Open Source people
I asked him if, given the projects on his plate and the velocity
he motored, he ever slept. He laughed and borrowed these words from
one of his
favorite science fiction writers, Spider
"I'm going to live forever or die trying."
I had been speaking with, or, more appropriately, listening to, Marcel Gagne (gone-yay) for
hour before he mentioned the Robinson quote, but as a culmination it
I was first introduced to Marcel's whimsical parlez while reading
Linux column published monthly in Linux Journal. It didn't
whether or not I really understood the Linux tricks he prescribed and
he described. I still liked to read it, and outloud nonetheless,
wrote it with a French accent. In Cooking with Linux, Marcel is a
waiter who invites readers into his restaurant to enjoy his wine and
his Linux musings. In characteristic, English-as-a-second-language
Marcel, the steward, ends statements with a question mark and often talks
himself in the third person (one of my favorite habits).
Gagne himself is, in fact, French Canadian, raised in a French-only
community in Quebec until his father, in response to an increasingly
economy, moved him, his mother and four siblings to an English one on
Ontario. Other than the few weeks worth of afternoons his father spent
listening to English language albums and eavesdropping on conversations
the shortwave radio, nobody in Marcel's family spoke any English. At
until Marcel approached the hot dog stand near the hotel in which they
while their father hunted for their new home. Carefully instructed in
proper vocabulary, 9-year-old Marcel held out his bills in
looked up at the vendor and said in slow and staccato English, "Can I
have a hot dog with everything on it?"
They are simple words, but density is not a requirement for
Marcel's appreciation, for he is enthusiasm incarnate. He's like a
40-year-old puppy dog with a bottomless brain. His interests are boundless and
he talks it always sounds like he's on the edge of his chair.
The French accent he puts on when I tell him I'm disappointed he
have one, catches me off guard and I am momentarily silent, trying to
out if it is French at all until I realize that the operative word is
European French accent, the rough edges around the Canadian one remind
of a docile Eliza Dolittle than a guy who predicted man's first step on
moon at age 5.
So what if he was off by a year? The reality remains that at 5
he was cognizant and aspiring enough to turn to his father and predict
within five years people would land on the moon. His dad told his
little son, maybe someday, when you have children. Astronauts planted
American flag there four years later. He brushes it off as a fluke, but
still amazed, spooked almost. Eek, it still gives me goosebumps.
He remembers being drawn to the Gemini flights, which were presented
television. He built an Apollo spacecraft with tinker toys and
countdown and the launch with his own. As a teenager he had a full
set in his family's basement: microscope, telescope, lab equipment.
used to timidly peek in the door and beg for reassurance that
wasn't going to blow up the house. He gave formal astronomy lessons in
family's backyard to his three younger sisters.
Strangely enough, this budding young Einstein wanted to be a
jockey. At 19, he walked into a local radio station, conversed
station manager for an hour or two and walked out with a job on air.
He was a
DJ there for a little over a year.
From there he decided he wanted to be a pilot and earned his pilot's
license. His original intent was to get a commercial license but he
eventually going to college and earning a degree in computer
The result, according to Gagne himself, is not a programmer, though
admires his wife, Sally, immensely for being one. He's an operating system guy. He
"put the tools together to make wonderful and cool things."
That's how he got into writing "Cooking with Linux." Linux Journal listed upcoming
their publication and the one scheduled for September of 1999 was
Linux," but as the hour approached the idea for what that edition would
actually look like had not really solidified, so Marcel offered his own
suggestion, a mix of both the way he likes to live and the way he likes
compute, a la carte. The wine, he loves, but if there was a schtik that
well with single malt scotch he could have just as easily gone with
He and Sally have their own consulting company called Salmar. The "Sal" is for Sally, and
is for Marcel, just like Debian which is named after its creator, Ian
and his wife, Deb. (Eck, on top of all the candy corn all this
starting to make me a little sick.) In the interest of serving Salmar's
better by staying on top of the industry, Gagne, upon realizing there
Corel representative in his neighborhood, sought him out regarding the
Interested in learning more, he realized nobody had reviewed it, so he
Linux Journal to discuss it. They were amazed; nobody seemed to be
able to get
their hands on a copy. His review elicited significant response, and
relationship was born. Now Gagne writes two regular columns for LinuxJournal, one for SysAdmins Magazine, and
articles here and there on Linux and on system administration.
His columns are useful because he never writes about something he
done or tried. He makes the mistakes and hands a map to his readers.
beware, he seems pretty game to try anything. For instance, he's
ready to make reservations at Hilton's first space resort.
And whatever's not feasible or clearly impending he simply tries in
or on paper. Some of his science
been published. But even that's not far enough for him. That common
"space, the final frontier"? It doesn't work for him, he's not so
about its accuracy. As one of the possible substitutes for space, he
in an excited and anticipatory tone, the mapping of the human genome,
or how we
know so little about what really goes on with our own brains.
On his own site and in email communications he gives himself a
Marcel (Free Thinker at Large) Gagne. Certainly, he is aware of the
significance of his own mentality, both literally and figuratively.
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