An interview with handy

A member of the Australian contingent steps forward in this week’s interview — handy, a 53-year-old “areligious, pinko, greeny” to use his words, and a man with probably the most roundabout introduction to Ubuntu as you will ever hear. Hailing from a land he calls “Oz,” handy is another Windows expert who left for Debian and arrived at Ubuntu, but has Apple and Amiga systems on his resume as well. But let’s let handy introduce himself. …

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

I’m a nearly 53-year-old married male named Greg, who is free of religion and lives in the state of New South Wales, Australia, about an hour’s drive from the east coast. We have a small house on one acre of land that is surrounded by properties that are over 100 acres in size. We pump all of our water from a river, which is located 400 meters away and flows out of rugged hills which are located in a national park. We kid ourselves that these hills are mountains in Oz, but in reality they are not mountains anymore due to the long effects of erosion.

The nearest town has a population of 2500 people which was initially developed to service the rural community (primarily beef and dairy cattle), which is still the prime industry of the area, though tourism has been steadily growing over the years, as it is also a scenically very beautiful part of the world. Though the entire 200 square kilometer valley is sitting on coal and gas, so we have a fight on our hands at the moment to limit the destruction of our beautiful environment.

Home is a very peaceful location in which to live, we enhance the peace in our house by not having a TV as well. :) We have two children, a 28-year-old male and a 25-year-old female, who currently lives in New Zealand with her husband. Not having your kids at home also has the effect of increasing the quality and quantity of peace in the house!

My wife is a private music teacher, she teaches strings and generally loves her work. She uses Macs; a G4 Powerbook used in her lessons, and an aluminium 24″ iMac that is her workstation at home. Sibelius is the primary software she uses, which is not available for Linux unfortunately.

I was expelled from senior high school for generally enjoying my self too much, often at the teachers expense. I worked many jobs from bank teller, brickyard hand to builders laborer. Finding I preferred self-employment best of all, I used to maintain peoples gardens and remove rubbish in my small truck. I also hitch hiked around much of the country working casually when required or desired, I also used to play a lot of music using a variety of instruments, guitars, mandolin, piano, keyboards, drums, harmonica — some of this was professional.

In the beginning of 1980 I took a job as operations manager on a turf (sod) farm where I lived and worked for three and a half years. I was the guy that did everything — maintaining the machinery, growing the grass, irrigation, fencing, landscaping, building sheds, basically being a farmer. I loved that job because of the variety of work and problems to solve, in combination with the ability to plan and control my own work schedule.

Twenty-five years ago I had a car accident which caused massive head trauma. I had multiple operations including a cranioplasty to fill in a roughly 1-inch hole in my forehead. This of course changed my life. My energy levels are dramatically diminished, my sleep pattern has been permanently disrupted, my memory and intelligence are not what they were, though my logic is still OK.

I could no longer work on the turf farm; apart from the fact that my body was seriously involved in recovery for the first three years or so, though I am aware of recovery regarding my nervous system for about 10 years. The body really is an amazing organism.

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

About two and a half years after the car accident, at the end of 1986, I decided to learn about something new. The goal was to find something that was easy on my body and that I could never know everything about. Computers came to mind, so I researched, looked at buying a Mac, then discovered the Amiga, bought one and found that I was most interested in understanding how the operating system worked.

As the years went by I ended up writing for MegaDisc, an Australian Amiga magazine that was published on two floppy disks. A brilliant magazine, that was free of advertising and full of content produced by enthusiastic Amiga users and programmers.

Commodore managed to very slowly and painfully torture the Amiga to death, though there are still diehard users and there have been OS upgrades produced by other companies since Commodore’s death.

During the time that Commodore was failing I started a business of importing and supplying Light and Sound Systems to natural therapists. The L&SS via the frequency following response of the brain are used for brainwave entrainment. I discovered this technology during my attempts to combat my personal head trauma induced insomnia. The use of L&SSs every night for six months (which was when my brain got bored with it) permanently improved my sleeping patterns! Amazing!

Anyway, I needed to use software that only ran on MSDOS to be able to interface with a particular model of L&SS. This was when Windows 95 was just out. Boy what a shock after coming from the Amiga to see this huge OS, with so many files, mostly with meaningless names that were too short and using file extensions!

I learned enough about the Windows OS, to be able to fix it for friends, who encouraged me to set up a computer technical support business. This I did, running it for 10 years, out of my home office. I ended up developing an aversion to answering the phone, as it was usually someone with a computer problem! I would leave town to escape computers, camping sometimes for a month, all the while knowing that there would be in excess of 30 jobs waiting for me on the answering machine when I got home.

Eventually I decided to retire, I closed the business knowing that I would not have much in the way of disposable income, but I would be free from the stress that was causing me to not enjoy my life. Upon retirement I decided that I will put the effort into learning Linux, so I would not have to look at the dreaded Windows OS any more.

