Interview with Matthew Madia
The interview was done in April 14. The questions was sent to the e-mail. I got a reply after two weeks.
Premislaus: Hi! Let me start with the traditional question. Could you introduce yourself and say how old you are, where are you from, and what do you do on a daily basis? And as you've come to the Haiku project?
mmadia: Hi. I'm Matt Madia and use 'mmadia' as my online handle. I'm 2^5 years old and live in New Jersey, USA. For a day job, I work as a electrician with a trade union. My path to the Haiku® project started back in June of 2001. That's when I first installed BeOS® R5. For some years following that BeOS was my primary operating system. As you can imagine, that eventually led me to Haiku, which has since become my primary OS.
Premislaus: Could you tell how it happened, that you became the project leader? I was not then associated with the project, but I know that your predecessor was Michael Phipps. What can you tell us about him? What do you think of his departure? And if you had to compare with him, what are the differences in your project management?
mmadia: First, I am not "the project leader".
In open source projects, take Haiku for example, I don't think there is ever one single decisive leader. The viewpoints of numerous people, who contribute the greatest, tend to carry more weight. If one wanted to, those people could be labeled "project leaders".
As you may know, my areas of contribution tend to be more administrative and organizational, rather than coding. Writing C/C++ code is not one of my skills and that's OK -- there's plenty of other areas in the project that need attention. They range from assisting Haiku, Inc., to coordinating our Google Summer of Code activities, to helping to keep Haiku's website free from spammers. One way to see it, my contributions allow people to keep contributing where they want.
For the second question, I don't really consider myself to be Michael Phipps's successor. Sure, he and I both were/are very active people in Haiku, Inc. and he was a part of Haiku, Inc. before me, but I don't see it as anything like passing of a crown. It's just something he used to do and currently I (along with other people) do.
As for his departure (along with a lot of other contributors), I feel that it is unfortunate for the project and that having them back would be great.
For comparing how he and I work to help the project, I don't see the point. He and I both did/do what we can in our spare time to grow the project. To me, that's all that matters.
Premislaus: How looks like your work for Haiku Inc.? What are you specifically doing?
mmadia: These days, most of my work for Haiku, Inc. revolves around the donations. For the release of Haiku R1 alpha 3, a new feature of CafePress was used to handle the Commemorative CDs. It's not a perfect solution. Someone from Haiku, Inc. is needed to manually transfer the PayPal order information to CafePress and do some other data shuffling. As you can imagine the human factor has the potential to add some time delays. Eventually, I'd love for a better alternative to be showcased.
Some months ago, I started emailing every donor a thank-you letter. (The monthly subscribers get emails less frequently, as I'd rather not send them duplicate content.) At times though, RealLife gets in the way and several days can pass by before making time to do this.
Every two or three weeks, I'll update the donation meters and related pages on Haiku, Inc.'s website. Most of the work is done through a series of python and bash scripts, but there's still a good amount of manual labor involved. Down the road, I'd like to make that process even more automated, which would allow more frequent updates.
Premislaus: Can you tell us how looks the fundraising, seeking the programmers for contract, and Haiku share in GSOC? Are you looking for some business contacts with companies?
mmadia: The fundraising looks quite good. In the past four months, over $4,000 USD has been raised. Every month has been averaging close to or even over $1,000 USD. The generosity continually amazes and humbles me. More importantly, it serves as an affirmation of the decisions that have been made.
One of the best ways to donate is through recurring monthly donations. For Haiku, Inc. those subscriptions give a sense of stability and predictability to what is financially possible. What's particularly interesting about recurring monthly donations is the additive effect of everyone's contribution. By that I mean, when one person gives an amount that is right for them, it combines with the efforts of other people who also support Haiku. Before long all of that adds up to a
powerful force that can propel Haiku forward faster. Just like developing Haiku, all of us work together and contribute where we feel comfortable.
Finding people who can take a contract -- well, that's not as easy...
First, contract work is limited to developers who are already established within the Haiku project. That ensures that the time purchased is used on the actual work and not for learning how to program with Haiku's API, what a Haiku program should look and behave like, etc. That's the bottom line goal for the contracts -- to provide developers with an opportunity to dedicate large blocks of time for developing Haiku.
Even when Haiku, Inc.'s finances are tight, they are still interested in getting development contract proposals. One way of looking at that, it is the job of Haiku, Inc. to communicate how people can move the project forward.
Until a developer can be offered a full time job (with enough money to afford them benefits that are expected from a full time job), finding people for smaller contracts will remain challenging. Not impossible, but just challenging. Personally, I don't mind such a challenge.
Premislaus: What is your vision and strategy for Haiku in the coming years? Do you think a Haiku community will expand and increase the number of people paying donations?
mmadia: Honestly, I try to stay out of the of discussions of where and what Haiku will become. With being so involved with Haiku, Inc. as opposed to making other contributions, I place my trust in the other project members. My focus stays on finding ways to better enable people to implement those decisions.
