February 25, 2004

IRC interview with 'Moving to Linux' author Marcel Gagne

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

SlashNET staffers hosted an IRC chat Monday evening with Marcel Gagne, whose Moving to Linux is rapidly becoming a top-selling tech book -- a testament both to Marcel's writing ability and to Linux's growing popularity. A transcript of the IRC conversation (originally published on SlashNet's site) follows:

[20:00:30] [drdink] SlashNET would like to welcome Marcel Gagne to tonight's forum.

[20:00:42] [drdink] As in the past, you are all going to drive the direction the forum goes in.

[20:01:00] [drdink] But before we start taking the questions...

[20:01:06] [drdink] Could you tell us a bit about yourself Marcel?

[20:01:15] [wftl] drdink: Thanks.

[20:01:56] [wftl] I'm the author of numerous articles dealing with Linux as well as two books on the subject so far.

[20:02:33] [wftl] My first book was "Linux System Administration: A User's Guide" which was (go figure) aimed primarily at people who need to deal with the administration side of things.

[20:02:52] [wftl] Most people probably know me from the "Cooking with Linux" column I do in Linux Journal.

[20:03:34] [wftl] While I have done other non-cooking columns for LJ, the Cooking column is probably the most popular and the most controversial.

[20:04:05] [wftl] I've also written for Unix Review, InformIt, SysAdmin Magazine, and others.

[20:04:26] [wftl] My latest book, which focuses on the Linux desktop is "Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goobye!"

[20:04:38] [wftl] That's Goodbye, of course.

[20:04:55] [wftl] Anyhow, I'd like to just open it up and see where this goes.

[20:05:15] [Questions] Neu asks: What type of wine are you recommending tonight?

[20:06:58] [wftl] Tonight, I think a nice Australian Shiraz is probably in order.

[20:07:11] [wftl] Rich, with a touch of peppery zing.

[20:07:42] [wftl] Next question. [insert appropriate smiley here]

[20:07:59] [Questions] petemc asks: where did you get the idea to do your linux journal column the way you, and how do you think it goes down with some of the more "traditional" journalists?

[20:08:12] [wftl] Ah, that sounds like two questions.

[20:08:49] [wftl] Well, way back in '99, Linux Journal was doing a special theme issue called "Cooking with Linux". The idea was to create columns based on

[20:09:02] [wftl] the old programmer's cookbook ideas -- useful scripts and so on.

[20:09:30] [wftl] I had done a few columns for LJ and the editor at the time asked me if I could come up with something for the issue.

[20:10:01] [wftl] Being a little strange, I thought "cooking, food, restaurant, wine, menus . . . "

[20:10:30] [wftl] I wrote a column where I created a menu of scripts served up in a restaurant called "Chez Marcel"

[20:10:52] [wftl] The response at LJ was tremendous. People really liked it and I was asked if I could do it every month.

[20:11:31] [wftl] The reason I think the column is controversial is that it is anything but a regular tech column. I break a lot of "technical writing" rules and the readers seem to like it.

[20:11:54] [wftl] The column has been voted the Readers' Choice favorite three years in a row now.

[20:12:40] [Questions] drdink asks: Have you considered writing about operating systems other than Linux? For example, FreeBSD or MacOS X.

[20:13:40] [wftl] Sure. I've worked with Unix for 18 years and have written from a Unix perspective for non-Linux specific pubs. SysAdmin, for example.

[20:14:27] [wftl] The reason I write about Linux is that Linux is accessible. It's something that more and more people can relate to and I personally enjoy and appreciate its power.

[20:14:52] [Questions] Kyle asks: Are you worried that some might find your book's subtitle ("Kiss The Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!") immature and might, therefore, get a negative perception of Linux?

[20:15:25] [wftl] I don't think so. There have been many reviews of the book and most people understand that it is meant to poke fun.

[20:16:02] [wftl] Most people using Windows are still on some version of 9x and everyone pretty much knows a BSOD.

[20:16:20] [wftl] The truth, however, is that the book really doesn't deal with or focus on Windows at all.

[20:16:30] [wftl] It's a desktop Linux book meant for the desktop user.

