An interview with maniacmusician

I won’t presume to speak for everyone who reads them, but personally, I find these interviews to be immensely interesting. With each one I’m discovering an amazing and multidimensional personality that has been — until now — masked by a plain user name. maniacmusician is a perfect example of that: Online he’s a Forum Ambassador, and contributes daily to the community that has grown up around Ubuntu. But beyond the screen he’s much, much more than that. …

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

maniacmusician’s avatarI’m fairly open about my personal details, even online; at least to the degree that I don’t think it will come back and bite me in the ass. That, of course, is a distinction that we all have to make using our common sense and best judgment.

My first name is Uddit, and I won’t be sharing my last name, not because I’m online, but because I simply don’t like to use it. I’m a male, which is a fact that I definitely don’t like to hide; whenever I happen to make an argument based on the principles of feminism, people always seem to jump to the conclusion that I’m just another bitter woman.

I feel like men who are actively against sexism are somewhat under-represented in online communities (or at least the ones that I frequent), and I’m not really comfortable with that. I’m 18.5 years old; I like to count the .5’s, I know how fast time is going to pass and I don’t want to lose track of myself.

I’m currently attending Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts (in the U.S.), but my immediate family lives in Connecticut, and my extended family is scattered up and down the East Coast. Ethnically, my family is from India; I was born there as well, but being raised primarily here (since I was 8 years old), I don’t really identify with that culture much. Actually, from my experiences there as a child, most of which I still remember, and visiting once every couple of years until high school, I’ve found myself not liking the culture much.

For adolescents, it is incredibly oppressive, and I don’t feel like many of the kids there are given a chance to experience the world and grow from their experiences until they’ve finished college. I remember that on one of the occasions that I visited, the kids I knew from my neighborhood were in 7th grade, and they still had no idea what sex was.

Their entire world is limited to school and studying. They’re also fairly conservative as a general populace, and there is an incredible sort of homophobia; the kind where decent people just don’t talk about it and being homosexual (or anything other than heterosexual) isn’t really too much of an option without being really sneaky.

I also find it hard to identify with the religion and the beliefs that come with it, so basically, I seem to have severed all cultural ties with my birth country. As sad as that may be, I think I’m doing fine with my own beliefs. 🙂

My religion is something hard to peg down; what is a religion but a set of morals and guidelines that you choose to live by? I’m not very fond of organized religions, since they seem to have caused humanity an awful lot of trouble. Everyone wants a community, and that’s fine, but I think taking to the extent that we have is not a smart decision.

I feel that as an individual grows and experiences/perceives the world as a part of human society, they’ll naturally develop their own personal way of living, and that would be their religion. If you take a look around, it’s not as if most organized religions have a large number of followers that actually live according to their scripture.

My personal “religion,” as it were, involves a lot of things, the basics of which are pretty logical and obvious (don’t kill people, etc.). It’s much too complex, I might as well write a book; but if you’re really interested, look me up and we can grab a drink and talk.

I don’t have a profession as of yet; I’m a student, and most of my life involves my “hobbies.” My only real fleeting hobby has been music. I’ve never been able to dedicate myself fully to it, and I occasionally still play when I’m in the mood, but it’s not as much a part of my life as it was when I first came up with my moniker. 🙂

Some of my other hobbies (though “passions” would be a more suitable name for them) are poetry, Aikido, writing, and computers.

I’m a huge poetry nut, though I write it more often than I read it. I’m currently studying slam poetry, and Hampshire is an excellent school for that; we have an excellent slam collective that brings in a lot of talented poets to feature for us, and we regularly (on a weekly basis) travel to other venues to perform and listen, some of them out of state. Slam poetry is really an amazing phenomenon, and I love performing it.

Aikido is one of my more recent passions; I started up in the fall of 2007, taking it as a class at Hampshire. I like its core principles a lot, and I seem to have somewhat of a flair for it, so I plan on continuing with the class for as long as I can, and then moving on to a dojo after I graduate.

I’ve been doing a lot of practice outside of class, and watching videos, etc, so it’s a really exciting thing. If there’s an Aikido dojo near you, you should definitely visit it and see how you like it. They’re somewhat expensive, but that all depends on your income and how badly you want to do it. It’s definitely been worth it for me, so I recommend that you check it out.

As for writing, it’s mostly poetry right now. Now and then I’ll try my hand at some erotica, but I’m really not as good at it as I am at poetry. The prose form just requires a sort of structure and elegance that I haven’t been able to grasp; not surprising, seeing as I’ve never tried hard enough, but that’s my fault. And as for computers …

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

I actually didn’t have a lot of exposure to computers when I was younger. My first contact with a computer was my Dad’s Gateway P3 running Windows 98, and later, Windows 2000. Although I was really intrigued by it as a kid, I never thought about the technical aspect of it much.

It wasn’t until 6th grade (11 years old) that my school had a “computer technicians” club, that I really realized the technical side of computers. My introduction was basically having to maintain the computers in our computer lab, sometimes replacing hard drives, adding RAM, and basic things like that.

