Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.
Interviews with the Programming Talk crowd are always interesting, because invariably the interviewee is exceptionally smart, has a strong background in Linux and isn’t afraid to say what they think. CptPicard, like Wybiral and LaRoza, is another forum member with a strong grasp of Linux as well as the ideas that make it work. A Finn with a master’s degree in computer science, CptPicard is a Gentoo emigre with a Linux resume that goes back to the 3.x versions of Slackware. If you want to know how a program should be written, CptPicard is probably a good person to ask.
Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real” life — name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.
Well, I am a soon-to-be 29-year-old guy from the southern part of Finland. I got my CS Master’s degree a few years back, after which I have been involved in consulting full time for a friend’s sports handicapping business. Game theory can be quite fascinating, not to mention occasionally profitable!
I honestly do not have many hobbies away from the PC, but I have always made it a point to try to remember to be a more well-rounded person than the stereotypical geek. I like cooking and reading, mostly philosophy, history and the natural sciences. Now that summer is coming fast, I’m preparing to spend my weekends at the best place in the world — my parents’ summer cottage.
When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?
I got my first computer when I was 6, and I’ve still got it at the back of the closet. Didn’t do much with it — just typed some BASIC programs from the manual into it, but it certainly served as a nice introduction. I was a hobbyist through my teens, and it was Slackware 3.4.0 more than a decade ago that was my first Linux distribution. It came on 25 floppies, and I remember my first time at a bash prompt being almost as confusing as a session at vi usually is. …
I came to Ubuntu as a Gentoo refugee. I had a Gentoo box running for a few years, but then Gentoo package quality deteriorated steeply, and everything was just broken all the time — and the fascination with working with Linux plumbing was wearing thin, so I just wanted Something That Worked. Ubuntu — Kubuntu to be exact — seemed to fit the bill, and so far, it has.
When did you become involved in the forums? What’s your role there?
I think it was some technical issue that brought me to the forums first, but then I quickly found Programming Talk and have been a regular there since. I’m just your typical regular poster, mostly interested in discussions relating to algorithmics and the “philosophy of computation,” if you will … there are some very smart people residing at PT, so it has been a pleasure exchanging thoughts. I have a learned a lot from them, even just by reading threads I haven’t posted in myself.
If I have any “role” at the forum I suppose I have taken it upon myself to try to enlighten people about the general, universal nature of computation. … There is much fascinating stuff in computer science that is not immediately obvious if you only look at things through the goggles of one or two programming languages. In particular, many beginners are under the mistaken impression that there is something more “powerful” about lower level languages because they let you code closer to the hardware.
This is of course not true, and these n00bs would be well served by worrying less about fighting raw pointers and focusing on making themselves better thinkers about problems and how to express them using different primitives. … People like Wybiral, pmasiar and I fight blub programmer beliefs every day on the forum, and we intend to win some day
Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?
What’s an “Ubuntu member?”
What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?
Currently, Debian on server, Kubuntu on desktop. Favorite application at the moment is the combination of SBCL, Emacs and SLIME (best IDE ever), least favorite … hard to tell. Lots of badly written stuff out there.
What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?
I do enjoy the community a lot in general. … The fondest memory so far probably has to do with a certain thread that involved naked pointers, loops in graphs and The Bond Node.
Worst memories of course relate to threads approaching flamewars. There are, just sometimes, people around who are very difficult to get anything through to, and it seems like there is a certain willful incomprehension of what is being said involved.
Sometimes it would go a long way to just accept it that the other guy is trying to make a point in good faith and that there is something to be learned there, although you might disagree. It’s not about “winning,” but most people at PT are intellectually competitive and it may sometimes boil down to that, and that’s when you get a bad thread.
What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?
I have brought quite a lot of people to Linux in general, and (K)Ubuntu is my recommended distribution these days.
What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?
As long as it stays open and nicely anarchic, I’m all for it. With more and more hardware vendors opening up their specs for driver writers, Linux can just get better.
If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?
Google Is Your Friend. Srsly. Doing your homework goes a long way to asking smart questions and getting answers.
CptPicard’s user profile page will tell you more about the man, and for added entertainment you can search Google Maps for the coordinates he shows as his location. For more interviews with forum members and staff, please read Nine simple questions.