Christopher Obbard

Account nameobbardc
OpenPGP fingerprint F18B DC8B 6C25 F90A A23D 5174 634D C4F0 6870 46F8 0 Endorsements
Status Debian Developer, uploading since 2023-10-25

Short Biography

tl;dr: I've been using Debian personally for my Operating System for as long as I can remember mainly for the quality of the software. For this reason, I have been working mainly with Debian for my professional career. I was a developer of the 64 Studio distribution, which was a Debian-derivative which included a selection of music production software, multimedia creation software and custom-tuned real-time Kernel around 2005 until 2017. Thanks to 64 Studio Ltd, music and multimedia production on Debian is gold-standard! These days I develop custom Debian-based distros for clients of my employer Collabora Ltd and upstream all features/bug reports back to Debian.

long version: I came to Free Software very early in my life: I came from a disadvanted background where money was quite hard to come by and even harder to spend on luxuries. After begging for months my mother eventually caved and bought me a second-hand Pentium II computer. This computer was meant for Windows 98 but once I plugged it all in, it POSTed and then just some message about "Operating system not found". After speaking to the shop, it turns out that they couldn't sell second-hand computers with an OS installed due to the licence terms not allowing transfers. It was at this point I thought it was a strange money-making tactic and totally unfair. After this a family friend helped with some pirated software, but I was always a bit worried about this since it didn't seem right to use something without paying for it.

I used the computer, without internet, to play games such as Transport Tycoon and write small programs in Visual Basic 6. I remember having such big visions of writing my own text editor application since I didn't have a copy of Office at home. Obviously I didn't know about free software at this point in time.

After some time, around 2008, I was introduced to an early version of Knoppix, a live CD based around Debian. This fascinated me and I immediately started using it full-time for my experiments over Windows. My mind was now opened up into the world of free software and open source.

Ubuntu was my next distro, after having some free CDs delivered. Eventually I settled on Xubuntu since I liked XFCE. I tried Fedora, but could not get on with the weird package manager and preferred APT so always went back to Debian-based distros and eventually settled on Debian itself.

Little did I know that these beginnings would shape my ethics for the rest of my life: software and knowledge should be free, not just in terms of money but in terms of ability to observe how they have been developed and the ability to improve on the software as time goes on. Obviously, someone has to pay for the development so I am a strong believer in businesses funding development by paying motivated engineers such that everyone wins.

I spend some time learning Java, C and eventually Python, all at home in my own time with some help from family friends who bought back their computer science books from University (Objects First in Java) which helped me to understand some concepts and stop writing spaghetti code.

In 2010 I was to undertake a week of work experience at school: all of the options were underwhelming. After a lot of googling, I met Daniel James at 64 Studio Ltd who was developing a custom Debian Distribution for multimedia production and also for custom OEM products[0]. In this week I helped with the development of Stevland: a custom version of Ubuntu designed for people with disabilities to access the internet in Australian libraries: as soon as the computer turned on it had a custom wizard which would ask if the user would like any help using the computer. My job was to add speech output for blind users, specifically in an Australian accent to help users feel at home. I evaluated the open-source options and settled on using espeak package for speech sythysis and prerecorded dialog from a native speaker.

I continued working with 64 Studio Ltd on multiple other projects, learnt how to package software for Debian and maintained Platform Development Kit[1], known as PDK, a Free Software tool originally developed at Progeny Linux Systems for the automated creation and management of custom GNU/Linux distributions. I became fascinated with developing custom Debian distros.

After this work slowed, I moved into Electronic Engineering as a power supply design engineer then into Embedded Systems and completed my bachelor's degree in Electronics Engineering. I find electronics much more fascinating than computers, but one is the product of the other so there is no escape ;-).

In 2019 I applied to join Collabora Ltd since their work on free software and specifically Debian was something I wanted to get back into on a personal level. Since 2020 I have been developing a custom industrial OS platform called Apertis[2], a platform to create embedded Debian-based OS images and introduce an extra level of stability for products which may need to be in the field for 10+ years. As part of my work on Apertis I maintain a tool called debos[3], which is used to generate OS images using yaml format.

I also maintain packages in Debian and try to report and fix bugs upstream. I am always mindful of working in a way which satisfies both the communities need as well as the commercial world.

[0] [1] [2] [3]

Personal history

New-style processes
Started Last Target Applicant UID Status AM
2022-11-23 2023-10-25 DD, upl. Christopher Obbard obbardc Closed hartmans
2022-05-12 2022-05-19 DM Christopher Obbard obbardc Closed
2022-04-11 2022-04-27 DM Christopher Obbard obbardc Closed
2022-03-12 2022-03-28 DC+account Christopher Obbard obbardc Closed
2020-06-30 2020-07-15 DC+account Christopher Obbard obbardc Closed
Old-style processes
Applicant From To Applying for Progress AM Advocate(s)