Interview with Carl Richell

I imagine quite a few of you have heard of System76.  System76 is a company that provides and supports Ubuntu pre-installed laptops, desktops, and servers.  What I expect is not so well known is the people behind System76.  I thought it would be a nice idea to get to know them better.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m Carl Richell, co-founder and CEO of System76. I’m 31 and live in Denver, Colorado. I’m married to a wonderful wife. We have tons of fun and I try to take her on business trips as often as possible.

I come from a line of entrepreneurs and have been one for as long as I can remember. My first business was buying candy in bulk and selling individual pieces to other kids at school. For a number of years I worked with my Dad in his construction company. I miss swinging hammers sometimes. My favorite was finishing basements. An empty pallet to play with.

I then started telephony consulting for Lucent Technologies. That migrated into complete IT consulting and finally, in 2005, to System76. I constantly need new projects and adventures. System76 provides the creative and professional expression I require. There’s never a boring day… though with the company becoming a “real” business over the years, I miss not being able to geek out as much (I used to run development releases at alpha 1 – now I must exercise patience).

I’m an atheist… a fan of Russell’s teapot, always trying to keep Occam’s razor sharp. I enjoy snowboarding, gaming, camping, boating, road trips, and finding small holes in the wall. On road trips I like to stay at cheap seedy places. They’re more interesting – and play better movies :-) .

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I think Pong – the single game console – got me started. Something about controlling what’s happening on a screen with your hands. In middle school we were tasked with writing a letter to our hero. I wrote Steve Jobs. In 1995 I wrote a letter to the CEO of IBM urging them to create a competing OS to the impending Windows 95 monopoly. I haven’t really put that together before… it’s strange to be here now.

Ubuntu, and in particular, Canonical’s business model, caught my attention when I started searching for the System76 distro of choice. The lack of an “Enterprise” pay version was important. From my perspective, Canonical and Ubuntu had all the right pieces in place – something that didn’t exist anywhere else.

Hoary was the first release I installed and our first computer – a Gazelle 2600 laptop – shipped with Breezy. We sold one computer our first month :)

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I think my first post was announcing System76 in the Community Market just over five years ago. I spent System76′s first year helping customers and other folks in the forums. Now I spend a good amount of time reading post in the System76 section (thank guys, awesome to be in there!). The forums help me keep in tune with customers and learn the perspectives of others.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

I’m not an Ubuntu member though I really should work on becoming one! We have a couple community programs to help promote Ubuntu. Our free ‘Powered by Ubuntu’ stickers and the 76er program for US LoCo’s.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

This goes back to growing into a “real” business. I used to switch between difference *buntu variants all the time. These days it’s Ubuntu exclusively. On most days I use Chromium, GIMP, Inkscape and Rhythmbox. I also use Eclipse, nano and GnuCash regularly and, of all things, Calculator (a lot)! I’ve been itching to make video ads but Pitivi isn’t doing it for me. I’d like to see something more aggressive here.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

My fondest memories are community events. I love having a beer and laughing with the folks that make up Ubuntu. Castro cracks me up.

What’s my worst? Probably having to grow a thicker skin. For some reason, not everyone will love our products :)

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I think we’ve done pretty well. My primary job is introducing new users. Press coverage of System76, and Ubuntu for that matter, are becoming more mainstream. We’re hitting ZDNet, Engadget, and PC Mag now!

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

World domination! Seriously. I think the community builds better software. I think System76 builds better hardware. That’s why we do it. Let’s take risk, drive, compete!

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Welcome to the revolution.

Originally Posted here on 2011-02-04

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