An interview with Joeb454

The Ubuntu Forums are blessed with an amazing and wonderful group of staff members. This time around, we have the privilege of hearing from one of the younger and newer additions, a wonderful guy named Joeb454. Be sure to check out his personal blog as well.

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

Well my name is Joe, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find my last name too ;) I’m 19, from Leicester UK where I go to University (Software Engineering) which is great, as I recently found out one of my lecturers uses Ubuntu too! Hobbies are basically, computers, music & Xbox 360.

I’ll also provide a Desktop (well…laptop) screenshot of what my Desktop currently looks like (I’m using the DustTheme):

Joeb454's desktop on October 9, 2008

Joeb454's desktop

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

I became interested in computers somewhere around 2003, I’m not too sure. We got our first PC in 1997, a Win95 machine with 16MB RAM, a 133Mhz Pentium & a 1.9GB HDD :D We then didn’t get another PC until around 2003, which is when I really got into them. Ubuntu came about around Hoary (5.04?), I have no idea how I found it, but it looked good even then, but I couldn’t get it to run. I finally got around to installing Feisty (7.04) around May 2007, and have been running Ubuntu ever since :)

3) When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I joined the forums August 2007 (the 31st if you want specifics), and I didn’t post too much at first, except when I started University in September, when I had long breaks (2-3 hours) I used to browse the forums. It was then I started to realise “hey, I think I know how to fix that” so I started helping. In December, I joined the Ubuntu Forums Beginners Team, who are a great group of people, we just generally try and help out the new guys.

By the beginning of March, I’d accumulated 1,000 posts, which I thought was quite good, however the next thing I knew, I’d got 2,000, then 3,000 and it was only May. I guess that may have helped to decide whether or not I got asked to be Forum Staff in July, which I was offered, and gladly accepted. I enjoy doing it, though it’s not all fun and games.

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

I am indeed, I got accepted around the middle of August this year. I contribute mainly to the forums, as I mentioned above, however I also recommend Ubuntu to people within the community, and make it known that no – I don’t often use Windows. This usually raises some questions which allows me to talk about it a little. I’ve had some luck with getting other people looking at it too. Sometime soon I may be going to a LUG meeting, as recommended by the lecturer I mentioned earlier :) Hopefully I’ll enjoy it!

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

I only use Ubuntu. I do have Windows Vista installed, but it rarely sees the light, I just think it’s a good idea to remember how to use Windows while all my family still use it (I’m the go-to guy). I use Firefox, Xchat, Thunderbird & Amarok quite a lot, they all work just as I want them too. I don’t think I have a favourite application, though my least favourite is definitely Ekiga…It’s the first thing I do on a clean install (apt-get purge ekiga)…I mean, who uses it?!?!

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

There’s been so many fond memories, I can’t even choose, I liked the fact that I got a thread made about whether I was a human or a dog, that was rather funny (my avatar is normally Brian Griffin from Family Guy). The worst memory I have, is probably when I banned a member of the doc team, who made 17 duplicate threads, which I deleted all but 1. I then received a PM which basically declared war on the forums… :p

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

Some, I’ve got a friend running an Ubuntu dual boot on his desktop. He also bought an Eee PC from a forum user (I acted as the middle man, my friend isn’t registered). I’ve also got some people looking at it just by mentioning things it can do – the Live CD is a good example, I recovered all of somebody’s documents using the Live CD :)

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

I’m not sure whether I’d like to see it become overly popular, I kind of like being 1337 ;) On a more serious note – it’s great to see it spreading, I’ve noticed a lot of people at University using Linux in some form. I hope Ubuntu (and Linux in general) both continue to grow and improve – I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

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

Don’t be shy, ask questions! There’s IRC for instant support (it can get crowded in there though, the Beginners Team have an IRC group to help too), there’s also the forums, they’re a great place for support, often with quick replies too.

Basically, what I’m saying is – “Don’t give up, just because there are obstacles in the way…stop and think if Windows has never caused you problems, but you want to stick with that??” ;)

An interview with John Crawford

Welcome to the next installment of Ubuntu Community Interviews. Today we are highlighting John Crawford, an Ubuntu Member, a leader in the Arizona LoCo Team, one of the co-editors of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, and the editor for the Ubuntu Fridge.

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

I’m John Crawford (johnc4510), a 55 year old male, living in Arizona. I was once married, but I have been single for so long now that I really don’t even remember it. :) I grew up in Missouri which accounts for what I call my “hick” accent. I’ve had several hobbies over the years, but Ubuntu seems to have replaced them all.

