This article appeared in the Vijay Times, dated Wednesday, 10-Dec-2003.
The queues outside the venue made it seem like a first day of a movie, or
maybe the tickets for a cricket match. They were neither. They were queues
for the biggest technological conference run entirely by a community of
users. Linux Bangalore 2003 will be remembered for the participation it
drew, and participation across all sections of people, from the technical to
the non-technical, from the interested to the curious and from the young to
the old. In an auditorium designed to hold a maximum of 1250 people, packed
were 2700 people. If anyone ever doubted what a community could pull off
without a corporate entity being involved in the actual organising of the
event, they would have had to be there at Linux Bangalore 2003.
There have been three international Linux Bangalore conferences to date.
Each year has seen a rise, both in the number of people who speak and those
who participate in the conference.
If you thought a technology conference like this would be a group of geeks
discussing the latest in technology, you couldnt be more mistaken. What was
witnessed at the event was a wide cross-section of users, starting from
experienced users to beginners to even non-users who were exploring the
possibility of using Linux or just plain checking out what all the buzz
about an alternate operating system was about. Talks ranged from very
advanced topics like network security to topics like how Linux works on the
desktop, and setting up Linux and its various flavours. Some widely
entertaining talks, and some talks which explored the depths of their
respective subjects made for a heady mix. There was a Linux exposition on,
which had stalls demonstrating Linux as a desktop, as a programming platform
and even a stall which was demonstrating the Indianisation of Linux
flavours, which is using Indian Languages on the Linux Desktop.
Big names adorned the speaker list and the talk schedules, witnessing some
of the best presentations that any conference, national or international
could ever see. Miguel De Icaza and Nat Friedman of the Ximian Corp (which
developed one of the best desktop interfaces a PC could ever have) which is
now acquired by the IT giant Novell, gave a set of tour de force
presentations about desktop and program development on the Linux platform.
Equally impactful were the talks by Harald Welte who maintains a subsystem
of the Linux Operating System on networking tools and programming on a
multi-processor computing environment, and the talks relating to databases
and internet tools by Rasmum Lerdorf and Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo.
As the curtain falls on the event, and Bangalore sees the close of one of
the biggest technical conferences it has ever seen, its people and people
from across India who made it to the event leave from this IT capital more
enlightened about, more hopeful of what many people at the conference called
"the coming of a technology revolution".
It re-establishes India as one of the leaders in the Information Technology
age, and gives fuel to realising President Abdul Kalam's vision where he
observed "In India, open source code software will have to come and stay in
a big way for the benefit of our billion people."
Interview with Atul Chitnis
ATUL CHITNIS, a major force behind the Linux Bangalore Initiative, spoke to
Vineeth S about Linux and the future.
VS : If you had to list the one primary factor for Linux Bangalore to happen every year, what would that be?
AC : Highlighting Open Source technologies, and encouraging (and helping) the
open source community to establish itself firmly in the the field of
vision of corporates, governments and educational instituitions.
VS : Three years, three events, hugely successful. Were they successful with reference to the community only, or were they successful even if we were to consider the events in the context of the general public?
AC : They were hugely successful from the community perspective, but what was more important was that they were hugely successful in the public eye, thereby drawing attention to Open Source technologies.
VS : The leaps the event has taken, each year presents larger logistics issues, larger people issues, and generally more complications. What drives you, as a person, to keep at it?
AC : One of the biggest misconceptions about events and efforts like this is
that there is a single person "running" it. These events are run by a
group of people (called the "managers") who serve two purposes - to
conceive and execute the event, and to drive each other on. As an individual, it is my firm belief in Open Source as the only route to progress and innovation in software that keeps me going.
VS : Linux in India, and especially down south, is hardly ever mentioned without your name in the context. But what after you? Do you see anyone or a group who have the potential to drive the Linux initiative with the force with which you drive it?
AC : The fact that I am seen as a "main driver" (and the fact that some people
actually support this view) is in fact my biggest problem. If I get run
over by a truck tomorrow, some people would get the impression that it all
Reality is that I play a very small role in all this - but that role gets
amplified artificially because of my visibility. That is literally my
assigned job - I am the one who talks. But I am not the one who does all
the work, I just highlight the work done by others. By definition, there is no need to worry about "after me". First of all I
have no intention of going away, and secondly, even if I did, the work of
others that I have been highlighting does not get affected.
VS : Has Linux started making a difference to schools in India, and especially in Bangalore? Or is there still a long way to go? What, do you think, can make the Open Source initiative, that President Kalam says India should vigorously pursue, make a significant impact in
AC : No. Apart from the successes seen in Goa, where the local Linux User Group
has successfully been managing the IT infrastructure of dozens of schools,
there are few *visible* "success stories" one can point a finger at. That
does does not mean that there isn't any impact - in fact the impact is
huge, with Linux and Open Source technologies now firmly entrenched in the
The educational system is already doing everything needed - it is now up to
the corporate sector to do its thing. And this is is a very simple,
straightforward thing - adopt Open Source technologies yourself, and you
automatically create employment opportunities for the people who graduate
from our educational system, and who are already Open Source savvy. Don't
force them to go and learn additional, proprietary products just to become
"employable" - use their inherent abilities.
VS : Has the domestic corporate software industry in Bangalore been supportive of your efforts? Why does not one see big names like Infosys or Wipro associated with it?
AC : Actually, both Infosys and Wipro have been HUGE supporters of our work!
I for one don't know of a single big name - whether it is the Tatas, Reliance,
Infosys, Wipro, or any other of the top companies in India - that hasn't
been hugely supportive of our work. I for one am very happy with the involvement by India's cream of software
VS : What do you intend for the future in the context of the Linux initiative? How far do you think one can go with evangelism?
AC : Evangelism is for people with too much time on their hands. I used to be
called a Linux evangelist, and I hated the term. It is so impractical.
I firmly believe in the motto of the Linux community's efforts at
Bangalore IT.COM '99 - "Seeing is Believing". No one is going to switch to
Open Source technologies just because someone like me says so. I'd be
mortally offended if they did.
Instead, people are beginning to adopt Open Source
technologies because they work for them. I firmly believe in the tenets of
the Free Software Foundation, but in addition I also believe that people
should make the decision to use Open Source software on the basis of
functionality first, and ideology later.
As for what the future will be - the future is now. Open Source is already
firmly in place across the world and is changing the rules of the software
This ball is rolling - roll with it or get out of the way.