FOSS Community India


Name: Varun Hiremath
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
IRC Nick: varun
Email: varunhiremath at gmail dot com

Computer / Laptop Configuration and OS (Distro):

  • Desktop: Intel P-IV 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 15" monitor, Debian GNU/Linux.


  • How did you get into GNU, Linux and FOSS in general?

I first encountered Linux and free software in 2003 when I came to IIT Madras. Most of the systems here were running some version of Linux. I started learning Linux and tried out many free softwares in my first year of graduation. I used to work on Red Hat and Fedora Systems. I heard about Debian GNU/Linux from my friend Kumar Appaiah. I really liked Debian's package management system, the freedom to select the packages you need, and the ease of installation and up-gradation of packages. Moreover, we had a Debian mirror inside our campus "" so, it made more sense to use Debian as we could install packages at lightning speeds.

Since then I have been using Debian. Its been almost three years now and I have not faced any problems with Debian. Over the years I have learned a lot about the Debian system as a whole, the way it functions, the BTS, the package management system, etc. I started maintaining some packages in Debian from 2006 and I have been working as a Debian Developer since December 2007.

  • Share your first encounter with FOSS (Installation, setup, etc.)

At the end of my first year during the summer vacations I took home 4 CDs of Fedora. I had a 4 GB hard disk, 64 MB RAM, P-II machine those days. I managed to create a dual boot system with windows and fedora installed on two 2 GB partitions. I might have formated my computer 5-6 times during this entire process and learnt a lot about linux installation, partitioning, grub etc. In all it was a very nice experience.

  • What lead to a sustained continuity in FOSS after you stepped in?

After my initial encounter with FOSS and GNU/Linux at IITM, I continued trying out different things on linux and slowly started contributing to some opensource projects by submitting small patches. I also started maintaining some packages in Debian and got involved in many projects during my third and fourth year at IITM.

While working for these open-source projects, I learned a lot of things like - efficient coding, documentation, patching systems, version control systems - cvs, svn, git, etc. All these things have helped me to do my academic/research work more efficiently. My eager to learn more has helped me to continue contributing to FOSS projects.

  • A funny instance during your initial days of computing with FOSS / computers complimentary to second question)

During my early days at iitm I found ssh command very interesting and powerful, and believe me I had never used it before coming to IIT Madras. I used to pain some of my friends by sshing to their computers and ejecting their CD drives or playing some music :-).. they had no clue what was going on.

Present FOSS activity[]

  • Which project do you currently contribute to?

I am a Debian Developer and I am currently maintaining about 135 packages in Debian. This is my Debian QA page where you will find the list of packages I am currently maintaining in Debian:

Apart from Debian I have been contributing to many open source projects:

1) I am author of open source project python-gastables: python modules for compressible gas flow calculations: Homepage:

2) I am also author of Krickscore - KDE applet for cricket scores.


3) I have been contributing to Jajuk - Advanced Juke box project, where I am working as a Developer and Debian package maintainer. Homepage:

4) I am also currently maintaing pidgin-festival ( formerly knows as festival-gaim). I rewrote festival-gaim to make it work with the new pidgin API. Homepage:

  • How much time in a week / day / month do you spend on it?

I spend about and an hour daily on week days and may be 3-4 hours on weekends.

  • What are your favourite text editor[s] / IDE[s] / development environment tools?


  • What do you think is best about your project (that you contribute to)?

I am working with the Debian project and I believe Debian is a very stable distribution built on a very strong package management system. I also like Debian's commitment to the open source community; Debian strongly believes in the open source philosophy and follows it strictly through the DFSG and the social contract [2]. I'm proud to be working for Debian.


  • What would you like to advise budding contributors/developers?

I would say just keep on contributing in whatever way you can and you will surely get to learn a lot in return. And please enjoy whatever you do and don't do it just for the sake of doing.

  • Any favourite programming language?

Python, C++


  • "Philosophy plus pragmatism" or "Just Philosophy can achieve goals" or "Just Pragmatism can achieve goals" - Could also be looked as RMS or Linus

There is nothing much to choose between them... All seem fine to me.

  • What's interesting about your local GNU/Linux User Group / other community that you are a part of?

I am part of the linux users' community at IITM [1] which has close to 500 members. It comprises of students from all years and I find it very encouraging to see new students showing a lot of interest in FOSS & GNU/Linux and asking questions on the mailing list. The group is very active and we have regular meetings/sessions.


  • Five quick buzzwords (verbs / adjectives) for an "ideal" community according to you?

Encouraging, Active, Enthusiastic, Eager, Intense (should have frequent flame wars :-)

  • Best (or your favorite) FOSS related conference in India (One or many) and why?

I haven't attended many, but ChennaiFOSS was good.

  • How does it feels to have two DDs from neighbouring rooms?

(Kumar Appaiah stays next to my room)

It is a big advantage having him next door because we get to learn a lot from each other. Usually there is a lot of activity going on in Debian, and it becomes very difficult to keep track of things; having another DD next door really helps a lot to catch up with action.

  • Do you want to be a Debian Project Leader someday? If yes what

would be your goals?

I haven't thought about that..

  • What are your ideas to grow the Debian community in India?

I don't have any great plans as of now. All I'm doing is helping my friends to convert to Debian at IITM and encouraging them to contribute back to Debian. I would be more than happy to help people interested in contributing to Debian and I wish to see more Debian Developers from India.


  • About you

I'm finishing my Dual degree (B.Tech + M.Tech) 5 year course in Aerospace Engineering this year from IIT Madras.

You will find everything about me at my homepage. Homepage:

  • Screenshot of your desktop

I have put screenshots of my desktop here:

  • Your working room / working environment (photo / description)

I work on Intel P-IV 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 15" monitor, Debian GNU/Linux.

  • Favourite beverage:


  • Favourite Street Food:

Pappdi Chaat/ Gol Gappa

  • Current Locality (City, State):

Chennai, Tamil Nadu

  • Mother Tongue


  • City in India you would like to visit in your free time


  • Also please add any other qustions you would like to answer :-)

Nothing ;-)

See Also[]

This page features an Indian FOSS Contributor

Questions are taken from FreeIndian. FreeIndian is all about introducing Indian FOSS contributors, to the world.