'We want to build a strong product that is stable and people can rely on'

OpenSUSE interview
Vincent Untz is the chairman of the OpenSUSE board, Gnome hacker and all-round nice guy

Vincent Untz is the chairman of the OpenSUSE board, Gnome hacker and all-round nice guy. He's also part of the team at Attachmate working on SUSE's cloud product. So, in short, he's seen free software from almost every angle.

Linux Format magazine caught up with him at FOSDEM, in Brussels, where he was due to give a talk titled "Have the Gnome community turned crazy?"

LXF: How did you get started with open source software?

VU: Actually, I usually say free software, not open source. I got started around 2002, I think. At the beginning of the year, I was just curious about it. I was looking at what was happening, and that was the point when the Gnome team was working on Gnome 2, just before 2.0, so there was a lot of activity on the mailing list.

I was really looking at that, and at some point I thought 'maybe I could try to help'. So I started doing various things, like looking at the bugs, helping with the membership committee and stuff like that. Over the year, I just did more and more.

LXF: You've been very active in the Gnome community. How did you end up with OpenSUSE, which is more commonly known for KDE?

VU: Back in 2005, I was trying to help on Ubuntu actually. I contributed a few patches, and after a while I said I couldn't do both Gnome and Ubuntu. I had to pick one, and it was Gnome.

During that time, I was still doing my studies. In 2007, I finished my PhD thesis, and so I started looking for a job. Back then, it was Novell, and they had a pretty good position doing stuff for Gnome, and that was my dream job. I joined, and part of the job was to work on OpenSUSE.

Half upstream and half OpenSUSE. So that's how I joined the OpenSUSE community. That was the time we were opening the development to the community, so it was quite exciting.

Vincent Untz

LXF: Currently, you're chairman of the board of OpenSUSE. What does that involve?

VU: Meetings! A lot of meetings. The role of the board is to help organise the community and handle the financial and legal side of things. We try not to get involved in the technical discussions. We leave the technical things to the technical leadership and the release team.

All the non-technical stuff depends on the board. The chairman is appointed by SUSE, the other five members are elected by the community. I'm not really sure it's a good thing to be appointed by the company, but it's for historical reasons. The chairman is really there to make sure the board stays active, getting focused, and moves forward, but otherwise he's a normal board member.

LXF: Do you still have time to work on code?

VU: Actually, no. I still have a job, which is not being the chairman - that comes on top of my normal job. I work on the cloud, which is on OpenStack, but other than that I don't have much time for technical matters anymore.

I try to help the Gnome team every now and then, because I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and I'm trying to share that with the team, but they're doing quite well without me. It looks like I'm not needed for the Gnome team. It's quite good to see that we've built a community, so I can go away from the Gnome team and it goes well.

LXF: How is OpenSUSE used with SUSE. Do they use it as the base of their commercial offering?

VU: The way we see it, OpenSUSE is the upstream for SUSE Enterprise. We take OpenSUSE at one point. We stabilise it. We add certain features that are requested by our customers. We make sure that it's well tested.