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

I got my first computer experiences in the work place, but didn’t have one for home use until 1985. It was a basic machine and didn’t have a very fast processor. I used it mostly for web surfing, email, etc. I became interested in Linux sometime in early 2005. I was just looking for a better alternative to Windows, and happened upon the DistroWatch website. I tried a few different flavors of Linux but settled on Ubuntu for several reasons. It seemed to work with my hardware well, anything that didn’t work right off I was able to make work with help from the forums. I was also very impressed with the community, no rants, or telling you how stupid you were.

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

My transition to helping on the forums was kind of a natural thing. It was where I learned about our operating system, and I felt I might be able to give back some of the great tips and help I had received. I’m not as active on the forums as I used to be, but I do moderate the Arizona thread, the US Teams thread, and the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter thread. I wish I had more time to devote to the forums but other Ubuntu tasks have pulled me in other directions.

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, and very proud of that fact. In addition to the moderating of forum threads I listed above, I’m a founding member and team leader of the Arizona LoCo team, a co-editor of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, and an editor for the Fridge. I’m not the most technical Linux user around, so I try to find other places that I can do something to contribute back to the community.

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

Ubuntu is my #1 distro! I have a partition on my desktop box that I use to play around with other distros, or alpha versions of Ubuntu, but I have never found another distro that I like as much as Ubuntu. My favorite software applications are: irssi, screen, Liferea(news reader), Deluge BitTorrent, Exaile music player, Htop, ssh, Synaptic Package Mgr. and GDebi Package Mgr. My least favorite software application is probably Thunderbird. Now, before I get flamed, you should know that I use it everyday and it works great. So why is it my least favorite, it’s because I hate email.

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

My best memories on the forums, or with Ubuntu, are centered around the great friendships I have made. I don’t think I have ever been associated with a better group of people than the Ubuntu/Forums community. I have only had one bad experience during my 3+ year association with Ubuntu, and I won’t go into it. Let’s just say you can’t always milk the cow without getting kicked, and I figure one problem is a drop in the bucket so to speak.

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

The Arizona LoCo has been a very active group, so I’d have to say I’ve been lucky at introducing new computer users to Ubuntu. Our release parties, installfests, and conferences have enabled not only myself, but our team to introduce new people to Ubuntu. We have helped users from 14-65, and even a hearing impaired gentleman to experience what we all believe to be the best operating system available today.

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

I would hope that not only Ubuntu, but Linux continue to make headway in the desktop/server markets. Ubuntu has a great product, a fantastic community, and a bright future. I would love to see less arguing over who has the best operating system, and better coordination between the many Linux distributions. I try very hard to get the point across to people that “it’s not what operating system you use, it’s that you use Linux, the free operating system.”

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

I use this phrase a lot with new users: “Don’t be afraid to get in there a try new things you’re not sure about.” I tend to find that most people are a little scared of Ubuntu, or Linux at first, but once they start experimenting with it, well you can almost see the joy on their face when they accomplish something they never thought they could do. It’s a very satisfying thing to me.

An interview with Alan Pope

Well, it’s that time again folks–time for another Ubuntu Community Interviews. We have a special interview this time around. Alan Pope, sometimes known as Popey, is a systems administrator, an Ubuntu Member, a member of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Membership Council (as am I…). Departing from our tradition in these interviews, he is someone who does not enjoy using web forums. He is smart, opinionated, a wonderful member of the overall Ubuntu community, and a good addition to our interview series. Enjoy!

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

I’m a British 36 year old atheist married father of two, living in the South East of England. For the last 13 years I’ve been working as a system admin on some evil proprietary software. In my spare time I do what I can for Ubuntu and Linux.

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

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 which I got for Christmas back in ~1981. I managed to get hold of an old black and white TV which was setup on a bench in the kitchen. I spent pretty much all of my spare time glued to the ’81, either writing my own games, typing them in out of magazines, or trying to keep the RAM-Pack from falling off and crashing the machine.

Later computers include the Sinclair Spectrum 16K (which I upgraded to 48K), a Sinclair Spectrum 128K +2, Amstrad CPC 464, and a few consoles. I eventually made the switch to PCs with an Epson 286 PC with a 10MB
hard disk and mono text only display! I later upgraded it to Hercules (720×576) mono graphics.

I discovered a small company selling shareware, and regularly bought floppy disks full of public domain, shareware and freeware. I recall getting a cheap Pascal compiler and taught myself the language by writing simple games and utilities for DOS.

