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Interview with Daniel Holbach, Ubuntu Community Developer

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Daniel Holbach works for Canonical where is involved in the Ubuntu Community, taking care the relationship with the MOTU team, the Ubuntu developers. Daniel gave us an interview where he speaks about his own work, the Ubuntu Developer Week, Ubuntu 9.04, and relationship with Debian (Italian version available).

Hi, Daniel! Please, can you tell us about yourself and your work for Canonical?

Hello, my name is Daniel Holbach, I live in Berlin, Germany. I have a dog named Murphy, I like reading, am a Drum´n´Bass DJ and love working on Ubuntu. I joined the Ubuntu community during Warty and during Breezy development I joined Canonical.

First I worked with the mighty Sebastien Bacher on GNOME, now I work on making Ubuntu Development as fun and as easy to join in as possible.

How and when did you start your contribution with Canonical?

I worked with the very early MOTU team and organised a few things there. Back then we were less organised as we are nowadays, we were just a few people and there was a lot of pioneer atmosphere. I was very lucky to be sponsored to the UDS in Sydney, Australia, where I had my job interview and joined Canonical right after I finished my studies.

Regarding the Ubuntu Community, you are one of the so-called "horseman" of Jono Bacon (Ubuntu´s Community Manager). How do you see the Ubuntu Community, and what do you foresee for it?

The Ubuntu community is something that I´m very passionate about. It´s just awesome to see how it grows and evolves. There are countless initiatives in various Loco teams, lots of Ubuntu magazines, blogs and local activities. I like the atmosphere that invites everybody in to participate. IT makes experiencing "standing on the shoulder of giants" very real: you take a piece of software that somebody else wrote, you improve it, somebody builds on top of your contribution and so on. Or a different example: I write a piece of documentation and a few days later it is translated into a few other languages. That is just fantastic.

You are strongly involved with the activities of the MOTUs. Can you explain to our readers what a MOTU is, what they do and why they are so important for Ubuntu?

MOTU stands for "Masters of the Universe" and is the perfect on-ramp for Ubuntu Development. You can ask questions, find your first easy tasks to "give back to Ubuntu" in terms of development. You can learn how packaging works, you can fix bugs by talking to Upstream developers and integrating their fixes, etc. It´s a lot of fun and you learn a lot in a very short amount of time.

So, if someone of our italian readers is interested in becoming a MOTU, how do you suggest they start this amazing adventure?

Start reading which links to all the important information. The Packaging Guide, watch development videos, start playing around with the development tool a bit and ask questions on the MOTU Mentors mailing list or the Ubuntu MOTU channel (#ubuntu-motu on Freenode).

If you´re unsure in the beginning, we have a lot of Italian developers on the team already who I´m sure will be delighted to give you some guidance in the beginning.

You recently announced the third Ubuntu Developers Week, which is in progress right now until Friday 23rd. What is Ubuntu Developers Week, and why is the whole Ubuntu Community so excited about it?

The Ubuntu Developer Week is a fantastic way to get started. We have a high number of top-notch IRC sessions where different development techniques, tool and processes are demonstrated. You are free to ask all your questions and get in touch with existing Ubuntu Developers.

If you can´t attend, we will make logs of the sessions available afterwards.

Going back to Ubuntu itself, a few days ago Steve Langasek (Ubuntu Release Manager) announced jaunty Alpha 3, the release that in April will become Ubuntu 9.04. What are your expectations for this release?

Alpha 3 is going to be still buggy and you might run into problems testing IT out, so please don´t use it for production use yet!:-)

Ubuntu 9.04 will be another fantastic release. has a good overview over what was discussed at UDS and might find its way into the distribution.

Which are the new features in Jaunty that you think will be most appreciated by Ubuntu users?

I expect IT to be a stable release, with a bunch of really cool new features and personally I´m very excited IT´s going to run on certain types of ARM hardware too.

Personally, as member of the Community team, I want to make it easier to find out what needs doing and which tasks are suitable to get involved.

In a very short time Ubuntu rose to the top of the distros according to Distrowatch. From your point of view, what is the secret to this fast ascent?

That´s obvious: it´s fantastic community. I don´t think it was ever easier to find good advise and help. IT´s easy to learn about Ubuntu, it´s easy to find out how to resolve a problem and easy to get involved doing something great. The community is friendly and an awesome place to hang out and find friends.

In the proceedings of the Ubuntu Developer Summit for Ubuntu 9.04, held at Mountain View´s Googleplex in December, I read that "every Debian Contributor is an Ubuntu Contributor". Actually, the relationship between Debian and Ubuntu showed good moments but some critical situations too, especially around the problem of Ubuntu Developer not sending their patches back to Debian. Do you believe that Debian and Ubuntu will always remain kind of half brothers, or do you see a closer future for them?

We improved the situation a lot. Lots of patches are sent to Debian every week and we have lots of teams that are actively working together and coordinating development together. Actually we have a bunch of MOTUs who decided to go all the way to become Debian developers too. Of course this is not the route for everyone, but it´s great that we are having a greater overlap between both distros.

I don´t think we´re at a point yet where "everything´s perfect", but I feel we´re getting closer and closer.

A last question: imagine one of our readers never run Ubuntu and Free Software. Why should him give it a try?

  1. It´s free;
  2. You have freedom to do whatever you want with it;
  3. You can look behind the scenes (if you´re interested);
  4. No viruses/adware/..;
  5. The software does not get in your way and is way more powerful;

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