Interview with Balloons

I came across Balloons in the #ubuntu-community-team a few months ago when seeking some advice on a forum matter. Balloons is a “new” member of the Canonical Community Team working as the QA Community Coordinator. I asked if he would be willing to do an interview, he said yes and here we are now…

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

My real life sometimes does exist off of the pc. My name is Nicholas Skaggs, and I’m a transplant to the sunny state of Florida in the US. The weather lets me enjoy my outdoor hobbies like biking, sailing, hiking, etc. I have the wonderful privilege of working for Canonical on the community team, as the QA community coordinator. It’s been wonderful getting to work with different folks across the community that I had not worked with previously.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I still remember destroying and rebuilding my family’s first pc back in the day. I had used computers (remember the Macintosh era in the US schools systems during the 80′s?) before, but having one inside your house is different story. I broke and subsequently was forced to “fix” my family pc many times. My father wasn’t so keen on me doing such things I’d imagine, but I enjoyed learning. Pretty easy to bork your system when your running windows 95 and think the internet is AOL. Say hello 1995!

My first linux experience pre-dated ubuntu; it was in College and I had the privilege of installing some version of linux for a friend — I’m still struggling to remember which version it was. I’m fairly sure it was a Suse Linux boxset with something like 5 cd’s or so. I remember the install taking forever, and when we finally finished it (SO SO many cd’s), we had forgotten the password to the account we created. Whoops. No idea how to recover, and so I never saw the desktop or used the system. I think my friend my have simply reinstalled it or switched back to windows.

Fast-forward another year or two and I discovered open source software. I was becoming increasingly annoyed at the bloatware, adware, etc of software for windows; and indeed windows itself. I never cared for netscape, but that was old news by now and I was using Phoenix/Firebird which would go on to become Firefox. Removing IE became more of a chore as windows versions increased, so i stayed on windows 98 rather than move to XP. Then I discovered an open source replacement for windows media player ( media player classic) and outlook express (thunderbird), and started using tools like nlite to remove almost everything from a custom windows 2000 iso. I can’t say which day it happened, but at some point it clicked that since I’m running all these open source pieces of software I could simply run an open source operating system (you mean there is such a thing?!). It was a wonderful revelation.

I started trying out some distros, landing on SimplyMepis 3.3 as one of the first that stayed around for awhile. Coming from windows, I couldn’t appreciate the elegance of less is more so to speak, and my first experience in gnome was meh (I remember thinking I can’t right-click ANYTHING!). One day I discovered the Hoary Hedgehog, and even though it ran gnome, heh, I loved it. Since then I’ve tried fvwm, fluxbox, lxde, xfce, kde, e16/e17 and enjoyed all of them immensely. Other distros I liked outside of ubuntu is puppylinux and arch — if you want to really get your hands dirty and learn some things, compiling and running source based packages is one way to do it :-) . I used puppylinux on a livecd for an old laptop that otherwise couldn’t run anything, this later got migrated to a ubuntu-minimal install with things like fluxbox, fvwm, etc. Ubuntu has been on my main machine non-stop since Hoary. I must say reminiscing this was quite fun. Just look at the visual history here :-)

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I was a lurker on the forums for a over a year before joining. Looks like my username (guitara, feel free to say hello!) was registered April 18th, 2006 — man time flies. It was an important part of my learning about linux and ubuntu. I got great help on the forums and enjoyed helping others as well.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I am not currently a ubuntu member. I do plan on becoming one, and hope to one day wear that badge proudly.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I use only ubuntu at the moment. Pretty much every device I own runs it — it’s practically a requirement before I’ll purchase some hardware. I have had a longstanding requirement that I must be root on hardware I own, and if applicable, then I would prefer to run ubuntu on it :-) I dual-boot my android phone and chromebook, both allowing me to have root, running OSS, and by extension I can run ubuntu on them.

Favorite Apps? So 7 years later I’m still enjoying thunderbird and firefox (chromium is in here now too). I actually really like gedit and between that and geany I’m all set for coding / editing. My favorite software by a mile however is gnome-terminal. Try running a different OS for awhile — the command line is my best friend and I’m literally handicapped without it. I don’t really dislike any software on linux, as long as I can get the source for it.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

No answer given.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I have many techy friends, and in general spreading ubuntu love is really easy. If possible, I used it on my desktop at work, and I’m happy to say at my last workplace I was able to convince the entire development team to switch to and use only linux. Many of them chose ubuntu :-) Nowadays I get to work in my natural ubuntu environment and I’m thrilled.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

Open source is an idea that is as strong as ever. I see good things in the future; there are kids growing up using a diversity of platforms, being exposed to software, development, ideas, etc. The flow of information is powerful and the internet helped increase the flow. It’s hard to say what social norms may look like in 20 years, but ubuntu will be there to run the devices that we’ll be using :-) .

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Freedom is a powerful thing; be thankful and don’t waste it! Get involved with the community in ubuntu and you will find a like-minded group who wants to bring linux and open source to people. At the end of the day, people matter; ubuntu is community.

Originally Posted here on 2012-02-24

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