Careers: Interviews
Leading Mono, PostgreSQL, PHP expert

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with the internationally respected developer and author, Hans-Jurgen Schonig.

 

Hans is one of the founding partners of Cybertec Geschwinde & Schonig, an Austrian company providing commercial services for PostgreSQL, training, tuning, and remote administration for international clients. His book credits include: Mono Kick Start, PostgreSQL Developers Handbook, PHP and PostgreSQL Advanced Web Programming.

 

Discussion:

 

Q: Hans, it's a pleasure having you share your incredible knowledge and experiences with your audience-thank you.

 

A: It's a pleasure for me to get the chance to talk to you. I was very surprised that somebody is interested in interviewing me.

 

Q: Please share your background and how you got into your present position?

 

A: To be honest: We had a great deal of luck and some coincidences have helped us to publish books. Some years ago we were looking for a database system which was able to handle dozens of gigs of data. This product should be Open Source and so we started focusing entirely on PostgreSQL because it was the only database providing advanced features. We kept doing and all of a sudden SAMS offered us to write a book. Well, that's what we have done and that's what we are still doing. Meanwhile we have written 5 books (3 for SAMS and two for a German partner of SAMS). To be honest, I am still surprised that all those books beside me are mine.

 

Q: What important lessons (challenges and their solutions) can you share with the audience?

 

A: In case of trouble people have to keep doing - that's the most important lesson. Being persistent is the key to success. But still, people have to be flexible in order to see and react according to the demands of the market.

 

However, being persistent and flexible is still not enough. You have to feel well because otherwise it is not possible to achieve someone’s targets. Feeling happy with the things you are doing is important.

 

Q: And your company, more details please?

 

A: Cybertec has been founded in June 2000. We were the first company in Europe focusing entirely on PostgreSQL. In the past few years we have dealt with many customers (see www.postgresql.at) and it has in most cases been a pleasure.
 

We are a team consisting of my colleague Epi, me and some freelancer. We have two offices near Vienna where we have all the infrastructure we need.

 

Q: First define and then share your tips concerning PHP, and PostgreSQL.

 

A: There is so much I could tell you about PostgreSQL and products which can interact with PostgreSQL. There is nothing which comes to my mind instantly.

 

Q: What is Mono and how does it compare?

 

A: The target of the Mono project is to provide a free implementation of Microsoft's .NET framework. Mono runs nicely on Linux and Windows machines. It can hardly be compared to other products. Of course, it implements Microsoft's specs but still, it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

 

Q: What are the major problems and their solutions for porting Windows applications to UNIX or Linux?

 

A: The main is that the philosophy of Windows people is completely different. In some cases it is hard for me to follow these guys because on UNIX machines everything is so simple and so well thought. If Microsoft was that logical porting would be an easy task.

 

Q: Describe the subtle differences between using Mono in Windows and Linux?

 

A: Windows is not the platform I am in favour of. Personally I think that a pure UNIX solution feels better and tends to be more reliable. Mono itself behaves the same way so there are no real differences I am particularly aware of.

 

Q: How can you extend Mono with C?

 

A: Mono and .NET provide interfaces for doing that. Just compile you code and make a shared object out of it. Integrating those shared objects will be an easy task.

 

Q: Please detail the creation of user interfaces with GTK# and Qt#?

 

A: As far as I know there are already some tools for building interfaces with Mono available. I am not too familiar with those tool because the only GUI I am using is called "Vi".

 

Q: Share your tips on reading and writing XML files, writing stored procedures, implementing advanced network-based applications, security issues, using threads to execute code concurrently and so on.

 

A: Just do it like you would do it on any other platform.

 

Q: What are the major problems and successes with Open Source?

 

A: In general Open Source software is more flexible and it allows programmers to deal more extensively with a product because the code is open and free. I strongly believe that freedom is an important issue. Just assume that somebody would charge for things such as for using the alphabet or for reading a code of law. Nature itself is Open Source. Everybody can see how an apple grows and you can see the horizon without having to ask somebody. Having the chance to see apples does not mean that they have to be distributed for free - Open Source is about freedom and not about costs. A programmer has to be free to see the code of a product. Companies can still charge for it but is there a reason to hide something.
 

