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2011 May 3 [Tuesday]

Building packages from source tutorial by DebianWomen

DW is conducting a packaging tutorial. Do note, this is not a tutorial for upstream package building from source, but still, its worth listening to. Here is Marga's announcement::

Are you enthusiastic about Debian and thinking about contributing? We want to guide you with the basics.

We are convinced that there are a lot of people out there that want to get involved with Free Software but don't know where to start.  For Debian, the most common task you'll do as a contributor is rebuilding a package.

The Debian Women project, in collaboration with the OpenHatch project, will be holding an IRC event to help people that want to compile their first Debian package from source, and apply their first patch.

The event

On Saturday May 7th, two tutorial sessions will be held on #debian-women on irc.debian.org to help people rebuild a package for the first time.
The earlier session, suggested for those that live in Oceania, Asia, Africa and Europe, will be held at 11:00 UTC. 

The later session, suggested for those that live in the Americas, will be held at 22:00 UTC. You can find out the exact time in your timezone by using the timezone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-bin/tzc.tzc

There will be people available to answer questions and generally help out with any difficulties that might arise all along the day.

More info at http://wiki.debian.org/DebianWomen/BuildItEvent

Intended audience

This event is aimed to anyone who wants to rebuild a Debian package for the first time, it's a simple task that doesn't require any previous knowledge, only a working installation of Debian (or Ubuntu, or other Debian-derived system).  We want to particularly encourage women who want to get involved, to take their first steps in
contributing to Free Software, but everybody is welcome.

More about IRC

IRC is a real-time chat system you can use to get in touch with members of the Debian community. You can connect to IRC through lots of different clients, including xchat, pidgin and konversation.

About Debian Women

The Debian Women project seeks to balance and diversify the Debian Project by actively engaging with interested women and encouraging them to become more involved with Debian. http://women.debian.org

About OpenHatch

OpenHatch is an open source community aiming to help newcomers find their way into free software projects. It works towards this goal through on-line and outreach events. This event is a reappropriation of the OpenHatch "Build it" events.


2010 June 2 [Wednesday]

Pbuilder installation on UbuntuHardy

Pbuilder, constructs a chroot system and builds a package inside the chroot. It is an ideal system to use to check that a package has correct build dependencies and to build clean packages to be tested and distributed. Debian uses pbuilder for packaging and they have lotsa manuals...




Pbuilder manual - Junichi Uekawa


Ubuntu also uses Pbuilder for all their packaging work. Ubuntu has a Packaging Guide but i was following the instruction on the Ubuntu wiki page while trying to install it on hardy. Installed the dependencies and tried to create it.

$sudo pbuilder create --distribution hardy --othermirror "deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hardy main restricted universe multiverse"

Error!! "Command line parameter [.dsc] is not a valid .dsc file name"

The .pbuilderrc file was supposed to be created automagically but it wasnt.


But it was nigelb and geser to the rescue and its the real-time responses that makes me addicted to IRC but I find it amusing that we use cryptic and terse mode of communication on irc as compared to complete sentences in email/forums. hmmm...not sure if this is good or bad in the long runbut switching modes suddenly makes it kinda weird.

$sudo pbuilder create

$sudo pbuilder update --override-config

Upgrading for distribution hardy
Building the build Environment
extracting base tarball [/var/cache/pbuilder/base.tgz]
creating local configuration
copying local configuration
Installing apt-lines
mounting /proc filesystem
mounting /dev/pts filesystem
policy-rc.d already exists
Refreshing the base.tgz
upgrading packages
Hit http://archive.ubuntu.com hardy Release.gpg
Hit http://archive.ubuntu.com hardy Release
Hit http://archive.ubuntu.com hardy/main Packages
Reading package lists... Done
dpkg - warning: ignoring request to remove lilo which isn't installed.
Obtaining the cached apt archive contents
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Calculating upgrade... Done
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
build-essential is already the newest version.
dpkg-dev is already the newest version.
apt is already the newest version.
aptitude is already the newest version.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Copying back the cached apt archive contents
unmounting dev/pts filesystem
unmounting proc filesystem
creating base tarball [/var/cache/pbuilder/base.tgz]
cleaning the build env
removing directory /var/cache/pbuilder/build//15479 and its subdirectories

...and pbuilder was ready to be used.

$sudo apt-get update

Next it was pulling a package to build and source it via wget, apt-get, or dget for the .dsc file from packages.ubuntu.com -- only for packages in the ubuntu repo. If your code sits as a branch on your cvs, it wont be pulled from packages.ubuntu.com.

The 'Packaging from Scratch' section asks you to create a directory before using wget but its a different method when you are using a cvs. If its hosted on LP, use bzr to pull it::

$sudo bzr export -r73 /dest/dir lp:~systers/systers/stable

and make sure you dont create the "/dest/dir" by hand as bzr will protest that the file exists in the target directory but the target dir will be empty. Bzr export needs a non-existing destination as it will create the directory owned to root. Somewhere in the middle of changing the ownership it simply locked me out ...wtf? and the next steps failed quite obviously. Then I had to waste a lot of time deleteing each file and folder.

In between this, Bescom decided to be the royal pita that they usually are, conked off power for half the day-- they had some work being done at the supplying station and the engineer was even kind enough to warn the residents of our area that an electric pole was going to be replaced in the street this week so be prepared for power outages at intermittent intervals of 10-15 minutes outage all day as they would be testing. WTF? Telling him that electrical appliances dont tolerate this well got the stock reply "install an UPS". How kind of him to enlighten us. Dont I just love the way our government servants treat the tax-paying citizens.