[20:16:48] [Questions] jotun asks: Which is your favorite article you've written?

[20:17:30] [wftl] That's a really tough question.

[20:18:13] [wftl] I always try to have fun with the columns. Of course, I want to give something useful in the process, but I believe that you can also have a lot of fun (as the SuSE guys like to say).

[20:19:02] [wftl] One of my favorite articles was the one on Tron games. I wasted a lot of good hours (days) on that one.

[20:19:21] [wftl] I also like the one I did on motion detectors and webcam related security systems.

[20:19:50] [wftl] Every article is new fun for me.

[20:20:01] [Questions] Satankthx asks: What do you think is the best distro of linux, for a user who just wishes to tinker and learn?

[20:20:04] [Questions] bob asks: What is your favorite linux distribution?

[20:20:17] [wftl] Good related questions there.

[20:21:23] [wftl] For the user who just wants to tinker and learn, I have two favorites. A lot of people just want to "try" Linux without the commitment of installing. For them, I recommend Knoppix. It just works and it covers a lot of ground. That's why I included a modified Knoppix with my book.

[20:21:52] [wftl] For somebody ready to install, I would recommend Mandrake. It's friendly. It's easy. And it has a great support community.

[20:22:14] [wftl] Given that I have worked with several dozen versions of Linux, picking a favorite is a little tougher for me.

[20:22:40] [wftl] I tend to modify my distros almost as soon as I install them so they often don't look much like the name on the box when I am done.

[20:23:30] [wftl] Lately, I've been running Mandrake Cooker (not because of the "cooker" name) because it makes it easy for me to play with the bleeding edge packages. I wouldn't personally recommend it to anyone looking for stability however.

[20:24:15] [wftl] I also like SuSE, Debian, and the tiny business card Linux distros.

[20:24:49] [wftl] Nothing beats taking something like Damn Small Linux or a Bootable Business Card (BBC) to impress somebody who has never seen Linux and what it can do.

[20:24:57] [wftl] We're talking techies, of course.

[20:25:20] [Questions] LordoftheFrings asks: Overall, how well do you think linux is doing in terms of penetrating the desktop market? Do you think that it is yet feasible for the average user to be productive on a system running Linux yet?

[20:25:34] [wftl] Totally feasible.

[20:26:28] [wftl] My parents had Linux running on their first computer. That was over 3 years ago. They surf the web, write emails, chat on IM, rip songs, and do all those desktop things, and they do it with Linux.

[20:27:19] [wftl] I've worked with several companies who are doing Linux conversions for their desktops. Instead of upgrading to XP, they are deploying Linux thin clients, running OpenOffice, and using Linux desktop apps.

[20:27:54] [wftl] I'd like to see it happen faster, but I'm impressed at just how much excitement there has been around desktop Linux in the last year alone.

[20:28:23] [wftl] I honestly think that we'll look back on 2004 with a bit of a "wow" factor in terms of just how far desktop Linux will have gone.

[20:28:48] [Questions] mumkin asks: did your parents install and configure linux on that first computer of theirs, or did you help them out?

[20:29:37] [wftl] I installed it for them, gave them a couple of hours of training, and walked away. Over the next couple of weeks, I took a handful of calls from them and that was pretty much it.

[20:29:47] [wftl] That was, as I mentioned, over 3 years ago.

[20:30:03] [wftl] Incidentally, many of my friends and family are now running desktop Linux.

[20:30:36] [wftl] As the family geek, I'm the one who used to get called to fix computer problems (viruses, Windows reinstalls, etc).

[20:31:01] [wftl] I decided a couple of years ago that if people wanted me to fix their PC problems, I would fix them by installing Linux.

[20:31:18] [wftl] Since then, the user base has grown quite a bit [insert appropriate smiley here]

[20:31:39] [Questions] MrFalcon asks: What is your opinion of so-called "Linux distributions for the masses", most notably Lindows, which attempt to make using Linux extremely simple for non-techies, but promote bad habits such as running as root without a password by default? Is it more important that Linux be accessible to the average user, or that it be "done right"?

