An interview with slavik

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

The Ubuntu community is peppered with technical experts, usually hiding behind a deceptively simple avatar and nickname. slavik (who has no avatar :) ) is a good example of that — he’s a graduate student living in New York, working as a system administrator and using both Ubuntu and Windows regularly. A native of Ukraine who got his first computer after moving to the U.S., slavik’s first non-Windows experiences were with FreeBSD and Lindows, which might be a first in this series of interviews. Learn more, by reading on. …

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

As my forum nickname implies, my name is Slavik. I was born in Odessa, Ukraine. I just recently turned 23 years old. I am a graduate student at Brooklyn College (CUNY). For those who are lazy with Google maps, I live in NYC. I am of Jewish descent (yet with a very Slavic name, go figure).

I am a junior system administrator (Windows Active Directory, bleh!) in my college’s library. My computer-related interests are cryptography, Linux/Unix system administration, game development and parallel programming.

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

In 1994, my parents (after lots of begging) bought me a NES clone for US$21. This started the whole thing. At that time I could not even dream of having my own computer (Ukraine at the time was similar economically as Brazil is right now).

Then when I moved to the U.S. in 1996, one of the first things I learned was that a computer was not something extraordinary. Six months later my cousin got a computer, a Pentium 133MHz with 16Mb of RAM and a 1.6Gb hard drive. A year later, after working as a busboy, my brother bought our very own computer — Pentium 166MHz, 32Mbb RAM, 2Gb hard drive.

In high school, I had a brush in with FreeBSD (it was the first non-Microsoft OS I’ve used), I was able to successfully set up Apache2, MySQL4 and PHP4 by following a guide, I considered it pretty hardcore. I also had a quick run in with Lindows 1.0. Then that kind of died until college.

About two years ago, I decided to get a laptop and since the computer industry is always moving, I decided that I wanted to learn how to use Linux (since it was the little brother of Unix). That is when I started looking at various distributions. From my run-in with Lindows, I knew (correctly or not) that Debian was for tinkerers, so I wanted something that was Debian but not completely.

In the end, the choice came down to three distributions: Red Hat, SUSE, and this new thing called Ubuntu. I chose Ubuntu because it was based on Debian but was supposed to be easy to use (it was Breezy Badger at the time). I have never looked back. :)

At the moment, my main home computer, my laptop and my work system are all running Ubuntu with my work system running VMWare Server which has Windows XP and Debian 4.0. My home computer has been exclusively Ubuntu for the past six months, after a forced upgrade (motherboard died).

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

It was around the time I found the #ubuntu IRC channel. I learned about the forums there. I used the forums as my secondary support resource until I found the programming forum. My role on the forums is … don’t know, nobody has told me what it is. :P

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

To be honest, I don’t even know what Ubuntu members even do, but I do see many people with an image on the forums signifying that they are.

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

Ubuntu and Debian (it is currently hosting an OTRS installation). Software I regularly use: Firefox, OpenOffice, Geany, vim. My favorite applications by far have to be nmap and apt (not apt specifically, but the whole package management system). It is priceless when given an IP address, you can find things out about the system at that address and make someone’s (who thinks that Linux is not real) eyes pop out.

As for the package management, I remember trying to find a small freeware app using Google to do some menial task. With apt, it’s a search and an install command away and I don’t have to worry about script kiddies.

My least favorite application … is that the one that is favorite the least or the one I dislike the most? But if I dislike an application, I won’t use it anyway. :)

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

I can’t really come up with an answer to the fondest memory question but my worst memory would probably be when NetworkManager first became part of the default installation, since it would take over the configuration of network interfaces and it wasn’t very good at it at the time (especially when it came to Broadcom wifi cards).

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

None really, because I haven’t really tried to convert anyone. I let people live with their delusions. ;) Well, my parents use Ubuntu all the time, but they couldn’t tell Windows 3.11 from Solaris as long as I told them where to find the Firefox icon. ;) And Ubuntu is all that is available in the home anyway.

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

This is a very tough question. On one hand, I would like Linux to become more widespread which would increase the number of applications available for our platform (this is slowly happening right now, IMO). On the other hand though, I would like it to remain small for a tighter community (that follows the smart way of doing things).

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

Computers in general are not ends in and of themselves, they are a means to an end. A computer — the operating system, programs, and everything that is related to a “computer” — is a tool. Don’t expect a hammer to build you a house out of concrete. Ubuntu is a tool (not the anally retentive kind). Right now, I cannot image what other tool would let me manage my system so well. I even feel somewhat restricted when the only thing I have available is “that other OS.”

Take a look at slavik’s user profile page to get a better idea of the person behind the keyboard, or visit his (admittedly sparse) home page here. For more interviews with forum staff and members, please read Nine simple questions.

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