Obligatory Disclaimer

This page does not conform to the technical requirements, nor the writing style, beloved of venerable institutions like The Linux Documentation Project. You have been warned. Your hacker's soul will be offended. Your sense of what is right and proper for a person to be involved in such a serious undertaking as Ubuntu will be warped. If you read on, Unix veterans will whisper "PEBKAC" about you in /msg on IRC channels. Influential, Godlike figures will suggest that you have lost your way. l337 pimply adolescents will giggle at you, and besiege you relentlessly, with locked caps keys. Nevertheless, read on - and welcome to Ubuntu... where Human foibles, and satire, mingle with serious aims...

I was encouraged on IRC to become an Ubuntu member. Apparently this requires, amongst other onerous tasks, Wink ;) that I

"create a wikipage that describes (my) past work, ... plans and ... vision about the future of Ubuntu."

So this is my introduction to wiki editing. I seem to be turning into a geek... Well, perhaps I already was, and this is just a rite of passage involving the denial of Denial Wink ;)

Contributions and Interests

My main contribution and work has been answering questions in #ubuntu. Some people have asked if I am a bot. I'm unsure as to whether this might be considered a compliment, in the IRC help channel context...

I am not a coder, unless you call my Pizza Timer "coding" !

You can explore the small maze I have created at

Lest this wiki page be accused of being "content-free" , or merely frivolous and flippant, I will append some quasi-serious comments. Real Soon Now...

Serious Comments (tm)

Some Personal History

I started using GNU/Linux in 2002. I was tired of That Other Operating System treating me as a suspected thief at every turn, trying to stop me changing aspects of its operation, requiring me to agree to draconian license terms, and all the other familiar but infuriating messages it constantly popped up.

After going through the usual pattern of puzzlement (what do I do with a tar.gz file?), and trying a few distributions, I discovered first Knoppix, then Debian. I made my first connection to IRC with Knoppix. At the time the Knoppix channel was very lively, and I remember learning arcane commands like dpkg-reconfigure -plow xserver-xfree86 from people like tech2k, who also introduced me to simple Bash scripting.

Inevitably, I moved on to Debian, and ran it on two machines, one with Woody and one Sid. When I heard about Ubuntu, I read quite a bit about its philosophy, and saw that it had good reviews, so I started to lurk in #ubuntu. I noticed a lot of misinformation, often by well-meaning converts from non-Debian based distros, and started to answer some questions. When I installed Warty, I was immediately impressed. I currently run Ubuntu on two PCs and an Apple iBook G4.

I hope in the time that I have been a "regular" on #ubuntu, that I have helped a number of people. Grepping through my IRC logs suggests that I have. This has been my main work and contribution to Ubuntu, my way of returning something for the gift Ubuntu CDs ! I have also followed the ubuntu-users mailing list, at Rob Weir's suggestion, and answered some questions there.

IRC Issues

The #ubuntu and #kubuntu IRC channels on are the friendliest I have participated in, and increasingly contain a core of very clueful people who are helping many newcomers to Ubuntu. There are problems, however: and these have been discussed for some time, for instance at InternetRelayChat.

A few points that I have considered or noticed:

  • We are seeing a high proportion of Windows converts. The whole culture of Free Software/ Open Source is foreign to them, and they are floundering in their attempts to understand new paradigms, particularly for package management. I hope to find time to write some simple wiki pages on the problems I feel competent to address.


I am interested in helping to bridge the gap between the technically adept, very knowledgeable people who are primarily IT professionals and/or coders, and the new wave of Ubuntu users who, like me, have come to GNU/Linux from non-technical backgrounds. So far my contributions have been mainly on IRC, and on the users' mailing list.

I feel there are still barriers for those from "ordinary" backgrounds. I hope to write more in the wiki, with an emphasis on "first timers" pages, simple hints and so on.

There is to an extent a self-selection process for those who even make it onto the IRC channels. As a personal example, I remember the first time I opened an IRC client, I knew it was a form of IM, but its use baffled me. I remember doing some serious googling even to understand its use. Many people will just close it and never use it again. Xchat and friends make this easier now, but I'm sure many new users never realise that real-time help is available in this way.

While howtos exist on the wiki for using Synaptic, adding repositories and so on, there is not much there to help people understand how Linux organises its file system, or why they no longer need to comb the web for randomprogram.exe. We see daily in #ubuntu the knots people tie themselves in trying to install or compile things that are a few clicks away in Synaptic.


Ubuntu is supposed to be "Linux for human beings". My T-shirt from UDU says so! (Thanks Rob Weir, JeromeGotangco , JaneW and all Smile :) )

I think on the whole it lives up to the slogan. I hope it will become even more human, by including access to what I would call "Bridging Tools" - a sort of meta-documentation that eases people's path to the concepts they need to understand. My impression is that the documentation team is working towards this.

Writing this page has helped me to clarify in my own mind the kinds of contributions I might be able to make.

  • -

Email: <peter-garrettAT SPAMFREE ubuntu DOT com>

IRC: nickname thoreauputic

I am mostly on #ubuntu, with excursions to #kubuntu and frequent irrelevant contributions to #ubuntu-offtopic




PeterGarrett (last edited 2008-08-06 16:18:05 by localhost)