Today in our 30 Linux Developers in 30 Weeks profile we chat with Ben Hutchings. Ben is a package maintainer for the Linux kernel in Debian, among other things. If you want to get involved in Linux, he says to start small before working your way into “brain surgery.”
What’s your name?
What role do you play in the community and/or what subsystem(s) do you work on?
In my own time, I’m one of the package maintainers for the Linux kernel in Debian, and I maintain the Linux 3.2.y stable series, which will be used in Debian 7.0. I try to get important bug fixes all over the kernel backported and reviewed for inclusion in 3.2.y and other stable series. I also co-maintain the linux-firmware repository, which collects the various blobs that Linux drivers may need to load into their devices.
In my day job, I look after the sfc network driver and ethtool, with some forays into the networking core and other subsystems that sfc depends on.
Where do you get your paycheck?
What part of the world do you live in? Why there?
Cambridge, England. That’s where I found my first job, and I’ve not yet had a good reason to leave it for long.
What are your favorite productivity tools for software development? What do you run on your desktop?
Emacs, Evolution, GNOME 3, Iceweasel (aka Firefox).
How did you get involved in Linux kernel development?
It was a combination of several things that happened in 2007-2008: A gradual shift in my job from test development into maintaining production code; attempting to maintain Debian packages of the early Ralink wifi drivers; and wanting to resolve the long-running problem (for Debian) of non-free blobs embedded in the kernel.
What keeps you interested in it?
There are always opportunities to do better in terms of performance, security and usability. There’s a constant stream of new hardware to support, with new features and new challenges. And of course there are always bugs to be fixed (some of those problems are more interesting than others).
What’s the most amused you’ve ever been by the collaborative development process (flame war, silly code submission, amazing accomplishment)?
I’m not sure I could pick a single instance, but this was a pretty silly submission: http://lwn.net/Articles/490040/
What’s your advice for developers who want to get involved?
Start by scratching an itch. Then, if you want, work your way up to doing brain surgery. Read documentation and changelogs.
What do you listen to when you code?
A wide variety of music, some of which is listed at: http://www.last.fm/user/womble2/tracks
What mailing list or IRC channel will people find you hanging out at? What conference(s)?
I subscribe to the netdev and stable mailing lists, and I’m on too many IRC channels. There isn’t any one conference I go to every year, but I’ve been to DebConf, FOSDEM, Chaos Communication Congress and Linux Plumbers Conference several times.