[20:32:01] [wftl] Yes. :-)

[20:32:50] [wftl] I think Linux for the masses can be done right. SuSE, Mandrake, Xandros, all have the right idea.

[20:33:56] [wftl] Even Windows users (who generally run as "root" or administrator, are being taught the importance of individual user accounts these days. Linux has always done it right in the past and I think people can grasp the idea of individual logins for each member of a family.

[20:34:25] [wftl] Parents, in particular, would jump at the idea once the benefits of limiting what individual users can do, has been explained to them.

[20:35:01] [Questions] mumkin asks: why should i consider linux over bsd for a desktop?

[20:36:27] [wftl] I don't know that you need to do one over the other, particularly if you are comfortable with BSD.

[20:36:55] [wftl] What Linux has going for it right now is a growing base of "average" users who are becoming quite knowledgeable with the platform.

[20:37:34] [wftl] That popularity and growth means that desktop apps specifically tend to be more available for Linux and are often more mature.

[20:38:26] [wftl] Having worked with dozens of Linux, Unix ,and Unix-like operating systems over the years, I like what I can do with the technology.

[20:39:11] [wftl] I concentrate my efforts on Linux because of those reasons and because its popularity is providing people with the first real alternative OS they can relate to in years.

[20:39:38] [Questions] drdink asks: Setting Linux aside for a second, what other *NIX platforms to you enjoy using? *BSD, Solaris, AIX, IRIX, ...?

[20:40:05] [wftl] I have always been a huge fan of AIX.

[20:40:17] [wftl] My second favorite was probably HP-UX.

[20:40:55] [wftl] Way back when I worked on something called GCOS.

[20:40:55] [Questions] jotun asks: As Windows operating systems grow more stable, do you see still Linux and other alternative OSs gaining ground on them?

[20:41:01] [wftl] Anybody remember that one?

[20:41:18] [wftl] Good question to which I have to say yes.

[20:42:24] [wftl] Linux has opened up (no pun intended) the world of computing again. There is more fun in computers now than there has been in years and I credit the people who have rallied around Linux with a lot of that.

[20:43:15] [wftl] The open development platform, the "free" distribution possibilities, has dragged the computer industry out of its lethargy and stagnation.

[20:43:31] [wftl] Computing is fun again, and I don't feel the fun with Windows.

[20:44:27] [wftl] My hat is off to all the developers out there, all the hobbyists taking the platform forward.

[20:44:38] [wftl] For now, at least, Linux is the future.

[20:45:10] [Questions] rasher asks: What is in your opinion the biggest thing stopping Linux from taking over the massive lead MS Windows has in the desktop field

[20:45:14] [Questions] danh asks: what must linux distros add that would make them seem "as easy as win or mac" to the average non-techie?

[20:46:02] [wftl] I'll answer those two starting with the second one.

[20:46:50] [wftl] I think Linux is already there. Properly presented (which usually means pre-installed), Linux is just as easy, just as friendly, and (in my opinion) easier to work with than Windows.

[20:47:47] [wftl] What is stopping Linux (or slowing it down -- there's no stopping it) is pre-installation. The only thing that makes Windows easier is that it already comes preinstalled on systems. Take that advantage away and things will change dramatically.

[20:48:36] [wftl] If we could get a couple of large PC manufacturers to back Linux with preinstalled systems, the drivers would follow just as quickly, and another hurdle would go away.

[20:49:37] [wftl] A Linux desktop is not complicated. People are a lot more clever than the industry gives them credit for.

[20:49:43] [wftl] s/forl/for/

[20:49:45] [wftl] :-)

[20:50:01] [Questions] oneiros asks: Yet Dell had it pre-installed and stopped offering it due to lack of interest.

[20:50:47] [wftl] Dell put almost do effort into pushing preinstalled Linux. On more than one occasion, I called their order number asking for Linux systems.

[20:51:02] [wftl] Their salespeople would argue with me that Dell only sold Windows.

[20:51:25] [wftl] If the salespeople don't even know they sell the product, it's hard to make inroads.

[20:51:59] [wftl] You can't just say you offer something, then lock it away in a back room out of sight, then tell me that no one is showing interest.

