This is the last interview of the trinity series and in this interview we spoke with Laura Lucas Alday the woman power behind the latest release of Cheese. She was responsible for enhancing cheese to support svg overlays. Laura finds GNU/Linux better than Windows.
Swapnil: Could you please tell more about yourself, who you are and your technical background?
Laura: I’m a full-time programmer living in Buenos Aires. I’m the mother of a small kid. I worked in several companies developing desktop software for MS Windows. The language I used most is C++, I’m familiar with a varied array of technologies, tools and languages. Other interests are the visual arts.
Swapnil: When did you start using computers?
Laura: I was 13 when my older brother asked our parents to buy our first computer, an Atari 1040 ST (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_ST). I used it to play games, mostly. Some of my schoolmates had Commodore 64s at the time, there I wrote the only lines of code I knew:
10 PRINT “Laura”
20 GOTO 10
Those lines were all I knew about programming for many years, I wish now I found learning material that interested me more by then. My cousins had ZX Spectrums but I wasn’t too interested.
When I was 19 my brother bought a modem, we had a 486 with a monochrome CTR monitor by then, and reading/writing messages in FidoNet and chatting live in BBSs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletin_board_system) through the phone line was what really started everything, I became interested in computers.
Swapnil: When was the first time you came across Free Software and GNU/Linux?
Laura: I think by 1997 or 1998 I started to hear about it.
Swapnil: There is a myth that GNU/Linux is for geeks, what do you say? Is GNU/Linux cool for girls?
Laura: It was for a very long time. Only the most enthusiastic early adopters had the stamina required to solve all the problems that old distros had, regarding usability and hardware compatibility. Now it’s been really user-friendly for a while, and everyone can hop aboard.
Using GNU/Linux is cooler than using Windows, both for girls and boys. And also a lot safer. Privacy is easier to protect in Linux, even if only because there is less malware/spyware/trojans/virus targeting it.
Swapnil: Which distribution do you use and why? (Which Desktop Environment do you use?)
Laura: Currently I have Ubuntu and Fedora (with GNOME), because I like the ease of installing packages they provide. I tried Kubuntu at first and switched to Ubuntu later. Long ago, I used Mandrake (the first distro I managed to use in my hardware) until it became Mandriva and I preferred to test other distros.
Swapnil: I use Free Software for freedom and not essentially price. That doesn’t mean GNU/Linux guys are cheap, our hardware is usually top-notch Why do you use GNU/Linux — for freedom or for price?
Laura: If we are really honest, and especially when talking about developing countries, all software is free for home users that don’t mind pirating it. I’ve seen a lot of that in my country. But using GNU/Linux allows their users to have a cleaner conscience because they aren’t pirating anything, and they can also feel smarter because they won’t ever pay for something that’s, in the long run, not as good. Having access to all the codebase is really interesting for those who want to take a look at it, learn from it, add to it. All those things are impossible in Windows. So, freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom to learn anything I want.
Swapnil: What is the percentage of girls working as FOSS developers, are you well connected with them? Is there any plaform where we can bring together the girl power behind FOSS (GNU/Linux, BSD)?
Laura: According to http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Technology_industry#Proportion_of_women_in_the_tech_industry 2-5% of open source developers are women (compared to 20-30% of the larger tech industry).
Swapnil: Can you name some leading FOSS developers who are girls?
Laura: Marina Zhurakhinskaya, she’s a software engineer at Red Hat working on GNOME Shell. She also organizes the Outreach Program for Women in GNOME. Angela Byron, she’s the co-maintainer of the Drupal open source content management system and framework.
Swapnil: How friendly is the FOSS world towards girls?
Laura: I think it’s friendly, the problem are the stereotypes imposed in the last decades by movies, books, etc. The one that says that a programmer is a nerdy young boy who sits in the basement and lives to code. Anyone who does not match that stereotype will have a harder time feeling at ease in the FOSS world, especially women who are not extremely confident. Also, when the topic of women in technology arises in a forum or mailing list, it’s like a can of worms exploding.
Swapnil: Is development your full-time job or part-time hobby? If it is a full time job, can one live a decent life by being a FOSS developer? (please highlight the job opportunities FOSS provides)
Laura: Development is my full time job, I sure hope being a FOSS developer lands me an interesting job in the future. My jobs until present were not related directly to FOSS.
Swapnil: How and when did you get involved with Cheese?
Laura: When I found out about the GNOME Outreach Program for Women 2010.
Swapnil: What is your involvement with Cheese and how do you manage development? How do you coordinate with other team members?
Laura: I’ll keep contributing, I want to see all the features I’ve been working on make it to a release because some of them are not there yet. I chat with other team members in #cheese channel in irc.gnome.org or email them.
Swapnil: Are there other FOSS projects you are working on?
Laura: Not yet.
Swapnil: The hardware support for GNU/Linux is improving (in true terms is far better than any other platform), however when we go out to buy things like webcams, we always run risk of it being not supported on GNU/Linux (vendor’s fault), so what is your suggestion for users who is going out to buy a webcam?
Laura: Google for a webcam that works well in your distribution and with your hardware, for example when looking to purchase a webcam for use with Ubuntu, you should look for a UVC compatible camera. Start here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Webcam