Susan Linton and the Tuxmachines
"Yeah, sure. It might be fun," was Susan's first reply when I requested an interview with her. First impression? I am not wrong when I say that Susan, the dynamic flow of energy guiding Tuxmachines, does waddle the waddle! In our short but friendly email exchanges, she revealed a bit more of herself, and Tuxmachines.
Archie Arevalo (AA): You are considered by many as a POWERade™ in the Linux world. You were at the driver's seat of DistroWatch.com for three weeks while making sure everything gets done over at Tuxmachines. How do you do it?
Susan Linton (SL): Well, it wasn't that hard really. I just carried on business as usual at Tuxmachines, but I worked on the DistroWatch all week long. More specifically, as a new Linux version was released, I'd add it to the column draft or as I heard some news worthy enough for DWW, I'd write it up then - instead of waiting until Saturday or Sunday and doing it all in one swoop.
As far as Tuxmachines and the reviews: It was really just an extension of a hobby I've had for years. I'd test new distros and write friends about them, and they'd do the same. So, when I started Tuxmachines, I'd just take more screenshots than previously and try to make the descriptions into a more readable and interesting article - try to make it a bit more sequential, add more detail, and try to use proper grammar and such. :D
For the news posts/links: I have many feeds in Akregator and many, many bookmarks. I try to hit the bookmarks at least once a day and refresh the feeds several times a day. I check some web search engines a couple of times a day as well. Basically, it's a lot of virtual leg-work.
AA: In the light of the increasing popularity of Linux, more computer users are expected to join the bandwagon. Many of these new users will be young people dissatisfied with the proprietary OS that came preinstalled in their machines. They will have limited amount of monies to buy new software and upgrades. Do you think Linux IS the answer for them?
SL: Oh sure, Linux is the answer.
Linux has been making steady progress since even before I began using it. It's only logical that after so many manhours, Linux has become not only a viable option for geeks but also for the general population. Just about any common task that I can think of can be performed on Linux faster and more efficiently.
Just in the 6 years since I began using Linux, I've seen a lot of improvement in many areas. The key areas are hardware detection and auto-configuration. Many users are coming from Windows where all they need do is load a driver disk, click OK several times, and reboot; or they have no experience at all. Linux hardware support has come to the point of merely booting their system.
Software and desktop improvements are abundant as well. They have evolved into polished, complete solutions. For example, KDE is so complete that I've seen several distros ship with just it on top of a base system. With OpenOffice.org, they have almost complete compatibility with Microsoft Office.
Unless someone needs to use proprietary or commercial software only available for Microsoft, then I think Linux could very well be a complete solution for them.
AA: Three of your "favorite brands" are SUSE, PCLinuxOS and Gentoo. There must be certain similarities and notable differences why they are your favorites. What would these be?
SL: For me, Linux is Linux is Linux. What's similar? The underlying base system. Not that they are identical by any means, but as long as someone learns some of the more common tools and how to use them at the commandline, they can enjoy any of the offerings out there. So for me, what's different is less apparent than what's similar.
I kept that list short for the sake of rhythm of the article. My list of favorites includes many others. I hate to say it though, but one of the common factors in my list of favorites, with few exceptions, is the system's initial impression or curb appeal. I like the pretty distros. That's the main similarity between SUSE and PCLinuxOS - polished, professional and beautiful. Also in that list are Wolvix, Elive, KateOS, DreamLinux, ...even Xandros and Freespire. I've always been a sucker for a pretty face.
Exceptions to that criteria on the list are Slackware and the traditional Gentoo. Slackware doesn't dress-up their desktops, but I have a long-standing love for it because of its simplicity and stability. Slackware is kind of like Linux after a good spring cleaning. Gentoo I began using when you could build your own environment from the ground up, with your optimizations, your choices. I found it to be the most liberating computing experience one could have. This is why I continue to use it daily to this day.
AA: A pretty face... and indeed, a large slice of the Linux pie goes for those suave, well-dressed new releases. But there are literally a hundred different distros to choose from, and for many users, distro-hopping seems more of a quest than a chance. In the end, most users do manage to settle down. If you were the digital Zeus and had your way with all things Linux, would you just flash your thunderbolt and create the Adonis of the Linux distros?
