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1 dabbott 1.2 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 dabbott 1.1
3 dabbott 1.2 <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
4     <!-- $HEADER: $ -->
5     <guide>
6     <title>Interview Gentoo Developer Robin H. Johnson (robbat2)</title>
7 dabbott 1.1
8 dabbott 1.2 <author title="Author">
9     <mail link="dabbott"/>
10     </author>
12     <abstract>
13     Interview with Robin H. Johnson (robbat2)
14     </abstract>
16     <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
17     <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
18     <license/>
20     <version>1</version>
21 nightmorph 1.4 <date>2009-08-01</date>
22 dabbott 1.2
23     <chapter>
24     <title>Interview with Robin H. Johnson (robbat2)</title>
25     <section>
26     <title>Introduction</title>
27 nightmorph 1.4 <body>
28 dabbott 1.1
29     <p>
30     Today I have the pleasure of introducing to all of you, Robin H. Johnson
31     (robbat2) Gentoo Developer, Gentoo Trustee board member, head of the
32     infrastructure, without it working smoothly there would not be Gentoo as we
33     know it. Robin is also involved with helping out MySQL, LDAP, base-system, and
34     lots more.
35     </p>
36 nightmorph 1.4
37 dabbott 1.2 </body>
38     </section>
39     <section>
40     <title>Robin's Interview</title>
41 nightmorph 1.4 <body>
42 dabbott 1.2
43 dabbott 1.1 <p>
44     Hi Robin, thanks for the interview.
45     </p>
47     <p>
48     Hi David, Thanks for asking me.
49     </p>
51 dabbott 1.2 <dl>
52     <dt>
53 dabbott 1.1 1) Is Gentoo your first open source project?
54 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
55     <dd>
56 dabbott 1.1 No, my first full-scale involvement was as one of the phpMyAdmin developers,
57     starting in May 2001,about 2 months after it first moved onto SourceForge.
58     Prior to that it was just the occasional patches submitted back to projects I
59     was using as a Slackware user.
60 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
61     <dt>
62 dabbott 1.1 2) How long have you been a Gentoo user? </dt> <dd> According to bugzilla, my
63     first ever bug/comment was bug 14397, complaining that PHP was detecting GCC2
64     as a cross-compiler, on 2003-02-25. I wasn't a dev yet then, but it already
65     shows the debug path.
66 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
67     <dt>
68 dabbott 1.1 3) How did you come up with the nick (robbat2)?
69 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
70     <dd>
71 dabbott 1.1 That comes down to an overly long and complicated story for this podcast, but
72     it involves multiplayer LAN flight sims, writing Quake 1 mods, a namespace
73     conflict on my older nick, and abusing DOS ASCII art.
74 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
75     <dt>
76 dabbott 1.1 4) What has your journey been like with Linux, and how did it start?
77 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
78     <dd>
79 dabbott 1.1 Being given a RH6.2 CD1 CD (not the entire set), back in 1997, prior to having
80     any internet connection, still living in South Africa, and having it
81     accidentally wipe out my DOS machine, that I did Pascal programming on at the
82     time. Reinstall DOS, try again a couple of months later, when school was out,
83     find that the compilers worked, but there wasn't much point to it, go back to
84     DOS. Later on, when I first moved to Canada in January 1999, I realized that
85     having an always-on internet connection massively widened the realm of Linux
86     possibilities. I was going to go with RedHat again, having bought real pressed
87     media for $5 at a local Linux festival, but it turned out to be defective, and
88     I just downloaded slackware ISOs instead.
89 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
90     <dt>
91 dabbott 1.1 5) What motivated you to become a Gentoo Developer? </dt> <dd> Daniel Robbins
92     complained I was submitting too many patches and ideas, and that I might as
93     well join to commit them myself.
94 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
95     <dt>
96 dabbott 1.1 6) What aspects of Gentoo do you feel the developers and maintainers have got
97     right?
98 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
99     <dd>
100 dabbott 1.1 This is interesting in the issue of the distribution vs. the
101     developers/maintainers. The distribution has got the degree of control down
102     very nicely, which is partly due to the developer demand to change stuff to be
103     the way they want it, but the degree of transparency is also much better than
104     the binary distributions I feel. I remember looking for RPM specfiles in the
105     past, and not being able to find them, to see what patches were being used, or
106     configure flags were being passed.
