Random thoughts shooting out of volatile mind
My Journey with Debian and FLOSS - Part 1
When I first started using Debian back in last half of 2009 I never thought I will go this far. Debian is one Linux distribution with which I felt comfortable after traveling across 10 distribution. My Linux interest started first back in 2007 when I was in engineering 3rd / 4th semester when the Nirmitsu group from Bangalore conducted a day long work shop. This work shop showed me beauty of command line and existence of distribution called Ubuntu and Debian.

Even though I was introduced first to Ubuntu and even I got more than 20 CD's of Ubuntu 6.04 it was not my first Linux distribution because of lack of internet connection and lack of the packages in Ubuntu CD. My first Linux was Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 after that I moved to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 both these Linux were good and provided all packages in set of 4-5 CD's after that the curriculum wanted me to use Fedora and first one I tried was Fedora 8 for NCTUNS then Fedora 9 in between my college System Analyst introduced me to Mandriva 2008 and Mandriva 2009 but none of these Linux solved my problem for connecting to Internet and finally I landed on Ubuntu 8.10 which some time was allowing me to connect to internet but not always then I tried Zenwalk a Slackware derivative in the hope to getting connected to internet but there also I failed badly after searching a lot in the internet Ubuntu 9.04 finally allowed me to connect to internet. Mean while during college project I started using Debian which was introduced to us during Linux Habba conducted by then active Tech Sampada team and we had a local repo for then testing Debian Lenny (5.0) I finished my project with combination of Debian as server and Ubuntu (8.10) as client.

After my college time I started working for a company in Mangalore and there I was first working on Windows as Blackberry Application developer and later moved Mac OS X 10.5 as iPhone developer during the time I had a strong urge to do something and contribute to FLOSS community but I didn't had much technical skills just like other engineers who will pass out of college. So I started contributing as a Kannada translator in KDE project under guidance of Shankar Prasad later joined launchpad and tried to help in Ubuntu-Kannada translation. In the mean while the changes in Ubuntu made me unhappy I used to lose the feel of Debian which was present in Ubuntu when I first started using it. With advent of Ubuntu 9.10 I threw away the Ubuntu from my home computer and started using Debian Lenny which had become stable during the time but the old components of Lenny dissatisfied me and I took a major turn and got Sidux (now known as AptoSid) and unstable derivative of Debian. Telling it derivative will be wrong because it was Debian itself with some modifications provided by AptoSid community. Now I could connect to Internet and get all the developer tools required. During this time I was introduced to Santhosh Thottingal by my friend Laxmi Narayan Kamath and I slowly and steadily jumped into development of SILPA (Swathantra Indian Language Processing Application) using Python. Python had become my favorite language. I provided many optimization fixes to SILPA and some more bug fixes which made Santhosh think I'm a valuable asset and I became the Co-Developer of SILPA. I was working in some other projects Santhosh founded like Pypdflib and also contributed in some way to his WikiSource CD project also. During this same time I started a strong urge towards helping Debian but I really didn't know where to look for starting my journey towards Debian and in the nick of time I saw mail from Praveen to the SMC list stating he is going to conduct a packaging work shop the Saturday night and I replied asking If I can join and he happily welcomed me. And thus under guidance of Praveen I started learning Debian packaging and Pypdflib (Santhosh's project) was the first one I choose to package being a Python library and I'm being unaware of Python packaging policy I came across many problems and Praveen by himself not able to solve connected me to Kartik Mistry one of the most active India Debian Developer who helped me solve the problem and happily uploaded my first Debi an package to Debian (after 1 rejection from the FTP Masters) and I was the happiest man to be finally being part of Debian. The package still lies in the experimental branch of Debian which shows my sheer ignorance towards the package? (just kidding) Pypdflib is not actively under developement after we lost our most active developer Jinesh  recently. I still intend to move it to unstable from experimental. With this package I also became member of Debian-IN team, the team which maintains Indian language related fonts and other packages.


After getting my first package into Debian my urge to package became more and more and I started searching for a good package until I came across the IndUni fonts which first I thought some sort of Indic language fonts untill I talked with the upstream author John Smith who clarified its Indology symbols inside the fonts finally I packaged it and because of this font I joined pkg-fonts-devel team and came to know the most respected person in Debian, Christian "bubulle" Perrier or in short we call him bubulle :).


Now recalling stuffs is bit difficult but I think after this the Open Source Federated social network Diaspora* became so famous amongst us the hackers that we decided that we should package it for Debian. It was difficult because it required so many gems to package and we lacked the man power and hence Praveen started advocating people about Diaspora* and try to teach people about ruby packaging and get them to package a gem. But he was not successful people at first show very much interest file ITP and some even go till finish package and send RFS and then disappear. So this created some chaos in pkg-ruby-extras team than helping it. And finally Lucas clearly mentioned he won't sponsor any Diaspora* packagers unless they have helped in pkg-ruby-extra transition and to undo what happened because of him Praveen started helping in transition of gems in pkg-ruby-extras team. In this whole Diaspora* packaging fuss I'm the only one who managed to get 2 new gems into Debian (ruby-polyglot and ruby-bcrypt) and also helped in transition of ruby-hmac. So now packages maintained by me in Debian reached to 5. Also during this time I floated away from Diaspora* to find a new and better federated home at Friendica more about this later.


Mean while Santhosh filed RFP's for getting Kiwix into Debian and I happily ITPed it back in March or April which is still a pending package from my side first due to build tool bug and now due to the reason package depends on xulrunner-1.9.1 which is no more in Debian and the upstream is still working on making it either independent of Xulrunner or make it depend on higher version of Xulrunner. The whole thing I learned during packaging fonts-johnsmith-induni and kiwix is how Debian actually helps improving the upstream. Whole lesson learned is have always a good relation with upstream.


Next was one more RFP by Santhosh for getting Pagul fonts for Saurashtra language into Debian which I claimed for Debian-IN and which is now in Debian. ( Now to continue my story in Debian give me a second I need to have a peek at what package I'm maintaining ;) ). Well I think post is already too longish so let me split into 2. Till the next part happy flossing hackers!
Posted by: copyninja on Tuesday, 13 December 2011

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