Clarissa Womack has been a Linux fan for over a decade—and that’s saying a lot since she’s just 21 years old...
Growing up with Linux
Clarissa Womack has been a Linux fan for over a decade—and that’s saying a lot since she’s just 21 years old.
At the tender age of ten, she decided that she wanted to become a computer programmer and, indeed, she has never wavered from that path. While other kids were just playing computer games, Clarissa was reading computer magazines in an effort to learn everything she could about how computers work. In the computer magazines that she read, there weren’t many pages devoted to Linux, but everything that was written was positive—and this is what sparked her interest and kept it burning throughout her formative years. By the time she graduated from high school, Clarissa had already helped assemble home computers, had dabbled in multimedia and HTML, had programmed in Pascal/Delphi and was a member of the local LUG: the Home Unix Machine Brisbane User Group, otherwise known as HUMBUG .
Finding fellow Linux fanatics, and being able to talk shop with them on a regular basis, has helped Clarissa build her expertise and passion for open source. “I love meeting up with other Linux users, seeing their gadgets, and getting help with hardware and driver issues,” says Clarissa, who recently impressed and bemused her mostly male HUMBUG group with her vast array of spudgers that she keeps in a pink makeup case.
Building Linux chops
Hanging out with the guys at HUMBUG is just one of the ways that Clarissa is building her Linux network—and know-how. As a first-year software engineering student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane , Australia, Clarissa is currently learning C and programming the AVR ATmega64 microcontroller. Add to this her experience in Python and Eclipse, and it’s easy to see a bright future for this rising Linux star. “I want to keep developing all the skills I need to be able to effectively contribute to the open source community,” she says.
As one of our 2011 Linux Training  Scholarship winners, Clarissa will have yet another opportunity to build the Linux expertise she seeks. She hasn’t decided which Linux Training course she’ll take, but she’s leaning toward either Embedded Linux Development  or Linux Kernel Internals and Debugging . With the knowledge she gains, she hopes to develop new Linux-based applications, like tools for college students, mobile apps for Android, and exergames for the Wii.
Sharing the good news
As a true Linux evangelist, Clarissa spreads the word about open source everywhere she goes. She invites students to the HUMBUG group, she wears her Linux backpack and T-shirt from the 2011 linux.conf.au , and she even hands out DVDs of Ubuntu, UberStudent, and Fedora to anyone who shows interest. “I want there to be a wider acknowledgement of Linux as a viable, free, open source operating system to rival Windows and Mac OS X,” she says.
Motivated by “the enthusiasm of fellow geeks,” Clarissa is continually experimenting with Linux and often samples new distros just for fun. “I recently installed too many Linux distros on my laptop – and one particular distro caused all of the distros to stop booting,” she says. “I’m not going to start a distro war by naming the culprit – let’s just say I like to try distros – first in virtual machines, then on actual ones.”
Undeterred by distro crashes or temporary setbacks of any kind, Clarissa keeps moving forward on her quest for Linux knowledge, continuing to read the computer magazines that inspired her more than a decade ago—and finding new sources of information online and within the community. She considers herself trained via the “new school” method of programming, using an IDE with a GUI. But she also wants to go back and learn the “old school” method, using a text editor such as Vim or Emacs. “It takes more time to learn, but in the long run it’s more efficient,” she says, admitting that she’s actually looking forward to the process. But that’s not surprising coming from Clarissa. Because in her mind, Linux training isn’t just about continuing education or career building. It’s a way of life.