107 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
108     <dt>
109 dabbott 1.1 7) What is it about Gentoo you would like to see improved?
110 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
111     <dd>
112 dabbott 1.1 Transparency in projects that are going on, but also in users paying attention
113     to what we are doing. However, if there's one single area, it's how slow we
114     move stuff to stable. I've complained before, but recent presentation by Scott
115     Shawcroft from OSCON showed just how bad it is. Our unstable tree is in great
116     shape, but our stable tree is worse than many of the major distros, esp Ubuntu
117     and Fedora.
118 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
119     <dt>
120 dabbott 1.1 8) What are some of the Projects within Gentoo that you enjoy contributing to?
121 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
122     <dd>
123 dabbott 1.1 The infrastructure project is the most fun, as I enjoy the challenge involved
124     in cohesively managing 40+ disparate servers, scattered in 12 locations around
125     the world. The requirements of unique development to automate the work is also
126     fun.
127 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
128     <dt>
129 dabbott 1.1 9) Could you give me an overview of the Gentoo infrastructure?
130 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
131     <dd>
132 dabbott 1.1 Nearly 50 percent of the infrastructure hardware is taken up by web
133     applications, because we have a lot of separation between web applications that
134     have a high security exposure. Admittedly some of the web services are a very
135     big deal for Gentoo, like our Bugzilla service, running on 4 machines sponsored
136     by the Dutch social network, Hyves. Very recently we've gotten new hardware for
137     Forums, sponsored by Gossamer Threads. The next largest slice after that is the
138     machines that provides rsync.gentoo.org service. Only then do we get down to
139     individual machines for purposes. There's some cases where having more hardware
140     as fail-over in case we lose a machine would be nice, but I think the place
141     that'd we would benefit the most presently would be a newer mail server
142     infrastructure, so that we can deploy heavier spam filtering.
143 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
144     <dt>
145 dabbott 1.1 10) Who helps you with the infrastructure? </dt> <dd> Lance (ramareth) was the
146     previous infrastructure lead, and Mike (kingtaco) is my present co-lead, but
147     he's a slacker most of the time. Shyam (fox2mike) started off in handling
148     mirrors, but is now up at handling some day-to-day infrastructure issues as
149     well. Solar helps out with stuff as well, but is mainly there in an advisory
150     role these days.
151 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
152     <dt>
153 dabbott 1.1 11) What is the process for someone to donate a server or set up an rsync mirror?
154 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
155     <dd>
156 dabbott 1.1 If you'd like to set up your own rsync or source mirror, we offer complete
157     instructions linked from the very bottom of the Mirrors page on the website.
158     The 'gentoo-rsync-mirror' package also offers a sample configuration and
159     scripts for rsync mirrors. Most of our server donations are in the form of the
160     sponsor continuing to own the hardware, and hosting it at their own location.
161     Rackspace, power and bandwidth costs ultimately add up to much more than the
162     value of the hardware. We'd like to move into having more hardware that Gentoo
163     actually owns, but we need to secure more hosting (and possibly remote hands)
164     before that. In the meantime, for hosting a server for, contact the
165     infrastructure team, infra@gentoo.org, to set us up with access to the new
166     hardware, running on a LiveCD so that we can perform our cfengine-powered
167     install of the hardened system. If you've got IPMI or remote console (serial or
168     KVM), that's extremely useful as well.
169 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
170     <dt>
171 dabbott 1.1 12) Is git in the future plans?
172 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
173     <dd>
174 dabbott 1.1 With more hours in the day, it'll come sooner, but it's not a high priority
175     item. I passed out a few of the TODO items on my last status post to the
176     gentoo-scm mailing list. Of them, only WilliamH has done anything. One of the
177     upstream cvs2svn authors, mhagger, helped out significantly in performance
178     improvements, but those aren't fully baked yet, he'd like to find some time to
179     finish them, and possibly some sponsorship so he can put aside his dayjob to
180     work on them.
181 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
182     <dt>
183 dabbott 1.1 13) As a Gentoo Developer what are some of your accomplishments?
