Now it’s time to speak to Paul Hummer — the man known as rockstar — as he spills all about his life in the Launchpad team.
Matthew: What do you do on the Launchpad team?
Paul: I help integrate Bazaar into Launchpad. Basically, anything under code.launchpad.net is where I am.
Matthew: Can we see something in Launchpad that you’ve worked on?
Paul: Much of the layout for Launchpad 2.0 was work I did. I’m currently working on making the import system better and exposing much of Launchpad’s merge proposal functionality through the API.
Matthew: Where do you work?
Paul: In the basement office of my home in Fort Collins, CO, USA.
Matthew: What can you see from your office window?
Paul: There’s currently a squirrel looking down the window well, teasing Choco (my dog).
Matthew: What did you do before working at Canonical?
Paul: Early on, I helped write a social networking webapp in PHP for the Bakersfield Californian newspaper. After that, I did a lot of independent consulting for everything from managing virtual machines and mobile payment processing to RFID research and embedded Linux development.
Matthew: How did you get into free software?
Paul: In a nutshell, I would dig old computers out of the trash when the Colorado State University students would throw them away at the end of the school year. Usually, none of them had a ton of guts, so Windows wouldn’t run well on them. I discovered Red Hat 4, and it was just momentum after that.
Matthew: What’s more important? Principle or pragmatism?
Paul: I think it’s quite possible to have both. I’m very much against extremes in either direction, but I think it’s good to have a good set of pragmatic principles.
Matthew: Do you/have you contribute(d) to any free software projects?
Paul: It depends on your definition of “contribute.” Advocacy? Too many apps to count. Bug reporting? Quite a few.
As far as actually writing code, I think my first contributions were when I was 16, to apps that apparently aren’t around anymore. Recently, my contributions include loggerhead, cscvs, many Django apps, and a pretty new media center application called Entertainer.
Matthew: Tell us something really cool about Launchpad that not enough people know about?
Paul: Ooh! Ooh! I have two things. First, merge proposals are AWESOME. We’ve been using them in Entertainer since very early on. They’ve come a long way, and I think they have an obvious role to play in increasing the quality of free software. I pity free software projects that don’t have a formal code review process.
The second is code imports. I feel like LP users have this wonderful opportunity to work on patches for other open source projects without having to do the “prove yourself” dance to get commit access. Hacka hacka on a bzr branch until your patch is ready, and then submit it to the core devs. This way, you get all your work versioned, instead of having a checkout of the svn or CVS from core, and just having one version of your patch (the one created with svn diff).
Matthew: Have you experimented with alternative keyboard layouts?
Paul: Yes. I’m a Dvorak user, although my netbook is still on Qwerty. One thing I’ve noticed is that more often than not, you get typo’d words that make other words. For instance, ‘r’ and ‘l’ are right next to each other, and so when I try to type ‘whole’ I often type something offensive by accident.
Matthew: Kiko‘s special question! You’re at your computer, you reach for your wallet: what are you most likely to be doing?
Paul: Let me just say that the most evilly genius thing Amazon.com does is SAVE my credit card number, so it’s too easy to spend money there. I buy A LOT of technical books, and recently, a lot of fiction books.