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Spotlight on FOSS: An Interview with Mark Shuttleworth
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Next Interview: Richard Stallman and Emacs

Richard Stallman has agreed to be our next interview, although we had meet some conditions, which shouldn't surprise anyone that follows him. Stay tuned for more information on that interview, but feel free to contact us with questions you would like us to ask him.

Because Richard Stallman played a significant role in the development of Emacs, we will be discussing Emacs as our Software Spotlight for that episode.



Noah Gift: Welcome to Spotlight on FOSS, the video podcast series that focuses on free and open source software and the revolutionary thinkers behind them.

Jeremy Jones: In our Pilot Episode, we interview Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the Ubuntu Project.

Noah Gift: Mark sat down with us and answered a few questions ranging from what's it is like to travel in space to Ubuntu.

Jeremy Jones: What is it like to travel in space?

Mark Shuttleworth: It is an extraordinary privilege to fly in space. It completely changes your perspective on the fragility of the human experience and the fragility of our planet. When you've actually looked down on the earth and you've seen how much of it has been dramatically altered by ourselves, by humanity, then you realize that we have a real obligation to take very careful decisions about what we do going forward. And you know, if you looked at the face of the earth 200 years ago, and you looked at it today, it would look fundamentally, dramatically different.

And I think we're only just starting to comprehend now the scale of the impact that we are having on the planet. So having seen that first hand, it certainly has changed my view of what's important in the way we treat the earth and the way we behave there.

It is also an extraordinary thing to go through a process which involves transplanting yourself into a completely different culture, which for me it was fascinating to spend a year living mostly in Russia and working with Russians. And to walk through an experience, which involves some degree of terror and some degree of boredom and some degree of dedication, and ultimately get to a point which is very privileged and unique. It just was a great experience.

I'm very excited about the fact that space is becoming more accessible to everybody else out there. And I look forward to a day when we can, all share in that experience because it does change your perspective.

Jeremy Jones: What would you like the world to know about Ubuntu?

Mark Shuttleworth: Ubuntu, my mind, truly catches the spirit of free software. We've had almost 20 years of development in the free software movement. And our goal with the Ubuntu project is to distill all of that down into something, which anybody can use whether they are a software professional, an information technology professional, or whether they are the grandmother of the information technology professional. Ubuntu tries to distill the very, very best of the free software world into something, which is convenient to share, convenient to train on, convenient to deploy, convenient to manage.

Free software has already changed the economics of the technology industry. If you look at the whole dot com and Internet revolution, it really is powered by free software, but that revolution hasn't yet reached the daily lives of everybody who uses a computer. And so Ubuntu, I hope, will help us take the next step with free software and make it something that everybody uses and that everybody can share.

So the things that everybody I think would agree about it and that folks should know, is that first, it really is easy to install and easy to use. Second, it generally is freely available and it goes as far as we think is right at this stage towards making sure it is an entirely free software platform. And it expresses I think, the best of what is possible with a well-organized community in the free software world.

It's also something that anybody can participate in. We have thousands of people participating in developing Ubuntu. And so whatever your particular interests or particular capabilities, you really can help to accelerate the project and help it to do amazing things.

Jeremy Jones: What are you ultimately trying to achieve in life?

Mark Shuttleworth: That's a tricky question, because I don't think that life can be planned in the way that maybe we conventionally used to think that you could plan your life. The world has changed so much and continues to change so fast that I think the best we can do is to respond in brief segments of life to the opportunities and to the changes going on around us.

I have always wanted to be associated with change, with either technology that was changing society or changes in society itself. And all we can really do is to help to capture the essence of that change and accelerate it, move it along, move the world along the path that it's destined to roll.

I also think we should enjoy life. So, I hope if I'm remembered for anything, it's for making the most of a very, very brief stay here on earth.

Jeremy Jones: What impact will free and open source software have on the world?

Mark Shuttleworth: Perhaps a better way to look at this is that free software itself is just one manifestation of a broader change that is happening in the world. 10 years ago we were all extremely excited about connecting the world. And while that job isn't yet done, there are still billions of people who don't have running water or electricity, let alone access to the Internet. But It's clear that we're on a trajectory now to get the whole world connected to the Internet, whether that takes 10 years or 50 years is a matter of social policy and conscience. But we are on that trajectory.

What's happening now, a decade later, is that we're figuring out completely new ways to create work, powered by the Internet. And what we're finding is that it's possible to very efficiently, very effectively, gather together the best thinkers, or the best producers, or the best creators in a particular field and empower them to create something that everybody benefits from. This is clearly true in the field of software, where free software has captured that ideal and that process.

But it's also true in content. If you look at Wikipedia as a manifestation of aggregating the collaborative thoughts of millions of people driven by their interests and drive by their fascinations and their expertise, rather than driven by where they happen to live or who's willing to pay them. You get a wonderful result when you do this. And I think this meme, this idea, is going to touch every industry in the same way that the Internet itself has touched every industry. And so us free software guys can be proud of, in one sense, being the first to capture the possibilities of global collaboration around a shared digital commons. But we shouldn't overstate our contribution, that we are ourselves part of a much bigger movement. And over the next few years, I believe that will become increasingly clear. And smart companies, smart individuals will figure out how to make the most of that.

Moderator: This next segment will highlight some of the key benefits of the Ubuntu desktop including ease of installation, package management, and some of the applications that are installed by default.

When you boot from an Ubuntu CD, the first thing that you'll see is the option to start or install Ubuntu. Ubuntu is in fact
a bootable Linux distribution, which also has the ability to install from within that runtime. CD boots us to the GNOME desktop, and on the desktop is an installer, which we run, and it asks us for language, time zone, keyboard type.

It runs a partitioner to set up the partitions on our hard drive. It tries to import any user information that's on the system. We enter the user name and password for our initial user and we click install. When the installer completes, we click re-boot and we have a log- in screen. And then we have our new desktop.

One of the benefits of Ubuntu and in fact any Debian based system is the excellent package management available. Synaptic is a GUI front-end to the APT package management system. Here we are going to search for a podcast grabbing application. Select gPodder from the list. Mark for install, then we'll click the apply button. Review the packages to install. Click apply again. And it goes out, downloads the required packages, and runs the installer on them.

Had gPodder required any packages that weren't already installed APT would have gone out, downloaded the required packages, and installed them first. Thus, resolving the dependency. Then it would install the gPodder core application.

After the application finishes installing, I click close. Wait for Synaptic to refresh. And then I close the Synaptic application.

Now, we can see where in the menu gPodder is installed. Not under Graphics, not under Internet, not under Accessories, let's try Sound and Video, that would make sense. gPodder is installed there. We click on it. It brings it up. We can see that the application works and that's good enough.

Another benefit of Ubuntu is the choice of applications that were installed by default. Applications such Tomboy for Notes, F-Spot for Photo management, GIMP for Image Editing, Firefox for web browsing, Evolution for email, Pigeon for chat, Open Office for your office needs. The Totem Movie Player and Rhythm Box for music.

Jeremy Jones: You've been watching Spot Light on FOSS. I'm Jeremy Jones.

Noah Gift: And I'm Noah Gift. Stay tuned.


Jeremy Jones is a software engineer who works for Predictix. His weapon of choice is Python.

Noah Gift is the co-author of Python For Unix and Linux by O'Reilly. He is an author, speaker, consultant, and community leader, writing for publications such as IBM Developerworks, Red Hat Magazine, O'Reilly, and MacTech, and Manning.

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