Aaron Seigo

A Short Intro

  • Located in: Calgary, Canada
  • Occupation: Software Developer
  • Nickname on IRC: aseigo.
    I realize it isn't a very creative or interesting nick, but too many people didn't grok my previous nick, stilborne. I got tired of explaining it and figured that the best solution was to pick something obvious and boring. I haven't had to explain my nick once since. Success!

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

I write code, participate in the ongoing usability efforts, write KDE-related articles and PR pieces and harass people on the mailing lists and IRC.

When did you first hear of KDE?

Sometime around the 1.0 release. At that time I used Linux and UNIX as servers only and made do with Macs and Windows machines on the desktop. As such, I had little to no personal need for a graphical environment on UNIX at that time. I played with KDE on a Linux box a bit, primarily out of curiosity, but that was about it. When I moved to Linux as my primary workstation OS in 1997 I was a hardcore blackbox user, though I did end up using one KDE application during my blackbox days: KMail.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

When alphas of KDE2 were released, I was helping run a small software development company. We were writing software primarily for Linux and were doing some work with Qt. Most of the people in the office ran KDE 1.1.2. One of the developers was an inveterate bleeding-edge junky: he was always the first in the office to try out anything new. So of course he loaded up the new KDE2 alpha the day it was available and we all crowded around his desktop and played with the new toy for a while. It was amazingly flaky, slow and unpolished; and yet the promise of it was rather obvious.

I installed the second alpha at home from source, but after a few such marathon builds I decided to start tracking CVS to reduce build times and how long I had to wait for my next KDE fix. Around this time, the financial backers of the company went belly-up in a most spectacular fashion and at a rather critical time for us. Our company foundered and went under. This left me with several months of unexpected free time during the wind-down process.

So I started poking around the internals of KDE a bit more. The more I looked at it, the more I fell in love. I decided that I should start contributing to KDE instead of just taking. Besides, it looked like tons of fun.

Having contributed only sporadically to a handful of Open Source projects in the past, I wasn't particularly sure how to proceed. So I decided to immerse myself in the culture of KDE, hoping that would hold the answers. To accomplish that I subscribed to as many of the KDE development email lists as I figured I could stomach. After a month or two of drinking from a fire hose, I decided that I had best find some motivation to keep up with the mailing lists because it was a fair amount of work. One evening while reading Zack Brown's Kernel Traffic and drinking a bit too much scotch it came to me: I should write something like Kernel Traffic for KDE's lists! This way I'd have a reason to stick with the email list reading, I'd be giving something back (if even in a small way) and it would be a way to get myself known to other KDE people. Thus was born the KDE Kernel Cousin, which today is better known as KDE Traffic.

Writing the kernel cousin was a lot of work, but it was very rewarding. It gave me the necessary motivation to keep reading the KDE mailing lists and the KDE codebase. As I became more familiar with KDE, I became more annoyed at various little things. Thus started the patches. Eventually someone told me to go get a CVS account so that I could maintain my own patches (aka stop bugging them ;). Some months later, in January of 2002, I gathered up the pluck and did just that.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

Not really. I get to work on it here and there at work, and I get the occasional contract to do KDE related work.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

It varies. Some weeks I don't touch KDE, and others I work on it for dozens of hours. Having a young family, being socially, politically and athletically active and having interests outside computers takes up a lot of my time. To be honest, I really don't know how much time on average I spend on KDE; and I probably don't want to. ;-)

Which section of KDE is underrated and could get more publicity?

Just one? Hrm... The desktop sharing, especially with the RDP support in 3.2, is brilliant. In fact, it's what allows me to run Linux on the desktop at work with having a windows machine in tow. The KDE kiosk stuff deserves more publicity, but we're really waiting on GUI pieces before that can happen. The KDE bindings to ECMA script, Python and Ruby are also ripe for excitement-generation among the developer community.

What do you think is still missing badly in KDE?

Documentation, both online and printed. It's not an easy task, and lots of it needs to be written. I could probably name half a dozen applications that I'd love to see in KDE, but documentation is probably the area that needs the most help. This isn't the fault of those working on documentation as they are doing a good job with the time they have. We simply need more of those people.

Another thing KDE is missing is a way to build and maintain meaningful relationships with ISVs, IHVs and VARs.