My first encounter with Linux was when I worked at a local College back in the mid 1990s. One of the students mentioned it to me, and how it was going to be the next big thing. At the time I’d only used DOS and early versions of Windows. I wasn’t convinced about this Linux thing so didn’t really pay it any attention and dismissed his claims out of hand :)

Some years later I started playing with Linux using CD’s in books. I think the first Linux distro I tried was Corel, but my memory is not what it was :). I eventually used Linux semi-permanently with a server in my garage running my website (popey.com) on Red Hat. I also tried Red Hat on my desktop PC and used it through various releases up until version 7.

Around this time I started getting involved with my local Linux User Group in Hampshire, UK. One guy had mentioned a few times that Debian was a good distro, so I thought I’d give it a go. Once I got my head
around apt I wondered what the hell I’d been doing for years on Red Hat!

I switched to Debian on the desktop and server until Ubuntu Warty came out. Once I switched to Ubuntu that was it, no going back. Since then I’ve used every release since Warty on my desktop and laptop. I’ve also converted my Xen virtual server(s) to Ubuntu.

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

I’ll be honest here and say outright, I really hate forums :) It’s not the people, it’s the technology. And it’s not specific to Ubuntu forums. I like mailing lists because the content comes to me. I can wake up in the morning, open my mail client and go through thousands of threads over 100 mailing lists very quickly. The combination of keyboard shortcuts and locally hosted mail on my server make for a very quick way to navigate around my mail.

With forums being a “pull” system rather than “push” (as with email) I find it incredibly time consuming to get up to date with forums, despite the RSS capability. In addition I can easily reply to mailing lists offline which I can’t do with a forum.

The other thing that frustrates me is finding how-tos in the forums. I personally think that how-tos and instructions should be in a place that is collaboratively editable – the community wiki. That way if they need updating or fixing its possible for people to do that. As a great example I started a basic page about VirtualBox with a bunch of screenshots and some simple details. Since then many other people have taken it and modified
it with extra info. I haven’t really touched it since, yet other people have made it what it is. It seems the right way to go in my opinion.

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

I got my Ubuntu membership in November 2006. I’m the contact person for the UK LoCo team, a member of the LoCo Council who approve and assist LoCo teams, and a member of the EMEA Membership Council who approve new members of Ubuntu.

I started the Screencasts team, and made a few screencasts. More recently I’ve been heavily involved in the Ubuntu UK Podcast. I helped start a new team to transcribe audio content like podcasts.

I also try to get involved in Software Freedom Day each year, to help promote the use of
Free Software. I am also one of the sponsors of the UK LUG project – providing hosting and other services to Linux User Groups in the UK.

I’ve attended the Ubuntu Developer Summit a few times where it’s been great to discuss what goes into the next release of Ubuntu. It’s a great way to get more involved and also see how the distro is put together.

I’ve answered quite a few questions on the launchpad answer system, and on IRC, and via around 100 LUG mailing lists in the UK.

Unfortunately I can’t really code, but the good news is that there are so many other ways in which to contribute, which works for me!

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

I use Ubuntu 8.04 on most of my desktops and laptops. I have a few Asus EEE PCs which all run the stock Xandros install. I have tried Ubuntu on them but found it slower and a bit flawed compared to Xandros. I’ve got
Ubuntu Studio on one machine which I use for audio and video editing. Recently I switched from 32-bit to 64-bit Ubuntu on the two machines I have that support the 64-bit O/S.

As far as favorite applications, that’s a really tricky one. The apps I use all day every day are screen and irssi for being on IRC all day, it’s great, but not sure it’s “favorite”.

Other apps I really like are Liferea (news reader), gnome-do (launcher) and Evolution (mail client that everyone else seems to hate) & mutt (mail client).

My least favorite thing is the lack of a decent video editor on Linux, we have quite a few that are nearly there, or new, but none that are really comparable with iMovie on the Mac or other similar apps on Windows. After meeting the guy behind Pitivi at LUGRadio Live 2008, I am confident things are getting better though.

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

Fondest memory of Ubuntu has to be at the most recent Ubuntu Developer Summit in Prague. The Canonical All-Stars (a band made up of Canonical employees) played in a night club to an audience made up of Ubuntu
developers and community members. There was a great atmosphere which really captured the feel of that UDS. Oh and free beer too.

The best thing overall about Ubuntu is the people. We have some fantastic people in the community who are highly motivated, bright and co-operative to the extreme! Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It’s also the worst thing. The people who feel it is okay to attack others online in blog posts is sad, and we’ve seen a lot of that recently. The people who feel they are somehow ‘better’ than others because they wrote some app, manage some part of the community, or have control over some aspect of Ubuntu is quite disappointing.

