Archive for the ‘Meet the devs’ Category

Meet Graham Binns

Friday, November 7th, 2008

In the first of a series that I briefly considered calling Meet the meat, here’s an interview with Launchpad developer Graham Binns.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll probe each of the Launchpad team. If you’ve got any questions – whether for everyone or a specific individual – drop me a mail.

Matthew: What do you do on the Launchpad team?

Graham: I’m a developer and one of the five developers on the Launchpad Bugs team. We work almost exclusively on the Launchpad Bug Tracker.

Matthew: What can we go and look at that you’ve done on Launchpad?

Graham: The bugs pages :)!

Actually, a great deal of my work is work you don’t get to see. Although I do some UI work (I’m working on something pretty cool at the moment that should hopefully appear in either Launchpad 2.1.11 or 2.1.12) the majority of what I do is back-end. In particular, I’ve been responsible for developing the way Launchpad interacts with other bug trackers like Bugzilla and Trac.

I’m also the principal developer of the Distribution Upstream Bug Report, which allows you to track which bugs have been forwarded upstream (and which need to be forwarded) for packages in a distribution. You can see the Ubuntu version as an example.

Matthew: Where do you work?

Graham: From my home in Lancaster, UK, most of the time.

Matthew: What can you see from your office window?

Graham: Right now I can see a very damp and angry cock-pheasant and a field full of cows.

Matthew: What did you do before working at Canonical?

Graham: I spent a couple of years working for a (now defunct – nothing to do with me, squire) mobile content company, where I did web development work in PHP. Before that I worked for a local government authority doing .NET development.

Matthew: How did you get into free software?

Graham: It took a while for me to get into free software proper but I was first introduced to it, or to Linux at any rate, by a college lecturer who installed SUSE 4.something on one of the lab machines. It ran a very clunky version of KDE and I hated using most of the time but I was taken by the idea of people doing all this work for no other reason than that they wanted to.

Matthew: What’s more important? Principle or pragmatism?

Graham: That depends on the situation and the principle. I’d like to think that I’m pragmatic where I need to be.

Matthew: Do you/have you contribute(d) to any free software projects?

Yes, though not nearly as much as I’d like. Actually I tend to develop my own little apps and shove them out into the world more often than I contribute to other projects, usually because of lack of time.

I’ve done a few small things in the not-too-distant past, though most of them are gathering dust at the moment:

Besides that I do my best to contribute by filing and triaging bugs where I can for the software I use, since I don’t have much programming time to lend to projects.

Matthew: Tell us something really cool about Launchpad that not enough people know about?

Graham: Not enough people, I think, are aware of Launchpad’s capability for syncing with other bug trackers. It’s something that we’re working on making better, and there are a lot of bug trackers there to sync with, but eventually we’re going to get to the point where a project’s users will be able to use Launchpad to file bugs against that project and Launchpad will automatically push those bugs to the project’s own bug tracker (say a Bugzilla or Trac instance).

That means that projects will no longer have to worry about people filing bugs in Launchpad that don’t then get forwarded upstream. In the same way, bugs on the remote tracker will be displayed through Launchpad, so users will be able to see bugs on a project without having to switch bug trackers all the time

We’ve got a couple of cool plugins that work with Bugzilla and Trac to make it possible for this bi-directional syncing to take place (we’re interested in expanding this to other bugtrackers, too).

If people are interested in installing these plugins they can file a question at and let us know so that we can point them in the right direction.

Matthew: What colour socks are you wearing?

Graham: Blue.

Matthew: Time for Kiko‘s special question! You’re at your computer, you reach for your wallet: what are you most likely to be doing?

Graham: Interesting question. I’m most likely to be reaching for some form of government issue ID (though why I’d need it I couldn’t tell you) since I’ve memorised my credit card and bank account numbers (which should tell you something about how often I use them).