Before openSUSE 11.0 GM get released next Thursday, we have the chance to meet Cornelius Schumacher – member of the incubation team, former Build Service developer, KDE vice president, and also the one who started writing down the openSUSE Guiding Principles.
|Favorite season:||Autumn. I like wild weather and Indian summers.|
|Motto:||“Do the right thing.”|
Please introduce yourself!
I’m a physicist by education, a software developer by profession, and a free software enthusiast by passion. I’m working for SUSE at Nuernberg as a member of the incubation team. Our mission is to explore new technologies and grow innovative ideas in the SUSE universe. I’m a long term contributor to free software, especially to KDE, where I’m vice president of the KDE e.V. these days. My two wonderful daughters keep me busy when I’m not in front of a computer.
Tell us about the background to your computer use.
I started with a ZX81 in 1982 with programming BASIC and Z80 assembler, went on through a C64 and an Amiga, programming more BASIC, more assembler and starting with C. Then I drifted off into the PC world, got to know UNIX and the Internet at university, also did some hardware development and chip design there, before I finally arrived at Linux and free software in general. Nowadays I’m mostly programming C++ and Ruby.
When and why did you start using openSUSE/SUSE Linux?
I have a “November ’95″ edition here on one of my shelves. I guess that’s the first one I used. On the cover it says, it comes with Kernel 1.2.13 and ELF is a new feature. Nice. I don’t really remember why I started to use SUSE. I certainly was curious about Linux and I always had a tendency to use promising technology ;-)
When did you join the openSUSE community and what made you do that?
I’m working at SUSE for 6 years now. I think the first version I contributed to was 8.0. So I naturally was there when the openSUSE project started. I love free software and the open development model behind it, so I really appreciated it, when Novell made the step to open the development of the distribution, and tried to be active in the community and contribute my share to develop and grow it.
In what way do you participate in the openSUSE project?
As SUSE employee I of course get in touch with openSUSE as part of my daily work. When I think about it I realize that a focus of my work is infrastructure for the project. I was one of the architects which created the openSUSE Build Service and I wrote the first version of its frontend and web client. I also was deeply involved with writing down the openSUSE Guiding Principles, which is a non-technical but still very important infrastructure part of the project. There are also other things like being a mentor for the Google Summer of Code for openSUSE or contributing to upstream projects like KDE. One of the great things about openSUSE is that there are so many ways one can contribute.
What especially motivates you to participate in the openSUSE project?
I always have been a great fan of the SUSE distribution however it exactly was called over the years. I’m still impressed by the technical quality and the thoroughness of integration which shows in each and every version. It’s exciting to be part of the community which creates this great distribution.
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?
I think the guiding principles are my most fundamental contribution. It was a long and challenging process to put together all the different parts which form the identity of the project and put them in a form which was accepted by the community inside and outside of Novell and the different corporate stakeholders. But I’m happy that we did that and successfully created the document. For such a large and diverse community as openSUSE it’s important and beneficial to have an agreed set of core principles available to all community members, especially newcomers, in an easy way. In particular as Novell as sponsoring company has a dominant role in many ways, it’s good to have a distinct identity of the project written down. This helps Novell as well as the community to define structure and interaction, and make sure that interests are balances in a way which benefits all sides.
When do you usually spend time on the openSUSE project?
It’s hard to find a pattern. Some day and night I would say.
Three words to describe openSUSE? Or make up a proper slogan!
“openSUSE – technical excellence for everybody”
What do you think is missing or underrated in the distribution or the project?
I think the strong integration and technical polish of the distribution is still underrated. It’s amazing how well many things work, and how good even little details are put together. With openSUSE using a computer really is a breeze. This can’t be said of many other operating systems. Of course there are still many things where the integration and polish still could be better. So final perfection is still missing. This is also an area where a great community can help a lot, finding and fixing all the little problems which occur when software meets the real world.
What do you think the future holds for the openSUSE project?
World domination of course.
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?
Using openSUSE makes you sexy, rich and irresistible. Well, and you get the best operating system of the world as a bonus on top of that.
Which members of the openSUSE community have you met in person?