[20:52:10] [wftl] You have to market things.

[20:52:42] [Questions] drdink asks: Given the choice between a GUI-ish administration tool like LinuxConf and the ol' command line and vi, which method do you personally prefer more for system administration?

[20:53:56] [wftl] In writing "Moving to Linux", I had to break myself of the command line habit to a large degree. I forced myself to think in terms of a GUI, because that's what Windows users have become accustomed to.

[20:54:21] [wftl] That said, I often drop to the command line to do most simple operations. It is second nature to me.

[20:54:48] [wftl] As I write my third book, I'm trying to balance the two somewhat more.

[20:54:59] [wftl] The command line is power and I like it.

[20:55:28] [Questions] MrFalcon asks: Many software developers are moving toward configuration files in XML format. What are your thoughts on XML-izing Linux configuration files? In your opinion, would XML help standardize and simplify configuration and administration?

[20:56:45] [wftl] At this time, I'm not sure that it makes much difference. My own personal jury is still very much out on this. I'm deeply familiar with all those old configuration files. They look cleaner to me without all those extra tags tossed in.

[20:57:04] [wftl] Yes, the jury is definitely out.

[20:57:43] [Questions] dave- asks: What do you think the future of Linux in the server market looks like?

[20:58:34] [wftl] I feel like Linux has already captured the server market. There's definitely selling involved when it comes to introducing desktop Linux in a company.

[20:58:49] [wftl] Linux servers, on the other hand, are a piece of cake to sell.

[20:59:13] [wftl] They work. Faster, better, more reliably, and they cost less.

[20:59:19] [wftl] It's a slam dunk.

[20:59:48] [Questions] Ironz asks: What do you think of the current commercials IBM has been running for Linux?

[21:00:15] [wftl] I love the commercials. Downright inspiring. I wish they ran them more, on more stations, and in prime time.

[21:00:25] [wftl] Great stuff.

[21:01:07] [Questions] drdink asks: We've all heard about Linux on desktops and servers, but what about Linux on other devices like PDAs. Do you ever think Linux will be as popular as Windows CE or PalmOS due to its openness and flexibility?

[21:02:39] [wftl] I don't see why not. The openness of Linux is a huge part of its importance. It's what drives all those developers out there to write for it, to participate.

[21:02:53] [wftl] Companies selling PDAs aren't in the software business per se.

[21:03:07] [wftl] The less they can spend on a workable OS, the better.

[21:03:35] [wftl] I'd certainly like to see more and I think the market is willing to try some new ideas.

[21:04:05] [wftl] That said, I still carry around a Visor Prism. Palm OS is small, tight, and it has done right by me.

[21:04:25] [Questions] cptnMidnight asks: Do you think that those companies, like Toshiba for example, who do not "honor" the Windows EULA (the part about refunds) are doing it because Linux is a real threat ?

[21:05:56] [wftl] I can only speculate here, but I suspect there may be some gentle pressure coming from elsewhere. Either that or they really don't know what the EULA says and someone with some legal prowess needs to hammer the idea home to the industry.

[21:06:47] [wftl] I personally don't like paying for something I will never use. I have several Win 9x licenses and CDs as well as a few XPs. I don't need them. I don't use them. And I would rather not have paid for them.

[21:07:22] [wftl] Unfortunately, I needed the hardware. My only satisfaction was knowing that my Linux install would erase it from my disks. [insert appropriate smiley here]

[21:07:55] [wftl] That and scraping off the "Designed for Windows XP" sticker. The notebook looks much cleaner without it.

[21:08:09] [Questions] dave- asks: In your experience, of people you meet, how many know about Linux? Has Linux effectively made it to the "media" barrier like Windows where its already a household name?

[21:08:47] [wftl] Thanks, dave.

[21:09:17] [wftl] It used to be that people would ask me "So, what's this Linux thing?" or words to that effect. I

[21:09:21] [wftl] It was a curiosity.

[21:09:34] [wftl] Lately, the question is "How can I get Linux on my computer?"

