Local hero: Stefan Lesicnik on Linux and Ubuntu
South Africa’s Stefan Lesicnik was this week confirmed as an Ubuntu contributing developer. Tectonic asked Stefan where his work with Linux started.
Tectonic: Congratulations Stefan. Can you explain what a “contributing developer” is?
Ubuntu contributing developers are contributors to Ubuntu that do so on a more technical level. There are many ways people can contribute to Ubuntu. These include spreading the word, documentation, joining a loco team (South Africa has one where we meet, have release parties and provide resources and technical help over our mailing list), helping sort and triage bugs and many other ways.
From the Ubuntu Wiki:
“Ubuntu contributors typically handle more complicated tasks such as merging new packages from Debian that have local Ubuntu changes, debug software or package software from scratch. Thus, to be an Ubuntu contributor, you need some understanding of packaging, shell scripting and compilation of software under Linux.”
If you are more technical, please do consider working towards Ubuntu contributing developer and hopefully MOTU! MOTU (Masters of the Universe) are developers with permission to upload new packages or fixes directly into Ubuntu universe and multiverse repositories. Ubuntu contributing developers still require their work to be sponsored by an existing MOTU, which is part of the learning and mentoring process that happens.
As a side note to prospective contributors – programming knowledge is not essential. It can be useful, but definitely not required. I would say more important are analytical and problem solving skills.
What are the main areas that you will be focusing on in this role?
Within the MOTU teams there are many subteams where particular interests can be applied. If you are passionate about python, java, bug fixing, server or desktop teams, there is always somewhere that your skill is required and assistance appreciated.
I have been working with the security team, and part of my responsibility there is to merge security fixes from vendors or the community into supported versions of Ubuntu. This includes backporting these fixes into Ubuntu Dapper, Gutsy, Hardy and Intrepid.
I am busy working with the upcoming Ubuntu Jaunty cycle and closer to the release would like to apply for MOTU membership.
You are also a director at local company Linux System Dynamics. How do you find time to work on Ubuntu? How much time do you spend working on Ubuntu?
Linux System Dynamics (LSD) was a company formed with a passion for FOSS and Linux. I think that the kind of people we employ (including myself!) share this passion and are encouraged to contribute to open source projects and the community. I spend a fair amount of my spare time on Ubuntu and consider it a hobby. LSD is also a Canonical solutions provider and Ubuntu system builder so I can perhaps justify it like that.
How did you first get into Linux and open source software?
My first Linux was Redhat 3.0.3 – Picasso released in May 1996. I had purchased the official boxed set. I managed to get it up and running after wiping my windows installation and boot loader by accident. I set up a webserver and ftp server and connected to myself. It was kind of boring being the only user as I couldn’t get online, but from that moment on I knew I wanted to work with Linux.
Why Ubuntu? Why not some other distribution?
LSD is and always has been distribution neutral. We have Novell CLP/CLE, Redhat RHCE, and LPI certified people and skills within the organisation and based on customer needs and requirements will support and consult on all configurations.
In a personal capacity, I was a long time user of Gentoo Linux, but after resisting the change for so long I decided to give Ubuntu a try (probably while waiting for OpenOffice to compile). I really enjoy that many features work out of the box on Ubuntu and the ease of use for newcomers (even my mom, who is a grandmother, runs Ubuntu).
I think that Ubuntu has really put a lot of effort into the community and made it easy to get started with contributing. For example, they run online IRC teaching sessions for developers, and even have YouTube videos demonstrating some of the tasks.
Through the ZA LoCo team, we are planning a PackagingJam which is aimed for anyone who would like technically contribute. We will be teaching and learning and hopefully fostering some interest and getting more South African’s working towards contributing to Ubuntu. Expect dates to be finalised at a later stage.