Technologically, I'd love to see a corporate accounting package, a high end set of graphics tools (non-linear video editing, image manip and vector graphics), a project management tool and a CRM suite. Network-enabled GUI tools for sys admins managing KDE installations is another item on my wish list.

What are your future plans for KDE?

Probably stating the obvious here, but so be it: to continue coding and writing about KDE. I'm also starting to do more public speaking engagements, and hope to continue that trend as I really enjoy it. I have a few new KDE software developments up my sleeve, but that's where they'll stay until they are ready. I don't like pre-announcing ideas before people can start playing with them.

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I love to code, I love community activities, I love challenges and I believe strongly in freedom. KDE feeds all of those desires for me.

A hot item at the moment is software integration, what's your opinion about that subject with regard to KDE?

I assume you are referring to integration non-KDE software with KDE software, as KDE software is already a highly integrated and flexible technology stack. On the issue of making KDE more inclusive, I think it is a great idea and has the potential to give KDE yet another strategic advantage over other available solutions.

KDE-ifying Open Office or allowing Gtk+ applications to use KDE libraries helps make the KDE experience more consistent for the user. Since we are primarily writing software for users, making their (our) experience better is what it is all about.

This does not mean that KDE applications will or should be shelved or put on hold in favour of these integration tasks, as true KDE applications will always have more to offer in performance, capabilities and support from the KDE project.

I think that some are concerned that by making KDE even more open than it already is to outside technologies, that we will be losing "lock in" advantages. Personally, I believe that KDE has so much to offer that we don't need to rely on "lock in" to keep developers and users. Besides, Free Software is supposed to be about, at least in part, freedom of choice in technology which is exactly the opposite of lock in. It's also undeniable that adopting third party technologies within KDE, and also have KDE technologies adopted by third parties, has been tremendous for KDE. From CD/DVD authoring tools, to XML libraries, to PDF renders, to printing back ends, to. ... KDE has benefitted and, in return, has benefitted the larger technology dynamic that our modern world relies on. Continuing this direction is good for KDE, good for our users and truly shows the world who the *real* Free desktop is.

Which application would you like to see integrated in KDE and how would you achieve that?

No Machines NX technologies, and I'll be achieving that by writing code.

Novell acquired Ximian in August for about 20 million. Do you regret not starting your own KDE company? If so what's stopping you?

Regret. Hm. Learning is better than regreting, so I try to avoid the latter altogether. =)

I do think that the market is starting to come around such that it's feasible to start a successful Linux desktop company, and I hope to see many KDE companies emerge in the coming years.

In my opinion, the monetization of Open Source is a fine thing, but one hopes that it can be done without sacrificing enjoyment or ethics. Many of the attempts thus far have failed in one or both of those ways.

What is your favorite widget style?

Depends on the alignment of the planets and what I've had to drink.

What does your desktop look like?

It's fairly plain with light earth tones being the dominant message. I run 6 virtual desktop, and they are all full of windows. So while my desktop setup may be simple, my obsessive multitasking makes up for it. I keep a tiny panel at the top of the screen with the page, task bar and sysmonitor while the main panel auto hides out of my way.

Speaking of which, now that I have dual head at work (and soon at home) we really need to make the panel work better on xinerama. It's starting to really annoy me.

If you were a KDE app, which one would you be? Why?

Uh-oh, have we strayed into the introspective/psychometrics section part of the survey? ;-)

Which of your family members do not use KDE and why not?

Peyton and Mahlah both use KDE. My biological family does not, primarily because I'm not around and they aren't very technically inclined.

What users do you have in mind when you're developing/contributing for/to KDE?

Depends what I'm writing. Sometimes I'm focused on the most average of users, other times beginners, other times advanced users or other hackers. One's audience changes with one's message.

Do you socialize with any other KDE contributors?

Online, sure. But I have yet to meet a single other KDE developer offline. I currently live out in the Canadian prairies (oh, how I miss the ocean!) where nary a member of the KDE project, aside from myself, roams.

If you had to be stuck in a lift/elevator with a KDE contributor who would it be?

Waldo; I think he's a very interesting person.

What was/is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

Hrm... probably forwarding a private email to a public list. My therapist has said that I shouldn't dwell on the episode, however, otherwise we may have to start the electroshock therapies again. And, as fun as they were, it's not something I want to repeat.

What the latest gadget you bought?