[21:11:11] [wftl] That's a major change in perspective. People keep using Malcolm Gladwell's ideas from "The Tipping Point" and looking to see whether Linux fits that curve.

[21:11:41] [wftl] I don't know that we are there yet, but we are definitely on that curve with Linux. It won't be long before most people know what Linux is.

[21:11:44] [wftl] I'm sure of that.

[21:12:01] [Questions] jmb10 asks: Multimedia...linux, with some work, can do many things, but the lack of polish and interoperability frustrates me to no end. What is the map for linux and multimedia, both consumer and professional?

[21:12:57] [wftl] I understand what you are saying and I think there are several issues at work here.

[21:13:37] [wftl] The lack of industry supported drivers for Linux means the OS is always a little behind on the new hardware technologies.

[21:14:25] [wftl] I don't think that's the OS' fault, but it is still a problem. That said, there are some amazing multimedia tools available for Linux on the other end of the spectrum.

[21:14:39] [wftl] Just ask any Hollywood studio.

[21:15:55] [wftl] The best way to advance the slickness of multimedia apps in Linux (don't get me wrong, there is some great stuff out there -- I use my Linux computer exclusively for my recording and playing music -- no Windows here),

[21:16:05] [wftl] the best way is to push Linux. To get it out there.

[21:16:25] [wftl] The more people run the OS, the more hardware vendors will support it, and the more commercial apps will be written.

[21:16:47] [wftl] Companies are always ready to back success and if a market appears to be there, the market will respond.

[21:17:02] [Questions] cptnMidnight asks: Do you feel that admin tools like Webmin make administrators lazy ?

[21:17:12] [wftl] No.

[21:18:07] [wftl] I think Webmin is a great tool. If you have worked on various Linux and Unix OSes, Webmin provides a familiar, consistent face you wouldn't otherwise have.

[21:18:14] [wftl] Besides, admins come in all flavors.

[21:18:49] [wftl] I've worked with systems administrators who also happen to be the company secretary and receptionist. There's nothing wrong with making things easier for people.

[21:19:16] [wftl] Geeks like me can continue using the shell and others who need a little friendliness can use Webmin.

[21:19:26] [wftl] I'm okay with that.

[21:19:55] [Questions] ivan asks: Do you think LJ has the right balance of "hacking the kernel" articles? too many? too little?

[21:20:57] [wftl] I think the balance is fine. I do sometimes wonder if people buy magazines for those types of articles specifically. I think the reason you flip through a magazine like LJ is to get the variety of exposure to different ideas/topics.

[21:21:49] [wftl] Remember that readers define magazines and that editors respond to what their readers ask. That 'blend' of subjects and ideas develops over time based on readers' feedback.

[21:22:06] [Questions] PhantomsDad asks: When you consider a topic for your column, do you tend to choose something which you already know all about, or do you tend to choose something that you DON'T know in order to learn about it?

[21:22:20] [wftl] Great question.

[21:22:49] [wftl] Every month, LJ features an issue topic. It could be systems administration, high performance computing, video, etc.

[21:23:37] [wftl] My job is to try, as best I can, to come up with something that fits that topic. Now, Linux Journal is very flexible with me and pretty much lets me get away with whatever I come up with.

[21:23:51] [wftl] That doesn't mean I don't try to stay on topic. (like right now)

[21:24:46] [wftl] I like pushing things a little bit. I like trying things I haven't done before. I also like to think that my readers like to go 'exploring' with me.

[21:25:47] [wftl] There's a great deal of pleasure that comes with 'discovering' a new application or program. I love showing off the work that people have been hacking away at over the years and I tend to spend a fair bit of time looking for the subject of my next article.

[21:26:49] [wftl] I rarely pick something I already know. With everything I've ever written about, I have covered the ground. I've tried all those things, compiled all the programs, and played with whatever I'm covering.

[21:28:23] [Questions] drdink asks: Do you belong to a Linux Users' Group?

[21:28:24] [Questions] mumkin asks: I understand that you host a weekly "virtual LUG" on your own IRC server. What prompted you to start that, how's it been going, and what have you learned from the experience?

