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2003/01/29 - Jon Maddog Hall

Jon Maddog Hall

An interview conducted by Alain Buret
Alain Buret - First and traditional question : please present yourself !

Jon Maddog Hall - I am the Executive Director of Linux International. I have been in the computer industry since 1969, and have worked as a programmer, systems designer, systems administrator, product manager, technical marketing manager and educator at the college level.

I have authored "Linux for Dummies" as well as many magazine articles and have given talks all over the world.

I have a BS in Commerce and Engineering from Drexel University and a MSCS from RPI of Troy, NY.

Alain Buret - This question is probably often asked, but why are you called "maddog" ?

Jon Maddog Hall - My students gave me the name. Often my arguments with the Dean of Instruction were "too hot for maddogs and Englishmen" (from a Noel Coward play). The Dean was british, I was the maddog.

Alain Buret - Your career is around advocating Linux and related software : what is Linux for you ? How would you explain this software model to a newcomer ?

Jon Maddog Hall - People contribute their time and programming expertise to this project just like an amateur athelete runs a race or plays a sport. They are not paid for doing it, they just like doing it.

After a certain amount of software is created, this creates a pool of very useful, freely available code that allows people to solve their problems very quickly. Since the users of this code do not have to pay for software licenses for this code, they can use that money to tailor the code that is there EXACTLY to their needs.

Alain Buret - You are a key member of "Linux International". What do you consider as the biggest achievement of this organisation ?

Jon Maddog Hall - In the early days of Linux we helped to publicise it and get people to understand the model. We protected (and continue to protect) the Linux trademark for use by people, and we help businesses understand the licensing behind open source.

Alain Buret - LI helps lots of developers by promoting them : how do you select these projects ?

Jon Maddog Hall - We don't "select these projects". We help to promote Linux and Open Source in general.

Alain Buret - What kind of relation does LI have with the Free Software Foundation; with the Open Source Initiative? How does it compare to these two organisations ?

Jon Maddog Hall - The FSF believes that all software should be free. The OSI believes that all software should be open. LI believes the most important thing is choice and competition between vendors. Therefore we allow non-free and non-open software vendors to be members. We do encourage them to generate free and open code whenether they can, but we understand their issues.

Alain Buret - What's your opinion about this: How does Linux (the kernel) and GNU/Linux (the system) compare with proprietary Unix offers ?

Jon Maddog Hall - Proprietary Unix systems can still do some things that Linux can not. However the system is moving forward at a very fast pace, and I believe that it will catch up in a year or so to the proprietary systems.

By the way, I assume that you are talking about the Linux/GNU/XFree86/Sendmail/BIND/SANE/BSD system when you say "GNU/Linux" ? :-)

Alain Buret - 2 years ago, there were lots of money for things around Linux (IPO, ...). How do you analyze this sudden interest ? The e-conomy only ?

Jon Maddog Hall - Yes, it was a lot of stupid people with a lot of money to invest who did not look at the business as a true investment (i.e. start a company and grow it). They just wanted to "get rich quick". Linux is a long-term investment, not a "get rich quick" scheme, although some people did make out very well in the stock market madness.

Alain Buret - What are your expectations about your talk at the FOSDEM ?

Jon Maddog Hall - It will be brilliant, of course. :-) Since it is a historical talk and a "fun" talk, yet one that has real meaning and value, it should go over well.

Alain Buret - Final one: I read somewhere you like beers ... what's your belgian favourite beer ?

Jon Maddog Hall - I tend to like the Trappist Ales. I would really like to go to a monestary that makes these ales while I am in Belgium.


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