Interview: Inside the mind of extreme kernel hacker, Paul Reioux
As we all know, each and every developer, or in this case, kernel hacker, is unique from one other. They all think differently and act differently, yet in the end all ,end up at a finish line that is very similar to one another.
So, while debating on what custom kernel I wanted to install on my newly rooted Galaxy Nexus, I decided to go straight to the source and ask for an interview with Paul Reioux who is well known around the Android community for his custom kernels.
As you will see below, the responses Paul gives us lets us understand a bit of how a kernel hacker thinks and works. So without further delay, let’s get to the good stuff and see what Paul has to say.
Me: First things first, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Paul: I am a software engineer with emphasis with embedded real-time systems. I have been working as a software engineer over 17 years.
Me: How long have you been involved with Android and what got you interested in Android in the beginning?
Paul: I got my first Android phone (Tmobile MyTouch 4G) around December 2010… I didn’t start my Android develop until around Februrary 2011.
Me: Of all the things you could have gotten involved where Android is concerned, why the kernel and not themes or ROM’s?
Paul: I’ve done pretty much everything with Android. I’ve done custom status bar icons. Then I’ve done some “porting” of HTC Sense UI from HTC desire Z to MyTouch 4g. I also built a few AOSP ROMS for MyTouch 4G and G2x (my 2nd phone) from Cyanogenmod and AOSP source in the early days as well.
Me: What makes your kernel different from other developers/hackers kernels that they build?
Paul: My main philosophy for my custom kernels is “load and forget about it”. I also like to backport many newer Linux bug fixes and enhancements available from newer Linux baselines to our older Android Linux baselines. (Android is often stuck with the older versions, so the newer bug fixes and features are often not available for Android kernels).
Me: When things break or just simply don’t work for you, what makes you keep going and working on things until you get it working?
Paul: I am always learning… my motto is to learn at least 1 thing new everday. Whenever I encounter a bug or things break, I treat it as a challenging puzzle and try to have fun solving it. And often times after I solved the issues, I learned something new along the way and feel quite satisfy as well.
Me: Tell us all of the Android devices you’ve owned.
Paul: I have LOTS of devices. I will try to list them in chronological order:
- T-mobile MyTouch 4G
- T-mobile G2x
- HTC Sensation 4G
- Motorola Atrix 4G
- Motorola Zoom Wifi
- Asus TF101
- Samsung SGS 2 (Hercules)
- HTC Amaze 4G
- Google Galaxy Nexus
- ZaTab (10″ Chinese ICS Tablet)
- HTC One X (Tegra3)
- Samsung SGS 3 (Tmobile)
- Google Nexus 7.
Me: What is the one Android device that you don’t own that you want more than anything?
Paul: Samsung SGS 3 International Editon (Exynos Quadcore). I always wanted to learn a new platform. I have worked with Qualcomm, Nvidia, OMAP, AllWinner but never with Exynos. So, the next device I get will certainly have an Exynos SOC in it.
Me: What are your thoughts on the “fragmentation” problem in the Android world? What do you think Google could do to fix it?
Paul: Fragmentation is an issue. This issue is primarily created by the manufactures of the Android devices not Google. If the manufacturers would update their devices at a faster pace, then fragmentation issues would be smaller.
Me: If you could have an app do anything in the world, what would it do?
Paul: I always use multiple apps to do copy system files and check for logs (logcat and dmesg)… so for me an ideal app would be something that combines all those activities into one.
Me: What is your favorite part of the kernel to tinker with?
Paul: I have the most fun when I backport new features often reserved for newer Linux baselines to the existing Android Linux baselines and be able to enjoy those features introduced by all those super-smart mainline Linux kernel hackers.
Time for some “fun” questions
Me: What do you do in your spare time?
Paul: I’m a movie buff! I collect blu-rays and DVDs. I have over 900+ blu-rays in my collection.. I often have friends and family coming over my place to have a movie night. I also like cycling, basketball and Table Tennis (aka PingPong)
Me: What manufacturer do you prefer over all others and why?
Paul: I used to love HTC, but their unlock policies and kernel source issues have lately left a bad taste in my mouth. Samsung, so far, has been the most open manufacturer of all the Android makers, so I would say Samsung for now
Me: What’s your favorite genre of music?
Paul: I listen to all kind of music, but my favorite would be British Rock/Pop.
Me: When you are hacking on the kernel, what do you listen to and why?
Paul: I listen to my MP3 collections, mainly from the 90s and early 2000′s with some 70′s and 60′s mixed in. I stopped listening to “newer” music from post 2000′s
Me: Why the Twitter name of “faux123″?
Paul: Faux123 was a nick I picked when I was heavily involved in the fighting video games and StarCraft 1/2 scenes. I was quite a hardcore video gamer. I primarily play Fight Games such as Street Fighter Series and RTS games on PC like Starcraft 1/2, Warcraft 2 and 3. Ever since Android, I’ve given up on my gaming involvement, but you can still find my nick on PS3 and Xbox live I still occasionally hop on PSN and/or XBox live.
Me: What social networks are you active on and how can users reach out to you?
Me: Me being a huge NFL fan, what’s your favorite NFL Football team?
Paul: GREEN BAY FOREVER! I love the Cheese Heads… Green Bay Football was the first game I’ve seen and they have left an impression so deep I am still a die hard fan of theirs.
Now, for a couple of totally off the wall questions
Me: As we all know, California’s economy is in the toilet. If you were governor of California, what would you do to boost the economy and turn it around?
Paul: Californians are very innovative (we have silicon valley). I would promote for friendlier business environments to allow small businesses to flourish and INNOVATE instead of bogged down by regulations and rules.
Me: How much oil do you think we could extract from the La Brea tarpits, and how would you suggest we go about it?
Paul: I am more interested in the discoveries still lie hidden in the tar pits more than the oil itself. We shouldn’t pump it out so we can preserve as much of the ancient skeletons there for the future generations to explore and discover.
Huge thanks to Paul for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to sit down with us and give us a look into how he, a kernel hacker, thinks and acts. Paul does some exceptional work for the Android community and if you don’t already follow him or have him circled, please go and do so now!