Adding to the annoyance, nothing worked after that. dh_make, used to create a template for packaging would not be invoked and I recall reading somewhere that dh_make was supposed to be done right the first time, else it would not work. 

$dpkg-source -x *.dsc
dpkg-source: error: cannot open .dsc file ./*.dsc: No such file or directory

Oh ok, now I need to find out a solution for that as well as how to create a .dsc file for the source pulled from LP.

2010 January 8 [Friday]

bengaluru lug january meet

Here is an update on the Bengaluru LUG meetup tomorrow:

From, http://groups.google.com/group/ilug-bengaluru/browse_thread/thread/e276d78bb443394f

ILUG Bengaluru Meetup - Saturday 9th January 2010

Time:  1630 Hrs onwards.

       ThoughtWorks Technologies
       2nd Floor, Tower C, Corporate Block,
       Diamond District, Old Airport Road


       Neo Freerunner

               - state of neo freerunner/ open hardware
               - state of the software/firmwares openmoko/android etc.
               - personal experiences of various users

       Anything goes session

       Will be an unstructured/open format meetup.

Regular Activities:

       GPG keysigning - http://www.debian.org/events/keysigning

For newcomers

The meet itself will last ~1-2hrs, but usually a smaller group tends to move
to other locations for extended discussions which can potentially last until
way past dinner :-)


2009 November 17 [Tuesday]

bangpypers lug meetup

Date and Time : At 16:00 hrs on 2009Nov22 (Sunday).

Venue :  ThoughtWorks Technologies ; 2nd Floor, Tower C, Corporate Block ; Diamond District, Old Airport Road ; Bengaluru

Proposed agenda: R.Mahadevan's talk on python bindings for llvm.

2009 June 21 [Sunday]

fosscomm delhi meetup

The Fosscomm.in coalition of like-minded volunteers, NGO's and individuals is planning a meeting of the FOSS COMMunity of India in Delhi, to discuss key issues facing the community and strategies for dealing with them. All are welcome. Details below :

Date and Time : On Saturday 2009July04, the meetup will start at 10.00 AM and is planned for the whole day.

Venue : JNU, South Delhi. (exact venue within JNU is awaited)

Proposed agenda:

1. Reporting on the Bengaluru FOSSCOMM first meeting and follow up. Here is an update.

2. “Open Standards” Follow up on the Department of IT's draft policy on open standards

3. FOSS in Education What the FOSS community can do in : a) School Education ,b) Higher Education

4. Open formats and open standards

5. Legal issues

6. Building political consensus around FOSS as India's best bet for development.

The travel costs as well as the cost of stay will have to be borne by the participants.

Outstation folks who require accommodation should contact Prof. Andrew Lynn <lynn.andrew at gmail.com> and  "rajesh kalithody" <myidrajesh at gmail.com>. Lunch will be provided at the venue.

[/Updated : 20090703]

2008 November 26 [Wednesday]

Linuxchix and Bangalore LUG dinner

IndiChix and Ilug-Bengaluru are having yet another dinner meetup at MG road today. An earlier meet was at the ThoughtWorks office and I hope they are kind enough to allow us to use the place in future too !! Granted, last week its was a farewell dinner but the fact that this is the fourth meetup in one month is a good sign of a live 'n kickin group !

Date: Wednesday 26th November 2008
Time: 1900hrs (That's 7o'clock in the evening!)
Place: Hotel Shelton Grand - MG Road/ Church Street @ 24hr Coffee Shop - BTDT (Been There Done That)
Food: All you can eat Buffet for INR.199+taxes = INR.235 (all inclusive)

Directions to the Dinner meet : The Shelton Grand entrance on MG Road is right next to the Deccan Herald office and they have a vertical neon light which should be viewable from a distance. They also have an entrance on church street in case you want to park on Church Street/Museum Rd/Resthouse Rd and walk to the venue.

The IndicChix mailing list has the map details so go register using the link therein. Feel free to join us and pass the word around....See you there !!!

2008 October 19 [Sunday]

HDD health with Smartmontools

Noel wrote a nice article on smartmontools, a tool to detect and warn of impending disk failures, a must have if you like to maintain your system.

Adding the line "sudo hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda" in my /etc/rcS.d file to reduce the Load_Cycle_Count (ID#193) results in the Temperature overshooting the limit (it should not be more than 45ºC). This is apparently not good for the disk health. Activating laptop-mode means it fails to function in the battery mode....not nice either!!

According to Noel :

hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda causes that your disk can NOT spin down nor make any kind of power management. Remember always that every single KiloWatt-hour you spend in your computer (or any piece of it, like a hard disc) is a KiloWatt-hour that turns into heat and a KiloWatt-hour you must manage with the cooling system. I strongly suggest against that kind of aggresive performance setting except for dedicated servers in 24×7 attended rooms.

I suggest changing the hdparm value to 127 (or simply to delete that line) AND to better ventilate the disc.

It seems, folks at seagate forums have been complaining about it too...  So is there another solution available to protect laptop disks from frequent head (un)parking AND managing temperature at the same time or are they mutually not feasible in SMART?

Forgot to add about the Bengaluru LUG met yesterday (which was my first LUG meet in this city, the earlier meets being FSUG meets) with Sriram, Kingsly, Rajshekhar, Sandip Bhattacharya, Deepika and me in attendance. The tasty lunch kept up an interesting exchange on a lazy Saturday afternoon and I need to find a way to stay away from Cauvery on MGRoad.

2008 September 15 [Monday]


Its fantastic to see an idea grow and carried forward because other people believe in it. Thrilled to announce that we have a new addition to the LC family -- Labs in DELHI :-) YAY !!