I'm not a big gadget person, so I don't buy them very often at all. I did get a cool wristwatch with a built in 256MB USB storage device for Christmas though. Très geeky, très cool. Even my non-geek friends ooh and ah over it.

Personal Questions

First things first. Are you married/do you have a partner? Or are you up for adoption?

I haven't engaged in a marriage agreement, and I don't really have a desire to change that. As for whether or not I have a partner in life: I do, but probably not within the traditional definitions. I suppose I could say that there are people whom I love very much and who reciprocate those feelings.

"Adoption" ... what an odd word for it.

If you have a partner, how does he/she copes with a KDE addict?

People somehow tend to manage (at least for a while) with my various idiosyncracies, KDE included. Mahlah (who is a KDE user) has been around for the duration of my KDE Experience thus far and has been rather patient and supportive of it. She's been trying to conjole me into writing a series of KDE books for about a year now.

Do you have children?

Yes: a wonderful boy who was born at the turn of the century and has red hair, bright eyes, a big smile and an insatiable appetite for adventure.

Do you have pets? Names? URL to photo's?

I don't have any pets at the moment, due to restrictions in the places I've lived for the last several years. But usually I have a cat or three around. Love them cats. Usually I name them after literary characters or geographical locations of personal interest. Mahlah has a Norfolk Terrier named Spencer, but that's her pet, not mine.

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

Canada is a huge and beautiful country with many "must-sees", from the gorgeous Atlantic shorelines to the Great Lakes to grand old cities like Montreal to the majestic Rocky mountains to the West coast rainforests. If I had to name just one, however, it would be where the forests meet the ocean on the British Columbian coast. Perhaps the Queen Charlotte islands (but only if you're there in the Spring or Summer... or like ungodly amounts of rain and stormy weather). Parts of my soul are permanently anchored in various harbours out on the West coast.

Which book is on your bedside table?

None, but there are two Douglas Coupland books on the floor: "All Families are Psychotic" and "Souvenir of Canada". They are the latest victims of my reading interest, after having re-read one of John Irving's (earlier) novels.

Who do you admire? Why?

I admire people who take strong personal convictions and use them to make the world around them a better, kinder, richer and more rewarding place for everyone. These people come in many different forms and guises; I couldn't list them all, and not just for their numbers but for the fact that many of them are anonymous and unknown.

How would you describe yourself?

Is this the one where my answer is supposed to end with "... and enjoys long strolls on the beach"? I don't know... If I were to commission a biography of myself, the last person I'd want writing it is myself. I'm not sure if that's an answer for or an objection to this question, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it.

What do you get passionate about?

My son and family, music (which I both listen to avidly as well as play semi-satisfactorily), politics and social issues (how can one not be passionate about the very fabric of our society?), literature (to quote Orlando, "Ah. Poetry"), film (both the astoundingly good as well as the astoundingly bad; MST3K, baby!), old things (I love vintage clothes, old mechanical objects...) ... hrm, I could keep going, but I suppose it's pretty evident that I get passionate about a lot of things.

What does "success" mean to you?

Satisfaction, which is something that can be measured in a lot of different ways. Effort, accomplishment, confidence and ethical fulfillment all play important parts in those measurements, however.

What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?

My son isn't really an "accomplishment", but he's probably the one thing that has given me more satisfaction than any other thing in this world thus far.

As for the rest of the list, while I get great satisfaction out of things I do publicly, the most satisfying of my accomplishments have been deeply personal events. The sort that don't really communicate well to strangers via an interview =)

You're stuck on a bus for 6 hours and are bored out of your skull. What do you do to amuse yourself?

Bored? What's that? If there are people around, there's conversation to be had. If there's paper and a pen, there's something to be scribbled down. There is also an endless variety of ideas, people and general mysteries to contemplate. I was one of those "odd" kids who would sit alone and think for hours on end, and nothing much has really changed in that regard. I've found it to be a very effective way to ward off boredom.

Among your friends, you are best known for ...?

Probably my involvement with computers/Linux/KDE and my outspoken nature.

Your favorite place to be is: ...?

Sitting on the rocks by the ocean. Perhaps with a good friend, a good book, a good drink ... or all three.

What's your favorite web site at the moment?

I have a soft spot for memepool.com. Probably because it's a great source for all things oddball. Like Abandoned Places, or the 365 Days Project or MC Chris or ... Orkut.com is also pretty interesting at the moment, though that may well pass. UrbanDictionary is hella funny, too.