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comprookie2000
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:17 pm    Post subject: Interview with Donnie Berkholz (dberkholz) Reply with quote

Interview with Gentoo developer and a member of the Gentoo council Donnie Berkholz. (dberkholz) Donnie wears many hats for Gentoo, here is the short list;


  • Gentoo Council
  • Desktop Lead
  • X Maintainer
  • Public Relations
  • Science
  • Clustering

You can download the podcast here;
http://linuxcrazy.com/?q=node/33
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:37 pm    Post subject: Transcript Reply with quote

Check this for typos! :)

Edit: Oops, I've now put in Seemant Kulleen's correct name. :oops: Also, I've put in the rest of the names dberkholz corrected. Thanks!

[0:00:31]
comprookie2000: Hi Donnie

dberkholz: Hi David, how's it going?

comprookie2000: Alright. nice to hear from you.

dberkholz: Yeah, it's great to talk with you.

comprookie2000: Alright. Hey, welcome to linuxcrazy podcasts. In this podcast, I'm going to ask Donnie Berkholz a few questions. Donnie is a gentoo developer, a member of the gentoo council, project lead for the desktop, X, public relations, science, and clustering. Wow, very busy guy, Donnie, and thanks for spending some time with me

dberkholz: It's my pleasure

comprookie2000: Um, let's get some history on your progression from linux user to Gentoo developer.

dberkholz: Ok, um, I started using Gentoo a little more than 5 years ago now. And when I started using it I heard about how amazing the community was, so I jumped on IRC, and going on the forums and asking questions when I had trouble, and a little bit later on I started helping other people who had questions.

[0:01:37]
dberkholz: One day I was trying to get my 3D working and it was insanely hard, so I decided to write a howto on the forums to help other people set it up, and that howto eventually became the official gentoo guide for setting up 3D. The developer who ended up becoming my mentor, Seemant Kulleen, noticed what I was doing, and he asked me to help out with one of the X packages, and that's how I trained to become a developer.

comprookie2000: How long have you been maintaining X for Gentoo?

dberkholz: Ever since I became a developer in 2003. At first I just helped Seemant out a little bit, but after a few months, I took over X for myself and left him to do some other things.

[0:02:19]
comprookie2000: The migration to modular X was a smooth process for me because of your documentation. How did you figure all that out?

dberkholz: I spent a lot of time working on a way to make writing X packages trivial with an eclass back when the only way to get cool eye candy with transparency and everything was using this unreleased code called Kdrive. This was way before modular X became part of X.org, but there were a few programs split out as an experiment to work with this Kdrive. For a long time, I've had an overlay with all of this work so that people could get transparency and eye candy going for themselves, before it was in X.org. And when the modularization finally happened, I already had this huge eclass for X packages mostly working and I just cleaned it up a bit. Another side of the story--there's the documentation to get all the users migrated properly. This documentation is really easy because of all the work I spent putting into the eclass and making packages easy, and my whole philosophy is making things just work as much as they possibly could. So giving people a decent set of video drivers and a decent set of input drivers, so that X probably just works after you switch over. Most of the FAQs in that doc were problems I hit myself when I was trying to make the switch, and I knew that if something was a problem for me, it would be a huge problem for people who weren't as familiar with X as I am.

[0:03:47]
comprookie2000: Who helps you with maintaining it?

dberkholz: A lot of people have helped over the years, from Seemant, my mentor, to Andrew Bevitt, Bryan Stine, Josh Baergen, and many other people. More recently, the modularization let us share maintenance for a few drivers to people who actually own the hardware which makes it a lot easier to fix bugs. In particular, I'm really happy that other people maintain the binary drivers for NVidia and ATI cards, because I'm opposed to proprietary, closed-source drivers, and the additional work they are to maintain because of their closed-source nature.

[0:04:23]
dberkholz: Right now, nobody really is helping with the X core packages, so I still maintain most of those, which is about 120 packages. On the bright side, they're all pretty similar because of that eclass, so it's not as bad as it sounds.