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

I’ve had numerous mails from people who have watched the Ubuntu Screencasts and have decided to switch to Ubuntu as a direct result.

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

Hardware vendors taking Linux seriously ensuring there is driver support for all models in their range, and then selling every model of their computers with Ubuntu pre-installed. More support companies providing professional quality support for Ubuntu. More computer professionals realising that there is a world outside Windows.

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

“Free does not equal crap”.

Cheers,
Al.

An interview with overdrank

This entry in our interview series was conducted about a week ago, just before overdrank was invited to become a part of the forum staff. Along with being a welcome addition to our team, Mel is another one of the wonderful “regular people” types that have come into our community, someone with no real background in techy stuff, but who has discovered that Ubuntu really is “Linux for Human Beings,” and has shown that anyone with a will and a desire can learn the system can do so. He has also demonstrated humanity to others in his willingness to share what he has learned to others who need help, and for that we are very grateful.

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

You may call me Mel, also known as overdrank. I am a 46 yr old man that resides in the N. W. Panhandle of Florida, USA. I was born and raised in this area and it appears that I will stay in the area as I have two children and two grandsons that run me ragged. :)

I have many beliefs and many points of views and do not wish to thrust my beliefs on anyone and expect the same in return .

I have been in construction for 28 yrs as a Supervisor/Inspector/Project Manager. I have worked for Contractors, community governments, and Engineering firms. So this has given me a well rounded background as I see the issues from all points of view. The contractor is in business to make money, the community governments position to get the most for the tax dollars and the Engineering firms have to satisfy both. This has lead me on the path to start the studies of CAD (computer-aided design) to further my career as my body has taken to much abuse. I currently work as a Customer Service Rep at Circle K Stores due to a injury that has left me partially disabled.

Hobbies are hockey, computers and reading the Dirk Pitt novels. Fishing is also a great past time here on the Gulf coast as we have the Gulf of Mexico, great rivers and lakes. My son and I have spent the past summers building what we refer to as the gowheeler. Kind of like the Monster Garage as we took a broken 4-wheeler and his go-kart and merged the two. I f you would like to see pictures then you can go here

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

I purchased my first computer in 1996 and I had to learn how to fix the computer after my step son download and installed something that broke the system (windows 95) He then progressed in computers to be a tech at a local computer store which made my learning at a rapid pace. He started using Red Hat in 2001 but I was too busy with work and family to get to involved.

I first came across Ubuntu in a magazine in the Doctor’s Office in the Fall 2006. It had some great reviews by the magazine. I was there as a result of a accident that has now left me partially disabled.

When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I joined the forums in February Of 2007, And started observing and helping were I could. I am a member of the Beginners Team and the Unanswered Post Team.

My role there is to help the beginners transition from windows and help others mainly with installation and graphical issues. As you can see on the forums I have a high post count and average. This is due to the fact of being laid off and having surgery on my neck for the second time. Because of the lack of sleep and the discomfort of the injury I was on the forums learning and helping. I have several computer systems that I use for trying different distros and try new things I learn on the forums.

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

I am not a Ubuntu member but plan on becoming one in the future. The only contribution that I believe I can make is to the Forums helping others transition to Ubuntu and possibly solve some users issues. I do not have the capabilities for the coding and bug fixing so I just help to the best of my abilities due to the reasons I stated earlier.

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

I mainly use Ubuntu but there is a soft place in my heart for Mandriva. As I almost have a spare system that I install a distro on for testing and learning. I am a simple man so I do not use many apps that aren’t on the standard installation. My favorite would be Compiz-fusion. That is one of the things that converted my son and I just love the fire and rain.

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

Well my fondest memory must be when bodhi.zazen welcomed me to the Beginners Team, Not to under state was the acceptance to the Unanswered Post Team.

The worst would have to be when a member receives the burned beans on the forum as this is usually a result of degrading the Mod’s and Admin of the forums.

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

I have had pretty good luck. As I stated, I converted my son and even my mother, who is 74 years old and loves Ubuntu. Her windows system received a error one day and would not boot so I instructed her over the phone how to boot into Ubuntu and she has used it everyday since. I asked if she wanted me to reinstall windows and she said no Ubuntu does all I need. :) I work currently at a Circle K store and am introducing some coworkers and customers. I just purchased some cd so I can burn the Ubuntu 8.04 and distribute at work. I am also talking with management to let me have a laptop there also for show.

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

Well if Linux keeps progressing as it is then I think I have nothing to worry about. I also feel the same way about Ubuntu, as many users have hardware issues I learned early off to purchase what was working by viewing and searching the forums. So maybe better hardware support.

