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Charles-H. Schulz Speaks About Mandriva, Openoffice.org, and LibreOffice



Summary: An interview with the Open Source Relations Manager of Mandriva, one who is boasting a pivotal role in the free office suites space

MR. Charles-H. Schulz is prominent in the Free/open source world and he is no stranger to Techrights. 4 years ago we wrote about him in relation to ODF advocacy and a year later we interviewed him. Recently, Charles got an appointment at Mandriva and last week he also got married. We decided to catch up and learn more about Mandriva, Openoffice.org, and LibreOffice.



Techrights: Please explain to us your role in Mandriva.

Charles-H. Schulz: My official title is "Open Source Relations Manager". My role is to help with the general open source strategy of Mandriva SA, and that implies several levels of involvement, either with the community or with the corporate level as well.

How does one go about transitioning from a corporate-centric model into a community-based one?

The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Let's define the terms here for the sake of clarity. A corporate centric model of open source governance, or better, a corporate centric model of FOSS project is a model where one corporation defines the project, is supposed to reap the benefits out of it, has a weak governance structure, and where most of the contributors are individuals who contribute to the project are individuals who are employed by the said corporation or by its affiliates.

"It's a model that allows for a diversity of stakeholders to get involved at various levels of the project, from the contributor to the leadership."A community-centric model is not a model where there are no corporations around. It's a model that allows for a diversity of stakeholders to get involved at various levels of the project, from the contributor to the leadership. It is also a model where the governance structure tends to be more defined, because the project is actually much more independent and does not rest on one sponsor for most of its resources and contributors.

So how do we transition from the former to the latter is by assessing what the main sponsor can offer, and by setting up a governance structure that allows a diversity of contributors to get involved. The resources question here is crucial. What do we need? How many servers? What's the migration process? And of course, what's the governance, and how do we make the new project truly independent from the former sponsor (regardless of the friendly or unfriendly relationship with this sponsor)?

I think the keyword here is "contributor". If you have enough contributors outside the main sponsor who are coming from diverse affiliations, then you have a sustainable project.

That's the kind of questions we have been studying on the 19th of June in Paris together with the Mandriva Linux community representatives. I think the results are very encouraging, and that we manage to make sense of what we want to do, how we are going to do it and why we do it; now we are entering the actual phase of work, and we'll try to keep this committee work effective while trying to involve the community at large on specific areas.

What office suite does Mandriva use by default and why?

Mandriva uses LibreOffice by default. And if you ask why, it's simply because it's the best free office suite ever.

You have had experience ushering a community from one project (OpenOffice.org) to another (LibreOffice) amid times of uncertainty and great risk. Are these are parallels to this case?

I think there are, although here we have the main sponsor, Mandriva SA, who is very open about the reasons why it can no longer sustain a Linux distribution project on its own, and therefore is working directly with the community to make an independent project emerge. That's the main difference. There are parallels though that tend to be more subtle: What we're trying to achieve, just like with the transition from Openoffice.org to LibreOffice, is a culture shift from "it will get done by someone else" to "we must do it". In other words, there is the same demand and urge to set up a fully meritocratic system.

How is collaboration between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice coming along?

You mean between Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice? Because Openoffice.org is dead, and it had several children. The collaboration is limited on practical terms because of the licensing differences, but we are rebasing our code on the latest Apache OpenOffice in order to be able to have a cleaner licensed base. Right now, we must still deal with the LGPL v3, and while it's a great licence it cannot change over time; so we have embarked in a relicensing effort towards MPL v2 and GPL v3+ and we are looking forward the interesting switch at Apache OpenOffice from the Openoffice.org codebase to the Symphony codebase; there will certainly be some code we might be able to reuse. Although, when you come to think of it, it's funny to enter the Apache Incubation Process with one software you're inheriting, and to use a different software you've also inherited just after the incubation process is completed :-)

Mandriva was once one of the most used (if not the most used) distributions of GNU/Linux. Where would you position the distribution on those terms in 2012?

"What we will end up seeing in 2012 and onwards, is a great community powered distribution that's separate from the company itself; and the company offering a range of Linux-powered products and platforms for the enterprise and the education market."Let's face it, the Mandriva Linux distribution was for years the most widely used distribution around. It's not the case anymore. Several changes happen in the GNU/Linux distribution market and Mandriva never really caught them. It's not so much that the distribution became outdated: if anything, using Mandriva today, or its fork, Mageia, shows just as advanced, beautiful and user-friendly the distribution is. But the alignment between a sound corporate strategy and the community side of things was never really thought of until now. What we will end up seeing in 2012 and onwards, is a great community powered distribution that's separate from the company itself; and the company offering a range of Linux-powered products and platforms for the enterprise and the education market. So if anything, you'll see more of Mandriva as a corporate distribution, and more of the Mandriva Linux community as a community distribution; there is no fork here, but a friendly and productive relationship with no exclusive reliance on each other.

Congratulations on the wedding. Have you gotten the wife using GNU/Linux yet?

Charles-H. Schulz and wifeOh, when I met Melissa she was already using the Gimp on Windows. She's a very creative individual, and a few months after the beginning of our relationship, her old laptop broke. I introduced her to GNU/Linux; she used various distributions: Ubuntu for a long time, but also Mandriva, and now she's a very happy Fedora user. I should also add that she created all of our wedding decorations, from the menus to the walls, with the Gimp; she's a poweruser of the Gimp and there are several community members, including me, who approached her asking whether she'd be interested in providing video tutorials for the project.

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