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A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

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  • Kartik Mistry
    Nice interview :) Sent to you by Kartik Mistry via Google Reader: A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas via DebianTimes on 5/6/09 A Few Questions For Jaldhar H.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 13, 2009
      Nice interview :)


      Sent to you by Kartik Mistry via Google Reader:


      via DebianTimes on 5/6/09

      A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

      Who is Jaldhar H. Vyas?

      I'm a 38 year old Gujarati-American male who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey (A suburb of New York) with my wife Jyoti and my children Shailaja (7) and Nilagriva (4).

      My Debian blog is at http://www.braincells.com/debian/ but I should warn you in advance it is mostly devoid of meaningful content :-)

      How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

      Because I don't actually like computers. Growing up in the '70s we were told computers were great. if you had any problem you could just say “let's ask the computer!” and Sentinel One or whoever would appear as a hologram and instantly tell you the answer. Or maybe they were lovable wisecracking robots. But we were lied to. Real computers turned out to be neither lovable nor cute and they maddeningly refused to do what they were told for incomprehensible reasons. From the very beginning I had the urge to take the lid off and try to understand what was going on in these mysterious boxes in the hopes of somehow beating them into submission.

      Way back in college in the early '90s I managed to stumble across the Internet (just in time for the dot-com boom.) Naturally I wanted to learn more about it and how it worked and that meant learning Unix. Even if you used Windows, you used ports of Unix software so there was no way around it. The trouble is Unix was expensive and ran on exotic hardware far beyond the purchasing power of a destitute student. Thus when I heard that there was a free clone of Unix that could run on a 386 pc, I was very interested. When I learned it came with full source code that you could tinker with as much as you wished it was like a dream come true. So I cleared up some space on my massive 40MB hard drive for a version of Slackware which was the only decent distribution at the time.

      I played around with that for a while until the time came when Linux swtiched from the a.out to the ELF binary format. This process had to be done manually and I somehow managed to botch it completely. Since I had to reinstall my system anyway, I decided to take a look at some of the new distributions which were out there. I must confess my reasons for choosing Debian were utterly superficial. Red Hat is boring; Suse is a girls name; Debian on the other hand sounded science-fictionish to me.

      After using Debian for a while I was whining about some trivial thing or another on the Debian users mailing list and Bruce Perens who was the project leader challenged me to stop complaining and fix the problem myself. I decided to do so and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, there was no complicated process to become a Debian Developer in those days. You just told Bruce you wanted to work on the project and what you wanted as your login name and a little while later you would get an account on master.debian.org and you could upload packages.

      How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

      At the moment I am not spending as much time on Debian as I would like to but it still atleast a few minutes every day. In the past I have been employed to work on Debian full time.

      Apart from packaging, I have written documentation, represented Debian at trade shows, conferences, and user groups and mentored prospective new maintainers. One initiative I started which I am particularly proud of is Debian-IN. This is a group of people interested in promoting Debian and Free Software in India. Activities include maintaining packages of cultural interest to Indians, advocaing the use of Debian and increasing the number of Indian Debian developers. An operating system that is free, flexible and doesn't drain money in crippling license fees is a good fit for an emerging nation like India. Plus we have lots of IT talent so we can give something back to the rest of the world too.

      How do you currently use Debian?

      I work as a consultant webmaster/sysadmin/Perl developer and I try to use Debian or atleast Ubuntu whenever possible. I maintain several websites and mailing lists related to aspects of the Hindu religion and they all run on Debian. My personal laptop runs Ubuntu and Debian (naq bapr va n oyhr zbba Jvaqbjf Ivfgn ohg qba'g gryy nalbar!)

      What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

      I come from a Hindu priestly family and I am a scholar of Sanskrit, preacher and very occasionally priest for weddings etc. This and being a father take up nearly all my spare time but when I can squeeze in a few minutes I am an avid reader of fantasy/sci-fi. I prefer authors like Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, or Neal Stephenson. I.e. the kind that create whole civilizations and tackle philosophical issues rather than those that focus on technology or laser fights with aliens.


      Things you can do from here:

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