Gasconheart interviews mattf

On Aug. 9, 2021, I interviewed mattf, through a text chat platform. This is an edited version. Its final form was approved by mattf himself.



gasconheart My name is gasconheart, this is the first installment in a series of interviews I intend to post in my blog at SDF. Today's interviewee is a young man from Brazil. His nickname is mattf, and he is to be found on SDF, the Tildeverse and other online communities.

mattf, welcome and thanks for accepting granting me this interview.

mattf Thanks, gasconheart! It is a pleasure to be interviewed by you and to be the first of this series! Thanks for having me here.

gasconheart The pleasure is mine. Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from? Where do you live? How old are you?

mattf Okay. Well my real name is Matheus Fillipe. I am from Brazil and I was born and live on the state of Minas Gerais. I am 24 years old and I have a Civil Engineering degree but have been working as a programmer and sysadmin freelancer.

gasconheart Is Minas Gerais the Brazilian jungle?

mattf Well, not exactly, haha. The Brazilian jungle could be either "Mata Atlântica" or "Amazônia", and I am in neither of these. This is the state of the hicks, like Texas in the USA, you know, people with a different accent that live in farms... The biome would be "cerrado" which is a less dense type of forest, but mostly it is just farms here.

gasconheart Alright, you call the place where you live a "farm". How is life in the farm? Do you work at the farm? Please tell us.

mattf Hah! OK. So I was raised in the farm until I was about 11, then my family moved to a small city nearby. We still used to come to the farm on the weekends. I actually had to work on the farm for a few months of my life but I don't think I can really say I am a farm worker at all, or that I ever was. To me it was always like a vacations place. Me and my family moved back to it now during this pandemic.

It is nice, calmer, I can hear the birds. Despite the fact the connection we have here is horrible it is a much better place to live than any big crowded city.

And of course the animals! We don't have many but I have my cats here and, man, they are my passion.

gasconheart Nice! Do you guys at the farm ever killed an animal yourselves? Chickens, hens, ducks, pigs...

mattf Chikens and pigs yes. We still butcher pigs from time to time here.

gasconheart I admire those who have to kill animals for a living... That must be a difficult job. Anyway.

We know each other because our common interest in computers. I'm only an aficionado at computers. Do you remember your first experience with computers? How old were you? How was it?

mattf Oh I didn't have a computer or phone until I was like 12 or 13. My parents gave me this 2GB RAM Windows XP machine. Well back on that time I was only interested on studying and I didn't have much interest in diving deeper into computing stuff or programming. Oh, but that was the first time I had a computer at home, I am recalling now that when I was 8 I was on this "EasyComp" course for learning Microsoft stuff. It was about Word, Excel, well... Windows and the Office package. The only useful thing I recall from this was being introduced on how to type properly.

gasconheart Was that how your interest in computers began?

mattf Not really, I wasn't interested in computers until I was 18. Back then I wanted to be a scientist. I think I was inspired by movies like Back to the Future and other sci-fi ones. My dad used to watch these a lot and we talked about this. I wanted to be a physics professor and later I changed my mind for trying to join this qualified aeronautics school called ITA. So I was mostly rushing a lot and studying a lot during my teenagehood.

Some day when I was 17 we had this final school work in which we had to make a video, some sort of documentary, and I don't remember exactly what triggered me but there was something going wrong about the video editor I was using. I got really mad with it for some reason and then I thought "screw it, I need to learn how to do whatever the heck I want with a computer". Then it started. Very soon I was using linux then.

gasconheart I met you at SDF. Tell us how you learnt about SDF.

mattf Well about SDF it is not a very exciting story. I was still on my early days learning about computers, I had learned about BASH and SSH back then but not much. I was on my first year of university, I think, which was not computer related, Civil Engineering as I said. People still took me as a hacker, computer expert, for the little bit I knew. I think my father was having some network problem on the computer of his store and after fixing it I was going to type something random on the browser like "asdf" just to make sure. I missed the "a" then and typed "sdf" instead, and scrolling a bit now I found this "Free UNIX shell" or something. That caught my eyes. I might have remembered it and looked for it again later. I think I wanted to have some remote UNIX machine to play around as I was learning about that stuff. Now, from that to how I ended up in the com chat and met you I don't remember, but I think when you login the first time they say "type 'com' to chat" or something like that.

gasconheart Tell us about your college experience. How is it to be a University student? Is it demanding? What did you expect from the University? and what did your family expect from you there?

mattf Well I did Civil Engineering which wasn't the course that I wanted. My teenagehood dream was being a theoretical physicist and I could have joined that with less effort than any of that engineering stuff. My dad said that doesn't give money though, and.... Well he was right...