184 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
185     <dd>
186 dabbott 1.1 Over my time as a developer, a lot of the things I do seem to be because it was
187     broken, and nobody else cared about it at the time. That's how I came to be
188     the maintainer of qmail, PHP and MySQL back in my early developer days. In all
189     3 cases, I started the teams to maintain them. The MySQL team is the only one
190     of those not still in existence. The developers that joined have retired
191     before me, and MySQL has come back to me.
192 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
193     <dt>
194 dabbott 1.1 14) What applications would you like to see included within Gentoo?
195 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
196     <dd>
197 dabbott 1.1 There are a couple of more complex applications I've run into, that I'd like
198     packaged, but after attempting to do so myself, I can see why nobody else has
199     yet either. Most recently, was the Evergreen Library System, after I met some
200     of the local implementors at an unconference last year.
201 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
202     <dt>
203 dabbott 1.1 15) What are your thoughts on Sun acquiring Oracle and its effect on MySQL?
204 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
205     <dd>
206 dabbott 1.1 (assuming you meant Oracle acquiring Sun). My views on the matter are
207     reasonably positive for both Sun and MySQL, due to Oracle's dependence on Java,
208     along with the spread of the original core MySQL employees to no longer work
209     for any of the 3 companies, and MySQL AB's recently renewed commitment to
210     having a fully open MySQL - they got rid of the split between MySQL-community
211     and MySQL-enterprise.
212 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
213     <dt>
214 dabbott 1.1 16) What open source software can you not live without at home and at work?
215 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
216     <dd>
217 dabbott 1.1 I'd have to put VIM first on the list, it does wonders for productivity.
218     Similarly, Gentoo itself belongs there, as we rely critically on it for work
219     and also my personal systems.
220 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
221     <dt>
222 dabbott 1.1 17) Which open source programs would you like to see developed?
223 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
224     <dd>
225 dabbott 1.1 Less reliance and imitation of windows, we need to come up with new concepts of
226     software more. The Evergreen Library system is making good inroads for that
227     field, but it's extremely complex. The Radeon and Nvidia open source drivers
228     are making good but slow progress. There's a couple of ideas I've had floating
229     in my head, mainly for reimplementing software where I don't like any of the
230     existing options, but none of them are really radically new.
231 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
232     <dt>
233 dabbott 1.1 18) What resources have you found most helpful when troubleshooting within Gentoo?
234 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
235     <dd>
236 dabbott 1.1 Don't underestimate the ability to take any code apart and inspect it, combined
237     with some form of debugging, if not gdb, then simply putting in your own print
238     statements.
239 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
240     <dt>
241 dabbott 1.1 19) Do you get to do much programming?
242 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
243     <dd>
244 dabbott 1.1 A lot less than I used to, but still probably on the order of 100 lines of
245     code/week.
246 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
247     <dt>
248 dabbott 1.1 20) What would be your dream job?
249 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
250     <dd>
251 dabbott 1.1 In some ways I'm very close to it already, as the lead developer nee
252     development manager and deep-problem sysadmin for IsoHunt.com. Our ruby
253     developers are like herding cats at times however, and I'd like to get more
254     time to work on problems of my own choice. It is already great in that I can
255     contribute to Gentoo during my work hours, as we are a 100% Gentoo shop for our
256     servers. I'd certainly consider doing more Gentoo stuff on a consulting basis
257     as well if the opportunity was available, as it tends to focus more on solving
258     interesting problems.
259 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
260     <dt>
261 dabbott 1.1 21) What can users do to improve Gentoo?
262 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
263     <dd>
264 dabbott 1.1 Read the documentation and source code, and ask intelligent questions, ideally
265     with patches to at least roughly implement your ideas. Filing stable requests
266     for stuff that's been around long enough would also help a lot.
267 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
268     <dt>
269 dabbott 1.1 22) What are some of the ways LDAP is put to use in the real world.
270 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
271     <dd>
272 dabbott 1.1 Is Gentoo not the real world? Outside of Gentoo, it's mainly good as a large
273     hierarchal database, most often used as an address book and directory service
274     for authentication and control. It's not always secured very well however, a
275     fact that got me into trouble at one point during university - the userPassword
276     field for on the address book server at the main campus wasn't restricted at
277     all, you could query it from the public internet, even with Netscape's address
278     book functionality. They have since fixed it.