I recommend to deal with the ideas proposed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He is the father of Maharishi Ayurveda, an Indian science which is thousands of years old. The core idea is that everybody is supposed and allowed to see how things work. The idea of having access to something which is behind the scenes can be ported to modern software technology easily.

 

Q: Can you make future predictions about specific products and services coming from the Open Source movement?

 

A: PostgreSQL will rule the world. No, just joking. Let's get back to nature: Monocultures will cause problems. If there is just one plant it is much more likely that there will be diseases. It is the same with software. We need many different products which can compete with each other. Of course, PostgreSQL should be one of the more widespread plants but we don't mind if other products are out there - they will help to encourage PostgreSQL developers to produce even better software.

 

Q: How about forecasting what the IT industry will look like in five years? What products and services will dominate and which ones will disappear?

 

A: I have done forecasts for the labour market some years ago. Forecasting things like that is almost impossible. We will see. Hopefully Open Source will play an important role.

 

Q: Do you have comments about Web Services, its impact on traditional business models, current trends in business models for Web Services, creating a successful long-term Web Services business model, and its impact on ROI?

 

A: Web services are somehow state of the art. I don't think that the average ROI of all companies in an economy will increase but I expect companies which do not provide Web services to have lower revenues.

 

Q: What are some common problems and their solutions facing developers today?

 

A: In many cases we have to deal with closed source products and that's a major problem. In addition to the complexity of software is constantly increasing. There is almost everything available and it will hard to find a business where a company can breathe freely.

 

Q: Do you have some stories about very challenging situations and their resolution?

A: Nothing I'd like to tell.

 

Q: What trends do you see in program development? Please make some predictions about the future, and future technologies that businesses and IT professionals should be considering?

 

A: Rapid application development seems to be more important than ever.  I don't expect this to change in the future.

In the past few years software has become cheaper because many companies don't want to spend so much money anymore. Companies start to think about costs more and more. In my opinion this is a real chance for Open Source software because it is cost effective - but not only because of licensing costs.

 

Q:  Do you have differing recommendations for small, medium and large enterprise organizations?

 

A: Our recommendations don't depend on the size of a company - it rather depends on the demands we have to face.

 

Q: Can you provide your list of the ten most important issues facing corporations and IT professionals today? How can these issues be resolved?

 

A: Costs, time to market, total costs of ownership, persistent development, support, random events, unmanageable number of products on the market, many competitors, software will be more and more specific…

 

Q: With regards to security, please provide your detailed recommendations in this area?

 

A: Being aware of the problem is half the rent.

 

Q: You must have both interesting and funny stories to tell from your many rich experiences-please share a few.

 

A: Of course we have seen a lot of interesting and funny things. The most ridiculous thing I have ever seen was an ASCII based MPEG player which was provided at the O'Reilly Conference 2002 in San Diego. Have you ever seen somebody watching movies via Telnet???

 

Q: Which resources do you find the most useful?

A: www.postgresql.at, www.sapdb.at, http://kernel.cybertec.at, www.cybertec.at, http://cluster.cybertec.at, www.maxdb.at, ...

 

Q: If you were doing this interview, what three questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

 

A: You seem to be very busy - do you still have time for the things you really like? Of course I have. In summer my office is in my back yard and I can hear the birds singing when writing code. We travel a lot and love to go skiing, dancing Salsa, ... (we = me + my wife). In summer we love to go to a small, hidden lake near Vienna to relax. I love to deal with herbs and alternative medicine. Currently I am learning about feeling the pulse and Iridology (reading the Iris to discover diseases). I love mountains - especially when they are covered with snow.

 

When did you get your first computer? I was 13. It was an Amiga. After that I got a 486DX33. I am 25 now.

 

Where do you live?

I live in a small village near Vienna - we have moved out of Vienna a few months ago. Vienna is the capital of Austria, a small country somewhere in the Alps (the one next to Switzerland). Unfortunately we speak German - it is the only thing we have in common with German people.

 

Q: Do you have any more comments to add?

 

A: Check out our website at www.postgresql.at or send an email to hs@cybertec.at if you have further questions.

 

Q: It was a pleasure interviewing you. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with our audience.

 

A:  Thanks for interviewing me - I hope you don't feel bored now.

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