by David Bagley
About the author:
David is the maintainer of xlock
Interview of David Bagley
This is an interview with David Bagley. David is a unicycler
(yeah and before you as k I can juggle too), a vegetarian (I
love animals), and father of 2 cute girls. He is also the
maintainer of xlock.
LF: You maintain xlock, could
you tell me the history of xlock ?
D.Bagley: Well it all started when I got on an HP and
found there was no way to lock my screen on the X Window
System. I was familiar with xlock from Sun and although I new
of xscreensaver ... I preferred the modes from xlock. So I
ported xlock to the HP and added a few more modes (spline,
maze, sphere, hyper, helix, rock, & blot) most stolen from
xscreensaver. I asked Patrick Naughton, the original author of
xlock, if he would like to add it to his distribution. Patrick
said he was too busy and that I could maintain xlock.
LF: Under which OS or computer
do you maintain or test xlockmore ?
D.Bagley: I used to test using HP, SunOS, and VMS but
now I only have access to Solaris (work) and Linux (home).
LF: How many different kinds of
computers does this software support?
D.Bagley: I try to make it so its only requirements are
X and UNIX/VMS. I have a lead on an NT port but I am pretty
die-hard UNIX advocate. I added the requirement of an ANSI-C
compiler. It cut out a few old UNIX boxes but they can always
get gcc. This made maintenance a little easier since patches in
my mail would always come in ANSI-C.
LF: Do you know how many copies
of xlock now run in the world ( on Linux box, on BSD , on Sun,
on HP ...) May be hundred may be million ?
D.Bagley: Yeah I do not keep track. On many
distributions of Linux, xlock is loaded by default if they load
the X, so it could be up there.
LF: The license I prefer for
software, is cardware, everyone who likes your software should
send you a post card ? :) look at
http://www.xbae.syd.net.au/postcards.html you could see my name
D.Bagley: Yeah. I prefer BSD style copyright. I prefer
as few restrictions as possible while preserving the author's
name on the code. Also I can not really change it anyway since
I am not the original author of xlock. How about Belgian
Chocolate ware... if you live in Belgium and use xlock you are
required to send 500g of assorted chocolates (no coconut
LF: On how many computers is
the software installed (may be with all Linux, on BSD Sun, on
HP , on .....)?
D.Bagley: I don't know. My estimate is to multiply my
monthly mail by 1000. So I guess maybe 80000 know enough about
xlock to run it from the command line. (I find Christmas time
depressing because I do not get much xlock mail :( ).
LF: What kind of problems do
you encounter with xlock ?
D.Bagley: Finding time. There is so much I would like to
do. I am always suffering from sleep deprivation. After 5 years
maintaining xlock, there are parts of xlock where I am not
comfortable changing. I usually try to tackle easy problems
first in my extensive TODO list. TrueColor problems are hard
for me to figure out, especially lately since I no longer have
a 24 bit display to play with. :(
LF: xlock(more) has around 70
modes ? Which one do you prefer, and why ?
D.Bagley: Yeah I recently counted 90. Its getting out of
hand. I guess I like the "boring" life modes, and ant, crystal,
and penrose. Fixing up "life" was one of my initial
inspirations in taking on xlockmore. Some of the initial life
configurations in the Sun version of xlock have small mistakes
which cause them to eventually die. Penrose is really neat
besides all the complicated math behind it, it sometimes makes
mistakes and it later figures out that it can not tile anymore
without creating an imperfection (run with -verbose to have it
LF: How many people work on
this software ?
D.Bagley: I usually have 6 or so regulars who bombard me
with fixes and updates. Many others have sent patches,
suggestions and modes. I want to take this time to especially
thank Jouk Jansen who has been helping me very consistently for
many years (author of the crystal mode).
