Marta Rybczynska: Woman force in open source
At Muktware we publish a series of interviews to feature women active in the Open Source world. Marta Rybczynska is a very active contributor to the KDE project and in this interview we talked to her to understand her work.
Swapnil: Can you tell us about yourself – what you do, where you live?
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Rybczynska: I have been living in the French Alps, in Grenoble, for nearly four years now. Before that I lived in Warsaw, Poland, where I got my PhD in Telecommunications from the Warsaw University of Technology. My research at that time was on anonymity systems – mixing networking and security. There are many ways we can improve privacy over the Internet and I was looking at some of them. That was years before the PRISM scandal.
I also like embedded and real-time systems very much, especially mixing all those domains together and adding new ones.
I have a day job related to all this: it is at Kalray, a startup producing a 256-core processor. I’m working on operating systems and device drivers for the chip. There are many interesting subjects and I will be talking about the Linux port on this processor at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe in October.
Swapnil: When did you come in contact with FLOSS? What was the driving force (what is there in FLOSS that attracts you the most)?
Rybczynska: I cannot really say when it was, surely before the year 2000. For me the first reason to try it was the control it gives over the software and hardware. This was something I had not experienced before using proprietary products and something I liked from the moment I first heard about it. The control aspect remains very important to me up to today (you can well guess that from my security background!).
In the beginning it was quite a crazy ride, Linux did not support most of the hardware of the machine I first installed it on. We have made enormous progress since that time. Currently I have ‘stable’ machines that are expected to always work and then there are separate ‘developmental’ machines for hacking.
Swapnil: Can you tell us which distro and DE do you use and why?
Rybczynska: On the current devices I have a number of operating systems – Debian, Cyanogen and Android. Debian is for the desktop machines. The main reason is that it is very stable (even outside of the ‘stable’ flavour) and does not force the user to certain DE or configuration tools.
As you can guess I’m running KDE. I have very simple configuration that allows me to do the daily tasks easily. I’m try new things from time to time; I have played with Unity and GNOME3, for instance. Also, I’m running different distributions in virtual machines.
Swapnil: Can you tell us about the projects you have been involved with?
Rybczynska: The oldest project that I worked on the translation of KDE to the Polish language. That was the first FLOSS project I got involved with. I am the team coordinator and rarely do translations, I do project management and verification.
The second important project is the KDE Commit Digest. The Digest is an effort to produce a weekly overview of the development activity of KDE. It is based on the commit messages the developers put in the version control system.
Finally the last project I am working now on, without a name at this time, is using control groups, namespaces and other features of the Linux kernel to give embedded and desktop users detailed control on the applications they are running. The goal is to be able to say exactly what it is doing and disable certain actions if the user does not agree with them.
Swapnil: KDE 4.x has been around for a while – how mature do you think it has become? What are the areas where you think improvement is needed?
Rybczynska: I think it’s important to remind that KDE 4 was released more than five years ago. It has been polished a lot since it’s release. I’m using it as my desktop every day and it is not an experimental setup: I have my mail archive of several years, photos, thousands of files, multiple source trees. In short, I want it to run smoothly and it does.
When it comes to improvements, for me the number one area is the work on fixes and further polishing. In short, the effort to make it feel consistent. Second thing are performance improvements. There is already great work going on there, but more people looking at this would be very helpful. The third subject would be the integration with the mobile world. We use more devices than the desktops now and synchronisation and other common operations are something I would happily welcome.