FAT-net has agreed to host the space and bandwidth and its open to women learners only but men are allowed to conduct technical talks. Check the 'fat-net.org' website for their addres. Contact Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]for more details. With Delhi its 4 Indian metros covered ...the others being :

2.MUMBAI: At the Bigadda office in Malad. Contact Jayashree Pare [Jayashree DOT Pare # GMAIL DOT] or Warren Noronha - Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com { Phone: +91-989-280-6204}

3.PUNE :  Contact Swatee Karpe (swateekarpe # GMAIL dot COM) for further details.

4.BANGALORE : DeepRoot Linux Pvt. Ltd., #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560 046 INDIA Phone: +91 (80) 4112 4781 / 82 / 85. Contact Mr. Abhas Abhinav or me.

2008 September 7 [Sunday]

FSF bengaluru meetup

FSF-India (aka gnu.org.in) is the force behind fending off the pro-software patent lobby in India. Thus far they have done a very good job of resisting the legislation of software patents. This was the first agenda, among other things, discussed in the planning meeting to celebrate Software Freedom Day/Week from Sep20-27.

FSUG-Bangalore met at Sunil's office and he pampered us with drinks, pastries and snacks :). If i recall all the names correctly it was Edwin, Jayakumar, Renukaprasad, Sujith, Abhas, Senthil, Anivar, Sunil, Sreedhar, and me attending yesterday..... Did I miss 2 names? sorry :-/

Among other things we had suggestions for :

0] Celebrating GNU's 25 b'day.

1] Statewide contest,

2] Say No to Software Patent Campaign debate

3] Install fests,

4] Celebrating SFD with BMS, RV, Christ, St.Joseph's college students at multiple venues.

5] Banners, posters , etc... Corporates pitching in are always welcome.

AND more ....Over the next few days things will fall into place.

2008 September 1 [Monday]

packaging 101@UDW

Ubuntu Developer Week is going on right now and Daniel Holbach kicked it off with a packaging 101, which i was attending at #ubuntu-classroom. I started to write this entry as he conducts the session. Here is the rephrased version of the live session, and if any important bits are omitted, please leave a comment to poke me.

Dholbach started off with walking us through the bare-bone structure of a source package (OT the .deb files/binary packages)>, the stuff that makes a package build and what one will encounter in almost all packages. Some links he gave:



Next, he asked folks to download a small sample package (devscripts package), which contains the tools needed for packaging. Then, used (dget http://daniel.holba.ch/motu/hello-debhelper_2.2-2.dsc ,command) to get the source package and saw a little about version's between Debian and Ubuntu, how ubuntu names the repackaged package from debian and pushes it upstream if any changes have been made and so on.

The orig.tar.gz is the original unmodified source code tarball that was released on the homepage of the upstream developers (software authors) and .diff.gz is the compressed patch we apply to make it build "our way" which means Ubuntu need to add a bunch of instructional files to be able to apply ONE build process to all kinds of source packages (no matter if they are python, PHP, C, C++, etc), which applies to most of the packages that use the auto tools (automake, autoconf, etc)

Running "dpkg-source -x hello-debhelper_2.2-2.dsc " command, extracts the tarball and apply the patch while the .dsc file is used to check the md5sum and so on (it contains a bit of meta-data about the source package).


Command : cd hello-debhelper-2.2 Debian/changelog has a very strict format to adhere to but there's the dch tool in devscripts that makes the task easier and each upload specifies: the name of the source package, the revision, the part of Ubuntu (or Debian) it is uploaded too, the changelog entry text itself and who made the particular upload, timestamp, etc... VERSION Looking at the topmost entry the upload has the revision number 2.2-2 and was uploaded to "unstable". The 2.2 (the part in front of the dash) means: this is the upstream release that was packaged.

Example : the hello-debhelper_2.2.orig.tar.gz which basically said: these are the unmodified changes that upstream released as 2.2 on their homepage. If you change a tiny bit in the package, upload 2.2-2ubuntu1, which means :

- 2.2 was released upstream,

- 2 revisions have been made in Debian,

- 1 in Ubuntu,

Then if Ubuntu packager forward the changes to the Debian maintainer, it will be incorporated in 2.2-3 to "sync" the package from Debian again.

Beware, "resetting the counter" in Ubuntu would mean "overwriting all Ubuntu changes with the changes that have happened in Debian" which is risky as one could drop other small bits that were important to Ubuntu users and might be a regression. In some cases where Ubuntu is not able to sync straight-away (different opinions of maintainers, upstream, etc) Ubuntu devels merge the changes.

Some version strings like "2:1.0~rc2-0ubuntu13" , where the "2:" is called "an epoch" and it allows you to use a lower version number again which the common use-case for reverting to an older version of the package.

Example : you maintain the package frobnicator in Ubuntu and shipped the safe but boring 2.0.0 version in hardy (say 2.0.0-0ubuntu1) but in intrepid you decide to update to 2.1.87 because the set of features sounds cool. This would change to 2.1.87-0ubuntu1 in intrepid but after getting lots and lots of bug reports from users that your software is broken you decide to go back to 2.0.0 again. Then you ship 1:2.0.0-0ubuntu1 in intrepid release and everybody would be happy again.

To summarize, the epoch should be used when upstream changes the versioning scheme and the epoch is also another way of making sure the version number is always increasing. Epochs are a nice feature, they just come with the problem that if Ubuntu decide to introduce one and the respective Debian maintainer decides to NOT use one, its a problem since new Debian revisions will always be smaller than ubuntu and we cannot "sync" any more.

DistroDiff: if you take a source from SuSE it would not work for Debian as the build process is different there.