[0:04:38]
comprookie2000: What video card do you recommend?

dberkholz: I like ATI or Intel, depending on your needs. Both of them have done a really good job of opening up all their documentation and their drivers in the past couple of years, more recently ATI: Intel's been doing it for a while and set the standard. If you're a gamer, you probably want ATI instead of Intel because the Intel ones don't perform as well, but they're really nice and cheap and open. Some NVidia cards work with a reverse-engineered driver called Nouveau, but I don't really want to support a company that doesn't support open source.

comprookie2000: Yeah, I was on newegg.com and they interviewed a person from NVidia and they said they weren't going to open up the drivers, that's what the guy said on the interview. Tell me about your everyday box.

[0:05:34]
dberkholz: I recently bought a brand new laptop, and I'm really excited about it. It's a Thinkpad T-61 and it's got a dual core Penryn processor in it and 4 Gigs of memory, so it can compile awful fast. It's a lot faster than the iBook I used to have that finally died a couple of months ago.

comprookie2000: What is your home network like?

dberkholz: It used to be pretty nice but it's getting a lot smaller. I'm getting rid of all my other computers, which is my old dual Athlon, a Pegasos, and a Sparc, because we're turning our office into a nursery. Now it's just a thinkpad, an iBook, a PlayStation 3, and a Wii, and I've got those all on a WRT54G router.

comprookie2000: Where do you see the linux desktop heading?

dberkholz: On a big picture level, it's really hard to say. A lot of the developments seem to be about integrating packages better, and about improving security frameworks to limit privileges more and only have the minimum privileges you need to complete a task. For example, there's been a lot of work on kernel capabilities, so that an SUID program doesn't need all the root privileges, or on stuff like Policy Kit for things like running individual desktop programs as root.

[0:06:52]
dberkholz: And also, recently, a bunch of work on SELinux got integrated into X. There's definitely been a lot of work to integrate the web into the desktop as well, with things like Prism from Mozilla letting you run a web app like a regular desktop program. You can just install Prism as a Firefox 3 extension and it pretty much runs any web site just like a program does. One exciting new feature in X is multi-pointer support which is going to get merged into the main development branch in a week or so. It should show up in xorg-server-1.6. With that, you can do really crazy things with multiple mice, like stretching windows in two different directions at the same time, or like rotating a cube in 3-D space by holding a couple of different corners of it. Another idea which has been sort of ongoing for years now, but not that popular, is the diskless terminals. It seems like a lot of the hype about the year of the linux desktop keeps not changing much, and people keep saying it's going to take over, and it's kind of the same way with diskless terminals. They're still there; they've been around for a while; and, people are still working on them; but, nobody's really sure where it's going to go.

[0:07:59]
dberkholz: I've been working on a program called LTSP, the Linux Terminal Server Project. And one really cool thing about this is that it really integrates into the distros well. And, another person and I are working on getting it integrated into Gentoo.

comprookie2000: How many hats do you wear as a Gentoo developer, and tell me about them?

dberkholz: At the beginning you mentioned a few of them, and really, it's just way too many. I'm really kind of over-obligated in Gentoo. And it's hard to manage to spend enough time working on everything. Right now, as you mentioned, I'm a council member, I'm the lead of the PR team, the desktop lead, the clustering lead, I maintain X, I'm work on the science team, and I also maintain about 50 other packages.

[0:08:47]
dberkholz: The council exists so that we can make decisions on issues that multiple projects are affected by, and that the projects can't manage to resolve on their own, but the more time I spend in Gentoo, the more I realize that it's the individual developers who really drive most of our innovations. They don't happen because the council makes a decision. They happen because the developer, or a few of them, think that it sounds like a cool idea, and make it happen. Some people say that Gentoo isn't really moving forward, and that it's because the council isn't making it move forward, but I really think that's an excuse. Gentoo is a bazaar, and anybody can make a difference. Another role of mine is leading our PR team. Our home page was pretty much dead for months before I took over, and I'm doing what little I can to make it a place where people go for news about Gentoo, instead of just a static repository.

