Jo Shields (directhex)
Age: 25, if Evolution’s calendaring is to be believed.
Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
IRC Nick: directhex
How long have you used Linux and what was your first distro?
Actively using Linux, I’d say since around 2001. I did a Computer Science degree where the undergraduate laboratories were a 50-50 split between Red Hat and Windows machines. The Red Hat machines were faster, had bigger screens, were always available for use, and (most importantly) had access to a student-run NFS server filled with exciting things like multi-player games.
The first time I actually used Linux generally was when I was at school – probably around the time of Red Hat 5.2. The experience left me swearing off that nonsense for years to come – I was a big fan of BeOS as a non-Windows OS, and at the time, there was really zero comparison between Red Hat and Be in terms of usability. I didn’t install on my own PC again until around 2003-2004, when I installed Debian (or a slight Debian derivative with a kernel actually capable of booting on my system), bouncing around a number of distributions such as MEPIS. I didn’t really use it in anger until the demo for Unreal Tournament 2004 was released, and I discovered the faster load times under Linux gave me a competitive advantage online, leading to the odd situation where for a while I was using Linux for gaming, and Windows for working.
How long have you been using Ubuntu?
I eyed Ubuntu with a degree of suspicion when 4.10 was first released, almost as if it were “cheating” to have a Debian which didn’t require some blood, sweat and tears to get going. I first installed it on an office laptop with 5.10, assuming that getting Debian to be 100% happy on a laptop was probably more trouble than it was worth. I enjoyed the experience enough to begin using Ubuntu as my default distribution, and migrating Debian desktops to Ubuntu over time
When did you get involved with the MOTU team and how?
I began getting formally involved around the middle of the Intrepid cycle – it became clear to me that many packages I was a user of were not being updated much, as the guy who had previously taken charge of merges was busy with other tasks. I decided to pitch in and help, as much as possible, and helped get a few merges arranged to ensure Intrepid would ship with a relatively current set of packages.
This was, however, fairly late in the Intrepid cycle, which left me time to speak with the relevant Debian and Ubuntu people about Jaunty. When it became apparent how much work would be needed to make some exciting changes happen in Debian, which would benefit every Jaunty user, I decided to try and coordinate as much as possible with the greater MOTU population – soliciting as many helpers as I could via IRC and mailing lists. And they delivered – work was completed in Debian (and in Jaunty) in record time, thanks to all of those contributors. Working with them was great fun, so I decided to try it again for Karmic!
What helped you learn packaging and how Ubuntu teams work?
I’ve been running my own unofficial backport repository for a while (long before we had PPAs to make it easy), so I picked up a lot of packaging semantics from keeping those backports in good condition. The basics are fairly easy when all’s said and done – but the devil is in the details, and for the most part, nothing can beat experience in this regard.
Ubuntu teams work in a well-designed (to the casual observer) tiered manner, where it’s usually clear who to speak to at a given moment – and the people I’ve worked with have been pretty indulgent in helping to hurry things along where they’re blocking other work.
One thing I’ve tried to foster since I become involved with Ubuntu is cooperation with Debian – as a result, most of the packages I work on are worked on directly in Debian, alongside other MOTU, Ubuntu contributors, and of course Debian contributors and Developers too. As such, most of my interactions “in Ubuntu” (as opposed to in Debian with Ubuntu people) have been with the sponsors, archive admins, and release teams, and the same simple rule seems to apply for all of those: ask nicely, and do as you’re told.
What’s your favorite part of working with the MOTU?
Definitely the people – and perhaps more specifically, the respectfulness displayed in all directions. Every MOTU is working hard on the same goal – making Ubuntu more awesome. Where people disagree, it’s productive and informative on all sides. Where they agree, it leads to great collaboration and fast turnaround. The last big transition I was involved in was completed in record time, thanks to help from great contributions from MOTU people, who were happy to coordinate in Debian too.
Any advice for people wanting to help out MOTU?
Debian First. By all means, learn everything there is to know in Ubuntu – the people in #ubuntu-motu are often more welcoming, and the barriers to entry in getting your changes included are much lower. But by and large, try to remember Debian: Ubuntu changes benefit Ubuntu and a few others. Changes to Debian benefit everyone, including Ubuntu. This usually means little things like making sure your package builds in Debian Unstable as well as the latest Ubuntu development release (it usually should), and trying to get your packaging to Debian-ready condition from day one (especially the pesky debian/copyright file)
Are you involved with any local Linux/Ubuntu groups?
I’m subscribed to the local LUG’s mailing list, but haven’t attended anything in meatspace.
What are you going to focus on in Karmic?
I have a big TODO in general, and I expect only some of it will happen in time for Karmic. Primarily, I’ve been trying to do a run on new upstream releases, and on syncability – I want to make sure complaints of “Ubuntu is OLD!” go away, and this means both ensuring the newest versions available are in the archive – and that new versions are pulled in with zero work when they appear in Debian thanks to a lack of Ubuntu deltas.
Tasks which I suspect will be delayed until Lazy Lemur include a focus on including support for new languages, and teaching myself how to package a WebApp.
What do you do in your other spare time?
“Other” spare time, after all the Ubuntu work? Is there such a thing? Videogames, mostly. I have far too many of them, as collected over the last 20 years, and can sink a lot of time into them. I’ve also got some pet chinchillas who need my attention. They’re very fluffy.