December 2004

Interview: Colin Charles

This month we talk with Colin Charles of the Fedora Project. Colin wears many hats in his day-to-day participation, from management of the Fedora mailing lists, to wiki work, to testing, to advocacy. The depth and breadth of Colin's contributions place him in the forefront of the Fedora community.

Red Hat Magazine: So, Colin, what's your day job?

Colin Charles: Student, and consultant, depending on the hat I'm wearing.

RHM: Tell us about your student hat.

CC: I'm a computer science student in Australia. I expect to be done next year. That's as much importance as my student hat needs. :-)

RHM: Fair enough. How about the consultant hat, then?

CC: I do migration consultation, anything to do with or Linux, and currently am camping in China doing software development. Oh, and training.

RHM: First trip to China?

CC: This time, yes. But I'll be returning here next year. This year has been a good flying year; China, San Francisco, London, Wales, India, Malaysia numerous times. Australia numerous times too (of course.)

RHM: Thoughts so far on China?

CC: Beijing is fun.

RHM: How's your Chinese?

CC: Sucks! I'm getting by, thanks to friends and colleagues here. I'll learn Mandarin at a later stage.

RHM: Have you had a chance to work closely with any Chinese engineers?

CC: Yes, I work with Chinese engineers here. They are all smart, and hardworking.

RHM: How is Linux regarded in China, in your experience so far?

CC: We're an OSS ship here. I know of a few other Linux shops, and come Tuesday next, I'll be at the Beijing LUG meet, which apparently has a huge following.

RHM: Can you talk any about the software development work you're doing in China?

CC: Well, somewhat. We build solutions on top of Linux and other OSS stuff, like Python, Plone, Zope, Java, and so on. It's a software house, mainly, but more specifically, I can't say.

RHM: Understood. I understand you've been working a lot on the PPC tree for Fedora Core 3. How's that coming?

CC: The tree is open — — and now it's release notes time. Lots of people to thank in the release notes.

RHM: What's your background in Linux — how'd you get started?

CC: Back in the day, I had a 486 DX4 75MHz laptop, and while it ran Windows 3.1 fine, Windows 95 came out not long after. With 8MB of RAM it was chugging right along, but there was some disk corruption within the first week and it cheesed me off.

Getting Linux in Malaysia was hard to do, back then, as we had no Cheapbytes. The local Cheapbytes equivalent sold CDs for around RM35 (thats ~USD10 now), and that was a lot of money for a young student who got an allowance of RM5 a day. But with supportive parents and all at home I not only got all the resources I required, but also another computer (P233MMX) came not too long after.

RHM: So how did you get started with Fedora itself?

CC: I've always liked Red Hat Linux and used every release since 4.0 regularly. I dabbled with a few other distributions, like Debian on PowerPC, but that was fixed rather quickly, as we've had a FedoraPPC tree out for quite some time. The other day I found my Hurricane CD (Red Hat 5.0). Boy, was I amazed. :-)

RHM: Why do you continue to participate in Fedora?

CC: Continue? Because there's hope in the project. It has novel aims. And the community (really, there is one) is great.

RHM: Any advice for people trying to get involved with Fedora?

CC: For developers, start contributing packages to the Extras repository. Be active on Bugzilla (, and you will get some packages included after the lengthy QA process.

Otherwise, start helping out with the documentation project. Or the News Updates. Do advocacy pieces for your daily newspaper. Join in Fedora marketing. There's many ways to help, while we get the other infrastructure and leadership bits sorted out. You just have to know where to look.

RHM: Any other insights into what makes you tick?

CC: Sure. It's usually Coke, coffee, or Penguin Mints.

RHM: Great. Thanks for the time, Colin.

CC: No worries.

Colin Charles <>, © 1996-2004