An interview with Travis Newman

If you have been around the Ubuntu Forums for a while, you are certain to have come across a person calling himself panickedthumb. Guess who we are interviewing in this edition of Ubuntu Community Interviews?

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m Travis Newman, 27 years old, living in Radford VA. My wife, Katie, and I have two cats Max and Leo. I’m AVP of IT at a regional bank in the area. In my spare time, which I seem to have little of lately, I’m an avid gamer and internet junkie.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

Ever since I first saw a PC, in first grade, I have been fascinated by them. Unfortunately I didn’t get one until my senior year, in 1998. Back in Sept. ’98 I was having trouble sending email and double-clicking on links. But my lack of knowledge didn’t slow me down. I wanted to know how things worked, what I could and couldn’t do. I ended up using the Compaq restore CD more than I would like to admit, but I learned quite a bit. One thing that I learned was, even though I thought it was all that was available, I hated Windows.  Later that year the network admin at my high school gave me my first Linux CD. Perhaps installing Linux, especially Slackware 3.5, was not the best idea having only *really* used computers for 2 or 3 months, but I did. I was lost. Could never figure out how to start XFree86. But I persisted throughout the years, trying different versions of Red Hat and Mandrake, and many others, and by 2003 I was using Gentoo pretty much full time.  In 2004 I heard about this new distribution (which would become Ubuntu) that was starting up based on Debian, and I decided to give it a shot. My experience with Debian was not a good one, but I had hoped this new distro would help with that. It was still at no-name-yet.com, before being called Ubuntu, but I was hooked. It was very rough around the edges, but I could see the diamond in the rough. Never looked back.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I joined the forums October 27th, 2004, less than a month after it started, though I had been lurking for a bit before then. I became a moderator at some point in November, and have been one ever since, with the exception of a few months a couple years ago.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I am an Ubuntu member. I contribute as a moderator on the forums, and I started and co-admin the Ubuntu LoCo team for Virginia. Come by #ubuntu-us-va on Freenode the first Tuesday of every month at 8 if you want to join in the fun! :)

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I use Ubuntu, and that’s really about it. I try other distros here and there. I absolutely love what they’re doing with Arch Linux, and I’m interested to see where Moblin goes for netbooks. However, since trying Ubuntu for the first time, nothing else has felt like “home.”  My favorite software is probably Firefox, and I know that’s a bit of a cop-out since it’s so popular, but I don’t even like browsing the web without it anymore. Least favorite software? Adobe Reader. Seriously, a document reader should not be so bloated and finicky.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

I don’t have a single fondest memory from Ubuntu or the forums. It’s a great place and I really feel at home there, so I have many fond memories just being part of the wonderful community and contributing as I can. However, one particularly funny memory, that’s kinda hard to explain, was the :porc::inca::dito::love: mystery. Someone in the #ubuntuforums channel started pasting what appeared to us to be random stuff, like the above. It’s still an inside joke to those who were there. I know it doesn’t sound that funny, but I guess you had to be there :)  Worst memory… well with a forum this size, there are some troublemakers and there are occasionally interpersonal conflicts among staff. I won’t go into any details, but those are rough to go through, and they are ultimately not good for the community. Luckily, much has been done over the years so that we have fewer and fewer problems.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

Its a struggle sometimes, because for all its faults, Windows is pretty easy to use. Taking some people out of their comfort zone is like pulling teeth. I have had a few converts over the years, and helped get CD’s to a lot of students at a local community college. However, as I have seen over the years, getting someone to *try* Ubuntu doesn’t mean that they will stick with it. One of the most heart warming things for an Ubuntu user ever, though, was at our LoCo installfest in Galax for 9.04. A middle-aged couple had bought a netbook and hated the default Asus version of Xandros, and came by to get Ubuntu Netbook Remix installed. While that was going, Jim Tarvid (the other co-admin of the group) and I got wireless working on their Ubuntu laptop. People over 40 are frequently the hardest to try to convert, but this couple had basically done it on their own, and just needed a little help.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I think it’s on a good path for the most part. I would of course like to see Bug #1 (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bug/1) taken care of. It seems that every time Microsoft releases something new, we get a lot of new Ubuntu users. I think business as usual is not working as well for Microsoft anymore, and they need to change their game plan if they want to stay on top for the foreseeable future. But ultimately, I’d like to see Ubuntu (or Linux in general) get a 10% market share. I don’t mind if we never get to 50% or even 25% really, I just want enough so that businesses take us seriously and support the platform.  More than just Ubuntu or Linux, however, I would like to see Free software become the standard for software development. I really believe it’s the way of the future, and all of the best software available is Free (as in freedom, of course).

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Don’t give up! I know it’s disheartening at times when you feel like you’re in over your head, but the forums, the mailing list, and the IRC channels are here to help.  Also, get involved! You feel much more a part of the community when you give back. When you become comfortable with Ubuntu, you can help others out. It’s what makes the community work.

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