We interviewed new Fedora Project Leader Matthew Miller

by Swapnil Bhartiya

Red Hat sponsored Fedora Project has appointed Matthew Miller as the next Fedora Project Leader. He succeeds Robyn Bergeron. He is an early contributor to the Fedora Legacy project and a founder/leader of Boston University’s BU Linux distribution. He spent 15 years as a systems administrator at large universities before joining Red Hat in 2012. Here is an exclusive interview of Millar with The Mukt team.

Swapnil Bhartiya: We are at an interesting juncture where Microsoft’s market is declining and open source based Android and Chrome OS are taking over, since Fedora is closer to ‘Free Software’ ethos, do you think these two projects offer the alternative GNU/Linux always wanted?
Matthew Miller:
Well, first, I don’t think it’s possible to think of GNU/Linux as a single entity with a single want. So many people are involved, and we’re all involved in different ways and with different goals. While Android and Chrome OS are on open source, in their popular incarnations they’re tightly coupled to proprietary applications and services. In that way, they lean closer to MacOS than to anything resembling Linux. For the many people for whom displacing Microsoft’s desktop OS monopoly is important, seeing the rise of these alternatives is great, and it’s especially great that they are based on an open kernel and primarily open software — but, they’re really a different thing from what a distribution like Fedora offers, both in the practical differences in the user environment and because of a difference in real openness.

Swapnil Bhartiya: How relevant is Fedora in such a landscape when more and more users are moving away from non-free Windows PCs to Android?
Matthew Miller:
It’s not just Android; the mass market, from consumers to business users, is switching in ever greater numbers from laptops and traditional PCs to tablets and other mobile devices. Since the dawn of the PC as a real consumer device, most users haven’t really wanted a computer — they’ve wanted the things that having a computer lets you do. Email, document processing, business applications, web browsing, gaming, social interaction — those are the goals, and for most people, a computer is a confusing, difficult but necessary evil that they put up with because it’s the only way to get there.

Tablets and phones get people what they want without paying that price. But there will always remain a core segment of users who really do want the full-featured power of a desktop or workstation. They have more demanding user interface needs, they want to work with multiple applications together. Of course everyone values simplicity, but many people need more. A general-purpose computer can be an amazing tool for those who want it to be, and a core segment of the population does. This presents a big growth opportunity for Linux distributions like Fedora, because as the mass-market operating systems increasingly focus on the pared-down mobile/tablet/OS experience, the people who want more will find us to be exactly what they need.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Desktop Linux never gained traction, despite efforts from companies like Canonical. Then came Google with even more limited Chrome OS, but its gaining momentum, so why desktop Linux failed and Chrome OS seems to be succeeding? Is there any lesson we can learn from google?
Matthew Miller:
That’s exactly it; at that consumer market-market scale, the more limited operating systems are more appealing. And, in that market, it’s simply a matter of scale. The size and market presence of Google dwarfs even the biggest Linux companies, making it far easier for them to partner with consumer hardware providers, making it possible to be there out-of-the-box on tablets and mobile. So, I wouldn’t say that this is a lesson, just that it’s not really the same space.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What is the ‘role’ of Fedora within the GNU/Linux community?
Matthew Miller:
Fedora has a unique role when it comes to the wider Linux world – we follow the leading edge and provide the innovations of the open source and free software community to our users, but we don’t do so at the risk of being unusable. Essentially, we walk on the brink of the latest software developments while keeping our eye on what will actually matter to the people that use our software. Additionally, we do all of this in a completely free and open manner – there are no proprietary drivers or software packages in the Fedora operating system; it’s either free and open or it’s not included, despite the issues that this can sometimes lead to during development.

We also provide a powerful point-forward for enterprise Linux users – as the upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its downstream project, CentOS, we offer a look into the future of computing for the business user. Not necessarily six months or a year out, but our community is excellent at identifying the trends that will drive business computing three, five or even 10 years down the road.