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Joe "Zonker"Brockmeier is the Community Manager for openSUSE. He has been involved with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) since 1996 when he discovered FOSS while a college student and was hooked. For most of his career he has worked as a technology journalist covering Linux and open source topics. Most recently, he was Editor-in-Chief of Linux Magazine prior to joining Novell in February of 2008.

I asked him about his role in bringing this release to light and how the open source community drives this type of project.

Tell me about your role as openSUSE community manager?

Sure. The community manager role for openSUSE involves a number of things -- spreading the word about openSUSE, helping to ensure that the community has what it needs to work effectively, and being an
"ombudsman" for the community.

Largely, my role since I joined in February has been focused on the first part -- spreading the word about openSUSE in general. That's everything from helping to organize our presence at community events and so forth, speaking at conferences, working with press, and so forth.

Over the next year, that will continue, but I'll also start focusing on really ramping up our contributor programs and making it easier for people to collaborate with Novell on openSUSE and giving the community a stronger voice in development.

What's new in openSUSE 11.1?

Tons. :-)

More specifically, we have a lot of new software -- OpenOffice.org 3.0, GNOME 2.24, KDE 4.1.3, Banshee 1.4, and a lot more. We've also updated some important YaST modules (YaST is the system management tool for openSUSE) including the partitioner, printer module, and security module that allows users to examine their system's security.

This release also introduces a major new feature called Nomad, which is a new remote desktop technology. (http://en.opensuse.org/Nomad)

This was also a major update in other ways. First, this is the first release that was built in the openSUSE Build Service, which is an important step for allowing more contributions from the community over time. Also, we introduced a new, more friendly license and we removed some pieces of software from the DVD media that prevented redistribution, so now openSUSE is easier to obtain and distribute than ever before.

What role did the community have in the update?

The community, as always, played a major role in the release in terms of testing, translations, bug reporting, and so forth. We've also got a really good marketing team forming -- which doesn't specifically address the release itself, but is doing a great job coordinating our weekly news and Sneak Peeks series.

How do you plan for new releases in the wide open world of open source?

As a matter of fact, one of the things going on right now is that we're opening up discussion for the release schedule on the openSUSE-Project mailing list, so that the larger community has an opportunity to provide input and generate ideas on how best to schedule the next release.

It's not easy -- because GNOME and KDE have non-optimal staggered schedules, planning a release that would include the newest releases of both is very difficult. There's a lot to coordinate, and a lot of "moving parts" in a Linux distribution. When you realize just how much coordination and hard work is necessary to pull off a distro release, it makes the hard work that the contributors put in even more impressive.

How is openSUSE different from Novell SUSE Linux for the Enterprise? Are you affiliated at all?

Yes. openSUSE is the foundation for the SUSE Linux Enterprise releases. SLE 11 will be largely based on openSUSE 11.1, so much of the work that's gone into the openSUSE releases will benefit the enterprise version. (And the opposite is true as well - much of the openSUSE work is done as part of SLE development.)

In terms of differences -- openSUSE is a superset of SLE -- that is, it includes more packages. Obviously, it also has a faster release cycle and tends to stay on the leading edge of development than SLE.

SUSE Linux Enterprise is targeted, not surprisingly, at enterprise users -- so the release cycle is geared for that environment. Also, there's the support for the enterprise product and ISV and IHV certifications, as well as OEM deals for SLED and so forth.

The two are more alike than different, but the key differences are support, life cycle, and certifications. If you're looking for a desktop system for your home, openSUSE is the way to go. When you need an OS for 500 desktop installs for your business, look to the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.

Where did you get the nickname "Zonker?"

College. It was a pseudonym I picked up for an "underground" paper that I wrote for in college, and it stuck a bit. When I took my first job in the Linux industry, my boss asked if it was OK if I went by "Zonker" to avoid confusion with another Joe that had worked for the company. (Great guy, but this was really a case of making things more complicated in the name of making them more simple.)

And yes, it originally hails from the Doonesbury character of the same name. I've been a Doonesbury fan since I was a kid, and that character in particular.

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