Interview with Ossama Khayat - Jun 6, 2004 

Original

The Basics ...
  Full Name   Ossama Mohammad Khayat
  Age   29
  Country of origin   Lebanon
  Residing in   Kuwait
  Occupation/Studying   IT Trainer

1. Is there a project or site that you are affiliated with ? If so, how ?

I'm currently an active member of Arabeyes.org involved in many of its projects. I also dabble in various translation work for other Open Source programs and applications (outside of Arabeyes' realm) that I find useful/beneficial to me and others. I was initially introduced to Arabeyes through an article on Linux4Arab's news website which was referred to me by a friend at work. At that time, with about a year into my usage of Linux, I was still not aware of the Arabization work taking shape. Upon my introduction to Arabeyes I was so glad to be introduced to them that I dove in and started following up with any updates and/or news about that group and their work but I continued to think that I couldn't be able to help as I thought I needed to be a programmer (ie. needed to know the likes of C/C++ and others). I truly joined Arabeyes after almost a month of tracking their work when I realized that I could easily help by translating simple text files (*.po) and providing audio files for the Holy Qur'an project.

2. What is one thing that most people don't know about you (hobby, pet-peeve, abilities, etc) ?

I love sitting and chatting with older people. Ever since I was about 16 or so I noticed that I loved to listen to their life experiences and stories (as it gave me good guidance and ideas). My best friend is a 70 year-old man :-)

3. What are your thoughts on Linux and open-source ?

They are an amazing combination. I love them and I even got influenced by them ;-) really. First, I thought Open Source relates only to linux, but found it helpful for other OSs as well. Then I thought it's anything but Window$, but many many applications/projects are there for Microsoft's Windows (M$) OSs in SourceForge.net among others (all following the same Open Source model). It's really amazing how generous this model and it's followers/contributors are. Linux was/is the answer to all wishful thoughts in which we could get rid of Window$ and M$ stuff.

4. What got you interested in Linux and open-source ?

Full control. Being able to have a truly Open Sourced application results in being able to fully customize it (given the need/abilities are there). If you find a bug you can report it and expect (on average) to have it fixed within a month. If you need a feature, you can always add it yourself (with some hardship if you are not a programmer like me) or lobby for its inclusion based on the feature's benefits/needs. Above all, no matter what your education, programming-level or way of thinking you can always help in some manner !!

5. What are Linux/open-source's major advantages, as far as you are concerned ?

There's nothing to hide. No back-doors, hidden secrets, selfishness, control greed, patents... etc. It's all about sharing, participating, making a difference and giving back. The freedom and openness of these traits resulted in having massive amounts of participants from varying backgrounds, levels and nationalities. These people and these thoughts turned to be a perfect source for the advancement of Linux and Open Source in general. The unity aspects of Linux and Open Source just seem extraordinary to me.

6. What irks/displeases you about the open-source movement ?

From a relatively non-knowledgeable user perspective, it's difficult to do things easily. Especially for those who are used to M$'s click-click approach. An average user would need quite some time to get started and accustomed to what needs to be done. There is quite a large number of very useful applications, for example, yet still most of them are only available through console [ie. they are non-graphical (GUI) in nature]. Another major thing that bothers me is the apparent replication of work. What I mean here is likes of yum, apt, and up2date for example. The aim is the same, "managing and updating software" easily, but why the multiple means to do them. I believe it's always better to join forces to bring about one great result rather than forking/creating new projects resulting in many subpar, non-perfect ok projects. Software update is merely _one_ example, there are other areas where I see lots of needless replication.

7. How do you see Arabic fitting into the open-source movement ?

To me it's a great opportunity to have it fit since I'm in need of it :-). I've grown accustomed to just grabbing the source for whatever I see of benefit and Arabizating it (its a process I truly love). Open source, as mentioned previously, would be of great benefit to Arab world.

8. How have you been involved in Linux/open-source?

It all started with my interest to find Microsoft Windows (M$) alternatives back in 1999. My elder brother, Radwan, liked trying out different Operating Systems (OSs) he'd come across. One of those on a faithful day was Linux. The first distro I tried was SuSe 7 which came free with LinuxFormat magazine my brother had bought. To be honest, the installation was _really_ a piece of cake except for the partitioning bit. I suffered a little with that, but it went fine. The thing that truly shocked me (in a good way) was the fact that I didn't have to reboot - not even a single time and the system (PII-350/128MB/20GB) was booted into X without an hitch time and again. All hardware (except internal modem) was detected very nicely and I could use XMMS to play some MP3s along with some games. It was really a great moment for me and my quest. A year and a half into this experience (starting in 2001) I started preparing for my CIW Server Administrator exam, which included lessons about Linux, though in a brief and quick manner. As I was already a bit familiar with SuSe, I downloaded RedHat 7 (or 7.1 not sure) and started practicing on that (as required for the exam and course) and was hooked on RedHat and it's distributions ever since :-)

9. How will you become more involved in Linux/open-source ?

I've always been involved in open-source since my introduction to it (your usage of the future tense threw me off :-). Basically, I tell people about open-source and it's benefits. Its funny to see them freak out when they realize its FREE and ask "how could this work? you work for nothing!". I also try to publicize Open Source Software (OSS) and its benefits to my students (I'm a teacher after all).

