Photo of Jani Monoses

Jani Monoses

Interviewed: July 2006


IRC Nickname: janimo
Location: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Age: 28
Profession: CS Engineer

Ubuntu Stuff

In what way are you involved in Ubuntu?

Mostly I am working on the Xubuntu derivative, with occasional unrelated contributions (laptop testing, bug reporting)

How much time do you spend working on Ubuntu?

During the Dapper cycle I spent more or less full time on it; 7-12 hours/day depending on various factors.

Are you being paid to work on Ubuntu?


Xubuntu has customised XFCE to look quite different from the default version, what were your reasons for this?

The Gnome UI used in Ubuntu seemed intuitive and they had reached that look after giving it a lot of thought, so emulating that when possible made sense to me. We try to make Xubuntu as easy to use as possible by default for people new to computers or non-Windows systems. Experienced Xfce users can and do customize it anyway.

There have been recent improvements in XFCE such as Thunar, how have you found working with the XFCE development team?

It was a mixed experience. All communication happened on the Xfce development mainling list with a few exceptions (private mails). There were both very friendly and semi-hostile answers, as it's usual with all communities. I try to ignore rants (not easy) and negative comments, especially since most of the time these have no technical content at all, and are sparked by miscommunication or misunderstandings. The main issues are that Xfce doesn't really have a schedule and AFAIK all of the 5 or so core developers are doing this in their free time. So while basing Xubuntu on their development version may have raised the amount of testing they received and lead to some improvements in the codebase it also possibly caused a bit more stress to the devs than usual. But all in all it was a nice experience for me.

As Xubuntu is quite young how is the community growing around it and do you see any need for formal structure such as the Kubuntu Community Council?

I don't yet see a need for such formal structure. I have no good way of estimating it but I am sure the Xubuntu user base is still far smaller than that of Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

Who is the target audience for Xubuntu? Is it mainly for people with older or slower machines also what features do you think might appeal to current Gnome and KDE users?

Initially it was meant as a clean and maintainable distro for machines with less memory. However it turned out to be a very good fit for thin client deployments as well. Existing experienced Gnome and KDE users may find its relative speed and simplicity appealing, but this is a matter of taste mostly. The main target are still those machines where KDE and Gnome do not run acceptably well.

What did you work on for Dapper?

Packaged Xfce upstream releases and subversion snapshots to keep up with their latest code, as Xfce 4.4 is not yet released. Sent feedback, bug reports and patches to upstream Xfce as problems were encountered in the process. Made changes to a few Ubuntu packages to get them work without Gnome libraries as using only GTK apps was one of the guidelines for Xubuntu. Kept in touch and coordinated with various people who helped Xubuntu – community and Canonical developers, artists, documentation writers, early users.

What are you working on for Edgy?

Fixing the important issues Dapper users encounter. Setting up a printer is one such problem if not the biggest; we'll hopefully be able to reuse much of what Ubuntu is doing in this area. Another goal is reusing as many as possible of the Ubuntu desktop apps without getting performance penalties. Then making Xubuntu accessible to users with disabilities, just as Gnome and KDE already are to some extent. Other improvements depend on what upstream Xfce/Thunar is doing in this period. All these plans are tracked in Launchpad.

What feature would you like to see/improve in Ubuntu?

From what I see Ubuntu is offering pretty much all that the current state of free software allows. So I'd like to see improvements in the larger picture which would benefit not only Ubuntu. The main wish is (unsurprisingly to many) getting a really decent OOo or an alternative. Because of performance and compatibility issues, its deployment is restricted to organizations where the cost benefits from the licensing outweigh the costs that have to be spent on new hardware, or to places where it is mandated by governments, or to FLOSS fans. But very few users (I know none) choose it because it is really better quality than the MS offering.

Do you contribute to FLOSS in any other ways?

I first started contributing to FLOSS about 5 years ago sending a few small doc patches to lkml and a couple entries to asmutils. Since then I did occasional patches to various projects I have got in touch with, the most significant being the eCos project (a very nice, free, low footprint RTOS) which I had used at work at my last employer. I wrote, but no longer maintain, the trident framebuffer driver in the linux kernel. As for education activities I am slightly involved in a free software group initiated recently by students at two universities in Cluj with the goal of getting other students and eventually teachers better acquainted with free software. High-schools and universities are still very much Windows centered and as a consequence the FLOSS movement is significantly less mature in Romania than in other Central and Eastern European countries.

Which window manager/desktop environment do you use and what do you like about it?

I started using Xfce almost two years ago. There's nothing in particular that I like about it besides that it is light and friendly. Since using Ubuntu I have also started Gnome occasionally and it is a lot better than it was 3-4 years ago.

What programs do you use daily?

xfce4-terminal, vim , firefox, thunderbird.

What computers do you have and what are they called?

One 64Mb laptop which I no longer use besides testing Xubuntu on it called piglet, and a test-laptop from Canonical which I use for all my work called cavia.

What does your desktop look like?

Default Xubuntu 6.06 desktop, totally covered most of the time by the terminal or firefox. No fancy wallpapers or customized looks.

What does your computer area look like?

Imagine a green wall and near it a desk too small to be a mess since not much besides the laptop fits on it. Consequently the debris I use daily is on the floor but close to the desk.

What do you drink while working on your computer?

Water when I remember that one should drink, since I don't feel thirsty that often.

Personal Stuff

Where were you born/grew up?

In a small city called Gherla (Szamosújvár in Hungarian which is my native language), 45km from where I live now.

What memories do you have of growing up?

Nothing personal which is worth mentioning and that can be described in a few lines without being out of context. On the technical front, I remember being 14 and seeing a few lines of BASIC consisting of PLOT and DRAW written down on a piece of paper and being fascinated by the fact that those can make a computer draw a triangle.

Married, partner or up for adoption?


Do you have any children or pets?

No children, two cavies (guinea pigs).

Where do you recommend anyone visiting your country sees?

Depends on what one likes to see or experience in a new country :) There are nice mountains and the Danube Delta is nice too.

Favourite place to go on holiday?

It's about favourite people rather than places. I enjoyed going skiing in the winter and camping or hiking in the summer with my close friends during university, but since most of them live in other countries now, we do it way less often.

What are you passionate about?

I used to be very passionate about computers, but since I got acquainted with free software 7 years ago this gradually morphed into passion for freedom. But I still only fuel this passion via computer related work.

What does success mean to you?

Being content with what I have done, which means success is not yet in sight ;)

Who do you most admire?

Nobody in particular, but most people who are crazy, smart, courageous, kind, wise or balanced. And if possible all at the same time.

Favourite quote?

'Be the change you want to see in the world' or something like that, attributed to Gandhi.

Favourite food?

I don't think I have a favourite kind of food, but something I am very likely to be ready for anytime is freshly squeezed carrot juice :)

What do you do in your spare time?

Last film I saw was Manderlay and the last book was Twelve chairs by Ilf & Petrov.

Recommend a non Ubuntu website?

Besides reading some news sites occasionally, I regularly visit slashdot, osnews, a few planets, but none of the Web2.0 sites yet. The single most important website for me is by far wikipedia.

This interview is also available in Danish and German