The People Who Support Linux: Tony Awtrey, Linux Developer and Opera Singer
Listening to Tony Awtrey sing Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem is awe inspiring. The classically trained tenor has a euphonious voice capable of taking your breath away. He’s also a Linux developer and Chief Scientist in the defense industry.
“It's just a rehearsal, but I still like it,” Awtrey said of his performance (see the video, below), which he edited with open source OpenShot software on his Debian Linux desktop.
Singing is just one of his hobbies, along with some tinkering on Raspberry Pi and other small ARM platforms, he said. Maintaining an extensive home network also keeps him busy.
“It is a 16 core, 8 terabyte system which I run a number of virtual systems on using kvm, libvirt, and spicy,” he said via email. “I also develop simple tools for the Android-based phones and tablets we use, and have recently gotten a Google Chromebook to play with.”
But the bulk of his time is spent at work where he runs Debian unstable and uses XFCE as his preferred desktop environment.
He’s been a Linux user since 1993 when he worked at a small Unix shop. They couldn’t afford a SPARCstation running SunOS. And DOS and Windows “seemed so primitive,” by comparison, he said.
“Old farts like me will remember having to edit their config.sys and protocol.ini files, struggling to configure the drivers to load into extended or expanded memory, so you could still play Wolfenstein 3D or Doom after you got the network stack running,” he said. “The kids these days with their built in networking and Steam game downloads... get off my lawn!”
He stumbled onto Slackware Linux trying to find an X Window implementation that would work on DOS.
“The next day when my boss came in, he walked past my office, then stepped back to verify I really was running OpenLook on my office PC,” he said. “It didn't take long for that stack of 30 or so floppies to make their way into almost every PC in the shop. We even sold Linux on PC hardware as an inexpensive X Terminal for some clients.”
That experience turned him into a Linux advocate. He started a LUG in Melbourne, Florida in the 90’s, and traveled to other user groups and conferences to “pound the lectern” about using Linux.
“I spoke a few times at LinuxWorld as well, and got quoted a bunch in the industry press, including a cover photo on Computer Reseller News back in 2002.”
These days his lecturing about Linux is behind him. He mostly just uses it.
“When I go to meetings and suggest using Linux, everyone just nods,” Awtrey said. “The success of Linux in the data center, on Android devices, it is like suggesting someone make buildings out of concrete. What else would you use?”
Awtrey recently joined the Linux Foundation as an individual member. It was a way of thanking the developers who contributed the source code and documentation behind the technology he’s built his career on, he said. Welcome, Tony!