Looking at the two stanzas, where first one is about the Source package, the following one(s) are about binary package(s). A source package needs a name, a section and a maintainer and Standards-Version gives us the clue which version of the Debian Policy (THE document to know about packaging rules) the package complies with in testing other bit: Build-Depends


Build-Depends, the bare min reqd to build packages and he explained how to extract the package, copy it into a minimal build environment (chroot containing build-essential which gives make, etc) and then install the build-depends.

He illustrated it with an Example : If dholbach uploaded a revision to the build daemons (soyuz), upstream will extract the package (just like Ubuntu did), copy it into a minimal build environment (chroot containing build-essential which gives make, etc), then install the build-depends. Having described the resulting binary packages (all files that are going to be installed into the package go into one package) he pointed out those with which have a package name and description (that turns up in synaptic, adept, etc) and has Architechture and Depends

Command: apt-cache show hello-debhelper | grep ^Depends

will return a "Depends: libc6 (= 2.5-0ubuntu1)" which means the hello-debhelper package that is in the archive needs libc6 to be installed. The build process will figure out which shared libraries the binaries (stuff in /usr/bin/ or /usr/lib/ etc) in our package are linked against and which package they are in. Dependencies anyone ???


Running out of time he moved on to copyrights and mentioned that debian/copyright is another critical part of the packaging process. Its critical for different reasons as it has little to do with the actual build process, but it makes sure each packager reflects all the copyright holders, copyrights and upstream authors in the package.

At times, there is proprietary content that can't be shipped because of licenses that forbid any changes. but one that must be paid close attention to (when you create a package from scratch) the source tarball which should ship the verbatim license texts all itself and you need to reiterate this.


Command : #!/usr/bin/make -f

This was the last part of the puzzle : it's a Makefile. If one has worked with makefiles, its easy to build targets called clean, install, build, binary-indep, binary-arch and so on. On those targets the upstream build system is "wrapped", ./configure is called, make is called, etc ...with different prefixes and in 'special' places. The dh_* scripts are all part of debhelper (remember, it's the package that is build-depended on), contains a huge set of very handy helpers to make common tasks like "install this .desktop file and register it in the right place" or "put this changelog in the right place and pretty please compress it" very very easy.

To avoid getting a piece of the source package all wrong, he recommended to start working on existing packages, fix small bugs first before moving on to other things.

Links : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MOTU/GettingStarted for all the documentation and you can join #ubuntu-motu if you ever have any questions about packaging. After a lot of hugging JorgeCastro started his talk on "Upstream Bug Linkages" but that interesting topic belongs to another post.

2008 August 31 [Sunday]

Stop software patents

There is a Gnu/Linux Habba (festival/event) on 2008Sept21 at Mysore and 2008Sept24 is the "World Day Against Software Patents", and the Bangalore FSUG has a call to sign and spread the same.

Aug31 is the last day to signup if you are a software association, software company, software consultancy, software project involved in the Libre software arena. Just sign it !!

2008 August 27 [Wednesday]

its live

On Monday, Abhas, Tania and me met at the Deeproot office  ...yeah I should have blogged earlier.... pfft. but I dislike writing reports. so here is Tania's summary of the meeting to the indichix list :

Though I went to the meeting mainly as an observant, I wanted to share with the list what I found was an important input to the project: the idea of setting up labs not only as technical learning environments, but as project learning environments in which women (and men, Vid, please react/correct me if this was not a point agreed or discussed with Abhas) can contribute to the development of social projects which would be  enhanced by the use of free software. The advantage is that that contribution becomes itself a way of learning about FLOSS for those who are joining the labs. It is a two way process!!! It is a colaborative learning environment, set up not just for the sake to participate in the FLOSS community, but to doing it so, as a way to help others, to enhance community building around FLOSS, a community that goes beyond expert users. WOW! sorry, I really think is a great idea and I believe it completely fits into LC philosophy.

Besides DeepRoot has already a network of nonprofit organisations that would work as a starting point for this (http://www.deeproot.co.in/deepofix/users).

Unfortunately I could not stay till the end of the meeting, perhaps I could say something more if I would have ... but anyway, I hope in the other cities this labs are opening up great opportunities for you girls to develop new understandings and possibilities of what LC is about in India, just like I felt it started to happened yesterday at DeepRoot.

Tania's very eloquent mail saved me the task of writing most of this blog entry :-P so now i return to worrying about the coming weekend activity : how many hours will i waste to drape this ? Am missing the experts so much now :(

2008 August 25 [Monday]

linuxchix bangalore meet-up

Abhas of DeepRoot Linux expressed an interest in hosting LC-labs at bangalore and we are having a meet-up at his office at 4pm today. This should give each woman an opportunity to discuss their individual interests, find out what options are available and how she can make the best use of the facilities at hand.

The Deeproot office is near Cantonment station which I hope is not very inconvenient and yet central for women to access. Here is the office address : #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560046 INDIA

See you there !!

2008 August 15 [Friday]

LC Labs sponsors

At any given point my draft box tends to overflow with half-finished entries, some of which i discard if i aint in the blogging mood. To maintaiin the semblance of a regular blogger, i finally got around to using the weasel method of auto publishing while away enjoying the Independence day weekend. Happy 15Aug !

In the libre community the easiest way to ensure the growth of an idea or project is to allow people wanting to participate to take it further. So at Pune we have Swatee Karpe (PLUG) sponsoring the labs for weekdays and weekends and if you are in Mumbai you can get in touch with Jayashree Pare and Warren Noronha :
Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com
Blog: http://www.hyperionreactor.net
Phone: +1-415-620-8700
Phone: +91-989-280-6204

While these spaces are open to the public, its not a random walk-in audience-oriented space. Rather, it is an opportunity for women (and men who support them) who usually collaborate online to work together, in person, on specific tasks. If interested, get in touch with the person(s) listed above to find out the timings. They will be managing the whole show locally.

