Jack Wallen

Writer, Actor and Tech Journalist

December 2021

Jack uses FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from December 27th to January 3rd. Thank you, Jack!

Please tell us about yourself

I’ve been and am many things: An actor, a writer, a director, a runner. I’ve performed on Broadway, written over 50 novels, and have run a 1/2 marathon distance every Saturday since the start of 2021. But that’s not what you want to know about, right? I’ve been an advocate for open-source since 1999. I started covering Linux as a tech journalist way back during the dot com era and haven’t stopped. I’ve written tens of thousands of articles since then for publications like TechRepublic, Linux.com, Linux New Media, The New Stack, TechTarget, and many more. My primary focus, over the past twenty years, has been to make Linux accessible and easy to understand by everyone.

What are you working on right now?

Right at this moment, I’m working on a new novel, “The Haunting of Lilly Marchbanks,” as well as a super-secret project that involves both the written word and video. I’m very excited about it, but it’s going to be one of those projects that will take considerable effort to pull off.

How did you first discover FOSS?

Back in 1997, I was struggling through the usual problems with Windows 95. Not only did I hate how unreliable it was, but I also hated that it wouldn’t allow me to work the way I wanted to work. It didn’t take me long to read about this new operating system called Linux and I immediately knew that was what I needed. After a quick trip to Circuit City, I have a store-bought copy of Caldera Open Linux 1.0 in my hands and, in a few short hours, had it up and running. When that distribution didn’t sit so well with me, I returned to Circuit City and purchased the only other option they had, Red Hat 4.2. After installing and logging in, I found my forever digital home in Linux.

What prompted you to start using FOSS?

My disdain for Windows.

How do you use FOSS?

I use FOSS for most of my daily tasks: Writing, communication, and social media. The only thing I don’t use FOSS for is video editing because the available applications have a way to go before they’re ready for professional-level editing.

Why should others use FOSS?

Anyone that values security, reliability, and ease of use should seriously consider migrating to the Linux operating system. Not only is it free (and very easy to use), but the code is vetted by incredibly talented programmers all over the world. You don’t get that with proprietary software and you never will.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

At the moment, the biggest limitation FOSS faces is the audience. The majority of computer and mobile users in the world don’t really know about FOSS. Another issue is that the average user doesn’t really care that a piece of software is open-source, they only care that it does what they need. So advocates of open-source software should stop leaning into the fact the code is available for downloading and focus more on how well the software works, that’s it’s freely available, and secure.

How can they be solved?

As I said, advocates need to radically change their focus and show potential new users what they want to see, instead of the bits they don’t care about.

What does a perfect day off look like?

I don’t take days off from writing, so that’s a non-issue. I’ve actually built a life (as a full-time writer) that I don’t feel the need to escape from. I believe that’s the key to keeping your sanity and your health.