People of openSUSE: Jan Engelhardt

Jan Engelhardt

Jan is one of silent community members that is active in kernel packaging and development area. Thanks to him openSUSE users have had chance to try stable real time kernel (RT kernel). He doesn’t take time to chat very often, but if you have problem and it is kernel related there is a great chance that you will have his attention, specially if you post your question to opensuse-kernel mail list.

His development home is suser-jengelh/, or recently added The Build Service repo j-engel belongs to another person – Johannes Engel.

Jan mentioned that openSUSE 11.1 users don’t have RT kernel due to difficulties with 2.6.27 that prevented it to be ready by release date, but he provided alternatives 2.6.25-RT and 2.6.29-RT that can be found in either of his repositories.

Please introduce yourself!

Systems Administrator/Software Developer located in Goettingen, Germany. Reaching his mid-twenties. Likes to travel, though does not get around too often. Otherwise biking. 1 cat.

Tell us about the background to your computer use.

It started sometime in 1991 when I used a HighScreen KOMPAKT Serie II 286 (4.77 MHz, 640K, 3.5+5.25 FD, no HD, 720×480 mono graphics, DOS 3.3/Windows 2.1). Most important for my age at that time – the (now) classic games to kill time!

When and why did you start using openSUSE/SUSE Linux?

Fall 1999, when I wanted to do more sophisticated HTML form processing that was infeasible without server-side support – this required getting onto a Linux server, and working with Apache and Perl. The systems in school were a mix of SL 5.3, 6.0 and 6.1 at that time.

When did you join the openSUSE community and what made you do that?

2000 then or so. Community was a loose concept then due to SUSE’s closed nature in the past, but it was pretty much the chattering #suse. Going there for curiosity and out of having nothing else to do.

In what way do you participate in the openSUSE project?

Bug reporting; making available additional RPM packages that I find useful. Sort of QA for the RT – a real time kernel – rpm (see below) I create.

What especially motivates you to participate in the openSUSE project?

SUSE has the best defaults for console programs for me. The motivation for bug reports? Because bugs impact whatever I wanted to get done originally. Creating packages is mostly a time saver for myself – one day, manual compilation of additional programs became too time expensive, also since the number of machines I wanted to distribute it to also increased.

What would be your the most important contribution to the openSUSE project and community, or what is the contribution that you’re most proud of?

People seem to like the implicit stability assurance of my RT kernel rpm. The openSUSE one was not always without issues. And you know the mantra: the more eyeballs, the less bugs.

When do you usually spend time on the openSUSE project?

Uh, don’t we do that always? Running openSUSE means testing it as a side effect. Proactively working on openSUSE, hm, whenever I feel motivated or there is user demand, including my own, for something, e.g. new version of a package.

Three words to describe openSUSE? Or make up a proper slogan!

The Linux for Professionals.

What do you think is missing or underrated in the distribution or the project?

If I only look at the top votes on openFATE – they are for “disable beagle/pulseaudio by default” – Novell/SUSE should pay more attention to the users.

What do you think the future holds for the openSUSE project?

SUSE was, and I hope it will continue to be, the “Linux for Professionals”. (Sounds like it could have been a slogan for the SUSE 8/9.x series; I picked it again.)

A person asked 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?

Just because someone claims a distro is good does not mean it is – you should see and decide for yourself. So you are not going to hear something like “it is because we have $software_du_jour”.

First and foremost, SUSE provides the best ground for my daily activities. Part of that may simply be the customization I added for myself – I always miss that when having to log onto others machines, but the more so when going for non-SUSE boxes.

More importantly, SUSE gives me sort of a security assurance, as it is backed by Novell, and I can reasonably expect that they know what they are doing (especially in light of the 2008 Q3 openssl issue elsewhere).

And lastly, since I am not terribly interested in other distributions, choosing a distro other than the one I happen to use lowers one’s chance of getting free support from me when it comes to a distro-specific question.

Which members of the openSUSE community have you met in person?