I had installed various versions of different distro’s over the years, but they were never satisfactory. I always new that eventually the development of the Linux kernel based OS’s would get to a stage that was suitable for me. Anyway, I installed Debian, and whilst on the web the name Ubuntu kept popping up, causing me to find the Ubuntu forums, where I got great help with my Debian problems, though not owning up that I was using Debian at the time. (At that stage I was unaware of the Other OS sub forum.)

I installed Breezy early in November 2005. It took about three months for me to feel at home with Linux. I have lost the desire to gain in-depth knowledge of an OS, due to all the Windows work I did in the past. I run two computers these days. One is an iMac, which dual boots both Leopard and Ubuntu Gutsy. The other tower has three drive draws in it, so it is easy for me to swap a drive and boot another distro or OS, as I find it fun to distro hop sometimes. I’m currently using Arch on that machine.

When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?

Having discovered the Ubuntu forums in October 2005, I initially used the forums to educate my self and to help other beginners like myself. I still consider myself to be a Linux beginner and expect I will remain one. These days I’m not so interested in the technical subjects, and therefore spend a great deal of time in the Backyard subforum. I gain more understanding about the human condition via the Backyard; this interests me a great deal.

I don’t believe I have a role in the forums beyond being an areligious, pinko, greeny who occasionally posts some information that others find useful.

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

I am not an Ubuntu member, I use Launchpad to post the occasional bug, my only contributions to Ubuntu are via the forum. I have thus far not looked into becoming a Ubuntu member.

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

I use OS X Leopard most of all these days. As previously stated I distro hop on my second machine; I am quite impressed with the Arch Linux OS that I just installed on it, I believe I will be using that for some time. Firefox would be my most used software and favorite software, CrossOver Games is also very popular with me as it allows me to play Guild Wars, which is one of my addictions. Least favorite software is any email client, I only use web based email.

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

I would say that the genuine kindness displayed by some of the forum regulars, including the moderators, is the highlight for me.

The worst memories for me are the times when I personally cross the line and show a lack of respect to another poster in the forums.

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

I have installed Ubuntu on an ex-customer’s home machine, in an effort to free the computer from the viruses and malware that were infesting it due to his three children’s use of the Internet. His eldest son (15 years of age at the time) took to Ubuntu enthusiastically and installed it on his own machine. Eventually the boy built a proxy server running Ubuntu that runs in his father’s surveying business office where the other six machines all have to run Window XP, due to the business specific applications that are not available in Linux at the moment.

Apart from that I don’t want to introduce anyone to Ubuntu because I do not want to support them. The above example was perfect for me, as the surveyor’s son is a geek, and is now set up for life with Linux. Which is really cool.

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

Naturally I would like to see more people using Linux, which will bring better support from the computer industry, both hardware and software.

Development of the X Windows System, to the point where it correctly auto configures the hardware interface with all graphic cards and both the proprietary and open source drivers.

Development of improvements in the identification and configuration of all hardware.

Ubuntu would of course benefit greatly from the above improvements to Linux — apart from those I think Ubuntu is just fine how it is.

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

Use the Ubuntu forum, it is a gold mine.

Take a look at handy’s user profile page for more information about his online personality. For more interviews with community staff and members, read Nine simple questions.

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11 Responses to “An interview with handy”


  1. 1 matthew 2008/04/05 at 9:39 PM

    That was a very enjoyable read. Thank you both!

  2. 2 Dr Small 2008/04/05 at 10:13 PM

    Wow. I really loved this review :)
    Nice, long and lengthy, but I like to read about other people !

  3. 3 PmDematagoda 2008/04/06 at 2:02 AM

    A very good read, I am genuinely sorry about the car accident, I hope you are doing much better these days.

    Thanks to K.Mandla and handy:).

  4. 4 linuxtechie 2008/04/06 at 2:30 AM

    That was a great interview. Enjoyed it very much. :)

  5. 5 potrzebie 2008/04/08 at 9:45 AM

    Man, linux people are interesting people. Great interview.

  6. 6 the.dark.lord 2008/04/09 at 6:53 PM

    Great read :)

  7. 7 mabovo 2008/04/10 at 9:58 AM

    Great reading, very enjoyable. You have a nice life history.
    I totally agree with you that Ubuntu foruns is a plus and profited to learn and meet people around the world with same interests.

    Take care

  8. 8 santa 2008/04/13 at 2:03 AM

    That was great.
    Read it without pause and tried to flip to next page.

  9. 9 Mynameistux 2008/05/18 at 7:35 PM

    (I am barbedsaber from da forums)
    its important to know that not all of australia is like that.


  1. 1 Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu n°85 du 30 mars au 5 avril 2008. « Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu Trackback on 2008/04/10 at 6:32 AM
  2. 2 Nine simple questions « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/04/12 at 9:49 PM

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