I’m happy to have met a tremendous number of community members at events like FOSDEM and Linuxtag and of course at work at the SUSE office in Nuernberg and other Novell locations.
How many icons are currently on your desktop?
Eight. I don’t use them, though.
What is the application you can’t live without? And why?
KMail. I have tried a lot of different mail clients, but KMail is the only one which makes it possible to get the huge amount of mails I get under control in an efficient and still enjoyable way.
Which application or feature should be invented as soon as possible?
Perfect spam protection. Not sure, if that’s more a technical or a political challenge.
Which is your preferred text editor? And why?
Something like ten years ago I switched from Emacs to NEdit and I have never looked back. NEdit is fast and efficient, has a great graphical user interface, and never gets in the way. I think when I switched the two killer features for me where the easy graphical manipulation of vertical selections, which are very handy when editing tables, and the syntax highlighting for Verilog. Today NEdit shows a bit of age, but I haven’t found a replacement yet, so I continue to be a happy NEdit user. But to mention one other brilliant text editor: For its time the CygnusEd on the Amiga was absolutely amazing, exhaustive functionality put into a beautiful user interface, which beat everything else which was available back then. I still remember my joy watching the smooth scrolling of CygnusEd when I saw it for the first time.
Which famous person would you want to join the openSUSE community?
I think I prefer it the other way around, when people become famous by contributing to the openSUSE community.
Which computer related skills would you like to have?
Magic debugging skills. Debugging is an art in itself, and while I’m not bad at it, I still encounter problems I can’t understand or solve every day. I wish I would have a little voice somewhere which would tell me to look into this log file or to try that command line option, or whatever else is the right way to nail down a given bug, whenever I needed it.
The Internet crashes for a whole week — how would you feel, what would you do?
Taking aside worries about the impact of an Internet crash for human society, I would probably enjoy the time. I have become a fan of git, which allows for perfect offline version control, so an Internet crash won’t stop me hacking.
Which is your favorite movie scene?
In Amadeus directed by Milos Forman there is a scene where Mozart is invited to the emperor Joseph II and all his musical advisors and the emperor himself plays a little piece of music Antonio Salieri has composed for this opportunity. Mozart then amazes the emperor and his advisors by knowing the music by heart after only hearing it once and virtuosoly playing and improving it without effort. This scene makes use of everything a movie can provide and is artistic on so many levels, it’s really impressive. I deeply enjoy it every time I watch it again.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek of course.
What is your favorite food and drink?
Spaghetti and beer.
Favorite game or console (in your childhood and nowadays)?
My all-time favorite probably is Kick-Off 2 on the Amiga. Nowadays I enjoy playing games on the Wii of my daughter. But I’m also a big fan of non-computer games.
Which city would you like to visit?
Berlin always is a great city to visit and I enjoy that as often as I can. At some time I would like to visit Moscow. This city has a lot of fascinating context.
What is your preferred way to spend your vacation?
Relaxing. Of course there are different ways to achieve that. Sometimes there even is a computer involved ;-)
Someone gives you $1.000.000 — what would you do with the money?
Investing in Novell stock? Giving it to charity? I don’t know. I don’t care so much about money.
If traveling through time was possible — when would we be most likely to meet you?
I would really like to watch Big Bang. But I’m not sure a meeting there would be very pleasant.
There’s a thunderstorm outside — do you turn off your computer?
I have never done that.
Have your ever missed an appointment because you forgot about it while sitting at your computer?
Possibly. I can’t remember right now ;-)
Show us a picture of something, you have always wanted to share!
There is a picture of the KDE logo a friend of my sister took at 81 degrees north, only a couple of hundred kilometres away from the north pole. The world should now finally see that.
You couldn’t live without…
Which question was the hardest to answer?
The one about famous people joining openSUSE. It’s easy to come up with cheesy ideas why this or that celebrity should join openSUSE. But in the end the community is not about famous people at all and I tend to think that’s a very healthy way to run a community.
What other question would you like to answer? And what would you answer?
Q: What’s your favorite computer-related quote? A: “Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.” (Brian Kernighan)
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