279 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
280     <dt>
281 dabbott 1.1 23) What users would you like to recruit to become Gentoo Developers?
282 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
283     <dd>
284 dabbott 1.1 More developers focused on small sets of packages. Look at the Debian
285     maintainer system, they have more than a thousand maintainers, and their
286     bleeding edge stuff actually isn't that far behind. Some with interest in
287     backup applications or MySQL would go a long way to start.
288 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
289     <dt>
290 dabbott 1.1 24) Is the biggest hurdle in getting the users and developers working more
291     closely, the time it takes to build trust?
292 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
293     <dd>
294 dabbott 1.1 Not the time that it takes to build trust, but the degree to which users don't
295     realize why their proposed (crazy) solutions won't work out as nicely as they
296     want. They say simply "re-enable FOO" that was disabled in the latest version
297     of something by upstream, without examining the causes as to why it was
298     disabled or no longer functions like it used to. Giving detailed, but relevant
299     information is highly useful as well. If it's a segfault, provide a backtrace
300     with debugging, and figure out what conditions you need to reproduce a problem,
301     not just your set of conditions, but what simple subset of changes trigger it.
302 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
303     <dt>
304 dabbott 1.1 25) What are the specs of your current boxes?
305 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
306     <dd>
307 dabbott 1.1 The 4 machines at home that run the most often:
308 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
309     <dt>
310 dabbott 1.1 <b>curie</b>
311 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
312     <dd>
313 dabbott 1.1 <ul>
314     <li>old old web and mail server</li>
315     <li>AMD Athlon w/ 1GB RAM</li>
316     <li>200GiB RAID1 disk</li>
317     </ul>
318 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
319     <dt>
320 dabbott 1.1 <b>grubbs</b>
321 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
322     <dd>
323 dabbott 1.1 <ul>
324     <li>development and testing server, will ultimately replace curie.</li>
325     <li>Core2 Q6600 w/ 5.8 GiB of RAM (odd number due to BIOS MTRR issues)</li>
326     <li>1.7TiB RAID5 disk</li>
327     <li>3TiB external eSATA RAID5 enclosure</li>
328     <li>LTO3 backup tape</li> </ul>
329 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
330     <dt>
331 dabbott 1.1 <b>bohr</b>
332 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
333     <dd>
334 dabbott 1.1 <ul>
335     <li>desktop machine</li>
336     <li>Core2 Q9550 w/ 16GiB RAM</li>
337     <li>1.3TiB RAID10 disk</li>
338     </ul>
339 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
340     <dt>
341 dabbott 1.1 <b>speedracer</b>
342 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
343     <dd>
344 dabbott 1.1 <ul>
345     <li>1U server, in a local colocation facility</li>
346     <li>Asus RS120-E4/PA4</li>
347     <li>Core2 Q6600 w/ 8GiB RAM</li>
348     <li>2TiB RAID5 disk</li>
349     <li>Runs the Willikins bot for all of the Gentoo channels</li>
350     </ul>
351 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
352     <dt>
353 dabbott 1.1 <b>ebadi</b>
354 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
355     <dd>
356 dabbott 1.1 <ul>
357     <li>old Asus W5F laptop</li>
358     <li>Core1 w/ 1.5GiB RAM</li>
359     <li>200GiB disk</li>
360     </ul>
361 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
362     <dd>
363 dabbott 1.1 3ware RAID controllers on the non-laptop systems. Beyond these machines that
364     run most of the time, I've also got half a dozen embedded systems of different
365     architectures.
366 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
367     <dt>
368 dabbott 1.1 26) Did the Gentoo Developers played any tricks on you when you were a rookie,
369     new to the developer pool?
370 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
371     <dd>
372     None that I can recall, I wasn't on IRC a lot in the early days.
373     </dd>
374     <dt>
375 dabbott 1.1 27) What gives you the most enjoyment within the Gentoo community?
376 dabbott 1.2 </dt>
377     <dd>
378 dabbott 1.1 Definitely the Infrastructure project.
379 dabbott 1.2 </dd>
380     </dl>
381 dabbott 1.1
382     </body>
383 dabbott 1.2 </section>
384     </chapter>
385     </guide>

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