[0:09:38]
dberkholz: There's two big problems I'm trying to fix. One is that it's too hard for people to figure out how to get involved. There's no place on the homepage that says, if you want to help out, here's how you can do it. I really think that hurts us, because it raises the barrier to get involved, and every time you raise the barrier, you lose more potential contributors. The second problem is related, and it's that it's too hard for people to figure out what's going on in Gentoo. If the home page doesn't change, people think Gentoo's dead, and that's not the case. We've still got a planet, people are blogging on there, and if you really want to see Gentoo changing, we have a mailing list where all the commits go. I just deleted more than 1000 commits from that mail log, to give you a sense of how busy things are. I've also been the desktop project lead for a while, but it means a little bit less now than it used to. Back before the council, a group of managers were in charge of Gentoo, and the desktop project lead was one of them. Nowadays, I just do what little I can to help people working on desktop-related projects work together and stay organized, and I occasionally resolve some conflicts and try and help people work together better. If anybody has any ideas about what more I could do as the desktop lead, please get in touch.

[0:10:47]
comprookie2000: Tell us about your mentoring project for the Google Summer of Code.

dberkholz: This is a really cool project, and a lot of people have a bunch of computers sitting around at home, doing nothing. And this whole idea is to let you turn those computers into a cluster more easily, and bring high performance computing to everyone. HPC clusters have historically been really painful to set up, so painful people make special distributions just to give you a pre-configured cluster. What Eric, the student on this project, is going to do, is make it easy to install and configure a gentoo cluster, and automatically configure computing nodes you add to it.

[0:11:28]
comprookie2000: Your previous nick was spyderous. How did you come up with that?

dberkholz: Well, that's a good question. I think I had been up almost to 5 in the morning one night, and I was trying to think of some kind of name that wasn't taken on AOL. And, I like skiing, and Spyder makes really popular ski gear. So finally I ended up typing that in, and it wasn't taken, and it was mine for a few years. But a couple of years ago, I decided it's really strange when people meet you in person and call you spyderous, and that just kind of got a little too weird to me, so I decided to change it to my real name.

comprookie2000: Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

[0:12:18]
dberkholz: Yeah, just one last thing. Making gentoo great is my biggest goal right now, and greatness is a process. It's not a place. So you can't get somewhere and say you're great. You always have to keep striving for it. For a while we've been content to stick with the status quo instead of striving for greatness, but we have to change that and to always improve Gentoo.

comprookie2000: Alright Donnie. I see a lot of positive things happening in Gentoo. I hang around the IRC and on the forums and everything, and everybody's always been real helpful to me and the developers included, so it's a real nice community, and I want to thank you for the interview.

dberkholz: Alright, thanks a lot for your time. I appreciate it.

comprookie2000: You're welcome.


Last edited by dch24 on Wed May 21, 2008 3:17 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Transcript Reply with quote

dch24 wrote:
[0:01:37]
dberkholz: ... The developer who ended up becoming my mentor, seamontcolleen, ...


Quote:
comprookie2000: Who helps you with maintaining it?

dberkholz: A lot of people have helped over the years, from seamont, my mentor,

The name is Seemant Kulleen
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:55 am    Post subject: Re: Transcript Reply with quote

dch24 wrote:
Here's a transcript.

Sweet, thanks!
Quote:
I have one question, about 0:08:00:
Quote:
And it's hard to (inaudible?) spend enough time working on everything.
If someone could tell me what I missed. Plus, please check this for typos! :)

Try "manage to" -- sounds about right.

Quote:

[0:00:31]
comprookie2000: Hi Donny

Donnie =)
Quote:

[0:03:47]
comprookie2000: Who helps you with maintaining it?

dberkholz: A lot of people have helped over the years, from Seemant, my mentor, to Andrew Bevitt, Brian Stein, Josh Bergen, and many other people.

