This is a weblog I'm keeping about my work on Debian and any other useful Debian related info I come across. It is not meant to compete with other news sources like Debian Weekly News or Debian Planet. Mostly it is just a way for me to classify and remember all the random bits of information that I have floating around me. I thought maybe by using a blog it could be of some use to others too. Btw. "I" refers to Jaldhar H. Vyas, Debian developer for over 8 years. If you want to know more about me, my home page is here.
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I've come back from foss.in in Bangalore, India which I attended as a representative of the Debian project. Foss.in is the event formerly known as Linux Bangalore. It has broadened out to cover all aspects of Free and Open Source Software and is the largest such event in South Asia. I'm told almost 3000 people attended this year.
I arrived on the morning of Monday the 28th. The conference organizers put up myself and other speakers at the guesthouse of the Indian Institute of Science. The accomodations were spartan but comfortable. They got considerably less spartan by the next day which was when I figured how the hot water tap worked. I shared my room with Kartik Mistry of Gujarati l10n fame.
The first day of the conference was on Tuesday the 29th. The conference was taking place for the first time in a new venue, in several large canvas tents in the grounds of the Bangalore Palace. There were some technical difficulties; when we arrived on site in the morning, there was a line of people atleast several hundred long, waiting to register. Undoubtedly, some of them must have given up and gone home, but the fact that so many people persevered is a testament to the high level of energy surrounding the event. The talks began late too but everyone I spoke to seemed to take it goodnaturedly.
I had planned to give two talks. One my standard half-hour "What is Debian?" song and dance. If you went to Debian Day at Helsinki, you already know what that's about and a 90 minute workshop on "Creating Debian Packages." Both were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Owing to the earlier delays, the first of these which was slated for 2:30pm didn't start until 4pm. The organizers actually asked me to roll both talks up into one supertalk which was not a problem for me.
However, I made one fatal mistake. At lunch time I had noticed one of the food stalls was selling an inviting-smelling cheese pizza. Now, I've been to India enough times to know, "phirangis" simply don't eat dairy-based food in India unless they have some time to acclimatize to it first. I even said as much as I was eating the pizza. Somehow I rationalized that the cheese was pasteurized and well-cooked so the rule wouldn't apply to me but boy was I wrong. I first noticed signs of distress three-quarters of the way through "What is Debian?" I struggled valiantly to the end but then had to excuse myself to head off to the latrines and perform a hard reset of my gastro-intestinal tract.
A couple of minutes of vomitting later, though a bit wobbly, I felt well enough to return and start talking about creating Debian packages. I didn't have slides for this one, I just used my laptop to show the innards of binary and source packages, all the various files in the debian directory, debhelper, debconf, and the lifecycle of package maintainence. Unfortunately wi-fi didn't seem to be stretching as far as my location so I couldn't show such nifty things as apt-get source and pbuilder but hopefully my descriptions of these things were impressive enough. There were lots of good questions from the sizable audience and I think we went over 90 minutes.
Apart from some BOFs, I didn't really have any formal commitments for the rest of the conference so I spent it holding court at a table in the expo area. I was constantly busy demoing Debian, answering questions, and signing keys. I met Vaidhyanathan Mayilarangam who is a Debian developer, though inactive at the moment. He is going to start getting involved again soon. On Saturday the 3rd, I met the two currently active DDs, Ramakrishnan Muthukrishnan, and Ganesan Rajagopal. Throughout the days of the conference I also met many other figures on the Indian Free Software scene and made a lot of new contacts.
That's it for now; in future blog entries I'll write about some of my impressions of the prospects and problems of Debian and Free Software in India. It remains for me to thank: Branden for authorizing funds for my plane ticket, Atul Chitnis and the other organizers and staff of foss.in, Mahesh Pai and Prasad Kadambi who assisted me in navigating Bangalore, and all the other friends of Debian, new and old, I met during my trip.