Shawn Dennie, known as vor on the Ubuntu Forums, is one of our moderating staff. He is a programmer with a long technical history and being hired at 18 years old did wonders for his already-strong geek credibility. He is a world traveler, and an all-around interesting and good guy, and the subject of our latest in the community interview series.
1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life – name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.
My name is Shaun Dennie, I’m inching closer to 30 every day and can generally be found in Buenos Aires, Argentina (though, sometimes in Denver, Colorado or London, England). I’m a self-proclaimed Techno-Hippie Semi-Buddhist and so don’t own anything that I can’t fit in my backpack.
I began attending (and almost graduated from) the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology at the age of 16 and was hired by Sun Microsystems at the age of 18 to work in their High Performance Libraries and Tools Group. Over the last 10 years I’ve worked various other software engineering jobs but, have spent a lot of time travelling in Europe, South America and Asia.
Over the last few years I’ve been moving away from writing proprietary software and now work in a hostel while dedicating most of my time to helping people with Ubuntu. My hobbies include Ubuntu, going to watch my fúbol team (Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro), relaxing with my friends and pretending to be a bartender at my favorite bar in Argentina (The Spot).
2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?
Like many people my age, I got interested in computers after watching movies like War Games and Weird Science. My mother is an author so we had an 8086 machine fairly early (2 5.25 floppies and no hard drive). I learned how to use it and then one day a friend told me about this cool thing called a “BBS”. I got a modem for Christmas and then figured out how to do ASCII art in exchange for membership for the for-pay BBSs because at the age of 12, I had no income to pay for them.
I started programming at 13 when a friend said, “It would be great to have the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Compendium on the computer and have it auto-generate loot”. I figured out how to do just such a thing using GW-BASIC and then sold it to my friends for US$10 a copy and thus began my software engineering career. Before starting at Sun, this career would also consist of taking bribes to ensure proper matches in a match-making program I wrote for a high-school Valentines Day fundraiser and writing a full casino software suite for the TI-85 calculator (and selling it for US$15 an install).
I got interested in Linux in 1997 when I built my first computer and, following in True Nerd Tradition, installed a copy of Slackware that I got out of the back of a Unix book. I went on to learn more about Unix at Sun and found Ubuntu in 2005 when I wanted a Linux distro that worked on my new laptop without much hassle (and Ubuntu did!).
3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?
I started reading the forums in 2005 but I’d always been a lurker. I got brave one day in 2007 and started answering questions. I enjoyed it and so just kept doing it. I eventually joined the beginners team and was later invited to become a moderator for the forums.
4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?
I’m not currently an Ubuntu member, no. I plan to apply in the near future but, until recently my contributions have only been via the forums and I wanted to get involved more with the community here in Buenos Aires before applying.
5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?
I only run Ubuntu 8.04 on my laptop. I have virtual machines setup for many popular distros and even Windows but, I run Ubuntu as the primary OS.
My favorite tools are vim and perl. I once wrote a full featured mp3 player in vim (using mpg123) and generally get confused when using something that doesn’t have vi key bindings.
6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?
Every time I’m able to help someone on the forums, I enjoy it.
My worst memory (though, now it’s funny to me) is when I hesitantly joined the IRC channel #ubuntu-meeting before a membership meeting to see how some friends did and the first thing I saw was, ” * vorian peers at vor-ubuntu”. Since then, vorian has been peering/scowling/growling at me on a regular basis but, I find it less disconcerting now.
7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?
Most of my friends and family use Ubuntu now. The key seems to be configuring it properly for them and then teaching them a few basic things. The ones that are computer savvy to begin with quickly take the initiative to become Ubuntu experts and the ones who didn’t know much about computers in the first place have a very low barrier to entry and so quickly acclimate themselves to the new OS and sometimes even get excited about how easy it is to use.
I’m always surprised at how easily people figure out how to use Ubuntu. My mother knows nothing about computers but, she showed *me* how to sync an ipod on Ubuntu. I installed Ubuntu on my fathers laptop and 10 minutes later he’d downloaded some games from the repos and was thoroughly enjoying himself. I think when you give someone a non-mainstream OS, it challenges them prove their intelligence and they go out of their way figure out how things work. I always find it funny when non-technical people say, “Well, I just use Ubuntu.” in sort of a bragging way.
8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?
I’d like to see launchpad bug #1 fixed.
9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?
The forums are a very friendly place and, if google isn’t giving you the answer you need, the forums probably will.