[21:29:41] [wftl] Hmm . . . I'm "officially" a member of TLUG, the Toronto Linux User Group, but I'm not a real regular at meetings. I've given talks at TLUG and NewTLUG, an offshoot of TLUG for newbies.

[21:30:30] [wftl] My virtual LUG started some three years ago. I had started getting a lot of questions in email (because of the articles) and I couldn't keep up.

[21:31:32] [wftl] I had the idea that I could start an online LUG, that way members from anywhere in the world could take part. I would answer questions posted to the group and that way others could take advantage of my responses.

[21:32:13] [wftl] It was a way for me to avoid answering the same question too many times. As time went on, the WFTL-LUG became a great list.

[21:32:50] [wftl] I've got some excellent people who are just fantastic at helping each other out and I'm really pleased with how it has turned out.

[21:33:35] [wftl] I started providing the IRC and participating in weekly chats as a way to give something back to the people who were willing to (quite frankly) help me out by helping others out.

[21:34:36] [wftl] If I've learned anything from providing this resource, it's that community isn't just a word. It's a living, breathing organism.

[21:35:09] [wftl] I appreciate the fact that there is such a thing as a Linux community. The sharing of knowledge is a beautiful thing to watch.

[21:35:21] [wftl] Oh my god, I sound like that IBM commercial.

[21:35:25] [wftl] [insert appropriate smiley here]

[21:35:41] [Questions] dave- asks: What is your stand on the current predicament involving SCO and the Linux community at large? What effect do you believe it will have on future open source software development?

[21:36:41] [wftl] The SCO thing is just bad.

[21:37:52] [wftl] Their predatory behavior in trying to take credit for the work of the many thousands of programmers who have contributed to Linux is despicable to say the least.

[21:38:37] [wftl] The thing I find most amazing is that they haven't yet been called to task to trying to extract "licenses" from people while threatening legal action.

[21:39:28] [wftl] As people are fond of saying, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me there is something not quite legal in that way of "doing business".

[21:40:08] [wftl] That said, I don't believe that SCO can prevail. I also don't believe that Linux will suffer long as a result.

[21:41:12] [wftl] In fact, most indications seem to point to the fact that SCO's piranha tactics have had very little effect on industry's Linux plans.

[21:41:46] [Questions] ike6116 asks: What are your thoughts on Mac OS X and Apple's contributions to the Open Source Community

[21:42:48] [wftl] Very nice. I always knew those Mac people were cool!

[21:43:32] [Questions] jotun asks: Do you enjoy programming? If so, in which languages?

[21:44:19] [wftl] I program when I have to. I tend to have more fun taking a little of this, some of that, and putting it together to make a greater whole.

[21:44:43] [wftl] In that respect, I'm very much a sysadmin by nature. There are lots of tools out there and I use what I need to get things done.

[21:45:37] [wftl] I'm also very open to trying new things in order to get the job done. If that means I have to program, then I do. Over the years, I've programmed in many different languages, but it's not something that drives me.

[21:45:59] [wftl] My wife, Sally, is the programmer in the family. I'm the network/OS guy.

[21:46:54] [wftl] I guess I get bore quickly, so hunkering down and working on a project for weeks and months is difficult for me. Perhaps partly because of that, I admire programmers a great deal.

[21:47:07] [wftl] And not just because my wife is a programmer. [insert appropriate smiley here]

[21:47:13] [Questions] Chewie asks: Emacs or Vim?

[21:47:30] [wftl] vi, all the way.

[21:47:40] [wftl] Or vim, I'm not fussy.

[21:47:55] [Questions] mikegrb asks: What does your desktop environment look like? What window manager do you use and what applications do you use on a daily basis?

[21:49:03] [wftl] My desktop has no icons on the desktop. My background is a Mars Express canyon scene. I use KDE 3.2 right now (although I play with many others -- I have a particular fondness for WindowMaker)

[21:50:13] [wftl] I use OpenOffice for all of my writing, vi and Quanta for web pages, Kopete for IM, Xchat and Ksirc for IRC, Kontact (Kmail, Korganizer, etc) for email and planning.

[21:50:31] [wftl] I always have several shells open on various systems.

