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Ubuntu developers: s.fox: An Interview with Nothingspecial

Posted: May 21, 2012 / in: Linux / No comments

Nothingspecial is perhaps one of the friendliest and most helpful people I know in the Ubuntu community.  My main contact with him has been via the Ubuntu Forums, where he serves as a moderator. Read on…

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

My name is Rob. At the time of writing I am 36 years old. I am male although this has sometimes been a source of confusion on the forums and irc. I am married to a beautiful lady of Portuguese decent and have 2 sons. We live in a nice suburb of Manchester in England.

I was a wholesale fish merchant for many years although I am not currently involved in the seafood trade. I am qualified to prance about on a stage due to my degree in Performing Arts although I have never pursued this professionally.

Other than messing about with computers my main interest is Music. I have vast vinyl collection and thousands of cds covering most genres from Punk to Opera. I play bass, guitar and mandolin and was in rock/punk bands throughout my teens and twenties.

My username “nothingspecial” is not a reflection of my self worth. It is the name of the song that was playing when I first signed up to the forums.

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

Growing up I had absolutely no interest in computers whatsoever. I managed to complete my education and go about my working life without ever touching one. This was until I saw an mp3 player. The thought of carrying all my my music around in my pocket really appealed to me. So when my brother-in-law bought a new computer we took possession of his old one. Being a proper geek of course it had Ubuntu installed on it so I am one of a rare breed of people whose experience of computers started with Ubuntu. I still don’t have the first idea how to do anything with Windows although I do have it in a virtual machine for managing my kids’ ipods.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

After 3 days of constant phone calls my brother-in-law told me about the forums and I started directing my questions there. When 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) was released I performed my first installation but I couldn’t get the sound to work. Searching the forums taught me all sorts of cool linuxy stuff like recompiling alsa and blacklisting modules even applying a patch to the kernel. In the end, it turned out that you have to plug the speakers into the green hole to hear anything.

The sense of community and the fast and efficient help I received on the forums was amazing led me to start helping out myself with the knowledge I gained. The more I learned the more I investigated until I found myself answering more than asking.

Last year I was invited to become a member of the forum staff as a moderator. I accepted and have to say I have really enjoyed it.

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

I am a Ubuntu Member. Membership is now a prerequisite for forum staff. My contribution is almost entirely on the forums although you will find me on irc in #ubuntuforums, #ubuntu-beginners, #lubuntu, #ubuntu, #ubuntu-uk amongst a few others. I try to answer questions in all those channels although #ubuntu is rather busy for me.

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

I have tried many distros but always come back to Ubuntu. All the computers in our house all run either Ubuntu or Lubuntu.

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

My fondest memory from the forums is definitely when I got smooches.

Other than that I like it when very frustrated users solve their problems and sail happily off into the Ubuntu sunset.

Sometimes it is tough being forum staff so I enjoy having positive interactions with other members of the forum community whether helping people out, chatting in #ubuntuforums or encouraging involvement in the wider Ubuntu community.

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

Only family really and a couple of friends. If they want me to fix their computers they have to use Ubuntu.

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

I would love Canonical to become a profitable company and Ubuntu to be an option that everybody knows about whether they choose it or not. I honestly believe that Ubuntu has achieved it’s goal of being “Linux for human beings” and anyone, no matter what their background, age etc will find the default interface intuitive and easy to use. Of course, there are hardware issues but I see no reason why a computer pre installed with Ubuntu should not be able to compete with Windows/Mac.

The main issue now, in my opinion, is exposure. Ubuntu needs, more than anything, publicity. If there is a greater demand for Ubuntu then more quality software and hardware support will follow.

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

You plug the speakers in the green hole…

Seriously it would be to get involved. The Ubuntu community is wonderful and there are many opportunities for everybody to contribute should they wish.

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