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

Well firstly BACK UP your data. Use the forums to learn before you install along with using the live cd. It is ok to dual boot until you feel comfortable with Ubuntu and it suits your needs. Ubuntu has a learning curve and if you will stick with it I think you will be very happy. Feel free to asks questions on the forums but please be descriptive when writing the issue and search before hand because the issue probably has been asked before.

Best of Luck

Overdrank.

An interview with the SABDFL

Our next interviewee in these Ubuntu community interviews really needs no introduction, but this is me, so I’ll write one anyway. The Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, or SABDFL (see the bottom of the linked page), is an exceptional person. Mark Shuttleworth, in addition to being an all-around nice guy, is also a true geek at heart, with the credentials and accomplishments to prove it. I am sure you would enjoy his blog, and to answer the question on everyone’s mind, yes, he does have an Ubuntu Forums account, but he is a busy guy and isn’t able to spend much time using it. That can certainly be forgiven, as he does so many other wonderful things for our community. So, without further ado, I present one of my favorite interviews thus far.

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

Ubuntu is my real life!

I don’t believe in separating work and play – I try to work only on the things that are really interesting, and where I think I can make a unique difference. Last year, as a snowboarding project, I built a communications package that integrated cell, walkie-talkie and ipod into a single audio stream, with builtin microphone and speakers in the helmet. That was play, but it was also work, I learned a lot in the process.

By way of stats I suppose I would say 34, South African, straight male, London, wonder-filled-atheist (by which I mean I consider the universe to be wondrous in ways we can’t even comprehend, but I don’t think I’m made in god’s image any more than a jellyfish might be), investor-in-change, Bachelor’s in Business Science (Finance, IS), snowboarding and wine/women/song.

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

Computers, technology generally, and the changes they are bringing about in society, have been a fascination for me as long as I can remember. My folks bought me a chemistry set when I was a wee lad and I promptly covered the kitchen in various kinds of ash and other explosive debris. While I never managed to build a rocket engine, I spent hours trying to and loved the fact that old encyclopedias would happily give you the recipe for gunpowder, unlike today’s bland and politically correct safety-first stuff. Thank goodness for the web!

I became interested in Linux while at university. I was really interested in the net and the web, and couldn’t get Windows to do any of that properly (run a web server, even a decent browser or TCP/IP stack). So I sat down with a stack of slackware floppies and never looked back. Linux provided the canvas for me and many other entrepreneurs to draw our net dreams on, and I was luckier than most. Today, I’d like to bring that same freedom of technological expression to everyone, and that means finding a way to contribute to the spread of free software – hence Ubuntu.

Ubuntu started with the belief that we could find a business model which would let us deliver free software free of charge, unlike the existing commercial distributions, which take free software and turn it into something that only some people are allowed to use if they’ve paid the necessary fee. The key values were that it should be released on a predictable schedule, should be part of the Debian family, should always deliver the very best of the free software stack in a nicely integrated stack, should be governed as a community independent of the company(s) that back it, and should be available free of charge, with all security updates, for a long enough period that it’s actually useful as a commercial, production platform. I would credit the whole Ubuntu community with helping to turn those ideals into a real, and quite remarkable, product.

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

I lead the Community Council, which is the group entrusted with the “constitutional” issues in Ubuntu. We are responsible for governance in the project at large, and we delegate authority to the leaders in each part of the community who are most competent to be responsible for that piece.

I’d never used a web forum before Ubuntu. Ryan Troy really got the Forums going in 2004, and did a great job of building a community and a leadership team there, that is now the Forums Council [Ryan Troy is also known as ubuntu-geek, ed.]. We worked to integrate that into the broader Ubuntu community governance structure, and I’m delighted with the results. There’s a huge amount of activity in the forums, and I would like to make sure that the people who contribute there are recognised widely within the community for that contribution. For example, we really should have Community Karma for folks who post in the forums – that’s been discussed for a long time, but never fully implemented in Launchpad.

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

Yes, mainly though time and effort on CC issues as well as helping to fund Canonical’s activity in the community.

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

Only Ubuntu. I also use a Mac at home and Windows on occasion. My favourite application is bzr, because I have worked closely with the leaders in that community and feel some fatherly influence on its growth and development. I’m really interested in how Canonical and Ubuntu can help to pioneer genuinely better practices in the state fo the art of software, and Bzr is a wonderful contribution to that which I hope will make a big difference across the whole of the open source ecosystem, including other distributions.

