Luis Iván Cuende García demonstrates the power of Free Software and the determination of a fifteen year old


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Sep 26, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall
Luis and an old man

A few months ago I went to Campus Party in Spain. I have blogged about Campus Party before, so I will not spend a lot of time and space here on that topic.

I will tell you about a young man, Luis Iván Cuende García, who was fifteen years old when I met him but who had released his own distribution of Linux called “Asturix”. He, his father and his friend Ricardo had all traveled to Campus Party at the invitation of the Campus Party management.

The first thing his father said to me, quietly and as an aside, what that “Luis works very hard at creating Asturix”.

I had assumed that already. What I did not know at that time was that Luis had started Asturix three years before, at the age of twelve, and it was now used in over twenty countries.

Over the next couple of days I was able to talk several times with Luis. He was polite, confident without being egotistical, and had a good “stage presence”. So it was my pleasure to allow him ten minutes of my talk's time to tell the audience about Asturix.

As Campus Party came to a close we discussed doing an interview by email, and a few days after the event I sent Luis some questions by email, which he answered:

In some places I see your name as Luis Iván Cuende, and in other places as Luis Iván Cuende Garcia. What is your full name, and what do you like to be called?

My full name is Luis Iván Cuende García. Because my name is very long I'm used to omitting my second surname. People call me "Luis", "Iván", "Luis Iván" or "Cuende". The form I like best is "Luis Iván", but I don't make an issue of it.

With so many different Linux distributions out there, why did you start Asturix?

Asturix was created to provide my region (Asturias, Spain) a Linux distribution. Now Asturix is not geographically located, and is used in over 20 countries around the world.

A distribution is only a wrapper to put together a lot of different things and innovations. You can say "Install that CD" or "Install a Linux distribution and then install that list of packages using a package manager". I think first way is easier for the user.

What do you feel are the distinguishing features of Asturix today?

We are famous for being the first distribution incorporating facelogin, and we were in the sixth place of DistroWatch for it. That is the most important but there are a lot of features related to make the desktop social and web-integrated. Another area in which we focus is usability.

I think the most important thing is that Asturix is an open project. Because we aren't a big company we haven't economic influences, so we only focus on the user. We also have a forum in which users can report bugs or post their ideas for next versions.

At what age did you start using computers?

When I was 3 years old. Obviously I don't remember it, but my parents do.

At what age did you start programming?

I started programming HTML when I was 11 years old. Now I'm used to code in about 10 programming languages! Coding is funny, it lets me to create new things without cost.

At what age did you start using Linux?

I started using Linux when I was 12, about three years ago. The first distribution I tried was Fedora 7. It was an incredible experience when it booted in a very old machine and I used it the first time. Unforgettable.

At what age did you start the Asturix project?

About a couple months after I started using Linux, when I was 12.

Knowing the amount of time it takes to create something like a distribution, do you have other hobbies or interests?

I love dogs and playing basketball. I started playing basketball the same year I started using Linux, and at now I'm in the school team.

Education I have in my school is very restrictive, so I try to spend little time and just pass each year. I really hate school because it takes time away from what I like to do in my life.

How many people (roughly) are working on Asturix today?

We have about 30 developers in the Asturix Dev Team, although only about 6 are working every day. I am proud to work with a team with excellent people that believe in free culture.

You have a company. What is its name, URL and the main product of your company?

The company is Yestilo ( More than products we offer a lot of services. But right now Yestilo is more like a prototype because we're looking for real clients.

How many people are in your company?

At the moment just my father and me.

I met your father at Campus Party and he told me he has been programming for over thirty years. Has he been an influence on your interest in computers?

I don't know, it's possible. Before installing Linux the first time I don't like software development, it looked horrible! Then I installed Linux and all that changed.

At that time my father was using Windows. After a couple months I convinced him to leave the dark side. My father never tried to convince me to develop software, but I think the fact of having an old computer in my house dedicated to trying things was good.

What are your future plans for your life?

Although I have things very clear I don't have truly plans. I have a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet. The only thing I know is that I will be working in what I love, free software.

Luis and I continue to stay in touch. A month ago he wrote to tell me that a project which he presented at Campus Party, a distributed desktop, had won a contest sponsored by HackNow for programmers under eighteen years of age for which 300 contestants had entered. The first prize was a cash award of 5000 Euros, an Android phone and the chance to travel to Berlin to present his project this past September 17th.

As the presenter of the award said, “While other fifteen year olds are spending hours on Facebook, Luis is writing the next Facebook.”

This is why I love Free Software, and I look forward to seeing Luis at future Free Software events.

Carpe Diem!

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