If you have and idea, space or want to donate machines, here is a list of people whom you can contact for the following cities :

1] Delhi : Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

2] Bangalore : me [vid at this domain]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

For Chennai, Hyderabad and Mangalore we have people interested in being mentors and mentees but since this is the Free/Libre community feel free to take the initiative to find sponsors for space and infrastructure. Here is the standard format I use for writing to prospective sponsors.

--------- Letter --------

Dear Sir/Madam,

[Here, add your name and intro, unless you know the person, inwhich case, not required]

As per our discussion, this is a formal request to [add the company name] to provide us with a small room for conducting mentoring
sessions on Libre software in your organisation.  LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux, and for anyone who wants to support women in computing. We are an international group of Libre Software users and developers, founded in 1999 with the aim of "supporting women in Linux". We have several local chapters [0] across each continent.

[0] http://www.linuxchix.org/regional-chapters.html

Having LC labs is an experiment, mainly aimed at increasing women participation in Libre software communities. Since the number of women contributing to libre software is very low (~2% ) when compared to men. In contrast the proprietary ICT industry has 28% participation, further balanced at around 50% in India, but yet few Indian women volunteer with Free/Libre software. We are trying to bridge this skewed gender gap and experiment with possible solutions.

Due to low ICT adoption in India, especially Libre software, we would like to earmark a sponsored local space which will be open to women of any age, irrespective of their financial, social or educational background to use. Since Libre software is freely available anyone is free to learn to use and contribute to it.

Thus far, LinuxChix has largely been an online interaction experience via IRC and mailing lists. This effort is meant to provide women the opportunity for periodical meetings, arrange regular sessions and workshops to contribute to Libre software. Currently, for Mumbai planning and execution is underway with Pune being the second city to follow.  The focus is on contributing upstream (Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, etc... ) and our activities would mainly revolve around :

- learning to do packaging,
- learning the dependency cycle,
- creating patches,
- bug squashing,
- localisation/translation of libre s/w
- conducting hack sessions,
- etc....

The LinuxChix-India Chapter was also featured in the ET recently :


We have no age restrictions or qualification limits and any woman with a desire to learn is welcome. We hope [add company name]  can support us in this endevour and help us turn this into a successful experiment to inspire others to contribute and create Libre software and not limit it to Indians being mere consumers of Libre software.

Awaiting a positive reply !

Thanks for reading.


[add your name]
Team LinuxChix-India

2008 August 7 [Thursday]

The chix-IN-Linux

Controversial ...absolutely!! The name LinuxChix evokes mixed feelings amongst women on mailing lists and one can be sure to be asked (usually by men) "Isnt it derogatory". Not really. In India, English is not the lingua-franca used to harass women...rather,  the local languages are more colorful, if you must. On the streets you will have heard atleast some of these "indian words" commonly used to de-humanise women in daily life, which can make your grandma turn beet red. Its something any woman would encounter on Indian streets across any Indian city and its hard to escape it and here context matters a lot, but I digress.

IIRC, the "chix" terminology is all about taking a term with negative connotations and giving it a spin, psychological empowering if you must. It is also a p(h)un twist on UnIX. But most of all, I love the attitude, the zing and pizzaz that the women (and men) bring to the LinuxChix lists, beyond the work they do locally. I just like the aspect of LinuxChix being for women who use, support Gnu/Linux and men who want to support women in computing. Its that simple.

For the most part, we as women get and give respect in the technology space via the work we do. That power is within us, via our actions. It definitely does not come from having the appropriate cultural name or a perfect name. The latter does not exist and IMHO "culture" is a vague and arbitrary term (mis)used in India to control people in the absence of rationality and logical argument.

Having seen Christian "bubulle" Perrier wearing a Debian Women tee, I was curious. He said that was his way of showing support and I thought 'hah, most men would wear a man's tee even if it had the logo of a women's group'. To my surprise NO, Debian-Women had NOT printed men's tee's, so Christian was wearing a women's Tee, albeit one his size. That stuck in my head for a long time and he even posed for snaps wearing the DW tee. C00L :-). I had given him some IndiChix tee's last year and he wanted to know if we printed men's T's and when I replied in the negative he nodded happily and promised to wear them as is.

At mukt.in, not a single female student questioned the name, the only questions were from men. That says a lot to me. So I had a precondition for giving away tee's to the men - Wear it right now. Nope, its not a present for your girlfriend/wife/friend. If you support women, show it off!!

Talking of Indichix, the situation is peculiar, we have volunteers for the Indichix Labs in cities where we need sponsors (Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mangalore, etc.. and no volunteers  where we have sponsors (Mumbai and Pune).  Strange...I always thought space would be a premium in Mumbai. My talk/presentation slides on "women in Libre software communities" is available here.

2008 August 5 [Tuesday]

An idea grows

Besides the pleasant weather another way to recognise I am in Bangalore is when there is a powercut. And what timing, precisely when i am working on the machine or need to fix dinner. Nice try BESCOM. </end infrastructure rant>

So far the responses to yesterday's request have been good, got some mails and an interesting comment. There was a request for Indichix labs in Mangalore and Bangalore BUT I never knew it would be so tough to get space in Bangalore. That is a surprise for sure.

I also got an office space for Pune and found a mentor in Chennai, Sudarsan Santiappan, who's comment had pertinent questions which may help us evaluate things. My reply to his comment was so long that I think its best converted into another blog post as I was repeating most of the following in each individual mails. Am I lazy or wot ^_^ ?