My least favourite app… probably GCC, just because I don’t have the clarity of engineering to work in C! I think it’s a great pity that Objective C hasn’t taken root more deeply in the free software world. My ideal development environment would have elements of Python syntax all the way from the shell, through the script (Python) and down to the fastest-compiled language.

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

My favourite memories are stories of how people are using Ubuntu. Often, I’m with folks wearing Ubuntu t-shirts walking in the street, and we get stopped by other people who say “Man, I love Ubuntu”, and what I find fascinating about it is that they are in the most amazing spread of professions, from taxi drivers to librarians and musicians. My worst memories… I think the open source community has a dangerous habit of reserving the nastiest vitriol for factions of itself. I always find it disappointing when one group of open source folks is really nasty about another group. We have bigger fish to fry.

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

Rather a lot!

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

I’d like to see free software become the de facto standard way “people do software”, and I hope Ubuntu is making a big contribution in that regard.

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

Share it! Help other users to gain the confidence with free software that they need to try it in ever more demanding environments.

If you enjoyed this interview, please accept our invitation to read the others in the series, both on this blog, and it the series’ previous home.

An interview with forestpixie

Those who have followed our interviews for a while will recall that we like to highlight people from many different backgrounds, levels of technical proficiency, and experience with Linux. Why? Because this gives a real cross section of one of the more beautiful aspects of the Ubuntu community–we are a well-rounded and diverse bunch with perspectives and backgrounds that are not as common in other Linux communities as a result of the focus on accessibility to technology that has always been at the forefront of the Ubuntu philosophy of Linux for Human Beings.

Okay, it is time for our first interview victim, *ahem* I mean volunteer, in this project’s new location. Today we highlight forestpixie, a man who was originally hesitant to be interviewed because he didn’t feel he had an adequate geek status, and who I felt should be included for just that reason. Kev represents one of the many sorts of people whom we welcome in the Ubuntu Forums, and in the larger Ubuntu community; people who want their computers to “just work” securely, easily, and well. Enjoy!

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

Hi, my name is Kev, I’m a 45 year old atheist and divorced unfortunately; I have 3 children, 2 of who are quite grown and have flown the nest – the other is 8 and lives with me, so I am one of the ubiquitous UK single parents. At the moment I am trying very hard to get back into the workplace after 4 years out – although I’m trying to change profession as well. I apprenticed straight out of school as an aircraft wireman and over the next 20 years I worked in similar fields ending up at a small company making harnesses for some quite diverse customers – from small personal hovercraft to sports cars.

I live in the south of England close to the New Forest, which is a forest in the King’s hunting ground sense. It has very little in the way of trees and is in fact for the most part lowland heath – some of the UK’s 20% of the global lowland heath environment left.

About 8 years ago I was made redundant, again, but rather than look for work I took the chance to further my education, as I’d not been able to do so when I left school. So I enrolled in a degree course at a local university and did Heritage Conservation, using my knowledge of the area I live in when it came to write my dissertation, one of my local Wildlife Trusts provided me with an area to work in and they have my research on restoring heathland. Since then I have tried to keep my mind active with various courses at my local college while my youngest was growing up, now she is old enough for me to carry on with the rest of my life.

My only real hobby at the moment is playing around with the 3 ‘buntus and trying to learn more about it.

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

I’ve never got into programming any computers, when Commodores and the like appeared in the early 80’s I was not interested in them, so I’ve only ever used computers as tools. Though I think I might start to look at programming, just to see what it’s about really.

Computers came quite late into my life, I suppose I first used computers when I started my apprenticeship – we used  tape run DITMCO testing equipment to emulate the rest of the aircraft wiring. Once I left there I had little to do with computers until a company I was working for started to use a DOS based production software, it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I bothered at all at home – although the first one I did have I built myself, since then I’ve become  a bit more involved as I have ended up being maintenance for family and friends.

I remember when I started to look at Linux, in fact one of the first I looked at was Dapper Drake, at the same I got  Debian, Gentoo (not knowing :) ) and Fedora discs through a website somewhere – at the time I was using a USB modem – I tried, I really tried, probably not for long enough though,  then gave up. Then I downloaded Topologilinux to run inside windows, I guess that maybe came before wubi – my word that was fun, anyway I really couldn’t get my head round the commands needed to get the modem to run and I wasn’t too sure about changing the firmware, so I left it all alone for another day.

Another day came when I changed to a router and I tried the Dapper cd again, it connected to the net without any problem, so I downloaded Feisty from windows and dual booted for a while before I finally got rid of windows completely.