The engineering course was very demanding specially on the last two years. In the first three years it had all that basics about calculus and physics which I had already studied by myself before so that gave me more free time to learn about computers and programming, which was what I was getting into back then.

On the first year we had this C programming course as well that really opened my eyes more to this computer world. The last two years were very specific to the field and then I didn't have so much more free time anymore. I was lucky enough though to have a programming work placement and also my final paper was about a software I developed. So I really made everything to diverge my course into software stuff as much as I could. Anyway, software drives everything nowadays.

gasconheart This takes us directly to your personal achievements as a creator in the field of computers. What are your accomplishments as a programmer? In what languages can you code?

mattf Well, first of all I think that comes down to that old story: "The more I know about it, the more I realize that I don't really know anything". Specially on this software field where they make something up every single minute. There is a new javascript framework everyday, they arelady ran out of names for this! Back in the day I started learning, which is just like 7 years ago anyway, I made a little research about which language had the brightest future. I looked at Python and it looked very simple and easy, specially for me who had never coded before. It was the first language I learned then. I made a simple ASCII Tic Tac Toe game within a week learning that.

The languages I know best are Python and C. I also have an average knowledge of Java which is still very popular but it is so bureaucratic and annoying, C++ which is simply awesome but I don't think anyone can really understand all it can do at all, BASH or shell script of course. I have also done some jobs with PHP, Javascript, you know, basic fullstack web development. Well, and I have also touched and have an interest in Perl, Lua and I've been trying to learn Rust. Oh, and Elisp! I am learning Emacs recently too.

gasconheart Tell my readers about the app you wrote that reads your eyes' movements.

mattf Read eye movements? App? Oh, you might mean this little experiment I did. It was a little opencv Python script that would use my webcam, detect my eye pupils and by comparing with the white part it would give an estimate if I am looking to the right or to the left. Well you see I have two monitors and I use a tilling window manager. My goal was to be able to not need to press a shortcut to switch the keyboard focus to another monitor. So I would just look to the left and the left screen would be focused.

gasconheart That sounds just amazing! Congratulations.

mattf It worked fine for a little script but I abandoned it, the behavior was erratic sometimes and I realized I wasn't that lazy to press a shortcut after all.

I was watching a video on the other screen most of the time so having the focus change all the time I looked on it didn't work out very well. It was still a nice experimen.

Because, you see, 80% of the code I wrote or patched were some sort of small experimental script to make my life easier in some way so I can do the other 20% using tools only I have.

Because writting software is about making other's life easier in some way, automating the boring stuff. So if I want to do that for others I really have to first do it for myself.

gasconheart Talk about the programs you write to integrate different chat applications and protocols.

mattf Now about chat programs. Well, I had many little jobs of creating Telegram bots for people who wanted to, like, have some little store inside Telegram or that wanted to manage their channels better, mirror chats. Telegram is nice for letting developers do whatever type of clients or bots they want and also being friendly for newbies, but it is not really a FOSS communication service since the servers are centralized and not open source software.

IRC is the old good and known simple chat protocol. I also wrote my Python library for making IRC bots. It is called re-irc bots.

And I also have this experimental IRC client that works inside telegram, it is a Telegram bot that bridges to IRC, just because I didn't really find a good IRC client for Android besides the terminal ones you can have on termux.

gasconheart Are you employed right now?

mattf No, I am not, haha. I have a few clients that I do jobs for, system administration, fixing their PHP, Js, or those bots, but they are not fixed income to me and sometimes I really don't have anything. It's been a major learning experience nevertheless. I've been maintaining this video platform for an Israeli client and doing Reactjs, PHP and Python jobs as a freelancer.

I am interested in getting a remote job as a software developer. Until then I am learning with those.

gasconheart Would you move to Europe if you got a job here?

mattf Well, my plans include moving to Europe already! So, sure, yeah. I don't think Brazil has a future economically. This pandemic is not helping. We are going back to the time of high inflation rate so I really want to escape anytime soon.

gasconheart Leaving the nest is hard. Your parents might not be ok with it. What do they say?

mattf Oh, they don't really want me to live outside, I think, but what parents are not like this?

gasconheart That's right ok! How can a prospective employer reach you?

mattf Basically my github, or email, or .

gasconheart I want my readers to know that mattf helps me actively maintain my IRC server and he is always providing valuable help whenever I have issues with my computers. Thank you very much for your time and for this interview.

mattf Thank you! It was exciting! I am going to walk my pets outside now!



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