10. What would you say your major contributions to Arabic Linux/open-source have been ?

I think it's mostly in the translation arena. Other than the projects I've been involved with via Arabeyes, I've done other work for various miscellaneous applications (phpmyadmin, tsclient, synaptic... etc), assisted in distrowatch.com's website and simply try to be my usual self and help in anything I see of benefit to the Arab/Muslim community (given I'm able to deliver).

11. How do you see Linux/open-source fitting into the Arab community?

With the advancements we see today, it's really very suitable and ready. I remember the first time I used Linux it almost lacked everything you need to read, write and deal with Arabic. Nowadays, I see more and more applications becoming Arabic aware/supportive though Unicode/UTF-8. One could even say that their support is better than Microzeft's ;) not only as a translated interface (our work is more natural and intuitive), but also in its native functional Arabic support.

12. What is the ideal path for development and progress in your opinion?

Dedication, hard-work and sacrifice. Let's put it this way - we always hear people saying "I'm busy", "really can't help much!", "there are more important things"... etc. My reply to those remarks is "NONSENSE - make the time".

13. What areas, in your opinion, need the most work?

Ease of use and integration. Like I mentioned before, there are plenty of really powerful tools/software, yet you have to suffer by reading long (and most times not of much benefit) manpages. There is also a big gap in integration between applications, be it office, internet, utility or server applications. Maybe because they are developed by different authors, but still there has to be a way to better integrate them.

14. What would you like to see happen sooner rather than later?

Easier Linux. In all ways, not just when it comes to installation, configuration, administration. Arabic _might_ be one of the things that will get more Arabs involved in using and grasping Linux, yet still these areas and the previously mentioned points would make Linux really unbeatable (you want to retain these new converts after all).

15. What gets you moving and wanting to contribute?

First of, I'm after the big award from Allah I'm going to get at the end. Imagine how great it would be if/when someone would say, "oh, this was done by Ossama, may Allah bless/have-mercy upon him". Second, is our need to give back a little to this great community from which I've actually learned to be more gracious (volunteering is a GREAT noble cause). I'm also humbled by various people who in many ways appreciate and keep encouraging me by simple words and/or deeds - so many nice things have happened which keep me coming back for more :-). So, at the end, when I pass away, I don't want to be "just someone who lived and died", do you ?

16. What Arabic Linux accomplishments have really excited you?

HaydarLinux, which was the first Arabic distro I used really excited me. The Vim patch, a really helpful addition, specially for console also ignited things. The fully Arabized GNOME and most recently, the Arabic PuTTY patch (which was just accepted :-) really move me.

17. What are some of your favorite links/channels?

First of, Linux4Arab through which I got to know about Open Source and what-not. I used to read LinuxToday alot and always quickly review Distrowatch updates. I also keep an eye on OS News. I don't watch the TV much, but during various crises my favorite outlet is AlJazeera.

18. What would you tell others to get them involved in the Linux/open-source movement ?

Contribute as much as you can. At the end, it will Inshalla come back to benefit you first and foremost. Even the little things make a big difference in the long run. We always have time to waste watching useless TV shows, chatting and chattering about useless things, surfing the net with no apparent goal/aim, etc. If you calculate all that wasted time, I'm sure you will find _at least_ 2 hours a day that you can easily spare and assist in various fields/things like translation (words or phrases), testing, providing feedback, bug reporting, voting for bugs, etc, etc. I mentioned these tasks because they are very simple, yet very effective and really make a quick difference. Case in point, I'm married with one child to take care of, I work as a teacher mostly teaching 6+ hours a day while continuously preparing for my upcoming classes that I need to deliver yet I find/make the time. I also have some other work I do and still I can find at least one hour to read emails and help a little with the various different projects. I remember when I kept nagging RedHat about including Arabic fonts and Arabic KDE interface - every time I did, it was just a few minutes while having a cup of tea !

19. How would you go about expanding Arabic Linux in general?

Make people aware of it; help them use it; get them involved in it.

20. Where do you see Arabic Linux in five years?

I pray everyday that our community wakes up and sees the benefits and needs of such a system. If this happens, it will be for sure the _only_ OS used in different places around the Arabic community.

21. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Away from any M$ related stuff :-) I want to be "Free as in Freedom". I want to learn more and more about Linux/open-source and help make this entire dream/wish a reality. Our dependence on Microsoft needs to end sooner rather than later.

22. Do you have any advice for the Arabic-speaking world regarding Linux and open-source?

Forget about M$. I've been for years involved in the "M$ DarkZone" and know first-hand about it's problems, fake promises and high-talk. You won't die or get sick if you don't play a game or use software that _only_ works on Windogz. There is always an alternative and if it's not there you/I/we need to make it happen.

 


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