The next step will probably be to look at different distros, maybe some of the ‘harder’ ones – just to see if the grass really is greener…

3. When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

I became involved in the forum on the first day that I installed Feisty – I needed a question answering after I installed it and found the answer quite quickly with a search, shortly after followed my first threads – one a real question, the second on how to bump, it was the first time I’d used a forum and really couldn’t work that out.

I have no formal role on the forum, in common with most of the users there, but I do visit very regularly during the day and when I can help I do so; I haven’t yet got the knowledge to deal with the more exotic problems so reading the replies on these is good for me as well. Of course following other peoples problems should enhance your own understanding – although nothing beats having a broken system which needs to be fixed as a learning tool.

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

No I’m not and don’t plan to become one, at least not in the foreseeable future.

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

Are all the *buntu’s different distros? I regularly use Ubuntu as I prefer it to the others, I do have Kubuntu and Xubuntu installed as virtual machines which I use to play with both for me and to use when I’m trying to help others. I will be installing Intrepid on a spare partition in the next week or so, to look at that and maybe get a bit more involved.

The software I use most are music players – which is currently a bit of a bugbear for me – Pulseaudio seems to have thrown Amarok a bit and it pops and crackles more than a bowl of cereal – so I’m using others – and Exaile, Banshee don’t like starting from where playlists were stopped. At the moment I’m using Audacious which does what it says on the box without any extra noise thrown in :)

OpenOffice wasn’t new to me as I was using it long before I finally turned up at the door here – at the moment I have OO2 installed but have been using the OO3 beta for a couple of months now with no hiccups. Firefox is the same, I used it in windows – although I have to say it hasn’t been a bed of roses since Hardy and I’ve now gone to Opera for the time being, perhaps I’ll not bother with it again.

I don’t have a favourite application as such – although the music starts in the morning and goes off at night – computers and software are just tools to me, similarly I don’t have a least favourite application – although Character Map probably comes quite close.

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

Other than the first helpful reply I received and first thanks I got for my help I think that my fondest and worst memory are inextricably linked – and those who know me will have a pretty good idea what is coming next :D

In June I came across a thread where a user had sadly died and his widow was trying to get his account dealt with as per his last wishes, as it had no reply I replied and also reported it so that it would be moved and dealt with by those who can. One staff member moved it, then an admin closed the users account, and mine got caught up accidentally. I got logged of and couldn’t log back in – over the next 30 minutes I ended up with another 3 accounts trying to get to the bottom of what had happened as I kept not being able to log them in either – a catalogue of errors on my part that was.

Eventually, after a few days, I was told by matthew that they couldn’t bring back my old account –  sorry and all that :( , so I’d now lost all my beans and my thanks and was left with a start date of June 2008, very few beans as most of the posts had been in the Forum Feedback forum, no custom title and I was now forestpixie2 and okthinkigivingup depending on my mood, forestpixie3 had the wrong e-mail set so I couldn’t get at the account :oops:

So I was left not being able to access any of my old posts or threads which was a bit uncool to say the least.

Matthew did change my user back to forestpixie as a name – he also offered to put my beans back, but as they would revert to the ‘real’ new account count on maintenance it did seem a bit pointless, he gave me the custom title option back – so that’s good, and most importantly changed my start date to 2007 again. It was quite amusing really, one day people read my solutions as I had a whole bunch of beans ( even though they are meaningless) and had been around for a while, the next day with a start date of June 2008 and less than 50 beans I was roundly ignored.

But I’m me again – just plain old forestpixie – still with only a few beans, but I got my title and start date and as a bonus I don’t have a bean image on my user and I haven’t seen anyone on the forum like that !

So all in all it was quite good fun at the time and accidents do happen, if they didn’t they would be called deliberate, it was no-ones fault and I would go through the same exercise in the same way if I needed to.

So I hope that adminX, if it was him, doesn’t think in any way that I blame him – I really don’t, the most important thing was that the widow got her wish and for that I’m glad I reported the thread.

The support that I got from many users while I was in a state of flux was a real high point, it will always remain with me so for all of that and more – I thank you :)

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

Quite a bit, I look after probably a dozen pc’s for friends, family and acquaintances – most of them have moved over after being left with a dualboot for a while – which makes it sooo much easier now I don’t worry quite so much about spyware and malware. One of the best has to be the one who is trying to get his head around vista after Win95 – he hates vista can’t get anything done, because he can’t find anything – he never had the gradual change through Win98, 2000 and XP, he loves using Ubuntu though.

I’m not much of a one for trying to push people towards anything though and while I’m quite happy to set up dualboots for people, it’s up to them afterwards.