Bryan Stine, Josh Baergen
Quote:
More recently, the modularization let us share maintenance for a few drivers to people who actually own the hardware which makes it a lot easier to fix bugs. In particular, I'm really happy that other people maintain the binary drivers for NVidia and ATI cards, because I'm opposed to proprietary, closed-source drivers, and the additional work they are to maintain because of their closed-source nature.
...
[0:04:38]
comprookie2000: What video card do you recommend?

dberkholz: I like ATI or Intel, depending on your needs. Both of them have done a really good job of opening up all their documentation and their drivers in the past couple of years, more recently ATI: Intel's been doing it for a while and set the standard. If you're a gamer, you probably want ATI instead of Intel because the Intel ones don't perform as well, but they're really nice and cheap and open. Some NVidia cards work with a reverse-engineered driver called Neuveau, but I don't really want to support a company that doesn't support open source.

Nouveau
Quote:
[0:05:34]
dberkholz: I recently bought a brand new laptop, and I'm really excited about it. It's a Thinkpad T-61 and it's got a dual core Pentium processor in it and 4 Gigs of memory, so it can compile awful fast. It's a lot faster than the iBook I used to have that finally died a couple of months ago.
Penryn, not Pentium -- way cooler.
Quote:
comprookie2000: What is your home network like?

dberkholz: It used to be pretty nice but it's getting a lot smaller. I'm getting rid of all my other computers, which is my old dual Athlon, a pegasus, and a Sparc, because we're turning our office into a nursery. Now it's just a thinkpad, an iBook, a PlayStation 3, and a Wii, and I've got those all on a WRT54G router.

That's a Pegasos (a low-power PPC).
Quote:

[0:11:28]
comprookie2000: Your previous nick was spiderous. How did you come up with that?

spyderous, and Spyder below
Quote:

dberkholz: Well, that's a good question. I think I had been up almost to 5 in the morning one night, and I was trying to think of some kind of name that wasn't taken on AOL. And, I like skiing, and Spider makes really popular ski gear. So finally I ended up typing that in, and it wasn't taken, and it was mine for a few years. But a couple of years ago, I decided it's really strange when people meet you in person and call you spiderous, and that just kind of got a little too weird to me, so I decided to change it to my real name.
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

comprookie2000: Alright. Hey, welcome to linuxcrazy podcasts. In this podcast, I'm going to ask Donny Berkholz a few questions. Donny is a gentoo developer, a member of the gentoo council, project lead for the desktop, X, public relations, science, and clustering. Wow, very busy guy, Donny, and thanks for spending some time with me

Donny => Donnie
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for writing this down, nice interview!
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dch24
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

comprookie2000 wrote:
Donny => Donnie
oops, ok I finally just searched for them and that found them all. I think. :-)
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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OMG you are one very busy guy dear dberkholz 8O
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just announced this on the homepage, so there might be a fair bit of traffic soon. It should show up in the next hour. (I would've done it earlier, but I was on vacation.)
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The link to newegg seems to point to hewegg.
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, thx alot, interesting read.
I believe you are just right about lowering the thresholds.
How to help doesn't just include developing stuff but also how and where to report bugs and how to find them.
How to post them too...

The story about how a howto led to package maintaining is something I'll remember too. 8)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:11 pm    Post subject: Is it just me, or... Reply with quote

...does this interview sound like it was read from a script?

Just an observation ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Is it just me, or... Reply with quote

penetrode wrote:
...does this interview sound like it was read from a script?

Just an observation ;)

It definitely sounds like I had a list of the questions in advance and knew roughly what I wanted to say for each of them...
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah! Another great interview. Always great to hear the latest h/w recommended by X devs! It's a question asked frequently, but most devs hesitate to give an honest answer. Finally, we have an answer -- Intel or ATI due to best documentation.

This was probably one interview I've been waiting for a long time for and finally just got around to listening to it. :-)
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