Meet the next open-source stars

Our look at some of the up-and-coming people in the world of open-source.

The world of open-source software, by design, is something of a collective. Instead of well-defined teams of developers working on a project for pay, open-source software is the result of an amorphous community making contributions – some good, some bad. Everyone is part of the project, everyone has a stake.

Despite the collective nature of the process, there are some obvious stars in the open-source firmament. Linus Torvalds invented the Linux kernel. Richard Stallman came up with the philosophy of free software. But what about the next generation of open-source leaders? Here’s a look at six whose names you might want to remember.

[MORE OPEN-SOURCE: 13 hot new open source projects]

1. Jonathan Nadeau

Jonathan Nadeau is the creator of Sonar Linux, a customized Ubuntu-based distro designed with an emphasis on accessibility features for disabled users. He’s also an activist working for more accessible computing, and an outspoken free software proponent who is the driving force behind the Northeast GNU/Linux Fest.

Nadeau, 35, has been blind since 1992, having lost his sight in a car accident at the age of 14. His work on behalf of disabled users first gained attention in 2011, when, as an intern at the Free Software Foundation, he pushed for the inclusion of numerous accessibility features in version 5.0 of Trisquel, the all-free-software fork of Ubuntu.

He’s also currently the president and executive director of the Accessible Computing Foundation, a new non-profit dedicated to ensuring that all users – even those with disabilities – can reap the rewards of rapid technological advancement.

Nadeau is married, has three children, and recently completed a B.S. in computer science at Worcester State University. He says that disabled users desperately lack realistic accessibility options.

“Sure, there’s assistance technology that exists, but it’s ridiculously expensive,” he tells Network World. “If you were going to get a screen reader that works on Windows, you’re looking at at least $1,000 – and 80% of blind people in the country are unemployed.”

Nadeau says he plans to continue working on Sonar, and is hoping to add improved voice command features in the future. And if you weren’t impressed enough – he’s a Denver Broncos fan living in New England. Let that sink in for a second.

2. Joshua McKenty

Joshua McKenty is co-founder and CTO of PistonCloud and a key player in the creation of OpenStack, the open-source software framework that’s making waves in cloud computing.

A former NASA employee, McKenty’s work on that agency’s Nebula program helped lay the groundwork for OpenStack, which has been adopted by companies like Red Hat, HP and Yahoo among many others.

Piston Enterprise OpenStack is advertised as a “bare-metal” operating system that lets businesses create their own private clouds without the need for dedicated appliances or deep infrastructure expertise.

McKenty, 36, is also a trained acrobat and juggler, which he said in a recent blog post was good preparation for running a start-up.

“I had performed at least a thousand backflips before I was fully conscious, for the first time, of the view from upside down. It’s simply too disorienting, and it goes by too fast. While keeping your eyes open clearly *works* (since I was able to learn to land on my feet), it’s not something that your conscious brain can keep up with,” he wrote. “Startups are just like this. Growing a team, while building a product in a new and explosive market, feels just as foreign and disorienting to an entrepreneur, as spinning rapidly through the air does to an up-and-coming aerialist.”

He’s managed to keep his balance so far, it seems.

Jono Bacon

3. Jono Bacon

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu community manager for Canonical, is probably better known than the others on this list, and for good reason – he’s the public face of the commercial entity behind the most popular desktop Linux distro on the planet.Free Software Song. (To be honest, we weren’t aware of the Free Software Song before this, so that brightened our day considerably.)

He’s also a singer, guitarist and drummer who has been a member of several metal bands, including Severed Fifth, Seraphidian and Conspiracy. He’s even done a version of the

Bacon, 33, is essentially the bridge between the business side and community side of Ubuntu – which means he’s in charge of managing a relationship frequently marked by contention. Some recent moves by Canonical haven’t sat well with the user base, leaving Bacon with feathers to un-ruffle and bruised egos to assuage. Bacon, late last year, even had to handle public criticism from free software guru Richard Stallman.

He also maintains an active personal blog.

“Sometimes the empty moments just make you realize how full your life really is,” he recently wrote about a visit from his parents.

At this point, we’re just wondering how Jono has time for any empty moments at all.

Bryan Lunduke

4. Bryan Lunduke

Bryan Lunduke, 34, is a programmer, writer, cartoonist and generally prominent Linux media presence. (He is also, we should disclose, a paid blogger for Network World.)

And if, like most people, you’ve always thought it would be fun to manage a Linux distribution of your own, you have Bryan to thank for Linux Tycoon. (Yes, that’s right – you assign developers, choose packages to be part of your distro, and, hopefully, watch it become more and more popular. Sim City it ain’t, but it’s startlingly addictive.)

Lunduke is a former host of the Linux Action Show, an online video news series exploring, um, Linux. Everything from distro reviews to how-to guides to controversial interviews with Stallman are the subject matter. (And if you’re counting, yes; this makes him the second person on the list to have publicly butted heads with Stallman.) Lunduke says he still gets hate mail because of that interview, but that not all of the feedback was bad.

“I received way more positive notes than negative ones. Encouragement, agreement, advice, ideas... lots and lots of positive communication came about because of that. Turns out nerds are, as a rule, pretty smart and reasonable folks,” he says.

He’s also the writer of the Illumination Software Creator, a purely visual method of designing apps for Android, iOS, Flash, HTML5 and PyGTK. So there’s that, too.

5. Jordan Keyes

Jordan Keyes is a video producer for the XDA Developers mobile development website, creator of the YouTube series This Week In Linux, and an influential figure on Google Plus.

Keyes’ videos are focused on both Android and more general Linux news, with generous helpings of reviews for hardware and software, always presented in an accessible, conversational way. We also get little nuggets of information about Keyes himself, such as the fact that he doesn’t like sour candy very much.

He’s also a gamer, offering occasional playthrough videos, reviews and general thoughts at his TWILplays channel.

In addition to all this, and his role as a husband and father, Keyes also helps coordinate his local Blue Grass Linux User Group, in Lexington, Ken. BGLUG meetings feature presentations on topics like Bitcoin, Yocto and the JDK.

But Keyes’ primary focus remains video – XDA Developer TV boasts almost 122,000 subscribers, and his own channels have more than 12,000. When Keyes speaks, the Linux world listens.

6. Jos Poortvliet

Jos Poortvliet, 32, is the community manager for OpenSUSE, an influential distro backed by Novell that’s aimed directly at one of the key factors keeping the average user away from Linux: ease of use. OpenSUSE is designed to be as intuitive and accessible as possible, and it’s Poortvliet that helps keep development running smoothly.

He’s been a tireless advocate of free software for 10 years – the Dutch-born Berlin resident joined OpenSUSE in 2010 – and encourages others to get involved in the community wherever possible.

“I argue that if Free Software wants to get anywhere, it needs a culture of ‘collaboration first.’ In most areas, we have that. In some, we don’t - and that is hurting,” he wrote.

Poortvliet’s blog teems with organized, detailed and passionate articles dedicated to sparking greater participation in both OpenSUSE in particular and free software in general.

Despite the volume of persuasive writing he turns out, and the work required to keep an extensive community like OpenSUSE happy and productive, Poortvliet also has essentially the same job as the public face of KDE, the popular Linux desktop environment. So the next time you’re annoyed at work, picture having to work it twice as much.

Email Jon Gold at and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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