We’ve seen quite a few new faces in Canonical’s Launchpad team lately. Ian Booth is one of them and is now part of the Launchpad Code team.
I asked him a bit about who he is and what he is working on.
Matthew: What do you do on the Launchpad team?
Ian: I only recently started working on Launchpad. I work on the “Code” team, reporting to Tim Penhey.
We deliver functionality associated with managing and importing branches, merge proposals, code reviews; Bazaar-Launchpad integration; the XML-RPC and web services API etc.
Personally, I’ve also done some work on improving the menu rendering performance and other infrastructure type things.
Matthew: Can we see something that you’ve worked on?
Ian: There’s not a great deal that’s visible to the end user (or what could be considered a headline feature) just yet.
Something I could mention is that I’ve done work on improving how lp: short alias URLs (eg lp:firefox/trunk) are handled. If an invalid link is processed, the user is redirected back to the referring page with a nice message instead of getting an oops page.
Matthew: Where do you work?
Ian: I work from home in Brisbane, Australia.
Matthew: What can you see from your office window?
Ian: I can see the kids’ trampoline and our back garden (or should that be all the weeds).
Matthew: What did you do before working at Canonical?
Ian: I worked for 10 years at Caterpillar, developing an onboard/office system to control the real time running of large open cut mining operations, using cool technologies like GPS, mesh wireless networking and embedded onboard computers. I’ve also worked as a data communications engineer, project manager, and also tried my hand a getting a startup company up and running (sadly, without success).
Matthew: How did you get into free software?
Ian: The use of open source software has been critical to the success of various projects I have worked on. A large factor for me in pushing the use of such software on these projects has been the need to be able to diagnose and fix issues, and develop customisations/enhancements, which would otherwise have been at the mercy of the vendors’ release schedule or otherwise out of our control.
Matthew: What’s more important? Principle or pragmatism?
Ian: Can I say both? I don’t think they have to necessarily be mutually exclusive. But I would err on the side of pragmatism, so long as it fitted within my moral boundaries.
I suspect one context in which you may be framing the question could be the inclusion of binary blobs and so called non-free components within otherwise open source/free software distributions like Ubuntu. In those cases, so long as it’s legal to do so, I say give the end user the functionality they need every time.
Matthew: Do you/have you contribute(d) to any free software projects?
Ian: I’ve contributed features and/or bug fixes to Sofia (a web framework which was popular around 10 years ago), Hibernate, Zope (only a very small fix so far but hopefully more as I get more knowledge), the Bazaar plugin for Intellij, and other (much) smaller scale projects.
Matthew: Tell us something really cool about Launchpad that not enough people know about.
Ian: Hmmm. That’s a difficult question given my short time on the project. One feature I found really useful is the degree of integration between Launchpad and Bazaar, especially the recent improvements to allow lp: alias names to be used to refer to branches.
Matthew: Is there anything in particular that you want to change in Launchpad?
Ian: I would love to modernise the GUI and/or look and feel to make it more “sexy”.
Matthew: Thanks Ian!