An interview with Tomosaur

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

People converge on Ubuntu (and the forums) from many different directions. Some are artists, some are technically-minded, and some are both. Tomosaur is a coder and musician who is usually found in the programming venues but, as you can see, has many other facets to his personality.

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

My name, ironically enough, is Tom. I’m 20 years old, and I live in Liverpool, U.K. I’m a student right now studying Software Development, but my main focus is on becoming a professional musician full time.

I play guitar, bass guitar, trumpet, and can play a little bit of keyboard/piano and drums. I also (try to) sing, and I think I’m OK, if not great. I am in a band (two, in fact, but one is very slow in taking off, mainly due to horrible transport problems). I play bass guitar and magic air drum sticks in Earl Grey and The Legomen (check us out on MySpace, Last.FM, and Jamendo. All our songs are free downloads, and there’s a short video clip of us playing live!).

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

I think the first time I ever thought of computers as “interesting” was when I was a little kid. It was Easter, and me and my brother woke up and went to try and find some chocolate eggs. My dad had decided to make it difficult, and put little post-it notes around the house as clues.

One clue told us to go and look at the computer, which we did, and there it was, with me and my brother’s names blinking away on the screen. My dad had made a little program which asked us some questions and then gave us the next clue. I found it amazing that the computer knew my name, I’d never really paid much attention to it before.

I pretty much forgot about it for a while, but I did start using the computer to play some games and draw things. That turned into playing console games, and then when I got a PS2 I tried to write my own game using YaBasic which came on the demo CD with the console (I failed miserably).

I found programming interesting though, and I did manage to make a few little text games. I liked the idea of computers talking to you and having a personality, so that was pretty much why I started programming.

Over the years I became fairly competent with computers, mostly because ours broke a lot. I can’t stand not knowing how something works, so I spent a lot of time fixing things and just generally learning how Windows worked. It wasn’t really that I found computers in particular interesting — it’s just that Windows broke a lot, so I had a lot of opportunities to fix something or other.

As for Linux, the first time I ever went out of my way to look for it and use it was with a distribution called Musix. I wanted to be able to record songs on the computer, and Windows just didn’t offer what I needed, particularly since I didn’t have the money to buy the big expensive audio software packages.

I thought it was pretty stupid that the computer came with all of this sound hardware, but offered no way of actually using it to its full potential, so I decided to look for some alternatives. I never actually got around to installing Musix, and a lot of the documentation I found on how to install it and get it all set up just confused me, so I decided not to bother.

A little while later I heard about Ubuntu, and how it was meant to be so easy to install. I tried it out, installed it in a few minutes on an old laptop, and pretty much just stuck with Ubuntu ever since!

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

While Ubuntu was easy to set up, I still didn’t really know anything about Linux, and I had some stuff I wanted to do, but didn’t know how. The laptop I had Ubuntu installed on was terrible in every sense of the word, and I soon found out it had some very bad display problems when Linux was used on it. I joined the forums (in 2005, I think) to find out how to fix it, and I didn’t really receive any responses for a while.

While I was waiting for help I just took a look around, and started getting involved with other people’s problems, if I knew how to solve them. Eventually I figured out the display problem for myself (it turned out to be a BIOS problem, something to do with memory I think. I remember I had to download and overwrite the BIOS software with an updated version to fix it, anyway).

By then though I was pretty much a regular on the forums. I tended to stick in the ‘Absolute Beginners’ section, because I had the impression that that was where I ought to be. It was only later that I realised there was a section devoted to community stuff.

Right when I started using Ubuntu as my main OS, I started university. The problem was that I didn’t really want to go to university. I only applied (and was accepted) on the day I got my A level results, because I had been drinking and found myself depressed that I’d have to get a full time job and grow up (boooooo!).

I went to my friend’s house and asked to use her computer to apply (with A level results paper in hand!). I went to the application page and checked out the courses I could take. The decision to take Software Development was a random one — there were only a few courses left with places available, so I just applied to a bunch of them.

When I got back to my house the university had telephoned to offer me a place. Since I was programming a lot of the time for projects, I started hanging out in the programming section of the forum. I’m less active there now, but I do post there occasionally.

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

Well, I have an account on Launchpad, and I signed the code of conduct, so while I’m an Ubuntero, I’m not a member. I try to help people out when I can, but lately I’ve been fairly busy with my band and university so I’ve been less active. I also wrote GrubEd, a GUI editor for GRUB, which a lot of people find useful (although I haven’t had time yet to fix a bug which seems to exist when using it on Gutsy!).

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

Unfortunately right now I have to use Windows. I have a problem with the wireless in Gutsy (the rt2500usb bug — even ndiswrapper doesn’t work 😐 ), and I just don’t have the time to fix it.

My favourite application, when I do get to use Ubuntu, is probably Amarok, although I have been using Songbird more and more. I also like mucking about in Inkscape and The GIMP. When I was living in my own house, me and my house-mate played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory a lot.

Least favourite application? Thunderbird — great for general organizing of emails, but it locks up so often for me that it’s quicker just to get my emails from the website.

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

It’s hard to say — I can’t really remember any major “events;” it’s just a generally cool place to hang out!

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

I’m not really one of these evangelical Ubuntu users we keep hearing about. I only really suggest Ubuntu if someone comes to me with a problem they’re having on Windows. I have successfully installed Ubuntu on my mum’s laptop — but she very rarely uses it.

A few friends use it now and again, but most of my friends are pretty big gamers, so they use Windows mostly. I keep a few Ubuntu CDs around just in case someone wants to check it out, but I don’t go out of my way to get people to switch.

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

I’d like to see better audio creation apps. There are a lot of good apps already available, certainly more “useful” apps than there are on Windows, but the problem is the usability. Jokosher is shaping up to be very promising, but it’s not quite stable enough for me yet. Ardour is another which is very powerful, but it could stand to be a bit more user friendly.

I think Ubuntu could benefit greatly if it started reaching out to the web. A lot of people only really use the Internet, particularly social websites like Facebook and Myspace, or sites like Last.FM.

I’d like to see these kinds of sites seamlessly integrated into the desktop system. Why do I have to use the Last.FM software or a Last.FM plugin to scrobble my tracks? Why isn’t it just integrated into Ubuntu, so I can use whichever media player I feel like?

Since Ubuntu focuses so much on the idea of community, wouldn’t it be great to set up a user-ID during install, and this ID gave you access to the ‘forums, to Launchpad, to IRC etc., rather than having to individually sign up to each thing?

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

Be patient. Good things come to those who wait!

To learn more about Tomosaur’s interests and talents, visit For more interviews with community members and staff, read Nine Simple Questions.


4 thoughts on “An interview with Tomosaur

  1. bapoumba

    Another really interesting interview, thanks to both of you 🙂

    Have you noticed that none of the persons interviewed so far are into Linux or Ubuntu advocacy ? Quite noticeable ^^

  2. Dr Small

    He does have a good idea there, about giving you an ID when you install Ubuntu, and automatically registering your account on Ubuntu Forums, and certain places.

    Of course, this would be better if it was an option, so it wouldn’t register multiple accounts if you had to keep reinstalling (but that is rare, isn’t it? :P).

    Dr Small

  3. Pingback: Lettre hebdomadaire Ubuntu n°66 du 11 au 17 novembre 2007 « Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu

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