As I get further in time from using windows myself it gets harder to remember the answer to phone queries , although maybe that is age, so the more of them who use Ubuntu the more likely they are to get a sensible answer from me, which I guess helps their decision along a little bit.

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

I’d like to see Linux get real access to hardware drivers from all suppliers, but I haven’t been around long enough to give a particularly insightful answer to that one.

I’d like to see Ubuntu flourish and grow generally, but I wish that the fascination with eye candy could be put behind the need to get more widespread hardware support; luckily I’ve not needed to try for wireless – but I do shudder at the thought of trying. I turn Compiz off, although I did have a little play around, so am not too bothered :) and like my desktop to be nice and simple as you can tell. (Screenshot here.)

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

How about 2 things? Firstly that there are no ogres, the odd troll floating about, but mostly that it’s a friendly place where people will try their hardest to help, especially if you’ve tried to search for a solution yourself. Secondly – that ‘help I’m a noob’  is not very useful as a thread title :)

Introducing Ubuntu Community Interviews

Since September 2007, my friend and co-worker in the Ubuntu Forums, K.Mandla, has been doing interviews with forum members on his blog, Motho ke motho ka botho, giving all of us an opportunity to get to know some of the people who are consistently helpful and friendly contributors to our community. This has been a fun way to introduce the wonderful members of our worldwide forum community to one another in a little bit deeper way, with posts coming once every two to six weeks*, depending on the time of year, how busy everyone is, and how easy or difficult it is to get a response at a given time.

A large number of the forum staff have already been interviewed, as well as many of the most popular and helpful members of our forum community. Many current forum members have been around since the forums’ inception, the same month that Ubuntu itself started, October 2004, and have become fixtures in the community, so they were the ones we started with. Others are much newer, but bring a new energy and life to the community that longs to be shared. Some interviewees are Ubuntu members, others aren’t. Some are Linux system administrators, some are homemakers. Some are rabid technophiles, some are free software purists, and some just want to check their e-mail in a safe and stable way.

Of late, K.Mandla has found himself taking on more and more responsibility in the real world. This has the downside of forcing him to release this project to someone else so that he may continue to be a consistent contributor in the forums community, helping new users with problems and helping keep the forums community clean and welcoming for newcomers. The positive side of him stepping down is this, I get to be the one to continue the project.

As I take this over, I would like to expand the interviews to include people from the larger Ubuntu community as well, some who are well-known, and others who have been mostly anonymous so far. I will continue to focus on people with a consistent and positive presence in the Ubuntu Forums, as that is my main role in the wider community and where I know the most people, however, I don’t want to limit us to only including forums people. So, to all of my friends on Planet Ubuntu, we would love to include you in the project so you may find an email from me in your inbox someday asking if you are interested in participating (I’m also open to volunteers, so feel free to email me).

The bottom line reason for doing these interviews is that everyone has a life beyond the nickname and avatar that we see, and it’s interesting to find out a little bit more about the human being behind the screen, the blog, or the reputation. To that end, I’m picking up on an idea that was borrowed from an idea originally suggested by forum staff member extraordinaire aysiu, and given legs by K.Mandla. I will be asking the same simple series of nine open-ended questions.

  1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.
  2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?
  3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?
  4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?
  5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?
  6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?
  7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?
  8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?
  9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

The questions are intentionally generic; that gives everyone a common ground to start with, and allows them to direct their replies in whatever way they see fit. Interviewees can answer as fully or as briefly as they like, and might even skip questions. Replies are only edited for punctuation, grammar or clarity, and so what you read is what they responded.

* Just in case anyone gets scared that I am about to flood the Planet Ubuntu feed with these interviews, let me ease your mind. I will be keeping to a similar schedule of one interview every two to six weeks, give or take. That should be infrequent enough for disinterested people to ignore them easily.

Early responses can be found here on K.Mandla’s site, including my interview last November.

EDIT/UPDATE: I have had a wonderful time leading and hosting these interviews, but time constraints in real life compel me to pass the project on to a new leader. Joe Barker is that person and I’m sure he will do a fabulous job on his blog. Thanks to all who have participated during my time! I appreciate it!!

All contributors whose interviews have been posted here on Matthew Helmke (dot) Net from 07/2008 to 08/2009 are listed below, in chronological order.

forestpixie

Mark Shuttleworth, SABDFL

overdrank

Alan Pope

John Crawford

Joeb454

nathangrubb

Nicolas Valcárcel

vor

PartyBoi2

Michael.Godawski

Rocket2DMn

tinivole

Travis Newman