July 23, 2014

Interview with Matthew Garrett, GUADEC keynote speaker

GUADEC 2014 is just around the corner, and three exciting keynote speakers will be presenting during the conference. We took the opportunity to speak to Matthew Garrett, who will be giving one of those keynotes, about his keynote and about this year’s GUADEC.

Picture of Matthew GarrettHi Matthew, many know you for your work on UEFI and secure boot. Have you learnt anything through that experience?

I learned about the importance of implementing security in a way that respects a machine owner’s freedom. The risk was that UEFI secure boot would end up as what the FSF call Restricted Boot – a mechanism that restricts what the user can run on their system in the name of security. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and instead we ended up with systems that allow the user to choose their keys.

The great part of this has been seeing other companies express interest in ensuring that the devices they manufacture respect user freedom in the same way. I’ve spoken to people who are working hard on rolling out similar functionality on other devices, allowing users to run the software they want to without having to give up security in the process.

What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?

I’ll be talking about why a free software desktop is still vital, and why GNOME should be that desktop. Commercial desktops are inevitably going to compromise user freedom for the benefit of proprietary software vendors or governments, but many users are still going to be willing to accept the lost of those freedoms if it improves their productivity. We need to produce something that’s not merely more free, but actively better.

You have been contributing to Free Software for some time. What is your perspective on the new open source generations, who are starting out with the web and GitHub?

The sheer prevalence of free software means new developers may be less aware of the struggles previous generations went through in order to build the current ecosystem. The risk is that we’ll slide back towards a more proprietary world, and we need to keep paying attention to attacks on our freedoms.

You have attended to several GUADEC: how is to be a keynoter this time with a FSF Free Software Award in your pocket?

It’s an honor. GNOME was the first free software project I became heavily involved with, and I still have many good friends in the community. I’m proud to be able to speak in front of an audience so committed to providing high quality free software for the benefit of all users, not just those with a technical background.

What do you expect from this GUADEC?

I expect to spend time with a wonderful community of smart, driven people. I expect to hear about inspiring projects, exciting features and meet a variety of new people. And, being France, I expect to find some excellent food and wine.

We’d like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer our questions, and look forward to his keynote at GUADEC.