Interview on Linux Unplugged podcast

A few days ago Jupiter Broadcasting’s Chris Fisher approached me about doing an interview for his Linux Unplugged podcast, so I said sure! I talked about the Usability & Productivity initiative, Kubuntu and KDE Neon, my history at Apple, and sustainable funding models for open-source development.

Awesomely enough, it turns out that their systems all run Kubuntu 18.04, and Chris calls it “the best distro we’ve ever used in production.” Now that’s what I like to hear! It’s exactly what the Usability & Productivity initiative is all about: making KDE software a lean, mean, productivity machine for creators and professionals.

You can listen to the show here: https://linuxunplugged.com/268. My segment starts at about the 25 minute mark.

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12 thoughts on “Interview on Linux Unplugged podcast

  1. Great interview Nate!

    You mentioned you use an Ubuntu Neon VM (with packages built from source) as a dev enviroment. Have you considered documenting that? It would be great for people who want to start developing or just test a patch. It’s difficult for beginners to know where to begin. GNOME, for example, is trying to solve this onboarding process with flatpaks and Gnome Builder.

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    1. In fact, it’s very much on my to-do list, for exactly the reason you mentioned. There are still a few rough edges I want to shave down before I document it though. A few weeks ago I tried to get my source repos shared between the host and guest, for example, but ran into no end of trouble due to https://virtualbox.org/ticket/10085, and none of the workarounds actually gave a proper user experience.

      Don’t worry, it’s coming soon!

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  2. Can’t wait for your appearance on Destination Linux podcast! If you didn’t get invite yet, I will vote for you and I’m sure that sooner or later we’ll see you there :).
    You also have a great voice for media!
    Excellent interview and we want more :).

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      1. No, you have the perfect voice for recordings and you sound great, much better than average so I can easily imagine you at radio or TV show or something.

        It looks like you are perfect for the KDE spokesperson. You connect easily with the audience, have experience and right ideas that many developers don’t have… being focused so much on code and distracted from usability and the whole reality. Your ideas about long-term financial sustainability are really great and should be stressed more around the community. Co-development in free time is good for small and beginner projects but something really great needs cash and business plan ;). FOSS folks often live with ideas that are too far away from reality.

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        1. I agree (money and good management can make projects more successful), except the wording feels strange: it makes little sense to me to convey a feeling that “many developers” are distracted from “the reality” (whatever that means). Please remember that exactly these developers create FLOSS programs which are very much real today. Without them we would have a different reality. Consider this: if “FLOSS folks” would have accepted the reality where money is the dominant motivator, do you think free software would have had a chance to be in a state as it is today? (Apart from that, many of the things we things we consider greatest don’t even work properly when money is involved.)

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          1. It takes a special kind of person to work for free in a manner that very much feels like professional work, with bug trackers, code review, mailing lists, etc. People who do this are already demonstrating that money is NOT the primary motivator for them. The fact that so many people are willing and able to do this is momentously amazing, but it’s a limited pool of people, and many of us who would prefer to do even more are limited by the fact that we have to earn money doing something else, because we all need money to live–and the amount increases as we go through various stages of life. When you get married, have kids, buy a car, and live in a house, and so on, even the most non-materialistic person needs more money to live than they did in the heady years of college poverty. Here in the USA, health care and college for your children cost absurd amounts of money and require major savings.

            My point is not, “hey, let’s hire a bunch of random people to work on FOSS because money is everyone’s primary motivator,” but rather “let’s find way to pay the people already working on FOSS so they can do it full-time instead of just in between their school, work, and family obligations.” The alternative is for the FOSS community to continue to be dominated by unmarried childless college students and retirees, because everybody else will be too busy to make major contributions.

            A sustainable funding model will allow more people who are passionate about FOSS to contribute through their professional lives, not just at the beginning and end.

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          2. My statement was very general and as always, generalities are not the universal truth so read it with a grain of salt. However, you surely noticed this strange behavior that whenever you speak for better Linux usability, friendliness, etc. many Linux folks react allergically, throwing out some scary scenarios as if this was bad for the Linux itself. Some said to me just outright “why would I need this? I’m happy with what I have and I don’t want Linux to be more friendly”.

            This kind of selfish behavior comes usually from IT people who are the majority of Linux users and the fact is that Linux as a whole reflects it: a system made by geeks for the geeks. That is why it is so not approachable and has a steep learning curve. Also the fact that it’s free and not commercial adds to it strongly because as long something works in command line or with basic gui, it’s considered to be ok, because designing and creating a good, friendly GUI takes time and if you are doing it in spare time and nobody is paying you – you are happy with editing config files, it works…

            So Linux is full of incredible, specialized, advanced command line software and with primitive gui programs, while the middle ground is under-represented, completely different to what you have on Windows.

            Having more paid development projects would shift the balance into the friendly UI direction, however, FOSS people tend to react negatively on everything connected with money.

            We simply lack balance and common reason among Linux community when it comes to finances and commercial projects.

            Some small things start to change, however. OS Elementary folks push monetization of software – a good idea. Patreon and other support platforms become more popular than ever, although that starts to require marketing. The more you can show off your project and excite people, the better gain. Those who simply do software but are not active to promote them, gain nothing. See timeshift developer who put this project on pause because he realized he has a large user base but no financial gain.

            The business reality is showing up in Linux world more and more. Patreons are a great thing but slowly there will be too many of them and people and projects will start to fight for users attention and things will get harder and harder. That’s the natural progression. Some will see it as a patreon fatigue but I think it’s a part of the natural evolution.

            So having Nate and in general, a unit within a project who keeps people informed and excited becomes a thing of survival and a necessary part of long-term project, along with sustainable monetization.

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