So here goes...

SSudarsan: If I understand correctly, this is typically equivalent to setting up a company which would target to deliver OSS. In the process of delivery, the team gets matured as OSS contributors.

Yes, in a sense its comparable, but the differentiator is none would earn a salary as we are non-profit project :-)  Jokes apart, for example, the goal is NOT to learn/create an "Indian" or a "pink" distro. Instead mentors can teach about the dependency cycle, package management, packaging across platform, and help to improve/develop/maintain the existing distro's, bug squashing/patching, and so on... Since LinuxChix is distro-agnostic, any experienced volunteer from the Debian, Ubuntu, Kde, Gnome, Python, Suse, etc ... communities can conduct talks, demos, take live sessions to encourage IndiChix. Most importantly sharing and learning in a group is fun and we develop new skills besides the knowledge gained during the learning process, plus the peer recognition and meeting nice people. So coolness factor is high !!

SSudarsan: The best places to start such an endeavor are the following;
1. Houses that can accommodate few computers and people with Internet support.
2. Computer centers of Schools and Colleges, which can hired at subsidized cost.
3. Tie-ups with Software Learning centers.

Cafe Coffee Day is not exactly the best venue for meetings nor conducive to learning packaging. So if we can provide an environment where they can come during weekends to learn for a few hours it would be a worthwhile experiment. In a nutshell the challenges and pressures are different and yet similar across different Indian cities; Also we are not-for-profit and have no inflow of revenue so hiring is a long shot at the moment, unless we find a generous sponsor :)

SSudarsan: One needs to have the following but not limited to; to sustain such an endeavor are the following:
0. Understanding the Vision

Contribute upstream. To add and expand, the moot idea is to reduce the challenges, as the knowledge divide for women is higher. With this experiment we can try to bridge this with help from like-minded people. Unlike other developed nations, in India, we have a number of women working in the proprietary software industry, which may be equivalent to men, but yet we have few (maybe around 100+) giving back to the Libre community. I met many newbies who are confused about:

+ where to start contributing, how to start, etc...

+ self-doubts about being good enough,

+ lack of knowledge about existing projects, or

+ Even wonder what to do at projectA, does my skill set match, do i have enough experience, etc... 

SSudarsan: 0a. Are you going to do service ?

Service ---> "upstream"  projects.

SSudarsan: 0b. Are you going to develop free s/w for the community ?

Absolutely, YES. Creating islands of excellence seems counter-productive.

SSudarsan: 0c. Are you going to commercialize the s/w developed ?

Not sure I understand what you mean but ...; I am no lawyer but I suppose; the existing license of the upstream project will prevail. This may change depending on the project too. :-8

SSudarsan: 0d. Are you having enough money flow to sustain this operation ?

As mentioned earlier, we are not-for-profit and generating revenue is not exactly on the top of the list right now. Besides the legal implications there are enough challenges, as is, to solve :)

SSudarsan: 0e. Who are the beneficiaries ?

Any (wo)man interested in helping and contributing to IndiChix, upstream projects, sponsors (you get to evaluate potential dedicated, hardworking technically adept women).

SSudarsan: 1. A Business model to sustain software development. Preferably a revenue model for sustained operation covering inflow and outflow.
2. A team of mentors/managers to train contributors and execute projects.
3. A detailed plan for people, projects, revenue in terms of growth and prospects.

and more...

If such a system is setup in Chennai, I would be willing offer mentorship.

The revenue model is too early imho, as
We (are a not-for-profit org and it has legal implications. Currently we will have to find a way to survive on sponsors aka charity.  Thanks for offering to mentor in Chennai.

To subscribe to IndiChix list, visit the list http://mailman.linuxchix.org/mailman/listinfo/indichix

2008 August 4 [Monday]

libre labs for indichix

A few weeks ago I had asked if there was any IT firm in India willing to host Free Software Labs just for women ? Many people wrote and asked what it would entail and I had suggested:

#1. Requirements :
1.1 Libre computer labs equipped with machines and an Internet connection.
1.2 Centrally located within city limits.

#2. Goals :
2.1 These labs ensure a static space so women dont have to travel far or to lonely places for local meets.
2.2  It would enable local FSF/GNU volunteers to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug-squashing, etc...
2.3  Increase contribution to upstream projects like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo, Suse, KDE, Gnome, etc...

#3. Do's and Dont's :
3.1 Not meant to be used for personal use (downloading movies/songs, chatting, etc...)
3.2 Currently restricted to women participants.

#4. Managing and growing the Idea :

Managing and decision making (how many days a week, who will talk, what talks, etc....) is left entirely to the women volunteers in the city.

4.1 Mumbai :  Although I had started out looking for space in Bangalore, I have an interesting proposal from an MNC in Mumbai who are willing to lend space, infrastructure etc). BUT at this point, I would like to know if chix in Mumbai are willing to take this further.I would not be able to do that from another city and neither am I interested in micro-managing things. I would prefer if local chix took initiative in this regard. So is anyone up to the challenge ?

4.2 Bangalore : Currently, machines are available but space is a challenge. At Mukt.in a few alternatives were suggested so let me see how things pan out.

4.3 Delhi : Not much except I found a committed volunteer (again at mukt.in) who is willing to help out with this. Any Delhi-chix interested ?

4.4 Other cities: Please reply to the list if you want a similar lab in your city.

The whole idea is centered around sharing and learning together. With a systematic effort we may reduce and hopefully eliminate the "how do I start" which is the common question every newcomer has.  That said,this needs your co-operation and depends entirely on your interest levels.