LF: Do you think the command
line interface is dead, and now everything is GUI (Graphical
D.Bagley: Its kind of sad. I think I can get more work
out of a command line than a mouse. I still like games like
Adventure and hack too. Its kind of restrictive to have text
screensavers though... the only thing I can think of hand is
falling letters. ( without intervue ) ( SCO got one
text-screensaver , I may be I'll make it :) ?
LF: Xlock has a competitor,
xscreensaver. What kind of contact do you have together
D.Bagley: Jamie Zawinski (the author and maintainer of
xscreensaver) and I have had many arguments and discussions. I
admit xscreensaver is a superior product, but I prefer the ease
of running xlock (just one "simple" command). During periods of
cooperation we (Jamie did the bigger part) made it so that
xlock modes can be easily compiled into xscreensaver. We still
make it a point to steal good ideas from each other. We
recently have a agreement to share files (i.e. no changes)
where practical. We'll see how it goes.
LF: What do you think about the
other screensavers like after dark or screensavers for
D.Bagley: It has a nice user interface, if you are into
that sort of thing. I think xlock has some weird options that
would never show up on Microsoft... like -use3d, just in case
you have 3d glasses handy. Its the kind of option that is not
likely to appear unless source code is freely distributed and
patches can be fed back to the maintainer.
LF: Some 3D modes have appeared
in xlock, after the third version. How do you analyse this
D.Bagley: In retrospect, earlier main version changes
have been quite arbitrary. However, from version 3 to version
4, I adopted OpenGL and GNU's configure and also broke up the
source into separate directories. The 3d stuff (OpenGL) is
pretty cool. Its here to stay, especially since Microsoft
adopted it. I would like to see more modes written using it. A
text3d mode is currently in development.
LF: How does the community of
UNIX or Linux users react to your work ? Tell us about the CD
SuSE gave you a CD, email, a story board someone sent
D.Bagley: About half my mail is from Linux users. I
always enjoy receiving mail and patches about xlock. Support
from the web is a major component of xlock. I am also very
grateful for SuSE (a major Linux distributor) in distributing
their Linux CD to me, because I am a developer/maintainer.
LF: Will you stop maintaining
xlock soon ?
D.Bagley: I have a standing offer for anyone with more
time than me to take it up. (I would like some patches for
xlock first so I know its going into safe hands). Then I could
concentrate on improving modes (which was why I got into this).
Much of my time is taken up answering mail, testing,
maintaining the main part of the xlock program and adding
patches. In reality though, I think it would be hard for me to
give xlock up, since I always seem to make time for it (my wife
says I should get paid for it). I recently got a more demanding
job so I have less time to devote to xlock... I also want to
update xabacus someday, but my email is just about 100% about
xlock, so I never get around to it.
LF: What do you think about
Linux Free BSD, and free software in general ( GNU gcc, emacs,
Open source netscape ) ?
D.Bagley: Its great to have the source. Its also great
to allow users to feedback suggestions and patches back in to
the distribution. I think more work should be done in getting
gcc to work faster on different architectures. I have no
expertise in that department. I use gcc and SunC all the time.
emacs, yuck, I am a vi user even on my "DOS" machine. I like vi
since as an administrator its guaranteed to be on the system
(at least in the commercial world). One problem I have with vi
on Linux is there is no standard vi. I love the new features,
like multiple undo's, but other features of vi that I am used
to sometimes do not work. Open source netscape, yeah I think
that was Jamie Zawinski's idea (one of his many cool ideas). I
do not know how he finds so much time to put into xscreensaver
LF: What do you think about
Solaris giving the source code free ( 20 $ for the CD with port
D.Bagley: Wow. Thats the first I have heard of it. If I
did not know about Linux I would probably get it. Since I need
different operating systems to test, I'll keep my Linux machine
for home use. I would really hate to choose though if I could
only have one. DEC should do the same thing with VMS but they
are probably not likely to. By the way, I really hate the name
xlockmore... but what can I do now? I did not give it too much
thought when I first started maintaining it. I wanted a name
where it was easy to tell I was not the original developer.
2002-09-13, generated by lfparser version 2.31