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Posts published in “Interview”

Ubuntu MATE’s Martin Wimpress Talks Raspberry Pi & FOSS

The FOSS Force Interview

Recently, I had the privilege to sit down and interview Martin Wimpress, who among other things is the project lead for Ubuntu MATE. One reason I interviewed him was because I wanted to see what he’d have to say about his work with Ubuntu MATE and the Raspberry Pi, as well as to get a gleaning of his overall thoughts on free and open source software. As you will discover, Wimpress is definitely not a person who’s short on thoughts, or shy about expressing them.

Ubuntu Mate logoThe other reason for this interview, perhaps the main reason, is because from one developer to another, I look up to Martin quite a bit and admire him for the things he is accomplishing and doing.

Deb Nicholson Talks (What Else?) Software Patents

The FOSS Force Interview

Back in June I had the opportunity to meet Deb Nicholson, a person who is well known to people who frequent open source and Linux conferences.

I was dog tired, having had only about four hours sleep. I’d gotten up at about five in the morning, much earlier than I think is civilized, in order to make it to Charlotte in time for the opening ceremonies at the SouthEast LinuxFest (SELF). I’d allowed for traffic jams in the morning rush hour traffic that didn’t happen and so arrived early enough to have time to try to catch a nap on an inviting and empty couch I found in the vendor hallway that turned out to be part of the booth space for Internet Systems Consortium.

Deb Nicholson
Deb Nicholson
Luckily for me, Chuck Aurora, who had driven up from Mississippi with his family to maintain the booth and try to grab a few contacts, was generous when he arrived with his teenage daughter in tow, and wasn’t perturbed that I’d mistaken his booth for a public rest area. I didn’t need to get up and find someplace else to sleep, he said, exhibiting the southern hospitality I’d been told to expect at SELF. I was free to go ahead and nap if I could.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

SELF 2015: Linux, Guns & Barbecue

The FOSS Force Interview

From what I learned talking with Jeremy Sands last Tuesday, everything about the SouthEast LinuxFest (SELF) will be marinated in southern culture. So much so that if this were twenty years ago, I’d be expecting to see geeks with cigarette packs rolled-up in the sleeves of their T shirts. But these days people don’t smoke much anymore, not even in North Carolina, a state built by tobacco money.

SouthEast LinuxFest's Jeremy Sands
SouthEast LinuxFest’s Jeremy Sands in 2010.
At the very least, I expect to find that at SELF even the software will be southern fried and smothered with gravy. That’s because SELF intends to be more than just another LinuxFest. It intends to be a celebration of southern living, hence the guns and barbecue. Presumably, grits will be served at breakfast, and Southern Comfort and Bourbon will be available at the after parties.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Portrait of an Everyday Computer Programmer

The FOSS Force Interview


The majority of us in today’s work force rely on it to earn our livings. Whether we use it directly while sitting in front of a computer or by tallying a daily quota for auditors to further calculate, in one way or another, software is the key to getting our jobs done.

computer software wizardMost people rarely give a thought about how the software they use came to be or even what it is. To most, it’s voodoo, magic conjured by wizards on mountaintops, their staffs held high, with bolts of energy breathing life into the encased boxes referred to as computers. But behind the wizard’s benefaction are real living and breathing carbon-based units: People who have the talent, and often times the personality, to make ones and zeros, along with a healthy supply of squiggly things, actually do something.

Many of us operate under the assumption that writing software demands a particular personality and skill set. We imagine people who skulk and pace between sittings, swilling Red Bull and muttering to themselves before a frenzy of creative genius leaps from the IDE. Certainly, the mad genius sometimes lurks in front of and often within the code — but mostly not. In real life, people who create software are pretty much the same as you and me: average people, but with the ability to write good and needed software.

Neil Munro is one of those people.

I met Neil while recruiting software people to help clean up the horrid mess that is text to speech (TTS) software in Linux. Actually, he approached me, and in an almost apologetic manner, offered to assist in any way he could. Humbleness is often a trait of software engineers. They severely understate their abilities and will brush off compliments of their skills as “something they picked up” along the way in their time at the terminal.

Calculating beam vectors? From where do you “pick that up?”

While several coders were considering either forking a current but under-supported TTS application or writing one from scratch, Neil went in a different direction. He decided that the actual platform should be the Chrome browser. He would build an extension that worked inside of Chrome. And yes, the platform of choice these days is quickly becoming the browser environment.

So I thought it would be a good idea to check in on him and spend some time talking about who he is, with a bit of in depth discussion about the things he is working on, to include the Chrome extension for text to speech. As a fun thing to do, I often start by asking the people I am interviewing to give me some bullet points about themselves that normally wouldn’t make it into an interview, maybe a bit of the odd or funny. Neil didn’t disappoint:

Ken StarksKen Starks

Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue

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