SL: I suppose if I was the digital Zeus I might try, but I'm not sure I could improve upon the current offerings available. As Ladislav once said, making a LiveCD these days is so easy that every Tom, Dick, Jane has made one - and yes, I've thought of it myself. I've spent a lot of my time over the last 5 years testing and reviewing others' so you'd think I could possibly design the perfect distro. But the truth is, what is the best method of package management? What is the best desktop environment? What is the best startup and services method? Or even, what are my favorites? Answer: I don't think I have preferred methods. I like apt-get, I like rpm/urpmi, I like portage, I like source tarballs - all pretty much equally. They all have their pros and cons. KDE, Fluxbox, Xfce4? Pros & cons. And when it comes to eye candy - isn't that in the eye of the user? So, what would be the most functional, efficient, stable, inclusive, and beautiful distro in the world? Ask 100 people and get 100 different answers. So, long answer short: No, probably not.
AA: Going back to Tuxmachines, it seems that the hobby has grown to be one of the most preferred Linux sites on the Web. What could you account for its success?
SL: I've been lucky enough to have gotten a few links with some of the bigger boys regularly and with the big dawgs on occasion. If it weren't for PCLinuxOnline and DistroWatch, I probably would have never been heard of.
I suppose folks like to hear what a distro offers and see what it looks like. Many wonder which distros work good and which might need further development. Seems that even the most loyal of users sometimes want to try out other distros from time to time and perhaps they use my reviews to help decide what to test. I reckon some folks like to just keep up with the development of some of those distros I watch closely like (open)SUSE or Mandriva. I think some of my visitors must be Windows users looking for their first Linux distro as I sure see a lot of IE hits in the logs. I was surprised to see a lot of Mac hits too. And then I have my regulars that I think come for the links to news and other interesting things I find around the net. I have a really cute logo too! :D
AA: Do you have any plans for it in the future?
SL: Just keep on keeping on. I'd like to get a second in command, someone to help out with hunting down stories and perhaps writing one once in a while. I have someone in mind, but I haven't asked him yet. Alternatively, I've thought of posting for a co-editor; I still might.
I am also looking forward to the day I can afford to move the site to a high-speed dedicated server. I tried out a coupla virtual dedicated servers, but they didn't work out so well. So for now, we're back where we started.
I'd like to expand my testing equipment as well so as to accommodate more users. So many wonder about wireless and laptop support. I hope to be able to cater to them in the near future.
AA: Will you continue your involvement at DistroWatch?
SL: Well, it was just the one time thing. Ladislav usually uses Adam from MadPenguin to do his Weeklies on the rare occasion he's on vacation or something. He just asked me this time because Adam was going to be on vacation during the same period this year. But if he needs me again, I will surely be there for him.
AA: I agree that you do have a really cute logo. According to the Free Online Dictionary, to waddle is to walk with short steps that tilt the body from side to side. A waddle, I think, is the Tux walk, slow and sturdy. Can you explain to our readers what "Do you waddle the waddle?" on your logo means?
SL: Well, it's a play on the old saying "You talk the talk, do you walk the walk?" that means 'do you do as you say you do?' or 'do you practice what you preach?' So, I guess in the logo it means 'do you use Linux in your daily life?' or 'you say you use linux - do you really?' Do you walk the walk? It's not meant to be condescending, just an inspiration - or a goal.
AA: One last question, and I've taken so much of your time already. You've tested, reviewed and use PCLOS. Where do you think it'll be, say in a year?
SL: In 0.94 and working on 0.95. :D I don't know how many users they have now, but the number is sure to keep rising. The developers are honing their skills and their distro just gets better and better. They listen to their users and design around the feedback. They have earned a large and loyal following as a result. I look for them to continue their growth and take a larger percentage of the userbase. I think PCLOS can have a real bright future.
AA: Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I am sure that the resulting edit and publication will portray you in a brighter light. I will inform you of the publication date and download link. I hope that this will not be the last time we can "chat".
SL: Thank you.