The Linux Setup – Neil McGovern, Debian Project Leader

Neil is being modest when he calls Debian Project Leader a figurehead position. The reality is he coordinates a lot of work. Linux Voice did a nice interview with him and one of the things that came up is that while in his day-to-day work he can tell people what to do, he doesn’t have that option in Debian, which is a community project. To me, that makes his job that much harder. You can see Neil’s commitment to leadership in his choice of essential software. He went for an IRC client! Neil’s Debian role is about leading and collaborating and Linux gives him the tools to do that effectively.

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  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    I’m the current Debian Project Leader—which is a very impressive title that boils down to being a figurehead for the Debian project.

    I first started getting involved with Debian in 2003, and have wended my way through various roles in the project, from designing t-shirts to being the Release Manager for the last three releases, Lenny, Squeeze and Wheezy.

    In my day job, I’m the engineering manager for Collabora, an open source software consultancy which is fairly similar—basically making sure that all the engineers are happy and helping unblock any problems that come along.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I think it primarily comes down to flexibility—the ability to get things working how you want them, how you can fix issues that are annoying you and then feed that back to the community so that others can also benefit.

    Secondly, it’s about trust. The difference between using free software and proprietary software is important—knowing exactly what is running on your computer leads to a safer and more secure environment.

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    Not surprisingly, Debian. I usually use the stable version, as having things break when I’m about to meet a client for a meeting is at-the-least embarrassing! However, when the new stable release is in its final stages of preparation, I switch to that and try it out.

    Given that (at time of writing) we’re only a week away from the next release, I’ve been running Debian 8 (codenamed “Jessie”) for a while, and it’s working great.

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    At the moment, I’m using GNOME 3.14. I’ve used various desktops in the past; I think the order was KDE, GNOME 2, Xfce, Awesome, Xfce again, then GNOME 3.

    I may have a look around again at some point, but at the moment GNOME seems to work by default, and my workload at the moment means I don’t have that much time for tinkering around with things to get it working exactly right. GNOME is “good enough” and lets me get on with my actual work.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    irssi. In the free software world, communication is all-important, and IRC is a great resource to just chat with people. I’m also a netop on OFTC, and my irssi setup has become quite customized over the years to accommodate not only having to deal with any unruly users, but the 96(!) IRC channels I’m currently on.

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    I’m currently on a X220. I’ve been using the X series of laptops for a number of years now as they’re light and rugged. Also, they work with Debian out of the box!

    There’s been a few changes in the series since the X220 though, so I may need to look at a different make/model after this one gets too old. For now though, I’m sure I’ll get another year or two of use from it.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    Sure. It’s a pretty basic setup, mostly a web browser and a couple of terminals. The photo in the background is me at about 3000 feet above Cambridgeshire, UK. In what spare time I have, I’m gaining my Private Pilot License!

Neil McGovern's desktop

Interview conducted April 18, 2015


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

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