So I hope we pull this off as a team !!  Do add your thoughts /suggestions to improve it.


/end mail......................

That was the mail I had sent a little earlier to the Indichix mailing list. I just came back from Hyderabad today morning, where I was attending mukt.in from Friday. To my utter surprise things fell into place at and I have a lot to blog about, the event and the fun I had :-P

2008 July 15 [Tuesday]


Some days ago the indichix list got a mail on mukt.in. Here is the excerpt....

Mukt.in, a Libre Software event is being held at Osmania University, Hyderabad on 1-3rd August 2008. The 'Call For Participation' for 2008 is now online and speakers can register here. Attendees are requested to register on the site.

The feature list for 2008 includes :
* Student talks
* Student project Exhibitions
* Birds Of Feather Discussions
* Stalls exhibiting different open source technologies
* Prizes for local Open source contributors

You can volunteer for the event by adding your contact details and  skillsets at http://mukt.in/wiki/index.php?title=Volunteers or chat over #mukt.in at irc.freenode.net

They are looking for generous support/contributions from companies/organisations to make mukt.in 2008 a roaring success. Please do pass on this information to any companies  / organisations that might be interested in sponsoring the event.

2008 July 14 [Monday]

linuxchix-india in the news

Tweeting and denting helped this last month and now its back to blogging ?? .... dunno, but I have definitely been slow in blogging about LCIN being in the news. A few weeks ago Fred had written to the mailing list (along with a long questionnaire :-)) wanting to write an article on IndiChix (the Indian chapter of LC). His article on Indichix has now been syndicated in the Economic times and Siliconindia,and many other publications ...someone even dugg it. Nice, thanks Fred !!

Besides the other challenges that women face its no surprise that you will find access to infrastructure a real issue. This may be a common problem for a lot of women all across the world but in India its worse. Without getting into the reasons as I dont think they can be analysed, quantified and solved easily. Rather than dwell on the "why" I had suggested this idea on the list :

Ask IT MNC's in India as part of their CSR (corporate social activities) to sponsor small 'libre-learning-for-women-labs' in their office premises which should be open to any woman to use and learn about Gnu/Linux. These Libre computer labs should be equipped with machines and an Internet connection which would enable local FSF volunteers to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug-squashing, etc...

Is there any IT firm in India willing to host Free Software Labs just for women ??

2008 April 24 [Thursday]

no real name

Finally the real name policy (on LP beta testing team) has been done away with. In the past, there have been many discussions against the policy with zero outcome and not so nice things like people being kicked out for not following the "real name" policy. Last year, I was rejected for not agreeing to the RNpolicy and in Jan when the fridge was in transition mode, we editors were going to trial out the list via LP. Since I've felt the RN-policy was restrictive, I offered to leave the team rather than being forced to accept something that encroached on my individual/personal freedom of choice. That LP is not GPL'd is subject matter for another post.

I have always been a supporter of using nick's online and not necessarily because of gender and the accompanied harassment. If fame and recognition is what people want, they know how to get it, but in my case its a question of personal choice/freedom. That said, in the libre software community you are what you do/behave/act and one is not defined by name, age, nationality, colour, country, beliefs, etc...

.... Which brings me to policy making. Most times, on closer observation it is evident that policies are adhoc despite the good intentions behind it. If they lack the multi-dimensional view-point we wont be anywhere closer to a possible solution than when we started. Which will only leave us with procedures and processes which people will blindly follow (hint : the CoC signing, which needs a separate post too) because it exists and needs to be done with inorder to get to the next level of power. Wrapping a coat over the real issues does not get the desired positive results, if that is what the community wants to see happen....especially not if you are trying to solve a social problem with technical solutions. Does not work. Period.

So I am really glad that someone's been listening and finally got rid of the real name policy. Thanks, dil se :)

2008 April 1 [Tuesday]

libre laptop

Hmm... I've been lazy about bragging about this : The OS free laptop that I had helped load Ubuntu was sold within that week. How cool is that !!

I cant take any credit for the sale as it was the efforts of the sales person there, but knowing  that i contributed indirectly to the sale makes me feel warm inside. Breaking down pre-conceived mindsets was not easy and the sales guy did a good job of selling it. His manager informed me that they were pleased enough to pre-load all the machines with it. Now I need to mail him the Ubuntu-AMD cd's :)

I wish more machines would be sold with _linux-inside_ (tm?) in India. Go experiment, Be different!

2008 March 22 [Saturday]

holi and linux

Gone are the simple water-balloon days and what used to be a fun fest gets worse with each passing year. Ugh, who wants to walk around with purple-green hair... Holi is so much safer with just good friends N family, given that its de'riguer for strangers to pelt one with balloons filled with chemicals, or eggs, stones, paint (nope, not the fabric kind) and other assorted rubbish-filled balloons all through the week before Holi. On Holi day absolutely anything goes. Besides Holi, many friends will be celebrating Good Friday, Purim (Jews), Navroz (Parsis), Eid, and Magha Puja (Buddhist)... a lunar co-incidence of 6 different religions or what ? Happy festivities y'All :-)

Recently, I saw some laptops on sale/display sans any OS (had Free Dos) at a retail establishment. I asked for a demo and (as expected) he could not provide one. I asked if he would load any OS of my choice and he hesitated. He probably thought I might hand out a pirated Windows CD to him or something illegal so that was my cue to give him an primer on what Gnu/Linux, Ubuntu, GPL, etc... was all about and he smiled that all-knowing smile while listening and I knew it was a home run. Its a relief that awareness is getting higher, people actually know what piracy is all about and dont stare blankly when you say "Linux".

