Behind the Scenes: Davyd Madeley

Lucas Rocha continues his look at the people behind GNOME with Davyd Madeley, GNOME Applets maintainer and author of the popular ‘Sneak Peak’ articles. Davyd talks about how he got involved with GNOME, why it excites him and his opinions on the next big thing for GNOME.

Short Intro

  • Age: 21
  • Located in: Perth, Australia
  • Profession: Full-time Student studying Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Western Australia. Part-time Software engineer writing GTK+ applications for Fugro Seismic Imaging.
  • Nickname on IRC: davyd
  • Homepage and blog: http://www.davyd.id.au

Interview

In what ways do you contribute to GNOME?

I’ve been the maintainer of GNOME-Applets (those little thingies that you have running on your panel) since version 2.7 something. I also write articles for GNOME Journal, work on the release notes and write the popular “sneak peaks” into the next GNOME release. I have been known to randomly submit patches for small bits and pieces here and there throughout the GNOME project.

How and when did you get involved in GNOME?

I’d been a groupie since about 1.2, but never really contributed anything. I started dogfooding GNOME 2.0 betas from Redcarpet and started getting really excited thanks local hacker James Henstridge. My poor knowledge of C held me back, I don’t think I submitted my first patch until early 2004. I then worked on the blogging client Drivel for a while, and got a CVS account. The rest, as they say, is history.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on GNOME?

The people. I have made some really great friends in the GNOME community. I also enjoy the moment when a project really starts to come together. Finally, it’s nice to receive thanks from users for the work you do and to know that in some small way you are helping to make the world a better place.

How much time do you usually spend on GNOME?

A hard question, because I’m employed mainly to develop applications on top of the GNOME stack, so does that count? My contributions to core GNOME basically depend on how busy I am with the rest of my life. After school, work, eating, sleeping and my other commitments, that is the time I hack on GNOME. I guess it would average out to a couple of hours a day. Unfortunately for me, after a day of writing code, often when you get home you feel like doing anything except write more code.

What do you think is still badly missing in GNOME?

I guess it depends what you define as GNOME. You might say that the GNOME Desktop doesn’t have a music player or photo management application, but every single distribution is now shipping a choice for both of these. Thanks to Project Utopia, we’re living our future. Lots of hardware now plugs’n’plays and works correctly and NetworkManager is making the basics of networking just work.

One noticeable oversight in GNOME for me is the lack of integration of some of our “boo-ya” technology. Network availability could be integrated into a lot more applications (so many applications now seem to involve the network in some way). It would also be nice to see improved networking support for things like VPNs and Bluetooth. These types of things are important to the kind of people who will push to adopt GNOME outside of the school laboratory and corporate workstation environment.

In your opinion, what should be the next GNOME big steps?

Integration and collaboration. If I have a Bluetooth device, its useful functionality should be integrated with my GNOME applications. My Nokia 770 (or the one I wish I had) should be able to seamlessly integrate with my GNOME Desktop. Not just by syncing data with Evolution, but also at an application level integration. The Jokosher remote is an interesting example of this.

Collaboration is somewhere where we can really get ahead of the game. Collaborative Abiword, collaborative Inkscape, these applications are really pushing the limits with how people expect conventional applications to function. The way we work is undergoing a paradigm shift, in that we no longer all work together in the same office and sometimes, there is no office at all. The ability to collaborate in the same basic way but over a network is seriously a cool thing.

In times of GNOME 3.0 discussion, how do you see GNOME in the next 5 years? Where are we going?

I dislike talking about GNOME 3.0 and Topaz. Changes, as wide sweeping as have been discussed, happening all at once would cause significant user backlash (in my opinion). Instead, we should look at the ideas being developed by people in the community and take those ideas on board, as part of a process that is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

In 5 years time, I think we’ll see a lot of the ideas from Gimmie and Lowfat present in the desktop, combined with some really stunning eye-candy graphics. But at the same time, I don’t think we will have shaken too many of the “traditional” aspects of a desktop environment. Telepathy and Galago will provide the basis of integrated desktop presence, communication and collaboration framework.

You’ve been maintaining GNOME Applets for more than 2 years. What are your future plans for this module?

