by Marjorie Richardson

Recently, VA Research bought the domain and hired Trae McCombs to be the site manager. I talked to Trae on April 1 to find out his plans.

Margie: Tell us how you came to work on the site.

Trae: I am constantly amazed I have a job at VA Research. I never graduated from college and I spent four years in the military. At one time, I even had a climbing guide service and taught climbing. In March of 1995, I bought my first computer. I ran Windows for about a year and discovered very quickly that I wanted something else. Then I saw a screen shot of Linux—an old version of Enlightenment called FVWM-XPM—and thought, “I wanna run that!” I actually started running Linux because it was pretty!

Margie: Now that's a Linux story I haven't heard before.

Trae: I know! That was September of 1996, and getting started was pretty hard for me. I think I was the first non-geek, non-technical person to use Linux. Other users told me about RPM and configure->make->make install. I have no programming skills—I couldn't code to save my life!

Margie: So what are you doing working for VA Research?

Trae: That's an interesting question! They hired me for this position because of what I did for the site. I talked to all the major window manager authors about setting up an official theme site for their window manager. After getting their approval, I started building this huge themes repository for the Linux community. I couldn't have done it alone—I built a staff of about 18 volunteers who I managed. I think Larry Augustin was impressed with how I managed that site, and that's why he hired me.

For, I'm using that same model. To develop the web site, I have 13 volunteer staff people, and I'll probably scale up to 20 or 25. It's so easy to get people. This type of community involvement is what drives Linux and the Linux kernel. Linus said, “Hey, I can't do everything on my own. Let's bring in other people to do it.” I am using this same model to build

Margie: Tell me about the site.

Trae: is going to have a broad scope. It is going to be the quintessential Linux portal. When people hear about Linux, they will first go to to look for information. The press will also be able to get various tidbits of information they need. Phil Hughes is on our advisory board—we can't go wrong!

On the home site, there is going to be a huge “What is Linux” button. All around the button will be editorials, interviews, various other content and links to different things. A button bar at the left side will be totally configurable. People will be able to add links to their favorite places to the button bar. No one is doing that—others are just including everyone else's news. To me, this takes away from the experience of actually visiting other people's web sites.

The main feature is the “What is Linux” section that includes three areas: corporate, new to Linux and new to computers. When a visitor clicks on one of these areas, he will be walked through a “power point-esque”-type presentation, as opposed to a text FAQ. It's not going to be a full multimedia experience, but it will be very clear and concise, and at any time, a jump can be made to another path or presentation. The layout the staff is working on is very graphically pleasing, and more is yet to come.

Margie: Other sites do this same sort of thing. What exactly will make unique?

Trae: We will have a chat section off the main page where people will be able to get tech support from the community. No one does that now. Everyone else offers e-mail or other types of support. We'll have a “Talk with Linux Users” button where it will be easy to find. With just a click, they will be talking to other Linux users and finding answers to their questions. The only reason I am running Linux right now is because the Linux community is so open-armed and willing to help. They spend hours on IRC—countless hours—helping people like me. That's an invaluable resource.

Margie: Yes, it is. I'm always amazed how many people seem to have the time to do that. So, the chat space is why people will come to this site?

Trae: People will come because we are!

Margie: Oh, because of your name!

Trae: Yes, the name has power, lure—it is the main reason all those other people wanted this domain.

Margie: When do you expect to be up?

Trae: May 18—the start date for Red Hat's Linux Expo in North Carolina. I wanted to launch it at a trade show, and Linux Expo seemed the right time.

Margie: I'll be at the Expo this year, so I'll see you for the announcement. Any comments about

Trae: My hope is that when we bring out this truly awesome site, will say “Okay, that's great! Let's one-up them.” Then we'll say “Oh, wait a minute—let's one-up what they've done!” Guess who wins this game of “one-up-manship”? The users!

Margie: That is certainly a great attitude. Any closing thoughts?

Trae: As long as the Linux community wins, there will be no fracturing. We will never have hard feelings towards any site. I want to see Linux win. I'd also like to thank the staff and the rest of the Linux community who helped get us here.

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