Wikinews interviews Ubuntu developer Fabrice

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ubuntu logo.

The 10.10 version of Ubuntu (codename Maverick Merkaat), a free operative system is to be released in the next few days. French Wikinews contributor Savant-fou (Baptiste) has interviewed Fabrice (fabrice_sp on Ubuntu), an Ubuntu's MOTU (Master Of The Universe), member of the development team of the operative system.

Ubuntu is a computer operating system, based on Debian, which is created collaboratively by thousands of people. There are three official Ubuntu versions: Ubuntu Desktop Edition (for desktop and laptop PCs); Ubuntu Netbook Edition (for netbooks); and Ubuntu Server Edition (for use in servers).


Baptiste When did you first become interested in computers? When did you start programming?

Fabrice About 12–13 years ago. My first computer was an MO6, and I started to get interested in programming at that age. I wrote my first program (a game) in Basic, and it was so big that it used two tapes (yes, yes, tapes). I am 39, so it's been quite a while since I became interested in computers. I was, and continue to be an autodidact.

Baptiste What is your profession?

Fabrice I am Product Manager in a Madrid computing store, so I am still in the same field, even when I have not written a line of code in my job for a long time! My participation in the development of Ubuntu consists of maintaining the "technical" side.

Baptiste You participate in the development of Ubuntu as "MOTU". What is it?

Fabrice MOTUs are responsible for the software packages that are not included on the CD iso image, about 14,000, for Maverick. We are called "packagers" (those who build packages).

Baptiste Becoming a MOTU is not so easy, right? How did you become one?

Fabrice It's not that complicated: you should understand well how the Debian packaging works. And after convincing other MOTUs that we can not break everything, we can do it! It is a question of integration into the community and being trusted by other MOTUs. Basically, between my first collaboration in the development of Ubuntu until I became MOTU, I spent a year and a half, but some [users] became MOTU faster (I think the record is 4 or 6 months).

Baptiste How do you join it? Is there a vote (like Wikipedia, to elect administrators), an examination?

Fabrice It is a vote during a virtual meeting via IRC. However, you must have previously prepared your proposal, by collecting the opinions of other MOTUs. The entire process is described here:, for those who are interested.

Ubuntu 10.10 screenshot.

Baptiste Is there training to become MOTU?

Fabrice There is no training itself: the simplest way is to take charge, and connect to the MOTU IRC channel: #ubuntu-motu. There is also plenty of info in the Ubuntu wiki on how to participate. is a good starting point, and at There are also special weeks of presentations dedicated to people interested in the development of Ubuntu (see for details). Being self-taught helps a lot for that.

Baptiste How many MOTUs are there?

Fabrice 123 MOTUs, depending on Launchpad [the project management system for Ubuntu on the Internet], but the exact number of assets is less. It is a few people for 14,000 programs maintained by the Ubuntu MOTU. We work closely with Debian, and currently, only 2,000 applications from Debian are suitable for Ubuntu. But it's still not bad.

Baptiste How do you manage to work? Do you work alone instead, or rather a group? Which language?

Fabrice A bit of both. English is clearly dominant and much of the coordination is via IRC, as well as through mailing lists. There are ten MOTU teams, dedicated to certain subjects (the full list appears here: Teams). Every MOTU does what they think is best for Ubuntu, within the limits of their rights, of course.

Baptiste An operating system is very large... on what parts does MOTU focus? What language is used?

Fabrice As I said before, MOTUs are 'packagers'. This means that we maintain these applications in Ubuntu so that they compile, install and work correctly. I tend to say that we are inclusive. We work on those parts of the archive that are not 'seeded', ie not distributed in the ISO images (server, AN, desktop, Kubuntu, ...). MOTU methods are similar to the 'QA' team in Debian. We have the challenge of having the latest applications possible without destabilizing Ubuntu. The concept of Universe/Main is being lost and this is the definition that comes closest to what we do now.

Baptiste What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a MOTU?

Fabrice To be self-taught! Do not be ashamed to ask questions. On IRC: I "lost" four months while waiting for things to happen by themselves, and them to be pro-active.

Baptiste What did you work on on Maverick Merkaat? How much time did you spend?

Fabrice I worked mainly at the beginning of the cycle to update the applications that I had uploaded during the previous cycle and to sponsor the uploads of non-MOTU contributors. It is important that MOTUs help "train" the new generations, and the closer we approached the end of the cycle, the more I was in QA, that is fixing applications that do not compile, or that are not installable. That represents about 3 to 4 hours a day (in addition to my job).

Baptiste How was the development of Maverick?

Fabrice Relatively better than Lucid: Ubuntu was more stable throughout the development, and no major problems occurred (I still remember that during the development of Lucid, I could not boot my PC for 2 weeks), even if the cycle was shorter (due to be released on 10/10/10).

Baptiste In your opinion, what are the best innovations on the new version of Ubuntu?

Fabrice Maverick is a version of consolidation, so there are few major innovations. I think a strength of Ubuntu is that the installation is simple and the options selected by default are those that are most recommended. So I appreciate having particularly stable, but recent versions of software that I use regularly.

Baptiste Are there still things to tweak for this Sunday?

Fabrice Yes, still, even if since this afternoon, the uploads are fixed. As the version is not massively installed, we can't discover all the bugs. So one month after the release is as important as the month prior to the stabilization of the release.

Baptiste What is the future of Ubuntu, and what major projects are under construction after 10.10?

Fabrice All of this will be defined during a meeting that will take place in Orlando between October 25 and 29, called UDS (Ubuntu Developer Summit). I do not know what will be decided, although some guidelines are previously known (virtualization, performance, compatibility, hardware...). Anyone can go there: it's open to everyone. By cons, as it is in Orlando, it's limited.

Baptiste Overall, what is your opinion on Wikipedia?

Fabrice I use it regularly to read articles, including the duties of my kids. Yet, their teachers forbid them to take the content and ideas on Wikipedia! And wikis in general: it is a good tool for collaborative work, I set it up in the store in which I work for some subjects.

Baptiste Thanks for this interview, and good luck!

Fabrice Nothing: it was a pleasure!


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.