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    Debian is still my OS of choice. I have it on my workstation in my home office, and my laptop, and is the supporting OS for the MythTV in my living room. I used to use it at work, but after switching jobs in 2005 I am unfortunately working in an all Fedora environment. (It could be worse, of course.)

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I write proprietary software for a company called Index Engines which builds an appliance for indexing and searching office and email backups, most commonly for electronic data discovery in support of litigation. Then I come home and help my wife take care of my kids and run a household.

    A Few Questions For Gustavo Noronha

    published on Mon Feb 2 20:42:03 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For Gustavo Noronha

    (english only content here.)

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    Somewhat of a long story: I started using GNU/Linux because I wanted to learn how to program and I got to know that C compilers were easily available in GNU/Linux distributions. I started with Conectiva Marumbi, in late 1998, and when I bought a Debian CD in early 1999 I was instantly in love.

    I felt dpkg was so much better than rpm, at the time, and got to know apt, which made me wonder how something of such high quality was so unknown (a very small number of people even knew Debian existed in Brazil, at the time.)

    By reading the Debian foundation documents and its pages about what Free Software means I fell in love with the idea of software freedom, and by getting to know the Debian community I was deeply impressed at the very possibility of such a large body of people voluntarily associating to achieve a common goal. Then I started to make small contributions, and signed up for NM in the last half of 2000; in January 2001 I got my account!

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    I'm involved mostly in helping on GNOME and Python-related packaging. I maintain some small projects upstream (such as gksu), which I also consider to be “for Debian” (though others do use them). I've been involved in the translation and writing of documents (I used to be the main author of APT Howto), early on, as well as in the translation of DWN, package descriptions, debconf messages and the Debian web page, back in the day.

    Though I consider myself quite involved with Debian and its surroundings, these days I am spending more time contributing upstream in projects such as WebKit and Epiphany than in Debian packages themselves. I would say I spend like 20 hours a month in Debian proper.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    I use Debian as my main desktop operating system. I also use Debian as the operating system of choice for servers I maintain in the company I work at, and in my sister's and mother's computers. These days I am doing lots of development work: python web development as a job, and GNOME-related development for fun.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I enjoy playing FreeCraft with my girlfriend and friends, (and other not-so-free games I'm not going to advertise =P) =). I also enjoy music, and going to the movies. I moderately enjoy traveling, and I do enjoy going out with friends for beer and fun. Recently my girlfriend convinced me to start on some dancing classes, which I am really enjoying. Anyone for some samba, or tango? =)

    A Few Questions For Jeremy Malcolm

    published on Mon Jan 12 18:21:55 2009 in interviews

    A Few Questions For Jeremy Malcolm

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    I became interested in using Linux in around 1994, even before I had an Internet connection at home. I think I first heard of it from a mail-order shareware vendor (yes, that's how people like me obtained software in those days — by mail order!) I ended up ordering a CD pack that contained a number of distributions, and trying it out. Debian 0.93 was included, along with Slackware and Red Hat. I tried Red Hat for a year or two — I remember it used fvwm95 as the default Window Manager which seemed to me to defeat the purpose a bit.

    In 1995 I became involved in the administration of a local community-based ISP, the Australian Public Access Network Association (APANA), and began to improve my Linux skills from the use of my Slackware shell account. It must have been in 1997 that decided to switch to Debian because it seemed to have the strongest commitment to the ideals of open source. I ordered a CD of Debian 1.3 (bo) from another CD vendor and at first installed it as a dual-boot with Windows 95.

    In 1998 through a friend I had originally met through APANA who ran a hosting company, I set up a co-located server mostly for personal use and to host Web sites for clubs I was involved with. I installed Debian 2.0 (hamm) on it, and it became the first server for an IT consultancy that I established called Terminus Network Services. It still exists today under a different name and different management.

    A couple of years later I joined the Perth Linux User Group, PLUG, and heard from James Bromberger about his experiences in joining Debian as a developer and packaging libapache-mod-backhand. I decided that there were packages that I would like to see in Debian too — not least one that I had written in gtk-perl called gtkgrepmail. So I applied to become a DD myself, and was accepted in 2002, with gtkgrepmail as my first package.

    Next I packaged dbengine, which was one of the first Web-based interfaces to PostgreSQL and MySQL, preceding tools like phpmyadmin. Neither it nor gtkgrepmail are in Debian any more. In 2003 I also started a project called Debian-Lex to make a customised distribution for lawyers (because I was a lawyer in my day job), but nothing came of that unfortunately because of my lack of time and inability to attract a community of helpers.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    I currently maintain a Python Jabber and IRC bot called gozerbot and a DocBook-based wiki, called — er — docbookwiki. I can't say that I spend much time maintaining them! Normally the most that I do is to upload new versions and translations, which takes only about an hour a month.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    I run lenny/sid on the virtual server that hosts my personal domain malcolm.id.au. At home I now run Ubuntu — I have a MythTV server, a print and file server, and a virtual machine on my MacBook. At work I convinced our management to install a new Ubuntu server in place of the Windows server they had planned, and I have also installed an Ubuntu virtual server to host a Web site for one of the projects I'm coordinating.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    I work for an organisation called Consumers International, based out of its Asia-Pacific office in Kuala Lumpur, coordinating its projects on Access to Knowledge or A2K. I gave a talk at the inaugural foss.my conference here in Malaysia about the linkages between free and open source software and A2K. In fact, the ideals of the open source movement and the A2K movement are very closely aligned. We are trying to work for fairer access to intellectual property for consumers. Of course, open source is a big part of that.

    Random Developer Interviews: Lars Steinke

    published on Mon Dec 29 09:01:55 2008 in interviews

    “Random Developer” Interviews

    Debian has more than 1000 official Developers and maintainers plus uncounted (two or three times as many?) other contributors, not counting one-time only bug reporters. Debian is also famous for epic flamewars which — sadly — have lead to some developers quitting the project or reducing their involvement. But it is often forgotten that Debian also has a big number of developers who are more quiet on the lists, just work on a few things (or, as it happens, used to work on a few things in the past) and are not noticed much by others. In honour of this “(almost) silent majority” I will publish short interviews with random Debian Developers and Maintainers, starting below with Lars Steinke (blame /dev/random and bogosort. He was not picked for any special reason.) And, lest I forget: yes, the interviews on women.debian.org did serve as inspiration.
    Adrian von Bidder

    But now, without further ado: Lars Steinke

    How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

    Back in 1996 I participated in a C programming course at the Imperial College Dept. of Computing, and they used Debian (must have been 0.93) on their teaching pool machines — that made me aware enough of Debian to install 1.1 (I think) and subsequently apply as DD in 1997. The initial task to “prove my worthiness” set for me by Joey Schulze after verifying my identity was packaging moodss, a Tk/Tcl admin tool.

    How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

    Sadly enough my participation was rather passive in the last few years, due to my private and professional life putting demands on me which only marginally overlapped with the projects' demands.

    How do you currently use Debian?

    Incidentally, I am proud of Debian being the solid basis for Ubuntu, which has become my standard desktop and server system back in 2006.

    What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

    Apart from enjoying life with my wife I recently moved and became product manager for a small software company — a job that holds some potential for involvement with the project once again.