I was also pretty good at using the interfaces that were presented to me; I always learned them quickly and tinkered with all the settings in the configuration dialogs, and usually became quite efficient with whatever interface I had available to me.

After gaining a bunch of basic skills in middle school, I moved on to high school and joined the computer technicians there as well. My rate of learning was pretty flat at this point. I knew most of the things I needed to know about hardware, and I was a Windows “power user,” though that doesn’t seem to mean much now.

I learned about Linux in my sophomore year of high school (I was 15, year was 2005), and the whole prospect of having a different interface to play with excited me. I looked up reviews for “Linux” online, and found out that there were hundreds of different types of Linux! My mind boggled at the possibility, and I downloaded OpenSUSE to try out. I was using a really old laptop, so my experience wasn’t going to be incredibly fast, and I was prepared for that.

I also tried Xubuntu a bunch of times. It took me a few tries, every couple of months, until I finally managed to get ndiswrapper working with my wireless card. After a few months of successfully using Xubuntu, I installed it over Windows, and also tried Gnome and KDE. I ended up switching to KDE as my primary environment. Since then, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.

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

Well, I suppose I got involved when I made my first post asking for help because I couldn’t get my wireless card up and running. This was when I was installing it on my main desktop computer. It amuses me to look back at that thread, and kind of makes me happy that even at that point, I knew how to use commands like iwlist, which were things that were stumping other new users. I’ve posted asking for help a bunch of times, and as I grew more experienced, I started frequenting the Cafe and helping people in the Absolute Beginners Forum.

Though I helped out occasionally, I just loitered for the most part, and posted a lot in the Cafe. Some time last year, I saw a cool idea in a thread about “forum ambassadors,” but it seemed like it wasn’t something that anyone was willing to do something about.

I seized the opportunity to do something useful and was one of the first people to spearhead the Forum Ambassadors effort. As the idea progressed, I had lots of help from great people like ubuntu_demon, 23meg (both of whom you’ve interviewed), and PriceChild. Unfortunately, that team has sort of stagnated, and we need to find time to regroup and restructure the team so we can get real things done again.

I’m also sort of working on a book that aids users that are trying to switch to Linux in a way that most books don’t; with actual explanation and information rather than walkthroughs to help them get up and running.

It achieves teaching in a way that actually sticks with the user, and tries to accelerate their rate of learning. Unfortunately, with school and other time-consuming obligations, it’s been at a standstill for a few months now. I look forward to picking it up again when I find the time, and finish the book.

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

No, I’m not an Ubuntu member. As I see it, it doesn’t actually mean much at all. It’s not really a title that I feel like I need. I don’t mean to undermine people that are Ubuntu members; I’m sure that they’re great people and that most of them also contribute a lot back to the community. It’s just not something I’ve ever been interested in pursuing.

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

I only use the Ubuntu family of distributions on a regular basis. I use KDE on my desktop because it’s the one that I’m most comfortable with. It’s convenient for me. I use Gnome on my laptop, since (thanks to the work of the main Ubuntu developers), it has more mobile-friendly enhancements than Kubuntu.

My most often used pieces of software; Amarok, Firefox, Kaffeine, Azureus, rtorrent, and ksirtet. Of course, I also use the terminal quite often, so I could add Yakuake, Konsole, and gnome-terminal to the list.

My favorite application is probably Kaffiene. Along with the xine backend, it is the most versatile video playback application that I’ve used. My least favorite application would have to be the keyboard shortcuts configuration application in Gnome. It doesn’t allow you to set key combinations to launch applications, which is what I would think most people would use it for. I just didn’t have very much success with it.

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

My fondest memories are of when I finished the first two chapters of my book, and put them up on the forums for the community to edit and give feedback on. I loved seeing people’s responses and suggestions. Not only did they help me a lot, they also showed me how enthusiastic and supportive the community can be.

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

I’ve had a limited amount of luck. I’ve converted a number of people to Ubuntu, but I was always very unbiased about it. I told them the good and the bad, so they weren’t blindly walking into it. That helped to a degree, but I just wasn’t in the position to provide the 24/7 support that they needed.

That’s actually what inspired me to write the book that I’m working on; so that they could have something like that to learn from rather than keep calling me.

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

I’d like to see more usability enhancements on both fronts. I think the key to doing this is getting in touch with industry professionals (such as in the video editing industry, graphics editing industry, and others) and getting them to coordinate and help with user interface design. We have plenty of good coders, but not enough professionals that know what exactly what goes into a good specialty program.

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

Read my book 🙂 But seriously, I would tell them to just stick with it, get familiar with the command line, and to really try and understand the concepts in Linux that are different from Windows. Mostly just stick with it; it gets easier and easier to understand as you go along, and you’ll learn a lot as long as you keep an open mind.

Take a look at maniacmusician’s Launchpad and wiki pages for a better idea of his contributions to Ubuntu. For more interviews with staff and community members, read Nine Simple Questions.


6 thoughts on “An interview with maniacmusician

  1. Pingback: Nine simple questions « Motho ke motho ka botho

  2. LaRoza

    Very interesting interview. I particularly agree with his statement that males actively against sexism on the internet are rare. We certainly need more like him.

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