On Fri, 27 Apr 2012 17:53:06 +0530, Carlos E. R.
> On 2012-04-27 07:20, phanisvara das wrote:
>> i just came across this interview with hubert mantel, one of the
>> co-founders of the original S.u.S.E. linux distribution, also about the
>> future of SUSE. i don’t claim it’s without bias, but at least he’s one
>> knows what he’s talking about:
> The link does not load here. Several minutes loading, nothing displaying.
it loads here, after a while, and the website contains flash animations,
settings aren’t as liberal as mine. in addition, the article is spread
over three different pages, to give all these ads more exposure. here’s
On September 2 this year, SUSE will mark 20 years in the Linux business.
That’s an eternity in an industry where 18 months is considered a lifetime.
The company was set up in Nuremberg by three university students - Hubert
Mantel (pic below), Roland Dyroff, and Burchard Steinbild - and a software
engineer, Thomas Fehr.
They wanted to build software and provide UNIX support and decided to
distribute Linux, offering support.
For those who wonder about the name, Wikipedia says: “The name ‘S.u.S.E’
was originally a German acronym for ‘Software und System-Entwicklung’,
meaning ‘Software and systems development’. However, the full name has
never been used and the company has always been known as ‘S.u.S.E’,
shortened to ‘SuSE’ in October 1998 and more recently ‘SUSE’.”
In mid-1992, the Soft Landing System (SLS) distribution, the very first
GNU/Linux distribution, was produced by Peter MacDonald; Patrick
Volkerding then brought out Slackware which was largely based on SLS. And
in 1994, the first S.u.S.E Linux emerged, a German version of Slackware.
A couple of years later the company built its own distro, based on the now
extinct jurix. The founder of jurix, Florian La Roche joined the company,
and was responsible for building YaST, the SUSE installer.
Last year, SUSE, since 2004 a part of Novell, was moved back to Nuremberg
as a separate unit after Attachmate Corporation bought Novell and took the
One of the original SUSE hackers, Mantel, rejoined the company a few years
back and now has a chance to help the company re-cultivate some of that
original culture which made it so well-known.
Over the years, technology companies that lost their original technical
leads have tended to go downhill - two cases in point are Sun Microsystems
and Microsoft. Mantel’s return is thus a big positive for SUSE.
iTWire invited Mantel to participate in a Q and A to mark the 20th
anniversary of SUSE and he was kind enough to agree.
ITWIre: SUSE was once the predominant GNU/Linux distribution in Europe.
Now that it has relocated back in Nuremberg, how much time do you think it
will take before it can regain that status again?
Hubert Mantel: I think the whole computer/Linux world has changed in a way
that it no longer makes sense to talk about a predominant distribution in
an absolute way. When you talk about mobile devices, the answer certainly
is Android; when it comes to desktops in the Linux community, it might be
Ubuntu, while many internet and web servers are running some flavor of
The Linux business has evolved into an industry with many facets where
many players have specialised on certain aspects. And in the enterprise
segment, SUSE is very well established and plays an important role in
providing Linux for global companies.
Given that SUSE originally used a highly customised KDE as its desktop
environment, will it go back to this again?
There is no need to “go back to KDE”, since we always shipped it
One of the things I like most about Linux is that it gives you choice. I
have been using at least half a dozen of different desktops in the last
years; right now I’m using xfce on my main workstations while my “family
machines” continue to run KDE. My wife and children are just users and I
think KDE still is the most user friendly interface. The main complaint I
have about KDE is that it sometimes starts to be a bit over-engineered; I
would prefer it to be less resource hungry.
Any commercial GNU/Linux distribution that is successful these days has to
sell on its own unique features, not the operating system alone. One of
SUSE’s unique features is the SUSE Studio. Can you explain how this came
about – the thinking behind it and why you feel it has been so successful?
(The) main driving force is probably virtualisation. In the past, you
dealt with specific applications, nowadays you juggle with complete
virtual machines. This has all sorts of advantages: the systems are
separated; you have less security issues, need less hardware for testing,
and can simulate complex network setups with just one big machine.
And SUSE Studio lets you create your specific virtual machine(s) easily in
some minutes. It’s so convenient. I used a Studio created appliance as
starting point for my video disk recording system.
Any plans of taking SUSE down the mobile/tablet route?
