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Ernesto Hernandez-Novich

User: kristi
Date: 9/3/2008 10:01 am
Views: 10216
Rating: 18    Rate [

The Essentials

Name: Ernesto Hernández-Novich
Username: SquOnk
Age: 39
Profession/Employer: Msc. Computer Science – IT Consultant – Local College Professor in Programming Languages and Automata Theory
Place of Residence: Caracas, Venezuela

WebGUI Related Questions

In what way(s) do you contribute to WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?
When did you first hear of WebGUI?
How and when did you get involved in WebGUI?

I've been a WebGUI user ever since version 7.0. At the time, a couple of customers consulted my opinion on CMSs while trying to run as far and fast as possible from PHP-based ones, and after trying out the top-tree Perl-based CMSs, I settled on WebGUI and had success implementing it. At the time I was aware of Bricolage and bumped onto Metadot through Google, but it was a fellow Perl-monger who gave me the WebGUI nugget.

Our company recommends and customizes Debian GNU/Linux, me being an active part of Debian's community. Installing WebGUI on Debian was hard, and being the lazy guy that I am, I started packaging all the required Perl modules and WebGUI to ease the installation, at least for my customers.

The packages weren't pretty nor up to Debian's high quality standards, but they worked and allowed me to get to know WebGUI a little better. Last year, when serious work started on the upcoming Lenny distribution, I decided to make sure that everything needed to run WebGUI got included in Debian properly, and thus started the long road of packaging, and this time with proper quality. I owe much of the packaging success to Debian's Perl Group: they helped polish my packaging skills and sponsored the needed uploads. This work had WebGUI 7.4 as a target, and once I had all the required Perl modules in Debian, the WebGUI package effort began; there were (and still are) several issues with WebGUI that needed fixing before a package was properly built. It was then that I turned to WebGUI's IRC channel both for help and to place my suggestions.

In the typical FOSS fashion, I started by giving, so I wrote proper POD documentation for the utility scripts and suggested a way to standardize them in a way that would make Debian packaging easier. It became evident that I had to package 7.5 instead of 7.4, so I shifted gears in that direction. Once my sponsors reviewed the package and attempted an upload, the package was rejected due to me missing some copyright notices and copying stuff I shouldn't have copied. It turns out there was a lot of “cruft” in the WebGUI distribution that needed cleaning up. I asked for it, the community did it and a proper package was built and the process streamlined according to Debian's Policy.

I'm currently keeping up with the Debian packaging effort. The package is still waiting to get accepted into Debian's repository for Lenny (keep your fingers crossed). I keep a private repository with the latest 7.5 release ready to go for Debian Lenny (the upcoming stable release), and I'm willing to maintain a proper repository somewhere with more bandwidth than my office's ADSL. There are several improvements that I'm currently working on so the package is even easier to install.

Are you paid to work on WebGUI?

Not yet.

How much time do you spend on WebGUI?

In the beginning, I was devoting seven to nine hours a week to learning, debugging and making sure I understood enough of the inner workings of WebGUI to attempt a package of reasonable quality. Once I streamlined my packaging procedure, I cut that time in half because most of it was done by the outstanding tools provided by the Debian Project and the impressive testing infrastructure that has been put in place by the WebGUI community. Nowadays, it takes me about ten minutes to upgrade the package to the latest release and place it in my repository, less than five minutes to upgrade my testing machine, and about a half hour of unattended regression testing.

What do you think is still missing from WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?

I think WebGUI will benefit from supporting PostgreSQL once again. I also think that WebGUI should be packaged as a proper Perl distribution. And I'm working to make those things happen for 7.6!

What keeps you motivated to keep working on WebGUI?

It's written in Perl. It works. It grows. It's fun. That's what software is all about, having fun making things work for people.

What's WebGUI's killer feature and why?

The creative use of JavaScript to enhance usability, although I'm not a Web designer. I find drag and drop features, the administration panel and the judicious use of templates and CSS make it easier for end-users to work and enhance the CMS without ever going to the command line. And I like my users away from the command line where they could break things, including body parts.

What's WebGUI's greatest weakness and why?

The lack of free documentation. I completely understand the business strategy of selling documentation and training, and am fine with it. However, I feel that a short tutorial included with the software will make it easier for newcomers to bridge the gap to productivity.

What makes you work on WebGUI over the competition?

Internationalization, for one thing. My customers want Spanish translations. I found that WebGUI had a great infrastructure for translations, and even though there was no Spanish translation at the time, I could undertake that work if needed. That's not the case with the other CMSs I tried... the author of one of them wasn't even interested in supporting anything but English. Go figure.

I also find WebGUI's approach to mod_perl exploitation great. It's one of those few applications that really takes advantage of having Perl embedded in Apache. This allows for improved scalability and somewhat easy capacity planning.

What's your most brilliant WebGUI hack?

I haven't hacked on WebGUI yet, except for writing POD documentation and switching the command line options to the friendlier (and lazier) Pod::Usage style.

Have you attended the WebGUI Users Conference?

No. I hope to make it next year.

Where do you keep your Gooey doll?

In my office, next to my gaming box.

Personal Questions

How would you describe yourself?

Weird. Perfectionist. Strict. Frustrated pilot (poor eyesight). Just another Perl hacker.

Are you married, dating, or otherwise involved?

I have been living with my significant other for six years now.

Do you have any kids?

I have a five year-old boy. He's a Debian user too!

Do you have any pets?


If someone visits your area, what's something they must see or do?

Venezuela is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We have beaches, jungle, plains, deserts and plains filled with amazing flora and fauna. Caracas, being the capital, is a big city in a valley, so you should go sightseeing to the Avila, the tallest mountain around the valley, and probably visit the historical landmarks in the city center.  I'm originally from Ciudad Bolívar, down south in the edge of the Amazon jungle where rivers, waterfalls (Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall on earth, roughly 3000 feet) and indigenous people are an interesting sight. If you're a beach buff, our eastern Caribbean seashore has calm clear water beaches, while the western Caribbean seashore has windier rough beaches; Margarita Island, on the east of the country, and Paraguaná on the west, are well known. Be prepared for hot damp weather all year round.

And if you come during baseball season (October-January) you MUST attend a Caracas-Magallanes game. It's our version of  Cubs-Cardinals or Yankees-Red Sox, but filled with the Caribbean heat. Be advised: there will be beer all around and ON you.

What do you hate?

People who do not respect your time, your privacy or your right to disagree.
Bad code “just because I had to meet a deadline” (that goes to my students too).
FOSS being labeled as socialist/communist/capitalist/choose-your-ist

What do you love?

My son.
Good, lyrics-less, symphonic rock.
Smart people who figure out solutions instead of becoming part of the problem.

What's the last book you read?

Three in parallel actually:

The Haskell Road to Math and Logic
Guerrilla Capacity Planning
Anton Chejov, Essential Tales

What's the last CD/MP3 you bought?

Marillion's Marbles. Not that good, but since I own all of Marillion's records, I guess it has collector's value :-)

What's the last movie you watched?

At a proper movie theater, Kung Fu Panda, with my son and my two nephews. At home, School of Rock for the umpteenth time :-)

You're stuck on a train/plane for 6 hours and bored out of your mind, what do you do to amuse yourself?

It's been a while since I've traveled by plane and there are scarce train routes here. I'll probably do the same flight in FlightGear (if my battery allows). And the iPod is always there... running RockBox, of course.

Any last words?

My e-mail signature reads:

Geek by nature, Linux by choice, Debian of course.
If you can't aptitude it, it isn't useful or doesn't exist.

...surely WebGUI should be aptitude installable :-)


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