The hardware supported by Haiku continues to grow -- take for example kallisti's radeon_hd work, mmlr's work on the sandy bridge support, yongcong's AMD C1E patch (from a Google Summer of Code student during the application period!). It's natural to expect the followers, users, and contributors of Haiku to grow. A lot of people seem to respect what the Haiku project has already achieved and plans to accomplish. With that, more donations will follow. As an example, here's a very compact trend of the last three years:
- 2009: 174 donations for a total of $2646 USD. (Prior to 2010, donations in EUR were automatically converted to USD)
- 2010: 512 donations for a total of $10,927 USD and €1,938 EUR.
- 2011: 654 donations for a total of $23,413 USD and €4,326 EUR.
Does this mean that every year will see similar growth? No, but I can dream, can't I?
Premislaus: What do you like and not like in Haiku, and what would you change?
mmadia: There's a few aspects of Haiku that I simply love. Perhaps the most is that Haiku is an operating system that doesn't get in your way and is there when you need it. It is difficult to recall the last time Haiku made me wait while it did something, where the operating system would
say, "Whoa, you're going to fast for me." When you think about it, a computer nor its software should ever tell the human how to use it.
Even though these next two aren't unqiue to Haiku (and I'm sure people will be happy to mention which window managers can do it), the option of using file navigation via right-click context menus and the window management are two features that have become expectations for me.
The window management features I've grown accustomed to are the Control+Command+RightMouseButton window resizing, the Control+Command+LeftMouseButton window moving, the RightMouse click
send-to-back and the Option+LeftMouseButton StackAndTile functionality. That combination (along with utilizing Workspaces) allows me to keep most applications open, without minimizing them. It
works so well for me, that I rarely use Twitcher for switching between applications or feel the need to close (or minimize) an application because I need the room.
What would I improve -- hmmm. Instead of Haiku the software, I'll talk about aspects of the project. I would love for more of the contributors to document (as Trac tickets) what they would like to improve, how they would do it and why they want to do it. Even though, every developer has their own personal TODO list, I think having that information recorded somewhere would help to spur other contributors. To me, growing contributors is vital to the health and future of Haiku. I've even toyed around with the idea of Haiku baby clothing. ;)
Premislaus: What programs are missing for you in Haiku?
mmadia: I admit, from time to time not being able to easily view videos on the internet hits a nerve.
Other than that, Haiku's IMAP functionality is less than perfect. I used to use GMail's webmail through BeZillaBrowser, but recently support for it has been dropped to the 'basic html mode'. Last I checked, WebPositive also had issues as well.
For both of those, an android tablet works well enough and allows me to keep Haiku running.
Premislaus: What do you think about the situation that we have two versions of Haiku, gcc2 and gcc4? Do you think that BeAPI should be abandoned in favor of QT? For me, and I think for the vast majority of the community, would be it a tragedy. Some people would like that to happen...
mmadia: For now, having the two versions of gcc is a necessity -- even though it can complicate things for developers and software packagers.
GCC 2 (and BeOS compatibility) acts a stable ground, both in terms of knowing that software will run on future versions of Haiku and ensuring that there's only so much to do before releasing R1. Granted, Haiku has a lot of improvements over the initial "only the features from R5", but it's worth it -- Locale Kit, Layout API, improved POSIX support, better file systems support. All of that has improved what Haiku can offer to people and what other software can offer Haiku.
GCC 4 allows us to more readily use newer software, such as WebKit. Additionally, since GCC 4 is considered experimental and with no guarantee of stability, it allows us to test newer API functionality. The Layout API is one example where it received updates that caused older gcc4 apps to break on newer revisions.
For the most part, I don't have plans to get involved in the Qt discussions. However ... At the moment, I'm not convinced one way or the other. Obviously there's benefits and disadvantages to both using Qt and not using Qt.
Qt wouldn't be the first piece of software to be re-used by the Haiku project. WebPositive utilizes WebKit. MediaPlayer uses FFMPeg. App_server uses Anti-Grain Geometry. Our networking utilizes FreeBSD's network drivers and even has an API for reusing the drivers on a source-code level! Initially, that FreeBSD compatibility layer even caused major issues for Haiku users -- in certain hardware configurations, Haiku would lock up due to IRQ conflicts. That problem has since been solved, we are all merrier for it, and no one questions having that FreeBSD compatibility layer. What's more those examples are just the tip of the iceberg -- take a look at AboutSystem to see
all of the other software that gets re-used in Haiku.
Ask yourself, is it the goal of Haiku to write everything from scratch or is it to make a viable operating system that the Be, Inc. engineers would be proud of? At the end of the day, all that matters to me is whether or not Haiku still remains itself -- a successor to BeOS, that embodies the dream and improves upon it.
Premislaus: Will there be yet any contracts for developers in this year? We all know that Michael Lotz had an accident and had to interrupt their work for Haiku, if you have some good news about his health? I think it would be nice if someone gave him a greetings from the Haiku community.
mmadia: Haiku, Inc. is always interested in development contracts. As mentioned on the Haiku's website, Michael's health is better, but other things in life have made it necessary for him to stop the contract. It is not a reflection upon Haiku or Michael himself. Rather, it's just another example where life getting in the way of your plans. There's still some loose ends to deal with -- for example making sure Michael gets paid and providing more of his work. All of that will happen in time.