Stephan Hermann (\sh)
Location: Au am Rhein, near Karlsruhe, Germany
IRC Nick: \sh
How long have you used Linux and what was your first distro?
Well, Linux got my attention in the beginning of 1993, while I was fighting with Sun OS on our university server (FernUni Hagen). My very first distro was a SuSE Slackware, I don’t remember the version anymore, but I knew how long it took for me to download 10 1.44mb floppy disk images, around 7 days with a 9600 baud connection between our Sun Server and the Terminal Server where we could dial in using Kermit :) Anyways, since then I used, IMHO, all Linux Distros on the market, SuSE, RedHat, Debian, Gentoo and other, smaller distributions.
How long have you been using Ubuntu?
Oh, that was early 2005, when a strange guy named Oliver ‘Ogra’ Grawert (aka Mr. Edubuntu) came to me and asked me to test the pre-release of Ubuntu Hoary. We were working at this time in the same company (ISH GmbH, now Unity Media, a big Cable TV Provider in Northrhine Westfalia and Hesse today). I was using at this time Gentoo on my Company Laptop and at Home, so he needed to convince me to use it in the first place.
When did you get involved with the MOTU team and how?
Oh that was also early 2005 I think around April, just before the Hoary Release. When I felt that Ubuntu just worked on my personal and company machines, I was convinced, that I will use it for my daily work. Knowing that Oliver was working for the MOTUs (and these days also for Canonical as Main Contributor), my main drive was to contribute back to Ubuntu, just because I liked what I saw and thought to give back some work. Well, actually it didn’t matter to me for whom I was contributing, Ubuntu, Gentoo, RedHat, at least I was giving back some work. But Ubuntu was special. It was numbered in contributors and paid developers these days. So I started to work on Debian Packages (which I had before, for my own pet projects) in Ubuntu. During Breezy we had a nice big transition to deal with, (C++ Transition) and I started to power on my engines, and filed a lot of fixes and debdiffs, Matthias ‘Doko’ Klose was in charge for this, and he had to upload a lot of my packages. I think, Matthias got fed up with uploading packages for me, so was Oliver, and I had to apply for MOTUship. These days, everything was different from today. For becoming a MOTU you had to apply for Ubuntu Membership, which I did and I was approved an Ubuntu Member on 2005-05-20. It was special, because I first met Mark (Sabdfl) on IRC, and he had the final say on my application. After this approval it took only, I don’t know anymore, 2 or 3 weeks until I became an “official” member of MOTU with upload rights.
What helped you learn packaging and how Ubuntu teams work?
Oh, in general I had many experience with other packaging formats, including debian packaging. This wasn’t the problem actually. Reading Makefiles is not so difficult, when someone has a developers background. I think the most difficult is, when you deal with Debian packaging, to follow the policy. Sometimes it’s easy to just forgot those policies, but later it’s much better to follow them in the first place. Working for Ubuntu means working with a team of other developers, I’m noting here, that everyone who ever touched a package and changed something is a developer. Working with a team means, that you shouldn’t only focus on your own work, but focus also on the other peoples work. When you work in IT business, a good team helps you when you need advise, the same applies to Ubuntu, especially when you work on the software level. Nobody knows everything, so everbody learns more every single day. Even old pros are learning. And nobody should doubt him/herself just because he doesn’t understand something in the first place. Listen to people, learn, try out, understand, I think these are the most important directives for people who wants to join the Ubuntu Army :)
Favorite part of working with the MOTU?
Oh there are a lot. First of all, the spirit of MOTU is unique (IMHO). You will know people, even if you don’t see them, much better, it’s like a big family, with good days and even bad days. Second, I learned a lot from other MOTUs, and I always learn a bit more, day by day. Third, others will learn from you, and it’s good to see that. For your own spirit. This drives me, to see people like Barry (bddebian) to evolve (he was my first scholar ;)) or like Og Maciel evolving in other parts of OpenSource (e.g. Gnome Foundation, Foresight Linux etc.). Fourth, it helps in your personal career, especially when you are working in the IT business.
Any advice for people wanting to help out MOTU?
Actually there is only one: Just do something. Really, if you want to be a part in this famous Ubuntu Team, just
start contributing. Package new software, fix packages, or whatever you like. Just do something. Yeah, not everybody does like to work with software, and not everybody likes triaging bugs, but every single help is important. And yes, listen to the people. Many old people from MOTU or other Ubuntu teams are knowing more then you do in the beginning of your trip. Don’t ignore them. We had this kind of people already, and most likely they fail and are not fitting in the team.
You have been working on a lot of different packages in the last cycles, what are you going to focus on in Hardy?
Well, Hardy is just around the corner, and I worked on merges and bugfixes and security stuff for Hardy. Wine was also on this list, even when I don’t like Wine, but I think it’s important to have such a tool in our repositories. Hopefully Scott Ritchie (the WineHQ Ubuntu Package Maintainer will become a MOTU soon, and he’s taking over the uploads of Wine ;))) For Hardy+1 I have some new packages hiding in my pocket, and hopefully they are hitting hardy+1 very fast. And then there is the Ubuntu Server Flavour. Which is very special, because I work with this flavour all day long. So at least for me, there need to be some changes regarding the Server flavour and hopefully I can add some ideas to it.
How do you think Hardy will special for our users?
I think every new release will give the users a new experience. When you started in the early days (with Hoary or Breezy) you can see, how Ubuntu is evolving. I do think that Hardy will be special, as Dapper was, because of the LTS (Long Term Support) status. It gives the user the guarantee, that he isn’t alone with it. This gives also our (I’m saying this with a purpose) business customers an idea to switch from RedHat Enterprise Linux or Novell/SuSE Enterprise Linux to Ubuntu LTS Releases. (I’m pointing out, that even business customers are using Universe/Multiverse repositories, so we, the MOTU Team, need to take care of the stability and safteyness of Universe/Multiverse).
There are many…
“Welcome to the real world, Neo” (Matrix) is the best quote of Year 1999/2000. But I think Linus has a better one: “If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I’ve won.” (http://thinkexist.com/quotes/linus_torvalds/2.html – just exchange the “I” with “we”.)
What do you do in your other spare time?
(The picture of the desktop (real) was taken with a Nokia N73 Mobile)