Philip Rodrigues

A Short Intro

The Interview

In what ways do you make a contribution to KDE?

Any way I can :-). If you want something 'official', I'm a documentation writer and I do some co-ordination work for the docs team too. But I also do user support on IRC and mailing lists and some bug triage. I even have one or two code patches in KDE (though admittedly, they're one-liners).

When did you first hear of KDE?

I installed SuSE Linux 6.3 back in the last millennium when the dot-com boom was on (and spirits were high, and men were real men, and women were real women, etc). KDE was the default, and I've stuck with it.

How and when did you get involved in KDE?

After a year of two of using KDE, I thought it would be great to give something back. I made noise on various mailing lists trying to find a place to fit in, and after a few attempts, I ended up talking to Mike McBride, who was the documentation team co-ordinator at the time. With his help, I got started writing docs (my first two were KFoulEggs and Klipper, though I can't remember which order). The rest, as they say, is history (as they say).

What was your most recent commit to KDE?

My last few have all been just committing other people's content and fixes to docs, although in the recent Konqueror bugs day and made a lot of entries in the KDE bugzilla.

Are you being paid to work on KDE?

No, although I was paid by George Staikos a while back to work on the Kst docs (check it out, it's a pretty cool app, used by Real Scientists to do some neat science). It was a good experience, although I think I'm going to stick to voluntary KDE work in the future.

How much time do you usually spend on KDE?

Hard to judge. Doing things like IRC support, I can start and stop, which is nice as a break from "work work", so it's hard to tell exactly how much time I spent.

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

The community, and how easy it is to get involved and help improve KDE. We've just run a Konqueror bug triage day, with the aim of properly categorising the bug reports against Konqueror in the bugs database. I was worried that it would end up being me and one or two others sitting on IRC, but in the end, we had about 25 people participating, from old hands to newcomers, and we managed to investigate and confirm or close about 150 bugs. I was really impressed by the response of the KDE community at large, especially since we didn't advertise particularly widely.

What do you think is still badly missing in KDE?

I'm not really sure. I think I've been using KDE exclusively for so long that I don't remember any features from other OSes or DEs that would be useful :-)

Do you have any plans for KDE 4?

Nothing in particular, although I have some half finished docs things that I need to put the effort into to get them ready for KDE 4 (like PDF generation of the docs).

What motivates/keeps you motivated to work on KDE?

I like being able to do little things that help out, and it's really satisfying to see something I've worked on released in the latest version. Sometimes, though, I think it's just sheer bloodymindedness :-)

What chances do you see in your country for KDE as a desktop platform?

UNIX systems get a lot of use in academia, so I'll probably get a chance to see where KDE in action in the next few years while doing my PhD.

Which text editor do you use? Why?

Emacs – it has a great SGML/XML mode which works a treat for editing DocBook, and is pretty good for everything else too.

Which distribution do you use? Why?

I'm running FreeBSD. I quite like the integrated feel of it, although some of the 'desktop' type features are a little lacking. I might try a few Linux distros when I get a new machine, although I'll certainly keep a FreeBSD machine around.

What is KDE's killer app? Why?

Konqueror – the universal-file-manager-plus-web-browser-in-one-app concept is so useful that it's painful to have to use any other system where they're separate.

What makes you develop for KDE instead of the competition?

It's what I use every day, and I know how it works, where to go to get help, and so on. It would take a long time to get that kind of understanding with anything else, I imagine.

What type is your laptop/desktop? What is it named?

I have an old, slow laptop – 1.5GHz celeron, 80GB HD (upgraded from the 30GB one it came with) and 512MB RAM (came with 128!). It's called hazelrah (extra points for anyone who knows where I got the name from :-). Hopefully I'll have some money to buy something decent in the not-too-distant future.

If you were shipwrecked and had to share an island with a KDE contributor who would it be?

Well, since I can't say "all of them", I'll say Anne-Marie Mahfouf. I haven't met her in person yet, and I could practise my French :-)

What is your most brilliant KDE hack?

Well, my favourite achievement is the KDE User Guide, which we rewrote a year or two ago because the old version had some licensing issues. With some hard work, and plenty of help from the rest of the KDE community, we've got a good coverage of lots of areas of KDE.

What is your most embarrassing KDE moment?

I can't think of any one particular incident, but several times I've messed up commits, accidentally reverted other people's stuff, broken builds and so on. It's the way it goes and it's always easily fixed, though.

Are you going to Akademy in Ireland this year?

Unfortunately not, it's the week before my PhD starts, so it would be a bit inconvenient. I attended the last two Akademies and really enjoyed them; they're a great way to see the wider activity within KDE and to make new contacts. Plus, you get to see some great places.

Personal Questions

First things first. Married, partner or up for adoption?

Up for adoption.

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

My family just about manage to cope, although I think they manage to ignore it most of the time :-)

Do you have any pets?

None. I had stick insects many years ago though...

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

The Brecon Beacons in South Wales are really nice if you like the outdoors, although not quite as impressive as the mountains in North Wales. Alternatively, if you like old buildings, Oxford is worth a visit, although despite living there for four years, I'm an awful guide. ("On your left is, um, another building. I don't know what it's for.")

Which book is on your bedside table?

I'm currently reading Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. I loved Cryptonomicon, and Quicksilver is just as good – maybe better. I love anything epic, or which creates a believable world, and Quicksilver is both of those so far. I'm also reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, which has taken a while to get going, but the second half of it is pretty good so far.

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

It's a fairly standard answer I know, but I'd have to say my parents.

Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds?

Linus, definitely. I haven't got excited about the Free Software ideals, and I think I tend to be a pragmatist in general anyway.

How would you describe yourself?

Erk. Can I turn it round and say that my friends call me "sensible Phil." Make of that what you will...

What do you get passionate about?

KDE, Physics, classical music, whichever geeky thing got my attention that week :-)

What do you do to amuse yourself?

Play ultimate frisbee, play the piano (badly), do cryptic crosswords (not quite so badly). I love reading as escapism too.

What is your favourite t-shirt?

My Akademy 2004 t-shirt, because it was free, and it says "staff" on the back.

What is your favourite place in the world?

Running around on a muddy frisbee field :-)