Eberhard Moenkeberg, Christoph Thiel, Andreas Jaeger, Jan Blunck, Daniel Gollub, Stephan Binner, Martin Lasarsch and more.

How many icons are currently on your desktop?

Ha! I can say I am proud to be one of the users to have exactly ZERO icons on their desktop, simply because… icewm does not come with a desktop to dump icons on. As a side effect, you have more time enjoying the backgroud picture.

What is the application you can’t live without? And why?

Coreutils, not specifically GNU, but the toolset Unices provide.

Why, because it is damn useful in getting the most basic tasks you would not normally think about done. You only realize how important it is once you are on Windows and do not have one of the MSYS/Cygwin environments available.

Which application or feature should be invented as soon as possible?

An Office Suite that does not require tons of memory or disk space.

There is a commercial offering that does satisfy this requirement (ad: SoftMaker), but in light of the question the Honorable Community asked me here I should perhaps add the adjectives “free/open” for my above answer.

Which is your preferred text editor? And why?

I dual-use joe and mcedit. I seem to remember that joe 2.x (shipped with SUSE Linux <= 9) did not have coloring support, which made mcedit my primary choice to work with, also because it was integrated with mc.

I was a big time user of nc on DOS before entering the Linux world. However, mcedit lacks split-screen editing and filtering, and UTF-8 is still a patch/development branch as of mc 4.6.2, your question really makes me consider porting my mcedit code to joe. But investing time is a hurdle ;-)

Which famous person would you want to join the openSUSE community?

There is already a distro that lives mostly on its PR, and I don’t like it. I do not want openSUSE to go down that road, as quality would undoubtedly suffer.

Which computer related skills would you like to have?

The gory details of memory management in the Linux kernel.

The Internet crashes for a whole week – how would you feel, what would you do?

If it were for the entire Internet and not just for my at-home link, then that would be superb. Everybody, well almost everybody, will get some time for themselves.

I would probably do what I do anyway, developing software. Absolutely no problem with a DSCM like Git.

Which is your favorite movie scene?

The intermissions in the middle of each of the two main Ghost In The Shell movies.

Star Trek or Star Wars?


(ed. comment: Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Favorite game or console (in your childhood and nowadays)?

I do not spend much time playing games, and the focus also rotates time and again. Additionally, there are so many different good ones. I also prefer “classics”, and almost entirely ignore “modern” things and everything that exceeds the capabilities of my current hardware.

I feel that this short list is already too long.

What is your favorite food and drink?

Pizza without baking agent. Semi-frozen (no ice cubes!) Bitter Lemon, iced tea, fruit juices or similar drinks.

Which city would you like to visit?


In fact this is now scheduled for May (2009). A dream comes true :)

What is your preferred way to spend your vacation?

Call it “urban/rural reconnaissance”. It is one’s own very personal way to explore or revisit areas of particular interest. It is pretty much distinct from “standard” sightseeing – one indication you are on recon is when none of the souvenir dealers near $attraction start talking to you ;-)

Someone gives you $1.000.000 – what would you do with the money?

Figure out how much I will get after taxes are deducted (if applies) and make a living as usual.

If traveling through time was possible – when would we be most likely to meet you?

The statistically highest chance to find me is during the time that I actually live in now. You would not know the temporal coordinates I would be traveling to unless I told you, and at this point I have no plans for vacation.

There’s a thunderstorm outside – do you turn off your computer?

I already have an UPS, due to:

So no, nothing ain’t interrupting my work no more.

Have your ever missed an appointment because you forgot about it while sitting at your computer?

Too often. Mostly those in IRC (ironic, isn’t it).

Show us a picture of something, you have always wanted to share!

It is all on the homepage – section “Images” and “Art/Scenery”.

You couldn’t live without…

People cannot survive without being needed by other people.

Which question was the hardest to answer?

Personal information. That is, well, personal.

What other question would you like to answer? And what would you answer?

Q: Favorite music style/movie type.

A: I keep the Euro, (Happy) Hardcore, Goa and New Age channels from Digitally Imported in xmms.