[21:50:58] [wftl] The GIMP is usually there somewhere as is XMMS or NoAtun (depends on my mood).

[21:51:26] [wftl] For browsing, I'm pretty much 50/50 on Konqueror and Mozilla.

[21:51:33] [wftl] Lots of shell stuff.

[21:52:00] [Questions] Moss_Hart asks: what's your home LAN setup like?

[21:52:21] [wftl] Black boxes everywhere.

[21:53:24] [wftl] Actually, a couple of notebooks, a development machine (on which I run VMware and several different Linux distros), a couple of servers, 100 meg switches, laser printers, wireless hub.

[21:53:51] [wftl] Basically, I can work from anywhere in the house and I have the machines I need to do testing.

[21:54:06] [wftl] Nothing amazing.

[21:54:21] [Questions] MobyTurbo asks: how did you get into the writing business?

[21:54:59] [wftl] I was writing science fiction because, go figure, I wanted to be a science fiction writer.

[21:55:25] [wftl] I've published a few short stories, as well as edited and published a magazine.

[21:56:23] [wftl] About five years ago, I wrote a review of something from Corel called a "Netwinder". It was a cool network 'appliance' that I just wanted to write about.

[21:56:54] [wftl] Linux Journal bought it. People liked the way I wrote about technology and I was asked for more. Eventually, I was asked to write both monthly and weekly columns.

[21:57:12] [wftl] Can't handle the weekly any more because of the books.

[21:57:44] [wftl] I've always written and I enjoy writing.

[21:57:52] [wftl] Just something I wanted to do.

[21:58:00] [Questions] jmb10 asks: Random question about you: what is a typical workday like for you?

[21:58:25] [wftl] I start every day with coffee. That's a given.

[21:58:54] [wftl] I still do consulting work for my customers although my writing takes up more and more of my time these days.

[21:59:36] [wftl] I try to write every day but I also try to 'discover' something new every day as well. It's part of the writing and it's a lot of fun.

[22:00:01] [wftl] I try to keep email down to at most an hour a day, but it can still get out of hand.

[22:00:42] [wftl] While I am writing, I will sometimes visit the specialty IRC channels to talk with the people who develop and write the software I am writing about.

[22:00:51] [wftl] It's a mixed bag, really, but I do enjoy it.

[22:01:29] [Questions] res0 asks: What do you think about the usefulness of print media compared to web media, especially in an age where timeliness determines relevance, and how are tech writers like yourself going to get paid in the future?

[22:01:47] [wftl] Wow, touch question.

[22:02:43] [wftl] I still have tons of books on the shelves behind me. Information doesn't change quite as quickly as we might think, however. Some things are pretty consistent over time and nothing beats a printed manual sometimes.

[22:03:02] [wftl] There are plenty of post-its and bookmarks of various stripes in my reference texts.

[22:03:39] [wftl] I believe that electronic media isn't going anywhere and that its relevance will continue to increase, but I also think that people like the tactile feel of a book.

[22:03:45] [wftl] Or a magazine.

[22:04:52] [wftl] As for getting paid, there are plenty of writers doing work for electronic media (the web, for instance) who still get paid for the work they do.

[22:05:58] [wftl] Content doesn't just happen and there is still room for editors to sift through the work that people produce. Editors will continue to exist and they will continue to pay for the material they believe provides a return to their publications, online or not.

[22:06:55] [wftl] I've been online for 20 years. I've grown up with electronic world and I'm firmly entrenched in it. I still spend an average of a hundred dollars a month on printed material.

[22:08:13] [drdink] SlashNET would like to thank Marcel Gagne for participating in our forum program. We greatly appreciate the time he has taken to talk to us and our users. Marcel's newest book, _Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!_, is available from Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0321159985/) or a bookstore near you. Also keep a look out for his "Cooking with Linux" column in Linux Journal.

[22:08:48] [drdink] If you missed part of the forum or would like a transcript, a log will be available at http://www.slashnet.org/forums/ shortly. Feel free to post and redistribute the log, but it would be kind if you mentioned that it did originate on SlashNET.

[22:08:54] [drdink] Thank you all for coming!


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