Interview with Steven Murphy, Co-Author of "Multitool Linux"
by Mirko Zorz - Friday, 20 September 2002.
Who is Steven Murphy?

I am a systems analyst principal working on the electronic commerce team for HealthPartners in Minnesota. I enjoy a simple life relaxing in my hot tub in my back yard and driving around my T-Maxx on the weekends. I've been programming since 1982 when my father bought my first computer, an Atari 800. I'm a family oriented person. My hobbies include music (drums, guitar, synthesizer, computer), R/C trucks, and robotic combat. In my spare time, I also design web sites and write web applications. Of course, I'd rather do this from the comfort of my hot tub, but I can't find a good water proof laptop within my budget.

Steven is also one of the authors of Multitool Linux.

How long have you been working with Linux, and how did you get interested in it?

I started working with Linux back in 1994 with the Slackware distribution. A co-worker told me about it and all I could think about was how much better it was going to be than Minix. I had dabbled with Minix on my Atari 1040ST a few years before then and had a difficult time with it. So fifty disks later I had Slackware installed and I was hook on Linux. It's been a true love affair for the past eight years now.

How long did it take you to write Multitool Linux and what was it like?

The bulk of my chapters was written in about six months. Editing took a lot of time with verifying information and changing text for the editors and reviewers. Of course, my initial estimate was that it would only take me a couple of months to get my chapters done - boy was I off. Not only did it take roughly 18 months, I found it really difficult to balance my work schedule, home schedule, wife schedule, and a new born schedule all while making time to write a book. So those six months of actual work spread out over 18+ months. Writing with four other authors was not as big a challenge as I thought it was going to be. We used CVS to centrally locate our repository of chapters, which were written in HTML by the way. We all used Linux, of course. I spent a lot of time reworking the archive to meet our publishers requirements for file submissions and formats. Luckily, the publisher accepted SGML, which HTML is just a subset of. So it all worked out nicely.

In your opinion, where does Linux need the most software development at the moment?

I always have a difficult time printing things. In Windows it's easy because Microsoft spent huge amounts of money developing a printer driver API and pumping the market full of money to develop printer drivers to the Windows API / printer subsystem. Linux needs something to support all of those printers on the market. Something that uses existing Windows DLL's would be really cool. I also feel Linux needs a better desktop. Now I know all the Gnome and KDE fans (I'm a KDE fan) will argue that their desktop is the best. Okay, so why is it so difficult to customize KDE and Gnome? Try customizing XP. It's easy. For Linux to succeed on the desktop, it will have to over come the little things like user account management, security management, and ease of use - and this means a better desktop. I think KDE and Gnome are a step in the right direction and I applaud the work done so far. Someday, my mother-in-law might be able to work with Linux on the desktop - that's when I'll declare Linux the desktop winner over Windows.

What advice do you have for people that are considering switching to Linux?

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