BANGALORE, INDIA: His was a name that was synonymous with open source. He championed its cause for a major part of his life. Finally, his fruitful existence, touching millions of lives, was to be stolen away by cancer.
Atul Chitnis, who founded FOSS.in – a marquee conference on free and open software – was a columnist and consulting editor of PCQuest. He passed away at 51, finally succumbing to his battle against Stage 4 cancer, by Monday morning.
The German-born consulting technologist, upon diagnosis of his intestinal cancer last August, had put up a brave front to take things as they came along, even as he prepared himself to beat it. “Ever since I got diagnosed with cancer in August 2012, I have been acutely aware of the fact that professionally, things were going to change dramatically for me. While I intend to beat this thing, I also need to consider that a lot of things will change for me – things that I can do, things that I won’t be able to.”
The Twitter account of Chitnis has this as his self-description: ‘Irrationally committed product guy, FOSS.IN founder, former PCQuest columnist, writer, RadioVeRVe, amateur musician & cook, beating stage 4 cancer.’
“The guru’s guru. Like so many ‘tech experts’, I would inevitably turn to Atul when I was up against a wall with a piece of tech. He’d pull no punches with friend or foe, and never agree with what he didn’t believe in,” writes Prasanto K. Roy, technology expert and editorial advisor of CyberMedia.
“In the late-1990s, when our tech monthly PCQuest seeded India’s open-source wave and gave out the first Linux distributions on CDs, our official guru was Atul Chitnis. In the first year he sat in our labs with his virtual whip, making sure we Linux greenhorns didn’t trip over ourselves. For years later, he was there as guide and critic,” Roy reminisces.
Reportedly, the ailment slowly affected his liver as well. “Cancer is a terrible disease, and it will take a lot to fight it – physically, emotionally, financially – but it is a battle that I am going to fight – and fight to win,” Chitnis had stated in a blogpost.
“Morning prayer: Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond :)” was his last tweet, on Sunday.
With his sudden and untimely demise, the world has lost a great advocate of open source. It is something that nobody would deny.
“That he didn’t (win his fight against illness for long), is our loss. It’s the Indian tech media and user community’s loss. For me, it’s a void that no one else can fill,” reckons Roy.
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