Matt Kennedy: A long good-bye

This is the first of two posts. Don’t worry, they’re about different people. I’m doing this one first because it ties into the whole ancient history motif of this week’s posts.

Matt Kennedy (mkennedy) is one of my oldest online friends. I’ve known him since early in 2000 (or maybe even late ’99). He, along with Rach and Devdas (f3ew) and of course edge-op, is part of the yahoo! chat crowd. Of course, he was not mkennedy back then, he was matthewbk (and I still think of him that way). See, back in those days, I didn’t use irc (I’d used it 5 or 6 years prior) for getting in touch with linux type people. And Yahoo! had a chatroom called “Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris: 1” that served that purpose. It was in there that I did a lot of my early learning about the linux command line and shell utilities, as well as different distros (I was very much a Mandrake person back then). There was always something interesting going on — we were writing scripts and programmes, teaching each other regex subtleties, learning all about linux in faraway places.

So anyway, I was very much a private and anonymous person back then. I didn’t advertise my real name. Instead, I went with the handle “trinityneo303” which I thought was nicely anonymous. However, people shortened it to “trin” and that led to assumptions about my gender. When I finally did reveal that I was not, in fact, female, there was a vocal minority in that channel that pretty much wanted my blood for it. I’d kept my associations fairly technical up to that time (including with the four people I’ve mentioned above). Matt and Devdas were around the day that stuff went down, and they both of them fiercely defended me, earning my own lifetime loyalty and friendship in the process. See? good things happen when you’re honest!

Anyway, Matt and I were on similar tracks as far as distro-exploration. He was on Redhat, and I had been bouncing around between RedHat, Mandrake and SuSE then back to Mandrake. So, on edge-op’s encouragement, we both tried Debian for a while. I think that lasted a couple of months, but we both found it to be a little stifling. Me, I was testing a chat client that a friend of mine in LFS:1 had written in python. It required python2.1, whereas Debian unstable only had python2.0. So, I’d gotten a hold of a home-made .deb and installed it. At the next update, debian over-wrote that deb with python2.0 and I was locked into this upgrade/downgrade loop.

So I stepped over into #debian on irc (my first foray back into irc in like 7 or so years), to ask about a good way to resolve this cycle. Ten minutes in, I had a couple of people trying to grok what I was trying to do, when out of the blue, the channel op (who went by the name “jim”) asked me “why do you use Debian in the first place, anyway?” which I thought was a rather odd question. So when I responded with “why does it matter?” I guess I deserved to be kicked and banned from the channel. I do remember sending an email to some debian address that I found on the website, but got no response.

At about the same time, Matt was getting sick of his own Debian install and was looking to try one of these new source based distros we’d been hearing about. So he and I agreed to try two different ones. He would try this “gentoo” thing, and I would try “sorcerer gnu/linux” (which has its own checkered history and past that makes for some interesting reading). Anyway, I got into the install and started using it (fluxbox for the win), and I was kinda digging it. I mean the whole “casting” of “spells” out of the “grimoire” was a bit cheesy for my liking, but I was willing to overlook. It also looked like spells were fairly easy to create, so python 2.1 wasn’t looking like a big problem.

Matt, meanwhile, fell in love with Gentoo. So when we talked a few days later, we exchanged notes. He was hesitant to try Sorcerer, because Gentoo was so polished. I thought, “what the heck, I’m a distro-nomad anyway” and partitioned a disk for Gentoo (I did keep sorcerer around for a while). The first thing I noticed was how polished Gentoo was! The start-up messages had this fancy blue and green motif (as opposed to plain text on all the others I’d recently seen), etc. It had the source based thing. It had python2.1 already. Heck, it was based on python — I was getting that for free! I liked that “emerge” thing (and it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as “cast”). I thought I’d try it for a while.

Matt, meanwhile, had progressed to making ebuilds for programmes he used and enjoyed (in those days, the current directory was the portage overlay — so we tended to just create a directory in ~ for the purpose), and shared them with me. I tried to create one for the Yahoo! messenger client, but I was not very successful at it. Matt nudged me in the right directions for it, I even submitted it to bugzilla (and eventually checked it in).

Anyway, we both got really excited about Gentoo, but I started spending a lot more time in the IRC channel for it (which, again, was like paradise, especially coming from the place of banination). A few weeks later, after submitting a bunch of fixes for gnome things (nls removal stuff, mainly), Bruce Locke (blocke) recommended to Daniel that they just give me cvs access. So after a bit of back and forth, with blocke championing me, I got my very own access to Gentoo’s cvs and my brand spanking new email. Oh yeah, at the time I was trinitAX on IRC (which was a shortened form of my prior /nick). Anyway, the day I became a dev, I got the operator status in the channels, and officially changed my online persona and identification to match their real world counterparts.

A few weeks into my own induction into Gentoo dev, I started campaigning hard for Matt to join (since it was he, after all, who taught me all about ebuilds in the first place!). Sure enough, they succumbed to my nagging (but mainly they saw Matt’s capability — and his willingness to handle all things java and emacs), and matt became a developer as well.

To this day, I think Matt and I have fundamental differences of opinion (I don’t _get_ emacs, so I don’t use it; and I don’t do java at all), but he’s one of my oldest online friends and one of the people most responsible for teaching me the ways of linux and gentoo, and I’ll be forever in his debt for it.

Over the years, our paths within gentoo diverged, and eventually he just lost the love for development. I can certainly understand that. I can relate to it quite closely, actually. Matt resigned many weeks ago on the -core list, and his accounts are now in infra’s hands to disable.

I’m a little emotional about him leaving. It’s like losing a link to my past. Matt, you’ll always have a friend in me, and I wish and hope for you nothing except for the very best.

One thought on “Matt Kennedy: A long good-bye”

  1. Matthew Kennedy did great work on the Common Lisp infrastructure in Gentoo. It was his work that enabled me to get started hacking in Common Lisp. It is sad to hear he has moved on.

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