Not to my knowledge. This niche has been successfully occupied by Google
with its Android system. But personally, I think it would be fun to hack
on such a system; if I were (had been) born 20 years later, this certainly
would be my favorite playground now
What is the degree of coordination that exists between SUSE and openSUSE?
Very high! Mentally, most engineers do not distinguish between the two
systems. It’s just SUSE with openSUSE being the head branch and SUSE Linux
Enterprise being the stable branch.
How do changes from the community distro flow into the enterprise distro?
Whenever something is changed/developed in openSUSE, people are pondering
if and when this change should also go into SUSE Linux Enterprise.
Sometimes those decisions are very hard since there are a lot more things
to be considered: What is the impact on existing installations? How much
effort is it to support the feature for many years? And so on. If some
decision turns out to be suboptimal, it can be reverted relatively easily
in openSUSE. In SUSE Linux Enterprise, we have to live with the results
for many, many years.
Well, and don’t forget the other way round - this also happens: often
there are open source projects and technologies that are kind of
“sponsored” or pushed into the openSUSE project on behalf of SUSE Linux
Enterprise because we understand our customers want to have that specific
technology incorporated. One example of such a technology is snapper.
How much focus is there on the enterprise desktop these days? Do you
think that is a market in which one make money in Europe? Or is it only
South American countries - Brazil, for example - which are good markets?
My personal feeling is that the era of the PC (and so of the desktop as
well) is slowly coming to an end. People are increasingly using tablets or
smartphones for just accessing remote appliances; data is being stored in
the cloud. So the desktop is becoming more and more irrelevant. In the
long run you probably do not need very much more than an internet browser.
How much has the culture of SUSE changed from what it was when you were
there at the start? Are you trying to recreate that mood so that the
enthusiasm present at that time - before you were acquired by Novell -
Working in a start-up always differs very much from working in a big
company with thousands of employees. Both worlds have their pros and cons.
When we were small, we were very agile and flexible; nowadays there is
more process and regulation. But I do understand that we need well-defined
processes and proper documentation in order to provide our customers the
quality level of support and services they need and pay for.
What I really loved about our start-up times was the lack of hierarchy and
the incredible efficiency: we all pulled together, everybody knew what he
had to do, so we did not need a boss. In fact, it was quite hard to find
team leaders when we reached a certain size, because everybody just wanted
to continue hacking instead of doing boring paper work and other
But these were special times (the infamous internet rush end of the
nineties) in a special company. Even nowadays, SUSE is a great place to
work. I wanted to make my hobby my profession and succeeded. So I’m quite
Do you still have the chance to get your fingers into code these days? Or
have you moved on altogether?
I’m still hacking on code. This is what I always wanted to do since I had
my first contact with computers back in 1977. I left the management
already in 1999 in favor of being able to work as an engineer. There are
better managers than me
Twenty years is a long time in the computer industry where 18 months is
considered a lifetime. Can you cast your mind back to the way things were
when you first started hacking on Linux and how they are now?
It is extremely interesting how things have evolved in the past two
decades. The motto of Linus Torvalds and Linux has been: “World
domination. Now!” I think Linux has reached this goal albeit in a
different way than we initially thought. Computers are ubiquitous, as is
Linux. Most people probably do not even know that they are using Linux
every day in various ways: The DSL modem is running Linux, the switches,
the WLAN access points and even many TV sets. Whenever you access some web
server, chances are very high the pages are delivered by a Linux system.
And with Android, most smartphones are running Linux as well. With
computers and the internet being such an important part of modern life, I
think it is very good that big parts of the infrastructure are open and
not in control of a single company that tries to lock in customers in
order to maximize its profit.
No interview with someone from SUSE is complete without a question about
Microsoft, so here goes. What do you see as the positives from the deal
struck with Microsoft in 2006? What are the negatives?
You probably know Gandhi’s famous quote: “First they ignore you, then they
laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
For me, the deal with Microsoft meant that Linux has won. It was the proof
that “they” no longer could ignore Linux; it was there and it was to stay.
We just had arrived in the computer industry. And we played a role
significant enough that a company like Microsoft would see it as
advantageous to cooperate with us.
The negatives were mainly on the emotional side. For many Linux
enthusiasts, Microsoft just was the “evil empire” and signing a contract
with them was perceived as betrayal. But like in real politics, you have
to make a compromise once and then if you want to advance.
And finally, what distribution do you use on your workstation/laptop?
openSUSE 11.4 and 12.1 on all my computers. Android on my tablet