People of openSUSE: Joe Brockmeier
For those who have been waiting for a ‘People of openSUSE’ interview with our openSUSE Community Manager and long time Linux and open source journalist Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier since February, here you have it! Don’t stop, keep reading ;-)
Please introduce yourself!
I’m the openSUSE Community Manager, just joined Novell in February of this year, and have had a great time so far working with the openSUSE Project.
Before taking this job, I had been involved in technology journalism covering Linux and the open source community for many years. My last job was Editor-in-Chief of Linux Magazine, and I’ve also written for Linux Weekly News (LWN), Linux.com, IBM developerWorks, UnixReview.com, Sys Admin, and many other publications.
When I have time for hobbies, I like to read — non-fiction that covers history and politics, as well as a broad range of fiction. (Everything from Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Neil Gaiman to John Irving, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut.)
Tell us about the background to your computer use.
I discovered Linux in 1996, while I was at university (Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri) studying English Literature and communications / journalism.
I started with Slackware, and booted Windows off my desktop permanently in 1999. I spent a lot of time learning Linux and have made a living as a freelance writer, covering Linux and open source news and also writing howto’s about working with open source, and have also worked in a hosting environment supporting Linux systems.
When and why did you start using openSUSE/SUSE Linux?
I first used SUSE Linux in 1999 or 2000. I was writing about and reviewing Linux distros for many years, so I used SUSE along with many other distros — the biggest thing for me in the early years was how easy SUSE was to configure on multiple monitors.
I’m still a big fan of YaST and the package management in 11.0 is top notch.
When did you join the openSUSE community and what made you do that?
Officially, in February of this year, when joining Novell.
In what way do you participate in the openSUSE project?
Right now, I spend a lot of time trying to get the word out about openSUSE and find ways to help the community grow, and for the existing community to have the tools it needs to get the job done.
I spend time giving talks about openSUSE and helping to promote the project to external groups and at shows.
What especially motivates you to participate in the openSUSE project?
I want to see openSUSE become a more independent project, to allow external contributors to have a strong voice in its development and direction, and I want to see as many people as possible introduced to Linux through openSUSE.
What do you think was your most important contribution to the openSUSE project/community or what is the contribution that you’re most proud of?
Ask me again in a year. :-)
When do you usually spend time on the openSUSE project?
I spend most of my time on the openSUSE Project. :-) Usually between 7 “Linux for everybody.”a.m. and 6 p.m., weekdays.
Three words to describe openSUSE? Or make up a proper slogan!
“Linux for everybody.”
What do you think is missing or underrated in the distribution or the project?
YaST is seriously underrated — I find it to be a really useful tool to manage my system. I think it’s one of the things that really sets openSUSE apart from other Linux distros.
What do you think the future holds for the openSUSE project?
Massive, unbridled success. :-) I think that the future will see openSUSE’s user and contributor communities growing by leaps and bounds, particularly now that the openSUSE Build Service has reached the point to allow external contribution to the openSUSE distro itself.
A person asks you why he/she should choose openSUSE instead of other distribution/OS. What would be your arguments to convince him/her to pick up openSUSE?
Well, the first question I ask people (when talking about computers and operating systems, not the first question in general…) is whether they’re actually happy with their OS. If they are, there’s really no sense in having the conversation, because you’re unlikely to convince someone who’s happy to switch.
But, most people I meet aren’t happy with their OS – so I ask what makes them unhappy and, assuming openSUSE can address that problem, tell them how openSUSE might solve their problems.
I’ve found demonstrations are often effective – whenever possible, I like to show people how well openSUSE does something.
So, I demo YaST, show off OpenOffice.org, Compiz Fusion, and how easy it is to install software.
Which members of the openSUSE community have you met in person?
Too many to list, really. And I feel pretty good about that! :-) It’s been great getting to meet so many people in the openSUSE Project the last few months.
How many icons are currently on your desktop?
About 20. Mostly files.
What is the application you can’t live without? And why?
Firefox, I spend a lot of my time working with Web based applications (especially Web mail and wikis).
Which application or feature should be invented as soon as possible?
Vi-like keybindings for everything.
Which is your preferred text editor? And why?
No contest – Vim, because it is so full-featured, I never need to touch a mouse when working with it, and because the Vim keybindings are second nature to me now.
Which famous person would you want to join the openSUSE community?
Robin Williams. He’d be great at promoting Linux and openSUSE.
Which computer related skills would you like to have?
I’d like to be a decent programmer.
The Internet crashes for a whole week — how would you feel, what would you do?
Well, if the Internet were to crash for an entire week, it’d be VERY hard to do my job — or at least big chunks of my job. I guess I’d get as much done without Internet access, and then take a few days off.
Would we know it was for a one-week period ahead of time? Because I would be really concerned after more than a day with complete Internet failure.
I think people would be surprised how different their lives would be without Internet access. Not only would it be difficult to collaborate with people all over the world — which is obviously crucial for the openSUSE Project — but it would make it harder to get news, shop, communicate with my family… it’d be really bad. But I wouldn’t mind a few days break, and I think it’d be good for people to remember what life was like without the ‘net. Might help rejigger some people’s sense of priorities.
Plus, you know it would make the trolls crazy to go seven whole days without griefing other people, so that’d be a huge bonus.
Which is your favorite movie scene?
Really hard to narrow down to one, but I’d say that Christopher Walken’s monologue in Pulp Fiction is at the top of the list.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
You know, it used to be Star Wars, but after the last one… Star Trek, definitely.
What is your favorite food and drink?
Favorite drink is Steak ‘N Shake’s Orange Freeze. For those of you not fortunate enough to have visited a Steak ‘N Shake, an Orange Freeze is a milkshake that tastes a bit like a dreamsicle – that is, orange and vanilla mixed together.
Favorite food… hard to say, probably lobster tail or crab legs.
Favorite game or console (in your childhood and nowadays)?
I didn’t have a game console as a kid. My parents were convinced playing Pong and Space Invaders would rot my brain. (Of course they let my younger brothers play FPSes that had more gore than a Quentin Tarantino flick, but that’s another story…)
My favorite computer game of all time is Quake III Arena. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get better than that.
Which city would you like to visit?
Of cities I’ve been to, I love Vancouver. Of cities I’ve never visited, I’d like to go to Vatican City just to see the Sistine Chapel.
What is your preferred way to spend your vacation?
Since I travel so much for work, I like to stay home when I have time off. A day with no meetings, phone calls, deadlines, or obligations of any kind sounds better to me than a trip to Hawaii.
Someone gives you $1.000.000 — what would you do with the money?
Pay off my bills (especially my student loans) and then put the rest in the bank.
If traveling through time was possible — when would we be most likely to meet you?
Either the late 60’s and early 70’s, where (when?) I’d be catching live shows by all the bands I never got to see live, or the distant future, so I could see how things turn out.
There’s a thunderstorm outside — do you turn off your computer?
Nah, that’s what surge protectors, UPSes, and insurance are for.
Have your ever missed an appointment because you forgot about it while sitting at your computer?
Show us a picture of something, you have always wanted to share!
Hmmm. Don’t really have anything for this.
You couldn’t live without…
Books, music, a computer to write with.
Which question was the hardest to answer?
Favorite movie scene, definitely.
What other question would you like to answer? And what would you answer?
Favorite band? The Beatles.