The best thing about GNOME-Applets is that you can give the individual applet authors their heads, so each of the applets mostly maintains itself, but I do have a couple of plans. I am still looking to cut the fat and the dead wood from the module. We’re getting closer to all of the really antique applet code being completely replaced (where a lot of code was simply ported from GNOME 1.4). Nowadays I am mostly happy with the state of the module and personally I think most things are functioning as expected, so we can start focusing on improving the overhead of the applets and fixing badly implemented code. As it stands, an applet has a lot of memory and CPU baggage for something that you want to be small and running all of the time.

The big thing that is on the way is the new applets API that Ryan Lortie is working on for the Google Summer of Code. It is my hope that this API will make it easier to develop applets (especially simple monitor applets like the weather applet or the battery status applet), as well as offering new ways for applets to work (you’ll no doubt read more on this in the future, once I’ve gotten my act together). At the moment there is no timeline for when this will be completed.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

Ubuntu. It was the natural progression from Debian, but I wish it could do a release without having at least one really crack change to GNOME. It’s worth mentioning that I use Fedora at work (v. 5) and it’s actually not that bad.

What is GNOME’s killer app? Why?

I once read that Xscreensaver was the killer app for the Linux desktop. Seeing the effect that the screensaver hacks have on first-year university students, I might just agree with them.

Who are your favorite GNOME hackers? Why?

I don’t like to play favorites, I respect and admire everyone who finds the time to contribute to GNOME. Here are some people who are really rocking my world at the moment: Brandon Hale, Matthew Garrett, James Henstridge, Christian Kellner, Ryan Lortie, Shaun McCance, Robert McQueen, John (J5) Palmieri, Danilo Segan (the prettiest hacker in the world) and Thomas Wood, but there are so many more. I also have unending respect for Dave Neary and Quim Gil, who are people without limits.

What does your desktop look like?

Murray Cumming once described it as being a “geek’s desktop”, but honestly I don’t think it’s that geeky. People often comment that I really am running a lot of applets, to which I remind them that I do need to know if they work or not. At the moment, my desktop also features a number of temporary files from the aftermath of GUADEC. While the contents will change, the presence of random collections of files on my desktop is fairly constant. Every now and again I will go through and sort them out and clean up the mess. Kind of like my actual desk, I suppose. Somewhere, there will be an Evolution window and a web browser, they’re both fixtures no matter what I’m doing.

Who or what in your life would you say influenced you most?

My father taught me to program when I was 6 and how to build 286s some time after that. I think it’s safe to say this pretty much shaped the direction of my life and my love of computing. In more recent history the biggest influences on my life have been Stephanie (my fianceé) and the University Computer Club (which really has produced some of the most talented hardware and software hackers in the world) at the University of Western Australia.

How would you describe yourself?

A little overweight (distressingly). Not as bitter as people might initially perceive. Relatively easy going. Blue eyed with long hair.

What do you get passionate about?

Music, saxophone, electronics, software, programming, penguins (I have quite a collection of plush penguins) and GNOME. I also get excited by Ikea and Crumpler. I do not get passionate about tax.

What sites do you visit daily?

Planet GNOME, Planet UCC, the blogs of any friends not already covered in the first two, and too many web comics to really be healthy.

Free Software or Open Source?

I like to use the term libre software. Otherwise I will use whatever is required to illustrate exactly what I’m talking about. Really we’re all singing the same tune.

What do you do in your free time?

Play music, drink way too much, poke at random bits of software and hardware.

Married, partner or up for adoption?

Engaged.

If you have a partner or children, how do they cope with a GNOME addict?

Stephanie has her own hobbies to keep herself busy. It’s often me who is the one crying out for attention.

If someone visits your country, which spot is a must-see?

I guess that depends on which coast you go to. Melbourne is a nice place to visit. In Perth, there are certainly touristy places, but as a resident, I’ve always found them a bit passé. Although allegedly King’s Park is the largest inner city park in the world.

Quickies

A phrase?

Hack the Gibson

A movie?

Hackers (see phrase)

A food?

Vegetables curry (with rice)

A place?

“CD/DVD Creator”

A text editor?

vim

A band?

Crowded House (although The Whitlams or Orbital would also be good
choices)

A song?

I Make Hamburgers (The Whitlams)

About the Authors

Lucas Rocha is a MsC candidate in Contemporary Communication and Culture at Federal University of Bahia who maintains Eye of GNOME (aka EOG) and Zenity. Also, he tries to help the brazilian l10n team by revising and commiting translations and is regular GNOME Journal writer. In his free time, he plays drums and percussion.

Discuss this story with other readers on the GNOME forums.

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Posted on August 15, 2006, in August 2006. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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