I happily provided him the Ubuntu (but ofcourse :-)) CD and the manager nodded approvingly as we had some good eye-candy for all to see. Since they had a number of models on sale sans the OS, I handed out some Ubuntu CD's to go with the other machines. To see a machine running an OS that is not Windows sitting pretty amongst others is quite nice. Even more fun to see the curiosity it evokes among casual passers-by. The practical touch-N-feel to see-it-work helps a lot more :-)

Btw, Bruce Perens is standing for board elections and needs your help. Viva Free Software !!

2008 February 13 [Wednesday]

Accessible software at OSI week

On Monday I had attended the star speaker Klaus Knopper's talk at OSI week and came away impressed. Besides the Knoppix project he touched upon the synergy between Free software, OpenSource and propreitary software. I found his approach very balanced and it was interesting to see the way he tackled the Q&A sessions. He had a good grasp of the licensing issues and spoke at length on that during the Q&A, which leapt into overtime by almost 35 minutes so I had to wait until he finished attending another talk to get a chance to meet him.
I was quite surprised when Klaus was gracious enough to allow me to paste an Indichix sticker on his laptop... am touched by his lack of airs.... and to think I wandered into the wrong hall and almost missed meeting him :-) Later I also met Krishnakant Mane and if nothing else we practiced our Marathi and Deutsche and mine is definitely rusty as hell. In the last few months I have even forgotten my Marathi and Hindi....*sigh*. Amidst the six degree friends and chattering, we almost missed another entrepreneurs workshop but walked in towards the end for the Q&A so although I dont know who were the panelists, i did take aways some nuggets of wisdom from there.
On the second day Adriane (Klaus's wife) was to conduct a workshop on accessibility software which she works on with Klaus but that morning she was not feeling well and Klaus conducted it. When he spoke about the technological drawbacks and other social problem areas related to barrier-free websites, I realised the extent to which sighted people like us take such things for granted. The lack of standards is another grouse. Although technology is gaining momentum we are leaving behind a section of the population when we dont build humane and inclusive technology. That gets stronger for hardware, especially the portable kind which manufacturers dont care much about. So whether its a camera, phone, laptop or any other other portable device we, as a paying customer have a right to ask for free software based technology. It was interesting and also sad to note that the Indian government has not made it a mandatory for sites to be accessibility-friendly unlike the EU where its a law. Hmpf... we hardly even have government websites that are Firefox-friendly so accessibility is such a loooong way off. As far as our government is considered such things are miniscule, hence not worthy of attention.

2008 January 18 [Friday]

indichix meetup@blr

The meet-up is at 3 pm tomorrow (atlast :)) Since suggesting it last month, it was getting postponed, /me was sick and i almost thought it wont happen ...but it is gonna happen tomorrow at Christ College (and i still need to map out my way there...sheesh...if i am late means i am lost.). For tomorrow, I had almost convinced an upstream dev to agree to talk tech at the meetup and almost announced it on the list. Almost because as of now he has some other work so maybe next-time. Heck, I intend to keep bugging him till he agrees (and i know you are reading this :)) to talk about his project.

While i was wasting (a lot of) time googling for a solution to this issue earlier today, i saw a bounce in the mailbox from a journalist. Apparently, he had seen a blog about the meetup in bengaluru and wanted to give us publicity. Nice that mainstream media is taking an interest in technology :) Our little journalistic adventure is archived on the list since i had asked that a draft of the article/writeup be posted there. My assumption being : folks can quickly correct mistakes if any, as we have members from different timezones across the world, so responses will be quick (can i say 24/7 :)) and we can avoid wrong messages going in print. Recanting is always a waste of time and never really useful since the damage is already done. Well, there were not many corrections except crediting the appropriate projects.

Terminology is important and since most people will not know what GNU, GPL, FSF and FLOSS meant (egad....!) I sent him a bunch of links for the GNU and FSF projects and a wiki link on what FLOSS is all about. I hope he includes that in the article since that is the only way we can reach out and educate people. Even if one person takes the trouble to type www.fsf.org in their browser and read, we succeed and add to our ilk :) Let's see what happens tomorrow.
For those not in the know, Bangalore Mirror was formerly known as Vijay Times, a very popular daily providing local gup-shup until it was taken over by BCCL (aka TOI) sometime last year. Strangely they still dont have a website. Heck, even Mid-Day has an e-paper for Bangalore. Since i cant link BMirror here, i asked balu (the journalist) to bring 2-3 copies tomorrow when they attend our meet.
Talking of BCCL/TOI, Mint (an HT group publication) had an interesting article about them the other day. Some years ago i remember reading somewhere that most articles were paid for (as in, a company paid the print-media company to write about them, instead of buying plain visual 60x60 cm adverts, which few people glance at anyway). Check out the list of companies BCCL has invested in.

system down

i face a similar problem that neil williams has blogged about, here and here. Two days ago i updated the testing ubuntu system and the grub file was overwritten. That means when my system installs the updates and restarts, it wont be able to because of the annoying bcm43x driver issue crap. Arghhh..... So far i did try all the noapic nolapic permutations and combinations on this page, which ofcourse didnt solve my problem.

MJG explains some here and another here but frankly now i understand when people say Linux is not ready for the mainstream, add hardware that does not support free/libre software and you go down under. With no OS how the hell will they google for help. Thankfully i kept the dualboot on the lappy, so could use windows to google, which has not helped much but need to get this sorted asap. Using Windows the last 2 days has been well a test, but wth...

[update0-jan18] ram says the issue is with the filesystem (fuse), /home is in another partition and booting hangs whilst loading device drivers, does not even boot from the cd..... found a fuse problem, else may have to do a fresh install if nothing else works :(

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